"Kimberly  and Robert  speak of killings that have taken
place within the neighborhood, and Jeremiah  speaks about 'the
little alters in the streets' that people make by setting candles in a
circle on the sidewalk where someone has been shot down. 'You hear
shooting in the night,' he says. 'Next day you see a lot of little
cardboard boxes, each one with a candle--sometimes flowers, and you
see a picture of the person who was killed.'
...I ask him, 'Can you sleep after you hear about these things'
'I pray that someone in my family will not die.'"
I doubt that my blog readers would fail to be aghast that any
preteen would have to live with family members dying as a clear and
present danger. Today I am sharing another vintage (and unfortunately
even more true today) volume: Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace: The
Lives Of Children And The Conscience Of A Nation, published in 1995.
America still has not learned its lesson.
Kozol spent serious time in a part of New York in America's
poorest congressional district. Not surprisingly it was also highly
segregated: two thirds Hispanic and one third black. Imagine an
elementary school system in which only 7 out of 800 children don't
qualify for free school lunches. Drug use was rampant; death by
homicide and frequent fires routine. Housing was squalid, unsafe, and
"What is it like for chldren to grow up here? What do they
think the world has done to them? Do they believe that they are being
shunned or hidden by society? If so, do they think that they deserve
this? What is it that enables some of them to pray? When they pray,
what do they say to God?"
Kozol went right to the source for his answers. On his first
visit a 7-year-old boy showed him an incinerator for burning hazardous
waste from 14 hospitals that had been installed over the objections of
residents and a children's park largely given over to drug dealing.
He came to know the people he talked with as unique individuals and
friends rather than statistics and cases. He was particularly touched
by the trust and warmth extended to him by children for whom the most
basic things we give our kids were out of reach.
If I tried to summarize Kozol's findings I would be doing a
grave disservice. You need to read the book yourself. Sadly in a
time when our poorest of the poor are even more out of sight, out of
mind and people in government rampantly cut the programs that can help
them while demonizing them to justify the cuts, it's more relevant
But you don't have to take my word for this. Elie Wiesel,
quoted on the back cover, had this to say, "...What he [Kozol] says
must be heard. His outcry must shake our nation out of its guilty
On a personal note, I had two wonderful UMaine opportunities to learn
more about Day of the Dead. At Wilson Center Silvestre gave an after
(Mexican) supper talk and we decorated sugar skulls. I gave mine to
Shane who eats everything that doesn't contain brussels sprouts. The
next week at the Union we had a Mexican feast and painted ceramic
skulls. That was fun. I used pink and gold and got to keep it.
Everyone says it looks awesome.
A great big shout out goes out to Silvestre and the others who
generously shared their cultural heritage.
Sent from my iPod