Op-Ed

Lexington’s Islamic community holds Day of Dignity to uplift community

Anwar Khan
Anwar Khan

If some recent headlines are to be believed, Lexington, Ky., doesn’t seem all that appealing if one wants to feel financially secure or to put down roots.

One article published last year stated that the city cracked the Top 30 … on a list of cities that were creating plenty of “low-wage” and “unwanted jobs.”

Then, there’s the longstanding problem of poverty. Lexington has an overall poverty rate of 18.57 percent, according to a 2017 U.S. Census American Community Survey. Among children, the rate jumps to 22.4 percent, the Census Data indicate. Another report from earlier this year put the food insecurity rate in Kentucky among adults in their 50s at 18.6 percent, well above the national average of 11. 3 percent.

To add insult to injury, Lexington also has a growing case of income inequality, with pockets of both “concentrated poverty” and “concentrated affluence.” A 2017 report by the Lexington Fair Housing Council, “Mapping a Segregated City,” stated that “concentrated poverty is actually at an all-time high,” and that there’s generally been less interaction amongst residents of different races and social classes.

Poverty and food insecurity are complex problems, stemming from a variety of factors; lack of investment, poor education, lack of good jobs, and lack of opportunities in general.

As a compassionate society, we must continually work to ensure sufficient resources and support systems exist to enable people to climb up the proverbial ladder. That people have the necessary access to make the “American Dream” a reality.

The answers remain debatable on how best to provide them. But the bottom line is we need to devise solutions, both in the short and long term.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), in conjunction with Services for Human Advancement and Resource Enhancement (SHARE) Lexington, will host Day of Dignity in Lexington. It is the third consecutive year. Events like these are instrumental to IRUSA’s mission of providing relief and development to people around the world regardless of their race, creed, or gender.

In Day of Dignity, IRUSA partners with local community leaders and organizations to help provide items like hot meals, winter coats, and hygiene kits to those in need. People can also receive information on things like job leads, counseling, among other resources.

Lexington is among 20 locations IRUSA selected to host Day of Dignity this year. In the best sense, Day of Dignity serves a one-stop shop that nurtures the individual’s personal, physical and spiritual needs. The goal is not to just hand out things. Rather it is to uplift, to help pave the road to self-sufficiency. In Lexington, the event will be held on Oct. 26, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Douglass Park, 726 Georgetown St., Lexington.

But to help individuals become self-reliant, our society needs to do more. We need to create more jobs that provide workers something close to a living wage. We need more affordable remedial and continuing education services to help people learn better, especially when current economic and job megatrends call for it. And, we need to expand access to health clinic services and nutritious food.

Until those structural problems are addressed, expect more Days of Dignity around the country.

While IRUSA and other community-based organizations will continue to do their part, influential policymakers, institutions and other stakeholders must ask themselves: Are we doing enough to address the root causes of poverty?

Anwar Khan is the president of Islamic Relief USA, a nonprofit humanitarian and advocacy organization that works on alleviating poverty and hunger in more than 40 countries. Syed M. Hassan is IRUSA’s communications and media specialist. They can be reached at akhan@irua.org and mhassan@irusa.org, respectively.

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