A series of anti-poverty billboards sponsored by a Black conservative group urges young people to finish school, get a job, get married and save money, but apparently that advice was too inflammatory for Milwaukee.
The “Tired of Poverty” billboards, part of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education’s “Success Sequence” campaign, were removed this week by Clear Channel Outdoor after complaints about the message, which one local woman described as an “attack.”
The four billboards featured photos of young Black people with the message, “Tired of Poverty? Finish school. Take Any Job. Get Married. Save & Invest. Give Back to Your Neighborhood.”
Star Parker, president and founder of CURE, also known as UrbanCURE, said the billboard company expressed “fears for the safety of their employees and property” as a result of “loud, intimidating tactics.”
“Critics find these billboards offensive. How can photos of attractive, intelligent young black people be offensive?” asked Ms. Parker in a statement. “Why are they not rather inspirational, role models of ambition and industry? There is no basis to object to this message or the portrait, unless the protesters are among those who find in it a threat to holding onto urban residents as a captive audience, chained in envy and resentment rather than invited to ambition and industry.”
The advice also isn’t new. Scholars at the Brookings Institution coined the term “success sequence” after finding that only 2% of adults who followed three rules ended up in poverty: Finish high school, get a job, and wait until 21 to get married and have children.
Ms. Parker’s organization, which has also bought billboard space in Philadelphia and Minneapolis-St. Paul, said the advice was based on economic and social research, but Clear Channel Outdoor said the sign “lacked appropriate attribution.”
“We strive to respect a wide variety of viewpoints on diversity and racial sensitivity in our local communities and work to honor those sentiments in our advertising approval practices,” said Clear Channel Outdoor spokesman Jason D. King in an email. “This ad did not receive proper approvals, lacked appropriate attribution and was promptly removed.”
Amber Flanagan Kinlow told Fox6 in Milwaukee that she said objected to the billboard’s message, arguing that some jobs “aren’t paying living wages” and characterizing marriage as a way out of poverty is “completely incorrect.”
“These are big issues. They’re systemic issues,” Ms. Kinlow said. “I felt like it was an attack and definitely not the way to solve the problem.”
Ms. Parker, an author and syndicated columnist who founded CURE in 1995, disagreed, calling the advice commonsense.
“What do the billboards say? Only what mothers and fathers have long counseled their children: Finish school, get a job, get married, save and invest, and give back to your community,” she said. “These are scientific truths, moral truths, and home truths.”