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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

survivalists originate in cpcs

Survivors, Inc. is an organization that was founded more than 20 years ago by low-income women, for low-income women. They organize themselves to educate others about poverty, welfare and low-income survival issues, and work to provide a forum for the voices of these women to be heard, as well as connect to welfare office outreach and campus organizing with local and broader grassroots groups to eliminate social and economic injustice.

The founding members were all students at UMass Boston in the College of Public and Community Service. A number of them now work for the university in CPCS, including Diane Dujon, the editor for the Survivors Inc. newspaper, Survival News.

“Survivors, Inc. started out with Survival News,” Dujon said. “We were students at CPCS, and we were all low-income students, many of us on welfare and were trying to jump the earnings gap by going to college and getting a degree so we could support our children. We took a class with Anne Withhorn on basic organizing and while sitting in the class we began to think about how we need to organize, to make a way for women to be able to go to college, and especially women who get public assistance.”

The women shared and bonded over their difficult backgrounds, and decided to do something to improve not only their futures, but also the futures of all other women going through similar situations.

“We started thinking about what stood in our way,” Dujon said. “I mean, this country acts like the worst thing you could do is be a welfare recipient. But, there are things that happen in your life, and you say, you know, I’ve got to protect my children. It’s more important to feed them, instead of being in an abusive situation, or a million other things that can happen.”

After recounting their personal experiences with the bureaucratic run-around in order to get the assistance, they decided to create a booklet titled “You Can Apply” that detailed the benefits, food stamps, Medicaid, and all the documentation needed when going through the welfare process.

“We urged them [low-income women], that this is your right to get this,” Dujon said, “and you should make sure that you get it, because a lot of people get discouraged and they don’t apply for the things that their families need, and the next thing that you know they’re losing their children, and things go really downhill.”

The group received numerous compliments from people who were helped by the information, but because regulations were always changing, the booklets had to continuously be updated. However, a couple of snags came up when President Ronald Regan took office and referred to women on welfare as “welfare queens”, and policies began to change faster than they could keep up with.

“So one day,” Dujon noted, “we were sitting around saying you know, this is just outrageous, and how are we going to keep up? And one woman said, ‘I know, we’d have to do a newspaper.’ And that’s how Survival News was born. We were able to expand and not only include ‘You Can Apply’ and what the documentation and benefits are, but we also now have articles written by poor women, about their experiences, and the things they care about.”

Survival News was later named as the newspaper of the National Welfare Rights Union, and people from all across the country began writing about changes in their states. It now goes out to about 47 states and 11 foreign countries.

“It’s been 20 years since we became Survival News,” Dujon said. “Because they make poor women feel so horrible, I think everybody’s just always amazed that, we brag about it. We survived, you know? We fought for the things that we needed, and we fight for others because we know people need it. Nobody should be starving in the richest more powerful nation in the world. I can’t believe that we have so many homeless families, people all around. All of us need to be about fighting poverty, not about fighting poor people.”

With the 20th anniversary right around the corner, the chair board has planned a celebratory dinner on Oct. 21 at Simmons College.