There are No Children Here – Finding Strength in Poverty
Being privileged is something that I didn’t understand until I read There are No Children Here, by Alex Kotlowitz. The truth is that I knew I had it better than others, but the absolute difference was not truly recognized until I met the boys Lafayette, and Pharaoh. These boys were presented to me by Kotlowitz, via his book, and the evident pain and sorrow that these young men went through on a daily basis was more than most privileged people experience in an entire lifetime. That is what being privileged is.
When I started reading this book, I thought that is was going to be another poor me story about some poor black kids who got a raw deal. That was my ignorant, privileged life rearing its head. When I forged ahead, and read the book, I did so in seek of a grade, not a new perspective. I got to the fifth page, and I felt guilty. The guilt again was a selfish one, for I had been fooled to believe that the poor were poor because they were lazy. I was forced to believe that I had discussed and argued issues of poverty for the last 10 years, only to find that I was arguing in ignorance. These children were poor by birth, just the same as I was privileged by birth. By accident of birth, these children would endure more pain and suffering than I could imagine. The feeling made me shutter with disbelief that people actually lived like this, in America. So I read on further, only discover more terrifying stories of death, abuse, filth, sorrow, poverty, and addiction.
Lafayette and Pharaoh are two of the seven kids birthed by LaJoe Rivers in Chicago Illinois. They all currently reside at the Henry Horner Homes that rests nestled away from the city amist another poverty stricken neighborhood. When LaJoe first moved to the Homes in the sixties, they were a grand place to live. The grass was green, the flowers were all around, and the hallways seemed to go on forever. Their family was the first to move into the homes, and at that time, they were proud of that. Here they were, in a nice, affordable place where they could raise their children in a descent environment, around other people. As more families moved in, they relied on each other, and would gather in the court yard to talk and enjoy each others company. The times sure changed though. The Chicago Housing Authority started neglecting the Homes. Grass would go months without mowing, the appliances would deteriorate without replacement, and the plumbing was left to self destruct. When the CHA didn’t control the Homes, and the police wouldn’t enforce the laws, crime soon ran free to torture the inhabitants of the once grand Henry Horner Homes. The people of Henry Horner, especially the good people, longed for a place that they could sit up at night on a porch without fear. They had a dream of a place without the violence, but many of the people here became so conditioned to think that this is the way it was supposed to be,...