The Horror of Poverty Exposed in There Are No Children Here

The Horror of Poverty Exposed in There Are No Children Here

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The Horror of Poverty Exposed in There Are No Children Here        

 
When one thinks of poverty often the mental picture that comes to mind is of single parent welfare, dependent, women and unemployed, drug-addicted, alcoholic lackadaisical men. The children are often forgotten. The impact of poverty, the destruction of crime and stigmatization of the violence on the children is more devastating and irreversible than the miseducation and illiteracy that most often companies poverty. The implication is not the poverty can not be overcome but that the cycles of teenage pregnancy, welfare dependency, and dropping out of high school continues and are hard to break. The badges of poverty are just as addictive and capitiving as any disease such as alcohol or drugs.

 

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What happens to dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
-Langston Hughes

 

For majority of african American children that live in the inner-city ghettoes the idea of having dreams seem just that a dream. Dreams that will not become realities because of the poverty stricken neighborhoods and violent lifestyle cycles of their parents. Alex Kotlowitz's THERE ARE NO CHILDREN HERE: THE STORY OF TWO BOYS GROWING UP IN THE OTHER AMERICA, makes the reader aware of the plagues most inner-city children and youth in American ghettoes.

 

When one thinks of poverty often the mental picture that comes to mind is of single parent welfare, dependent, women and unemployed, drug-addicted, alcoholic lackadaisical men. The children are often forgotten. The impact of poverty, the destruction of crime and stigmatization of the violence on the children is more devastating and irreversible than the miseducation and illiteracy that most often companies poverty. The implication is not the poverty can not be overcome but that the cycles of teenage pregnancy, welfare dependency, and dropping out of high school continues and are hard to break. The badges of poverty are just as addictive and capitiving as any disease such as alcohol or drugs.

 

The song made popular by Whitney Houston THE GREATEST LOVE says I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.

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Show them the beauty they posses inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children's laughter reminds how we used be... The children are our future, yet one of every five children in poverty an estimated twelve million children. The war on poverty and the contract on (against) America should be considered a war on the children, a war different strategy should be used to eradicate poverty. Poverty will not be eradicate until the division of wealth in this country has also been more evenly distributed. Often when one thinks of child or childhood they relate playing, and a worry free environment. For the children that thought with innocence, carefree days of frolicking and playing, and a worry free environment. For the children that reside in inner-city ghettoes this typical picture of childhood does not exist. The title of Alex Kotlowitz's book, THERE ARE NO CHILDREN HERE, describes this concept perfectly. Kotlowitz follows the lives and experiences of two inter-city children in this riveting and thought provocating book. The author befriends and helps these children cope with everything from avoiding drugs and gang-banging to how to study and succeed in school. Kotlowitz approached the subject of writing a book with the mother of the children in hopes of informing and enlightening people to the tragedy of living and overcoming poverty and violence. The mother made the following statement in regards to the children "But you know, there are no Children here. They've seen to much to be children." The children in inner-cities are not allowed to be children because of the violence and intensity of the activities of the streets. The familiar sounds of the ghettoes, projects, and other housing complexes stigmatizes and haunts its residents. The Shooting, the screaming, Babies crying, children shrieking are examples of the sounds these children hear constantly. These children constantly live in fear of death, violence, being becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, gangs, and other dangers. Most of these children are more often challenged by the streets and survive by being street smart rather than learning from books or school. Kotlowitz reflects on the idea that because of the experiences of these children it is hard to keep in mind that they are just children.


Many grow up in neighborhoods that are similar to
Lafeyette and Pharoah's. By the time they enter
adolescence, they have contended with more terror
than most of us confront in a lifetime. They have
had to make choices that most experienced and
educated adults would find difficult. They have
lived with fear and witnessed death. Some of
them have lashed out. They have joined gangs,
sold drugs, and in some cases inflicted pain on
others. But they have also played baseball, and
gone on dates and shot marbles and kept diaries.
For, despite all they have seen and done, they
are-- and we must constantly remind ourselves of
this still children." p xi


