MAP 18 Conversation Starter on Poverty and Racial Division


Here are some basic facts on poverty in America:

  • In 2015 there were 43.1 million people in poverty.  (Proctor 2016, p. 12-14)
  • The 2015 poverty rate for Blacks was 24., for Hispanics 21.4, and for Asians 11.4 percent. For non-Hispanic whites, the poverty rate was 9.1 percent (Proctor 2016, p. 12-4).
  • The poverty rate for children under 18 was 19.7 percent in 2015, and the number of children in poverty was 14.5 million. Children represented 23.1 percent of the total population and 33.6 percent of people in poverty (Proctor 2016, p. 14).
  • 19.4 million Americans live in extreme poverty. This means their family’s cash income is less than half of the poverty line or about $10,000 a year for a family of four. They represented 6.1 percent of all people and 45.1 percent of those in poverty.

Terms to know:

Wealth Inequality:
Income inequality refers to the extent to which income is distributed in an uneven manner among a population. In the United States, income inequality, or the gap between the rich and everyone else, has been growing markedly, by every major statistical measure, for 30+ years.

Wage Gap:
The difference in rates of pay between two groups of people. For example, the difference in pay based on gender and race.

Institutional Oppression:
The systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group. For example, schools in a lower-income neighborhood have fewer funds, more students, and as a result, receive a poorer education.

The legal process that lasted from  1934 until 1968 that refused to back loans to black people or even other people who lived near black people. Redlining destroyed the possibility of investment wherever black people lived.
(Read this article for more info on redlining.)

Hurdles to Overcome:

  1. Question: Do you believe that you have contributed to systemic racism?

    Discuss your answers and read the following idea as well as watch the video.

    Individualized Oppression:
    This is the idea that because you did not own a slave, you do not contribute to oppression or racism. In fact, if you most likely have benefited from a system that oppressed a group and race to boost the privileged.
    (Watch this video with Soong-Chan Rah on this idea.)
  2. Question: Have you benefited from a system that has oppressed others?
  3. Question: What is a healthy way to respond to racism?

    Discuss with a group and read the following idea:

    A popular response to racism became the idea of “color-blindness” where some claimed not to see color, but just people. While this concept probably came from good intentions, it perpetuates misunderstanding and racism further. “Color-blindness” strips minorities of their individual culture and assumes that everyone has had the same experience. It pushes aside the critically important narrative of oppression for the minority when in fact this narrative is vital to the understanding and improvement of the systemic oppression.
    (Read this article for more info on this topic.)


What does it look like for a society to care for the poor and eliminate systemic oppression?

A large movement behind this campaign is reconciliation. In light of that, who could you start a conversation with that might believe or think differently than you?


An Awareness Campaign:

Create a public awareness campaign based on an issue you discussed.
The campaign may include posters, flyers, banners, etc. that would raise awareness around the world. What would it be? Why?

Final Questions:

What are some of the needs of your own community?

What are conversations you can start with your community?

When is the time to start making an impact?

To learn more about our campaign, please visit

Want to download this Conversation Starter as a PDF? Click here.


Looking to learn more about the topics we’re creating awareness for? Here are some of our most recommended books on racial division, poverty, and Christianity and poverty.



The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Is God a White Racist?: A Preamble to Black Theology by William R. Jones

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson PHD

Embrace by Leroy Barber

Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race. Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us by Benjamin Watson and Ken Peterson

Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Christian Smith and Michael Emerson

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill


The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto by Travis Smiley and Cornell West

The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear by Paul Rogat Loeb

99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It by Chuck Collins

So Rich, So Poor: Why it’s so hard to end poverty in America by Peter Edelman

The Life You Can Save: How to Do your Part to End World Poverty by Peter Singer

There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America by Alex Kotlowitz

Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol

The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K Shipler

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

A Place at the Table: The Crisis of 49 Million Hungry Americans and How to Solve It by Peter Pringle

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich


Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How You Can Reverse It by Robert D. Lupton

The Justice Project by Brian McLaren, Elisa Padilla, and Ashley Bunting Seeber

Make Poverty Personal: Taking the Poor as Seriously as the Bible Does by Ash Barker

How Much Is Enough: Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture by Arthur Simon

The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus’ Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted by Obery M Hendricks

There Shall Be No Poor Among You: Poverty in the Bible by Leslie J. Hoppe

The Upside-Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill

MAP 18 FAQ’s

#MAP18 FAQ’s

What is MAP18?

