After so many years of being involved with Newark inner city families, I still can't make sense out of the changes I witness, especially in the children. How can I even begin to describe the obstacles that confront and surround people living in poverty? I cannot. And even if I could, little would change: Residents know all too well, and others are skeptical. But it is difficult for anyone to challenge the hope and expectations in a child's eye that becomes dim with apathy and anger over the years. The pain is real, and so is the damage to the soul. All I can do is bear witness to the process, inform and share the sadness.
There are some children who are only two or three years of age when the deadness first begins to appear. These youngsters are already aware of the void and harshness of their environment. The survivors are not spared. They keep going longer than most, but they too need a lot of help, and too often burn out against the barrage of negative responses.
At four, Tatoneah is still eager to please but her eyes are old and often filled with despair.
At nineteen, Ernest was shot in the back and paralyzed, but he told me after coming back form one of his painful physical therapy sessions, "I keep preparing for the championship. I will walk again. There's no rest to this. Depression comes with the territory so I got to stay positive. I got to be independent again. It's hard having to ask for everything. I got to tell others there's another way to deal with anger." Another time he said, "There's a lot of people who are paralyzed who don't know it. Actually everyone is paralyzed, some in their own sense of mind."
At thirteen, Larry still dreams of becoming an artist but looks at a recent photograph of himself and says, "Now I know the streets."
So many pass before my camera as I record and listen and watch the children grow.