Banquet illustrates class differences

Jacob Waring – Reporter

Students were separated into three separate economic classes at the Oxfam Hunger Banquet and given characters based on the stories of actual people to stimulate the struggles that poverty causes to people.

Rachal Hara, senior and psychology major, said she was glad the event expanded beyond the lens of American poverty and took on a global perspective.

“It was enlightening because I like the fact it was an international view, and not just American views,” she said. “I expected it to be just American poverty which is in its own right horribly high.”

The masters of ceremony were Gianna Mastroianni, a sophomore political science major, and Jamil Harp, a junior communication major read from a script provided by the Oxfam Hunger Banquet., which they laid out statistics about poverty.

Students were then instructed to stand-up and separate into different poverty groups to illustrate the stories of actual people.

Those who were categorized as high-income earners were seated at tables with tablecloths and a flower centerpiece. While the middle-income earners were seated at tables with little setup. The low-income earners were seated on the floor with flat carboard boxes as their tables.

According to Sabrina St. Juste, a Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy and Support Center graduate intern and was part of the committee that oversaw this event, said the setup was meant to illustrate the disparities between different classes.

“Believe it or not, we had students that were like glaring here and there, they’re like, ‘What’s going on over there? Like why are they getting served,’ it really kinda opened a lot of students’ eyes,” said St. Juste.

She said the reason people sitting at the high-income tables were getting served food and allowed to eat first was to show qualities of economic privilege.

Hara said she understood what the low-income group was experiencing due to her own personal experiences.

“[When] I grew up… food was never an issue, but money was tight,” she said. “I knew how those people felt on the floor because [I have] been there.”

Keynote speaker Steve Werlin, the executive director of Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen in New Haven said poverty goes beyond putting food on the table. When factoring the various bills and daily stresses it can become more complex to address; money for food can equal no money for to pay the bills, which could eventually end in homelessness.

“We’re all working on addressing poverty, all working on addressing the same thing,” said Werlin.

There was also a discussion with students that was facilitated by Stephen Tomczak, social work associate professor.

“Certainly, I could’ve said much more than I did about my own ideas about how to address, for example: global poverty, economic inequality and various systems of oppression. I did want to see if we could elicit responses from the participates as so they can offer their ideas and based on the experience they have gone through. I think we got some of that,” said Tomczak.

Hara said she would have incorporated one aspect to the banquet that she felt was lacking.

“It stinks that we couldn’t do interclass warfare by trying to steal some of their food,” said Hara. “Because that is a thing that does happen. I wish that option was opened.”

Photo Credit: Jacob Waring

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