So how do we do it?
How do we begin to turn the tide of poverty, illiteracy, abuse, and self defeating attitudes of a generation lost?
Are we really going to choose a society that simply shrugs its shoulders as we concede defeat to the ideas that the poor shall be with us always and build yet another prison.
Time and time again in my profession I am faced with the most jaw dropping, tear jerking statistics. Statistics that point to the fatal realities of poverty, prison, and lack of education. These are some to review:
“ Blacks at 8% and Hispanics at 15% drop out two to three times as much as Whites with 4%.
In 2011, approximately 10.9 million school age children or children 5 to 17 years old were in families living in poverty, which is an increase over the past two decades by four percentage points.
In 2011, the percentage for Black children in poverty was the highest at 39% and lowest for White children at 13%.
Those living in a single mother household had the highest rate of poverty at 45%, leading to nearly half of all single mother households representing impoverished children.”
(statistics compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)www.NCES.ed.gov )
Yes, there are other educational statistics that are producing more positive results, however are we o.k with these that are definitely gut wrenching. As educators, advocates, citizens and community members can we stand by and watch a generation be destroyed. And I don’t believe its a question of what came first when trying to figure out the solution. We are all intelligent enough to recognize the insurmountable variables that played a contributing role in those who face poverty, and the condition of a life without education. It doesn’t matter whether the chicken or the egg came first. What matters is whether our value systems are unobjectionable to the damage.
Besides the statistics, there are numerous incidents that have broken my heart in recent weeks that continues to sound a call to action. The first incident was the recent posting of the sentencing of Sharita Latrice Cunningham, and Erica Mae Butts for the brutal child abuse and murder of Serenity Richardson. Judge Deadra Richardson stated, “it was the worse case of abuse she had ever tried, the baby’s entire body was covered with the exception of the soles of the her feet.” What greater heartbreak then the lives of not just one, sweet Serenity, but three women destroyed.
The next incident took place at a library near my home. An infant child was screaming his head off in the children’s section of the library, where I write. Now you may be wondering why I would write in the children’s section but I recommend you read “No Purist Here” to get a better understanding. As I am finally getting into the flow of my latest blog , the baby is screaming and I notice a little brother around 8 trying to comfort him with no avail. Everyone seems annoyed, but it is the children’s section, and not church. Therefore, everyone chooses to just sigh loudly and shake their heads while continuing their activities. I begin to wonder about the mother and where she must be. As I scan the room I notice a very petite, very young woman frantically typing away on a reserved computer station and saying shut up to the baby across the room. This command also brings little results.
This triggers all kinds of judgemental thoughts until my compassion slaps me upside my head and asks, “Why don’t you help?” I argue with how I came to the library to have sacred writing time and I need to honor it! That’s one of my rules, right. To be frank, its Rule Numero Uno, actually. However, compassion prevails and I simply ask the young mother who is struggling to attend to him while typing (a job application, later discovered) if I could help by holding him while she finished up. A grateful thanks came from her as she handed him to me.
I have had these sorts of encounters many times before, mothers walking in my neighborhood in the dead of winter with a baby and no warm clothing or protective covering for either. Young mothers smoking while 9 months pregnant, displaying needle tracks begging for food, as well as young mothers carting three or four small children on buses through the storms or the 3 feet of snow with little or no coats. All heartbreaking! And yes, I’ve tried to help in my small way, each one but again the questions arise.
Is there a large scale solution to the epidemic that poverty has caused?
There has to be a resounding yes, please let there be. And I know what you are thinking… Jesus is the answer, baby! In my sweetest grandma Betty voice. And even though I know the transforming power of Jesus I think Christians are too often willing to lose the life while saving the soul. What I’m looking for are practical, sustainable, reproducible solutions to the problem.
As much as I love a great Beyonce hit that encourages and empowers women to be strong, beautiful, intelligent, movers and shakers ~Who run the world? Girls ! Its going to take a lot more than a Beyonce song to save this generation.
Many scholars are now focusing their research and action plans on the single mother in contrast to the absentee father in vulnerable communities. Its like Oprah has said, “the education of the mother or a woman can save a nation.” Therefore this must be a new focus area for me, to help the woman grow intellectually, economically, educationally, and dynamically so that the next generation can rewrite the statistics that are so prevalent within our communities and mend this broken heart.