MAP18 is the March Against Poverty, a national awareness campaign in partnership with the Center for Civil and Human Rights that exists to give a voice to the marginalized, mobilize people on the sidelines, and bring people together from all walks of life.

The march will begin at The Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and finish at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. King was assassinated, on April 4th, the 50th anniversary of the assassination.

A rally at The Center for Civil and Human Rights will serve as the launch for the campaign featuring remarks from civil rights leaders. The gathering will bring together people from all walks of life and nationalities to engage in a national conversation on racial division and systemic poverty.

Why are you walking 386 miles?

I’m walking to raise awareness for the millions of people trapped in systemic poverty and affected by racial division in America. Through this campaign, we intend to get people to take a stand against poverty and racial division.

This year, on the 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination for giving his life to fight against racial injustice, war, and poverty, we honor him as a hero and a legacy as well as honor his mission through continuing this campaign for justice.

Who has done this type of walk before – are there any examples?

There are many examples of people who marched and walked long distances on behalf of others. In fact, much of my inspiration comes from many people listed below:

Martin Luther King Jr. – marched/walked on behalf persons of color and others being mistreated with unequal rights. He sacrificed his life so African Americans would be considered equal (March on Washington / Selma to Montgomery).

Jesus – marched and walked toward a Cross on Calvary’s Hill to sacrifice His life for the sins/poverty of others. He gave all so people could be reconciled to God in Heaven.

Zach Bonner – marched/walked several times across the country at a very young age to fight hunger among youth and families through his organization Little Red Wagon Foundation (My House to The White House / 1,225 miles).

Darryl Cloud – rode a bike across the country (in his 80’s) 2,400 miles to raise awareness for veterans that struggle with disabilities.

Why are you walking around the 50th anniversary of Dr.King’s assassination?

I am walking around the 50th anniversary of Dr.King’s assassination in hopes to raise awareness to the same campaigns and issues Dr.King also fought for. Before he was killed, he planned his next initiative, The Poor People’s Campaign.

MLK believed that the next step towards equality was to eradicate a system that even today keeps members of society enslaved to poverty. He believed that systemic poverty was a civil rights issue, and so do we.

Who are you?

My name is Terence Lester, and I am the Executive Director of a non-profit organization called Love Beyond Walls. I have been working in the community for 14 years, and have devoted my life to serving the poor and marginalized. I am happily married to my best friend, Cecilia Lester, and we have two children who mean the world to us.

What sparked the idea?

Every single week, people who struggle with poverty must walk miles and miles just to gain access to basic necessities to survive. Whatever reason, many people walk because they lack transportation and most times—hope.

This year, the march is also symbolic of those who have gone before us to march for what they believed was right. And in wake of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, we march because he also marched. We stand up and walk for those who cannot and do not have a voice.

Why the name #MAP18?

MAP18 stands for “March Against Poverty in 2018.” We chose MAP because a map is a symbolism for direction. Not only do we hope to inspire onlookers to get involved, but to inspire people to create life-maps that will lead them out of poverty.

Why walk instead of riding a bike or traveling in a car?

I have chosen to walk because when you walk—you see more, and understand more.

Additionally, walking has many symbolisms:

  1. Walking symbolizes long-suffering. There are many people who wrestle with poverty and have felt the effects of racial division for a long time. I have chosen to walk this distance to identify with those who suffer and fight against systemic conditions for long periods of time.
  2. Walking symbolizes taking one step at a time. There are no quick fixes when it comes to poverty and racial division, however, we can collectively provide solutions and make strides one-step at a time. Additionally, if someone is wrestling with these issues, we’d like this demonstration to symbolize that they can be overcome one step at a time.
  3. Walking symbolizes the ordinary. Sometimes people think that we need to have magical powers before we make a difference in the lives of others and the world. That’s not true. We are making this trip to inspire individuals, small organizations, and groups of people to take a stand for something. Everyday ordinary people can make a difference.

Who is partnering with you to do this?

