Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

A Hunger for Advocacy: Derick Dailey

Derick Dailey2
   Derick Dailey teaches a Bible study class at Bethel A.M.E. Church in New Haven, Conn. A seminary student at Yale University, Derick learned about sharing his bounty from his grandmother as he was growing up in Little Rock, Ark. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof ....
—Psalm 24:1

When Derick Dailey’s grandmother passed away in August 2012, he was asked by his family members to send a message to her as she departed.

"I said her favorite verse in her ear. I whispered, The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein."

Derick recalls his grandmother repeating that verse frequently while he was growing up in her home in North Little Rock, Ark., with his twin, Eric. "Whether I was sitting on the piano playing and she was singing the hymn — or she would just sometimes just break out in that verse because she believed deeply in that," says Derick.

"That everything on this earth belonged to God."

"She was part of the Women’s Missionary Society of our local church," says Derick, "so she would start early Saturday morning cooking ... and oftentimes we would get confused thinking the meal was for us and she would remind us, 'no, I will cook something for you all on Sunday evening; this meal is for the sick and shut-in.'"

Derick, now a graduate student at Yale Divinity School, has seen hunger and poverty firsthand. "Arkansas is this rural community," he explains, "and it struggles deeply with food insecurity, with hunger, with poverty, poor education, crime, and poor infrastructure. You name it and Arkansas is confronting it."

As a sophomore at Westminster College in Missouri, Derick and his friend Eyob researched poverty in Phillips County in southeast Arkansas, one of the poorest counties in the nation. The two met with mayors and church leaders to talk about the conditions and causes of economic devastation along the Mississippi River. Derick recalls that at one point, Eyob, who is Ethiopian, exclaimed, "Wow, this looks like rural Ethiopia."

"It never occurred to me that a place in this country, the wealthiest country in the world would look like something in rural Ethiopia," says Derick. "It was a big wake-up call for me that the core of poverty is lack of opportunity and lack of resources."

"Listening to the stories and hearing the challenges [of local leaders] made clear to me that hunger and poverty are not just some abstract social science terms. These are realities for people, and not just realities for people in Third World countries but realities for people in my state, a state that I love — whether it's in Phillips County or in Little Rock seeing my own family struggle to make ends meet."

Those experiences motivated Derick to get directly involved in ending hunger and poverty. He joined Bread for the World and was one of Bread’s first Hunger Justice Leaders. Following that training in advocacy, Derick founded the Westminster Poverty Initiative, which runs a food bank and facilitates donations of clothing and household items to people in need in the community surrounding the college. Derick and Eyob also raised funds and opened a library in Ethiopia.

But Derick knows that larger actions are necessary.

"I thank God for Bread for the World for having this sort of forum where people of faith can actively engage on issues of policy in a real way without feeling that they are somehow outside the norm or they are doing something that is unchurched or unreligious," says Derick.

"The reality is that in order to break free from the bondage [of poverty] in this country and the world, we need elected officials to make good on their words and put love thy neighbor at the center of our legislative agenda."

[This piece originally appeared in the February edition of Bread's e-newsletter.]


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