make a safety zone


If you read my book and were moved to make the world better for the triplets, here's an organization that can help you do that: The Harlem Children's Zone, founded by Geoffrey Canada, who grew up on a tough block in the South Bronx and authored Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun and Reaching up for Manhood. I wish I'd read him before I'd moved to North Philly. I would have better understood the way the kids acted, would have known that Tahija's seeming paranoia was really just plain knowledge of the streets, her and Lamarr's scorn for authority based on a lifetime, a terrible childhood, of authority looking the other way as children were killed. 5000 a week in the late 80's, Canada writes. Imagine, he says, an enemy from outside our borders killing 5000 children a week. What would we do?

A lot. A lot more than we have done. What will you do? Be guided not by guilt but by your inner lights: what are you moved to do, moved by what is best in you?

Some adults help by creating corridors of safety to and from schools. The children walk between. The children see every day that we care. We put ourselves on the line.

Not in a neighborhood where violence is a problem? Consider moving there. Buy a house, pay your taxes, keep your yard or front steps clean, stand beside the children. It's what Kaki and I did and we don't regret it.

Or maybe sometimes we do regret it. Sometimes I do, a little, lying awake, praying for 16 year old Kanisha to recover form her gunshot to the stomach. Let her not follow the road of this pain, I prayed. Sometimes I want to go back to not knowing, even to not knowing what I don't know. But I'm following the road of compassion, of an opening heart, and it goes inevitably through pain. Or runs parallel to it.

Canada says kids surrounded by drugs and violence desperately need heroes if they are to resist getting sucked under. A hero can be a tall man who kneels down to help you fix your zipper. And he's a hero even if he can't fix the zipper, because he knelt down. Because he's there.