This year we are partnering with:

  • The SCLC
  • The Center For Civil And Human Rights
  • Wheat Street Baptist Church
  • Georgia NAACP
  • Atlanta NAACP
  • Georgia Alliance for Social Justice
  • Pulse Church
  • Atlanta Influences Everything
  • Phoenix Leadership Foundation
  • And many other great people and organizations

What about your family during the time you are away?

Just like the many families who allow their loved ones go to fight in wars overseas on behalf of the country, my wife and children are allowing me to go and fight a different type of war. It’s a war for all people wrestling with poverty and racial injustice in this country.

In fact, my wife has encouraged me to follow my heart and walk every single step on behalf of those who don’t have a voice and need hope.

How can people join you on the journey?

On this site, there will be a digital drop pin that identifies my every location. People will be able to access the site to see exactly where I am at all times. (There’s also a more detailed list of ways to get involved here.)

Where will you sleep?

We will travel in our Mobile Makeovers Bus and stay inside it at night. We will be safe as we use rest stops and hotel/motel lots to sleep in.

How are you going to travel?

I am going to walk 12.5 miles a day for 30 days until I arrive at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. King was assassinated. The Mobile Makeover Bus will follow behind me for the entire distance.

If you raise money, what will it be used for?

If we raise money, we will create and produce our next documentary on race as well as expand our “Love Center” in Atlanta to create the serve more people who wrestle with poverty and injustice week to week.

How many miles do you plan to walk per day?

12.5 miles.

What are you eating?

We will eat healthy foods (salads, sandwiches, fruits & veggies) on the journey every day.

We even have one of our partners who will donate healthy juice to start us off to make sure we are energized.

Additionally, if people bring us meals we will also eat what people bring to support us on our journey.

What will happen at the end of the journey?

At the finish line, we will host a press conference and charge to challenge others to stand up for justice, march for what they believe is right, and continue the journey of reconciliation.

Can I share the story?

Yes. We encourage you to share this story with family members, friends, co-workers, and anyone who will listen to the stories that we share on this journey.

Will this be documented?

Yes. We are going to turn this journey into a documentary.

What can we do to get involved?

There are several ways you can help:

  1. Record and post a video to social about why we need to address poverty and also have a nation healed of racial tension.
  2. Share the campaign with your network and also use your platform to bring attention to poverty and reconciliation.
  3. Come to the rally at The Center For Civil & Human Rights
  4. Interview for our Film on Racial Reconciliation called GRACE FILM
  5. Come join Terence and Johnny on the walk to Memphis
  6. Give financially to resources for the walk to Memphis
  7. Share video footage of walk/march

Will you be safe doing this?

Safety is an issue. No one really knows if they will be fully safe (no matter where you are). However, we will practice safe traveling skills. We will stay in populated areas, communicate to those who are following us and make sure we avoid any tensed areas.

What’s needed for the journey?

Currently, we will need food, gas, encouragement, supporters, and people to donate socks and diapers.

What are the checkpoints?

We will post checkpoints via social media. There will also be a drop pin map on the site for you to follow.

How could the local church get involved?

Your local church can get involved by coming to serve with us, doing small group studies on what God says about the poor, starting to serve needs in the community where your church is planted, or partner with us financially on a month-to-month basis.

Can I give monthly?

Yes. You can become a monthly partner. In fact, your monthly contribution is what will empower us to reach, serve, and assist more people as they aim to climb out of the pits of poverty. Your contribution will help us inspire hope in those who are hopeless and voiceless.

Get Involved in MAP18

Before the walk:

  1. Come to the rally at The Center For Civil & Human Rights on March 3rd (You can get your ticket HERE).
  2. Give financially towards resources for the march to Memphis (HERE).
  3. Donate shoes, gas cards, and other resources to aid Terence and Johnny in the travel across the country. Click (HERE) to contact us.
  4. Reach out to sponsor and partner for the walk. Contact us (HERE)

During the walk:

  1. Share the campaign with your network and use your platform to bring attention to poverty and reconciliation.
  2. Follow the campaign on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
  3. Record and post a video to social about why we need to address poverty and also have a nation healed of racial tension.
  4. Come join Terence and Johnny on the walk to Memphis (follow their tracker HERE – Contact us HERE)
  5. Give financially towards resources for the walk to Memphis (HERE).
  6. Follow the Doers Podcast on Apple Podcast or Stitcher (HERE).
  7. Read and discuss books about poverty and race with your community (HERE).
  8. Plan to meet Terence at the finish line in Memphis on April 4th (You’ll learn more as we blog).
  9. Donate shoes, gas cards, and other resources to aid Terence and Johnny in the travel across the country. Click (HERE) to contact us.

