April 22, 2011

Children's Day:April 22, Keep the Faith - Michael Jackson

To the Least of These - Matthew 25:33-40

"The Son of Man will put the sheep (good people) on his right and the goats (bad people) on his left. "Then the king will say to those good people on his right, 'Come. My Father has given you great blessings. Come and get the kingdom God promised you. That kingdom has been prepared for you since the world was made. You can have this kingdom, because I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your home. I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me.' "Then the good people will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you alone and away from home and invite you into our home? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?' "Then the king will answer, 'I tell you the truth. Anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.'"

Recently, I started a human rights mission, in my own city.

I recently started a project which involves improving the educational pipeline for children birth to 18 years old. As part of my orientation to this work, I visited a project site. This visit took me through emotions of feeling privileged, somber, then hopeful.

As part of this visit, I took what was called a "Windshield Tour" in a mini bus, the kind that is typical of child care providers in U.S. neighborhoods. I rode along with four other professionals from a major corporation. We could all tour the area, but then could leave to the suburbs or the "revitalized" sectors of gentrified neighborhoods.

As we rode the bus, we literally stopped in front of housing projects that reportedly are virtually unchanged physically from when they were first built over 40 years ago. Environmentally, these places breed disease, both physical and mental. What I saw clearly qualified as a humanitarian cause.

We learned about the abestos that still insulates the units and the schools, and the methane burning that saturates the ground and air surrounding the neighborhood. The mental environment is just as toxic.

"This is where an eight-year old was gunned down after school, " the director explained, as I looked at the concrete slab, overlooked by a clothes line with two pairs of large denim jeans, and a black t-shirt. The black t-shirt, I later learned, was code for having lost someone to gang violence, while white signaled neutrality. I recalled seeing many adult men in black t-shirts or hoodies, standing at known drug trafficking points.

"From birth, these children are bred to be accustomed to prison," the director said as she described the tiny units with no air conditioner and cinderblock walls. They have been known to hold families of at least a dozen children, from multiple generations. At one housing project, many of the children's view is the city jail's row of large prickly loops of barbed wire, just below a hill called "Hanging Hill," a place where slaves who organized insurrections were hung.

Back at the center, there is hope. A dedicated full-time staff, and volunteers ranging from a former French judge from Paris (who teaches Global education) to an ascot- and denim jean- wearing music teacher, who manned the reception desk with as much class as I'm sure he instills in these children with music.

The children are picked up and dropped off directly to their homes for safety, and before they leave each night, they are given a hot meal, something they may not get when they get home. These are the families and children we are told to give up on, that they are not worth the effort. We are led to believe that these parents don't care. This statement can be true even in the wealthiest of homes. But, from what I've seen and heard, most of them care deeply, but they need support and coaching themselves.

And.. If I had any doubt that this work is inspired...

As we were setting to depart, we heard laughing and playing. The director said,
"Here, they can be children."

The director hesitated to disturb them, but allowed us to take a peek inside of the gymnasium. There was a group of boys, about 10 of them, at around 10 years old or so. What was remarkable to us as we stared, was the backdrop of their play space. There was a stunning mural on the wall, with vibrant colors and a clear Motown theme.

The predominant images were instruments, vinyl records, and a picture of Stevie Wonder. But, the central, repetitive image was -- Michael Jackson.

The center of the mural featured Michael in his iconic pose, wearing his fedora hat shiny white glove. The assistant director noticed our amazement, and broke the silence.

"This was painted a year BEFORE he died."

We as fans of Michael cannot stop being amazed at how he touches the hearts and minds of children, too young to really understand who he is, or who love him despite the prevailing music of their "hood." It was and still is cool to love MJ.

I choose to believe that this yet again proves the gift of light that Michael has brought to the world, even in its darkest places. So, I again felt privileged for different reasons, and remain hopeful.

As one of our IAFL team members reminded me, this is a perfect message, especially as we honor the somberness of Good Friday and rejoice on Easter. My other IAFL member inspired this post with the video selection earlier today. No matter your religion or spiritual beliefs, this is a universal message.

I am hopeful. I hope you continue to be too.


mike1909 said...

Thank you for sharing this story. And it is more amazing in the context of Easter celebration.
Each year we are given the gift of passing from death to life. We are given the holy light and I think we should make it our own mission to bring the light to shadowed places.

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

AA said...

Thank you for sharing that quote, love it! I must say we have a great team, full of collaboration and inspiration! The best!!!

Cassarah said...

"You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”~ Rabindranath Tagore
We need hope to take heart and start crossing the sea(s) we find in our lifes.

To think is easy - to act is hard.
THANK YOU for always giving hopeful impulses.
Keep on keeping on......

AA said...

Another wonderful quote!! Learning so much from my sisters!

doublebeee said...

Thank you sister. The song. The story. Wow! So touching. Puts Easter into a modern, more accessible context to me.

Thank you. Keep The Faith. Always. x

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