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    Posted April 24, 2015 by
    Brooklyn, New York

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    Have You Seen The Promised Land?


    Today in such cities as Camden, Newark, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit people are living in dire straights in broken buildings, on blocks of urban blight, in ghettos of concentrated poverty and get up each day and face the world amidst the greatest of odds. So many are trapped by circumstances they can't control.
    I am fascinated with inner cities having taught years ago in West Oakland where children played with broomsticks on the sidewalk because there were no toys to play with.  Many years after my experience in West Oakland I visited the streets of Camden and Philadelphia and Baltimore to see the face on the inner city today and spoke with residents in these pockets of urban poverty where the American dream is hard to believe in and justice doesn't flow like water.

    In the fall of 2009 I came upon the streets of an area in Philadelphia known as "Beirut".  I was stunned. And I said to myself "people must see this." So began my journeys to other cities to see for myself and speak to people for whom these streets are home.
    A Philadelphia resident stands on a street corner and remarks "Half the kids around here ain't even seen the Atlantic Ocean or been on a trip because their parents can't afford it...We've got a long way to go but you've got to start somewhere." A Newark resident sits on a stoop and states "We're far away from the Promised Land. We're lost." And someone else says "All you see is the Black man walking the streets with his hands in his pockets. Why? Because nothing's in there." In a section of Philadelphia known as Kensington, described as "Philadelphia's most desperate neighborhood" a man says "they're living in houses with no heat, no hot water, no lights...I would call this the suffering, the suffering. The only hope I see is that people go to Heaven when they die." On a cold day in Newark someone stares at the horizon uttering "the opportunities are very rare." In a vacant lot in Camden, NJ a homeless man states "if you're born here, raised in these streets you have so little opportunity to do anything." Beside a burned out building blocks away a young woman surveys her surroundings and remarks "there's nothing." In Baltimore there are tens of thousands of boarded up buildings leaving blocks looking like ghost towns. "Do you really want to hear what I have to say?" says a resident of West Baltimore.
    If we don't see it, if we don't stare it in the face, how will anything change? To understand what we don't live ourselves, we can at least try to imagine walking in someone else's shoes, if only for a minute.

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