After the walk:

  1. Meet Terence at the finish line in Memphis on April 4th.
  2. Interview for our Documentary on Racial Justice & Reconciliation called ALL OF US FILM (reach out to us on our CONTACT PAGE)
  3. Stay updated on our Documentary on Racial Justice & Reconciliation, ALL OF US FILM.
  4. Give financially towards the completion of the documentary (HERE).
  5. Volunteer with our community in Atlanta (HERE).

documentary critique by rev. neichelle r. guidry, phd

voiceless: a documentary on systemic poverty: is a poignant portrayal of the complexity and humanity of poverty in the United States of America. this documentary illuminates the hypocritical paradox of inequity and disparity in the “land of opportunity.” the primary vehicle for accomplishing this end is through the self-narrated stories of several individuals who are suffering through the imposition of homelessness.

in their own voices, viewers hear of how the problem of poverty is exacerbated by social location. sexism, racism, immigration status, criminal history and generational poverty produce nuanced intersections of suffering, immobility, and hopelessness. through their stories, people like Erica, a single mother of three, weave two common threads through the film. the first common thread is the idea that no one ever desires to be homeless, and the second is the fact that despite their greatest efforts, systems that were built to privilege the wealthy make it impossible for the poor to change their circumstances.

in the wake of the “tax cuts and jobs act,” these people and their stories are the clarion calls to conscious advocacy, self-surveillance of privilege and doing justice. enter Terence Lester, the starter of Love Beyond Walls. in this film, he gives an insider perspective on his March Against Poverty from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the poor. montages of his daily musings and meetings punctuate the film with images of the costs, challenges and joys of doing justice with and for the poor.

as a clergywoman, i am especially convicted by the critique of the church as an institution that does good only on Sundays, conflates justice with charity, and exchanges the poverty of Jesus for capitalistic prosperity. there is a flailing faith center in the fight against poverty, which is unfortunate because religious traditions, including but not limited to, Christianity, possess the means for leveling economic fields, galvanizing political resources and making lasting transformation. altogether, this documentary is a formidable, motivation, and it calls viewers into the fight. more importantly, it calls viewers into relationship, thereby humanizing the numbers and statistics of poverty through personal engagement with the poor and taking on their pain as our own, to feel and to eradicate.

rev. neichelle r. guidry, phd

Jasmine Shepherd – The Doers Podcast

We are often asked, “How do you really get someone off of the streets?”

It is probably the most complex question we are asked because everyone experiencing homelessness doesn’t arrive at the experience the same way.

Some people experience job layoffs, some people lose family members, some women experience abuse, some teens find the experience because they timed out of foster care, some people use drugs and addiction to cope with life, and many other reasons.

We’ve come to find out that many people experiencing homelessness have several challenges, but the one of the greatest challenges is community.

Having community and people to catch you when you fall is important. If you could point to one person that has helped you through a difficulty—you will automatically know what I’m talking about.

This week we get to share the story of community with Jasmine Shepherd.

She’s a young lady that instead of talking decided to take a step to help a man (Mr. Philip) experiencing homelessness reunite with his family after 40 years.

When I asked her what pushed her to serve in this way, she responded with these words,

“My greatest desire is to travel to the ends of this earth serving the overlooked, the underprivileged, and spreading the Gospel. The Spirit led me to #lovebeyondwalls with Mr. Philip. After watching the documentary “Voiceless” and praying for God to use me to reach His people, I became intentional about making a difference in my community. Shortly after, our paths crossed and I saw a need. Once I got to know Mr. Philip, something about his story and genuine personality tugged at my heart and I just couldn’t give up on him.”

From her story, we’ve learned that sometimes getting to know people, and taking a step can transform someone’s life.

In the words of Jasmin, “to me, #lovebeyondwalls means to love one another just as Jesus loves us. It means we are responsible for meeting people right where they are, looking past their circumstances. We must build one another up, provide support, hope, and the greatest of all-LOVE.”

Check out her incredible podcast interview above.