Poverty is the Gun.

As I read through this article, I was blown away by its powerful and fearless message.  I cannot recall a time when a writer made an equally audacious and courageous statement.  “Poverty is the gun”? Could this possibly be accurate? Has society come to the point where we must speak so loudly for others to wake up and listen?

If gun violence is merely a symptom – or as I like to think, a result  – of a deeper, systemic crisis taking place in cities, we have a lot of work to do to uncover the culprit.  But first, it is important to link gun violence to its underlying emotional contingent: anger on the surface, and a vast well of sadness lurking beneath.

Where does this sadness stem from? Sadness is a result of loss and deprivation, and when children are deprived of opportunities from a young age, they have few creative outlets to work through their own challenges and experience personal growth and development.  They sit on their sadness until it becomes too much of a burden to bear.

I could go on and paint a stark image of this cycle, but I am writing instead to offer a solution to this immense challenge.  As I read this article, I immediately began to think of a TED Talks presentation I watched a while back given by a visionary named Theaster Gates.  Mr. Gates revitalized a marginalized neighborhood in Chicago by offering a unique opportunity for the community.  He bought a dilapidated house, fixed it up with the help of his neighbors, and designed a range of art and cultural classes to offer to the community around him.

Mr. Gates used the principles of art – beauty, imagination, creativity, and joy – to give families a voice and allow them to celebrate the very elements that make us human.  When individuals like Mr. Gates makes feelings of joy a reality, the well of sadness begins to rise up depths and to be released.

The example above highlights how crucial it is to a provide balanced, holistic Education in urban communities.  We must create positive environments which teach children to express themselves in a constructive way, and if we can get to them before they witness the violence that pervades our current condition, we will begin to address the problem instead of worrying about violence as the result.

You can view the TED Talk  by Mr. Gates below. Also, feel free to comment on this post with ideas you have implemented or witnessed that offer children a new kind of education and break this cycle of violence at its point of origination.

Reading as Therapy?

A recent column in the Nevada Appeal discussed the “toxic stress” that children living in poverty encounter and how being faced with these stresses on a daily basis affects the brain, learning, and behavior. I was particularly drawn to this article because it later went on to discuss that, in addition to necessary social programs, reading aloud to children can help to combat this physiology stress.

 

However, with kindles, audio books, and the internet a simple click away for a portion of the population, it can be easy to forget that books are not readily available to everyone and libraries, specifically in low-income communities, are in danger of going extinct. In an article on the Huffington Post by David M. Rader, he stated that in low-income Reading Stairs newneighborhoods the standard is one book for every three-hundred kids as opposed to middle and upper-class neighborhoods where there is an average of thirteen books for every child. This is startling, as studies have shown that simply having access to books and reading materials directly affects future employment opportunities, income, socioeconomic status, and long-term education.

 

Even though the article focused on Nevada social issues, it still rings true in many other US cities, including Chicago. This particularly sparked my interest as I thought of the Lost Boyz Inc Library Project, an initiative to create a library for children ages 4-18 on the city’s South Side.  With over 90% of the children served by Lost Boyz Inc’s programs coming from low-income families, they not only face the stress of limited resources but also the threat of violence, in a city that has already experienced 341 homicides since January.  Lost Boyz’s has already helped many children with their beneficial organized sports, mentorships, and educational programs — we hope that the creation of a library will provide these kids with a safe space to learn and grow.

 

 

 

 

References:

http://www.booksourcebanter.com/2015/05/08/why-do-poor-students-lag-behind-rich-students-in-reading-development/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-m-rader/opportunity-gaps-matter-a_b_8077184.html

http://www.thefrisky.com/2015-08-26/librarians-are-delivering-books-by-bike-to-low-income-neighborhoods/

http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/homicides

http://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/opinion/17711849-113/fresh-ideas-reading-is-antidote-to-toxic-stress

 

 

Happy World Literacy Day from Experience Baseball!

Today marks International Literacy Day, established by UNESCO in 1965. Literacy Day aims to highlight the importance of literacy around the world. As per UNESCO’s website, “Literacy skills are the prerequisite for the learning of a broader set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values, required for creating sustainable societies.”

Literacy is still a major education initiative even in developed countries like the United States. A recent article in The Guardian highlighted the worldwide problem of illiteracy and the ways in which it negatively affects people’s lives and overall progress of a country.  The article, citing a report by the World Literacy Foundation, state; “People in rich and poor countries are “trapped in a cycle of poverty with limited opportunities for employment or income generation” because of illiteracy, the report said.”

In Chicago, the importance of improving literacy is also pertinent. In 2012, the Department of Education reported that 79% of the 8th graders in the Chicago Public Schools are not grade-level proficient in reading. While 53% of adults in the city have low or limited literacy skills, according to Literacy Chicago.

There is no doubt that the seeds of education are planted at an early age with simple things, like reading and access to libraries. Not only vital to literacy development and language skills, it also nurtures curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Still a huge inequality remains for children of low-income families and communities. Children in low-income areas often do not have access to quality reading materials, which creates an education gap that is difficult to mend.

Experience Baseball is taking steps to help educate and empower youth as we work to build a library for Chicago-based nonprofit, Lost Boyz Inc.  Lost Boyz Inc. was founded in 2008, and similar to our focus, also feature organized sports programs and youth outreach as a way to reduce violence, provide opportunities, and teach important life skills. The Lost Boyz Library Project will provide another avenue of community outreach and provide educational opportunities for the children that they serve in South Chicago.

You can help with our initiative by donating directly to our cause by using the Paypal button on the Experience Baseball homepage. You can also purchase books directly from our Amazon Wish list and have them sent to Lost Boyz Inc. We will be updating this blog with important milestones about this project so be sure to check back or sign up for our email newsletter.

We hope to make a library available to these children to enforce then mentality the reading, education, and ultimately success is available to them.