Life for most middle class American children is one that has been sheltered from violence, crime, drugs, alcohol: on the contrary a safe and secure environment. One where the biggest worry is if "Suzy will come to my party" or "what will I wear to my party." For the children of inner-city ghettoes life is not so simple, as explained to through the eyes of Pharoah and Lafeyette Rivers. They receive early on an added education on the tragedies of life. The concept of death is just as real to them as eating, sleeping and breathing. Children are continuously being punished for the mistakes of their parents and for being born in the wrong family of socio-economic status. Well contrary to popular belief the only people who suffer because of the continual cuts to welfare, education and health care programs are the children. There is a saying you can choose your friends but you can not choose your family. Inner-city children are being punished because of an accident of birth. The basic ideas portrayed in the book is how some kids can overcome the odds through education and how they need role models. Pharoah is a very sweet and relatively innocent child, a condition that is rare for a child born and raised in the projects and streets of the inner-city. These children's innocence has been stolen, they have been damaged because of the violence and danger of the neighborhood. Pharoah is lucky because he has both qualities needed to succeed he has a role model, a desire to learn, and the will to resist the lucrative activities of the streets. Pharaoah's big brother looks out for his well being. Pharoah has a problem stuttering because of all the violence and turmoil he has seen. The stuttering does not prevent him from trying his best at learning and school. One of Pharaoh's most rewarding times was in the sixth grade when he was asked to give a speech at the awards program. The speech gives an idea of his determination to succeed despite the odds and his innocence and compassion.


Try, Try, Try, Try, that's what special effort
means. and when you put your best foot forward,
it really isn't hard as it seems. Success comes
to those who when given the chance to do their
best and work very hard to advance. The special
effort award is what they've earned. Though it
can't begin to match the things they've learned.
p 254

Kotlowitz explains how the children of ghettoes face daily violence and danger and how school or education is not always a priority. The fact that Pharoah at the age of ten dreams of graduating high school and going to college so they can leave the projects. Pharaoh's dream is a very admirable goal. The problem that remains is how attainable is that goal in a neighborhood riddled with violence and death.


Kotlowitz provides insight into the thoughts, fears, feeling, ambitions, and hopes of many inner-city children and residents. The hope of most of these is to live in a house with yard, not to be dependent on the government for assistance, and not to live constantly in fear for their lives. Majority of the residents in the projects would like to live in better neighborhoods.


The second concept is that one must have role models. Pharoah's older brother and his friends look out for him. All the boys know how important it is to have a role model, without them these boys are doomed to lives of violence and crime. More often than not there is no father or father figure to help guide these boys into manhood, so these young men receive the guidance from the gangs. Fortunately the boys in Kotlowitz's book, have a role model. Pharoah's older brother Lafeyette explained the difficulty of resisting the lucrative activities of the street life.


"You grow up 'round it." Lafeyette told a friend.
"there are a lot of people in the projects who
say they're not gonna do drugs, that they're not
gonna drop out, that they won't be on the streets.
But they're doing it now. Never say never." He
paused "but I say never." My brothers ain't set
no good example for me, but I'll set a good
example for them." p 29


This shows the older boys commitment to the safety of his younger brother and sisters.


These two youth have made a friend and have some hope but not all inner-city youth are that lucky. Even though Kotlowitz provides moral and some financial support they still are confronted an a daily basis with the temptation, and lucrative vices of the streets. The characteristics these children have to sustain them are there determination to succeed, parental support and guidance and reluctance to give up hope and quit. Determination is the most important characteristic these children possesses. THERE ARE NO CHILDREN HERE expresses the horror of poverty as seen through the most precious victims the CHILDREN. Even our most conservative lawmakers would agree that the children are our future. The only question that makes one ponder is "Why then do these lawmakers make policies that contribute to the downfall and destruction of programs designed to help the children?" Welfare, health care, and education are just as important to the children's future as tax cuts and balanced budgets. Kotlowitz's THERE ARE NO CHILDREN HERE gives insight into what life is like for children living in inner-city ghettoes. l These children need some hope and should be protected from violence and destruction of the gangs in their neighborhoods. Kotlowitz's book also point out that the war on poverty and drugs has been unsuccessful and has endangered the children even more. The children of poverty cannot succeed unless we provide them with the tools and resources to do so.

 
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