This is our current project being filmed in Minneapolis, MN.

a documentary
by ReelTru Productions

A raw and controversial look into what it is like to be poor in America, this documentary will chronicle the continuous plight of America’s urban poor with concentration on education disparities, imbalances in the justice system, the “bottom line” mentality in capitalism, access to the political system and lack of community ownership. Right now, the national conversation is being discussed by privileged people who seem to be stuck talking about the rich and middle class families. American citizens living in poverty are struggling to gain attention and respect in a capitalistic society that economically thrives off of their sweat and tears as they are left to lift themselves up by their Bootstraps.

Living life with blinders on is no longer an excuse not to acknowledge the truth. We all need to recognize that capitalism is not under attack, but rather the democratic systems that contribute to its inequality and the collateral damage that it causes. It is time to do more than just talk about poor people. Bootstraps will connect the dots between the runaway upper class and the plight of the lower. We aim to dig deep into the impressions that our collective society learns about our poor and the stereotypes that we continue to hang on to. Are they poor because they are lazy or, as we learn in Sociology 101, is the system designed to keep a certain portion of our citizens behind the rest of us?

There are a record number of Americans and their children living in poverty right now. There are many factors that contribute to those numbers but what are the systemic reasons behind them? We have our ways of keeping our poor all grouped together so that they are out of site to upper and middle class working Americans. From the homeless to the working poor, this documentary will delve into their lives and learn about them, not just talk about them. This film will explore the institutions that systematically work to keep some Americans poor, ask the tough questions about why these obstacles still exist and explore the reality of eradicating poverty as we know it.

A quality post-secondary education is an essential value of Americans living well off in this country. In the US, most workers making over $250,000.00 year have at least a four year college degree. A substantial percentage of those have a masters or doctorate. Poor Americans have much smaller percentages of workers with a college degree, which includes bachelors, masters and doctorates combined.

Regardless of our status, the amount of people actually attending college is declining and that is due primarily to the rising costs of an advanced education. From 1980 through 20010, the cost of a four year public college education has increased from $2550.00 to just over $15,000.00 per year, making it impossible for someone living in poverty to afford college.

And those statistics deal with the Americans that make the grade to enter college on a level that will guarantee their success. Our elementary and secondary educational systems are abysmal. Educational achievement in poor communities is nowhere near national or moral expectations and school districts across the country are nowhere near finding the solution to the problems our poor children face on a daily basis.

But are we asking the people who would know the answers to the questions? Most of us believe the answers are simple but if they were, would we still have to have this conversation? Bootstraps plans on talking about these issues with the people directly affected. What do poor children think about their environment? How does it affect them? What do they need in their life to bring hope of a successful future? What do poor parents need to make life on their children easier and less stressful?

For poor children who do not make the grade to get into college, or jump high enough or run fast enough to get that athletic scholarship, trouble is usually the next option. Without quality afterschool programs and our sheer lack of understanding of what is needed, incarceration is almost inevitable for a pretty good percentage of our urban poor. With a national high school dropout rate hovering around, 25 percent, black (and Hispanic) men are more likely to go to prison than they are to go to college.

Once their information is recorded in the DOJ system, the likelihood that that young black man (or woman) will ever make it out successfully is shockingly low. Entering into what sociology professors teach as the “cycle of deviance”, the system is hard to escape. A purpose is served through our incarcerated society and unfortunately, people who are not white are disproportionately represented in our prison system.

Bootstraps will dissect the cycle of deviance and probe into what poor Americans think about going to jail, what effects having a record has on the rest of their lives and what people who live in poor communities want to see changed and challenged in our criminal justice system.

Finding employment after you have been incarcerated is another near impossibility, an immovable barrier to finding your way out of poverty. There are many other aspects to the job market contributing to poverty, most of which involve more “systems”. Minimum wage laws and the refusal to create a “livable wage” still hinder progress in this area and is such a simple fix. That is just a beginning but a step in the right direction.

People who work hard should be able to live life with dignity. If someone works a full-time schedule every day, they should make enough money to support their family. Particularly if there are two full-time wage earners in the household, life should not be a struggle. They should be able to buy a home, pay their bills and save for their children’s education so that they can build for their future.

While I understand that it does not take a rocket scientist to clean an office building, it is still an essential occupation and no less important than keeping the computers in an office operable. There are no meaningless jobs or they just would not exist. If a human being wakes up in the morning and works hard for a full-time day, they should be able to support their family. Particularly, when there are two people working a full-time schedule, why should they have to struggle? Who decided what job was any less important than the other? Why does it seem that rich Americans believe that being poor is earned? And why are they not willing to sacrifice a little bit of their extreme wealth to help so many achieve so much more? These are the simple yet crucial questions that Bootstraps will pose.

No matter where the national unemployment rate rests, people of color living in urban communities carry a much higher rate. Right now the unemployment rate is 8.3 percent with not much movement from one month to the next. The highest that it has been since the Great Depression ended in 1940 had been 9.7 percent and that was in 1982. The lowest it has ever been is 2.9 percent in 1953 and it peaked at 24.9 percent during the Great Depression. For African-Americans and Hispanics, the unemployment rate is always substantially higher than the national average. What causes the increase in numbers for these communities? What barriers do low wage earners face and what difference would a couple dollars make? When will we begin to demand from job creators that they begin to wage salaries?

Community ownership is another major issue in poor urban neighborhoods. Without inherited wealth, advanced education or a good–paying job, ownership of any kind remains a dream. The United States has a historically racial standard for homeownership that up until about a decade ago, never made news in poor communities. You may be able to ask people today what “redlining” means and they probably will not know the answer.

It is becoming more debatable every day if the American Dream is just an illusion, even a nightmare or fantasy for most poor urban Americans. Buying a home should be an option. Not that homeownership is for everyone, but it should be an attainable goal. Many Americans work their entire life and are never able to buy a home. And with that homeownership comes so many other possibilities.

Equity in homes is what allows many people to start their own business, pay for their children’s’ college education, afford to buy a boat or even just to have two vehicles in the family. The laws and policy platforms from both political parties should be addressing this ever increasing gap in wealth and move mountains to find a permanent solution.

How well is the political representation of poor urban communities? What involvement in the political process are poor Americans? Do they believe that getting involved would make a difference? What is being done by representatives to increase political involvement and representation of our poor communities in public policy? Bootstraps’ primary interest is asking the tough questions, hearing sensible solutions and setting in motion the desire of everyone collectively to make realistic and fair steps to a better understanding and better results.

It all boils down to one thing: Economics. In our capitalistic society, money equates comfort. The more money you make, the more things you can have to make this life enjoyable. It should be an unacceptable reality to have an America where 90 percent of the wealth is owned by 1 percent. Where is the value in that America? That does not make us the envy of other countries. That makes us the other countries. If wealth is concentrated at the top, democracy is smothered and then what do we really have?

China has seen in the very recent past a huge upswing in their economy. However, if you look at the concentration of wealth in their society, it is eerily similar to the United States has become. It is ironic that as we have been dramatically warned about the danger of becoming a socialistic society, what they are not yelling out as loudly is that we seem to be inching very close to a communist one.

There is enough wealth in this country to go around. We all know this. Poverty is not necessary for capitalism to thrive. We understand this as well. This issue has to be continuously placed front and center because it is a direct reflection of who we are as a nation on the inside. Our very core. Bootstraps aims to be a catalyst for change. Using Minneapolis, Minnesota as a microcosm of the US as a whole, we can continue to shine a light on the obvious and work together to successfully institute change.

Twanna Anderson

Loading more stuff…

Hmm…it looks like things are taking a while to load. Try again?

Loading videos…