Economy / Jobs

ACTION graduate addresses UN

ILO Photo/J. Canonge

Darius Davis and Kellie Terry at the United Nations on Feb. 21.

Fulfilling jobs in short supply, says Hunts Point teen

Seeking first hand accounts of the hardships that afflict low-income communities around the world, the United Nations turned to Hunts Point.

At a Feb. 20 forum at the UN complex in Manhattan, local activist Darius Davis told a gathering of international diplomats and officials that they only have to look a few miles upriver to see the harmful effects of economic imbalance.

Davis, 19, who now works as an intern at The Point, has been living with a friend and the friend’s parents in Hunts Point for the last year. He and his own parents were evicted from their Manida Street apartment a year ago. His income as a part time social justice advocate isn’t nearly enough to pay rent.

Davis’ father had been working as a driver for a car service and his mother was an activist for Longwood-based advocacy group Mothers on the Move. After they were evicted, they opted to leave the city and moved to the Midwest because their small incomes weren’t enough to afford the cost of living in Hunts Point or elsewhere in the city.

When The International Labour Organization contacted The Point’s executive director Kellie Terry asking her to make a presentation to UN diplomats about the hard life many New Yorkers lead, Terry thought of Davis. She decided that his plight as a homeless young man earning meager wages despite working hard to better the lives of others made him a prime candidate.

In his talk at the UN, Davis stressed “the importance of a quality job, even if it doesn’t pay much, as long as it’s rewarding.”

“My story spoke to the power of what you can do when given the opportunity, rather than a mindless job at McDonald’s,” said Davis, who has been accepted to a university upstate where he hopes to study music.

Davis has worked on local campaigns to clean up the environment, plant gardens and reduce toxic waste.

A spokesman for the labor group said the testimonials of young people like Davis help provide decision-makers with a practical picture of economic imbalance that they need to hear.

“Usually discussions here at the UN are at a high policy level, so it’s good to hear it first hand so there’s a frame of reference based in reality,” said Kevin Cassidy, communications officer at the International Labour Organization.

The lack of good jobs, health care and other basic social services are acute in cities around the world, he said.

“Whether you are in Delhi, Jakarta or New York, the issues are very similar,” said Cassidy.

To watch Darius Davis speak, click on: http://webtv.un.org/search/inclusive-growth-and-decent-work-realizing-social-justice-panel-discussion/3233030347001?term=social%20justice

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