Start Time: 03:31
End Time: 10:42
Listen to the seriousness of Jonathan Kozol in this snippet, and get a sense of his focus on illiteracy, homelessness, and education reform in America. Then check out the full speech on the Westminster Town Hall Forum Station.
Publish Date: Jan 25, 2021
Jonathan Kozol has devoted nearly 25 years to issues of education and social justice. His book Death at an Early Age described his first year as a teacher in the Boston public schools and received the National Book Award in 1986. He later focused on adult literacy, and his subsequent book, Illiterate America, looked at the consequences of having nearly a quarter of the U. S. population unable to read. His most recent work, Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America, portrays the daily struggle of families living in New York City's welfare shelters. If you gravitate towards the urgent seriousness with which Kozol attacks these issues, you'll want to check out the full speech on the Westminster Town Hall Forum Station.
Mr Kozel, tell us what you need to say and what we need to hear about the homeless and their Children living at the mercy of America. Welcome, sir. Thanks very much. I'm glad to be with you today and Minneapolis and glad especially to see so many students here this afternoon. I want to you share with you today long and difficulty journey that I've taken in the past few years, a journey that took me far from the familiar world of friends and comforts and relaxed ideas into a haunting world of agonies and tears. The world of homeless Children and their mothers and their fathers in New York. It began a couple of days before Christmas 1985. I read a story in The New York Times about a a little boy who died while he was homeless. New York had been born after his mother had spent her entire pregnancy in a homeless shelter building known as the Martinique Hotel, one of 60 shelters for the homeless in New York. At that time, woman had been malnourished, had no prenatal care. It's very hard to get those services when you're homeless. As a result, the little boy was born premature. Wade, only £4 of birth a couple days after birth was found to be death. Blind and brain damaged, he lived only eight months. I tried to get this child from my mind. It was Christmas time, and I wanted to enjoy normal Christmas at home in Massachusetts, where I live. But I couldn't sleep. So after difficulty night, I got my car, drove to the airport, flew to New York City, found the mother of that little boy, and in time I found my way into the Martinique Hotel. An extraordinary experience. Huge building, 16 stories tall, right there in the middle of Manhattan, in the center of the richest section of the richest city in the world. Huge building, once elegant, now squalid. 2000 people living in one building, two thirds of them Children. Average child, six years old. I spent Christmas there than New Year's. Then, much of the winter, spring and summer into the fall. I went there for Thanksgiving that year. By the time Thanksgiving came, I been away from my own friends and family. So long I felt homeless myself. When Thanksgiving came. Nobody who is close to me wanted me as a guest because I was his somber. The last thing you want for Thanksgiving is somebody who's spent a year in a homeless shelter. So one of the families in the Martinique asked me to join them for Thanksgiving. They had no kitchen. Of course, cooking was forbidden. Families cooked illegally on hot plates on the floor. There were no chairs or tables, so we had Thanksgiving dinner on the floor. It was a very poor family, like all the families in that in that awful place. Even the previous spring, food has been scarce, but at least in the spring they've been getting about 100 $50 in food stamps each month. By the fall, the White House, for some reason, had cut their food stamps down to $33 a month. So it was a sparse Thanksgiving, but it tasted very good to me because of the way in which he was offered. And then I was there again, another Christmas in another New Year's and another winter, spring and summer and another Thanksgiving. And in a sense, I've never found my way back to my home. There are half a million Children homeless in America in the course of any year, six times the figure of 10 years ago. Six Fold increase. If all these kids were gathered together in in one place, they'd represent Ah population larger in Atlanta, Denver or ST Louis. Because they're scattered in 1000 different cities, they're easily unseen. And because so many of these Children die in infancy or lose the strength to struggle and fight back in early years, many of them will never live to tell their stories. None of these Children have committed any crime. They have done nothing wrong. Their only crime is to be born poor in a rich society in New York City. Right now, the waiting list for public housing homeless family wants to put their name on the list. Waiting list is 18 years in Boston, it's 12 years in Miami. It's 20 years the White House has stopped building public housing. Housing funds were cut by 80% $25 billion during the Reagan years. President Bush refuses to restore this money