Port City Paradise

We flip to page 134. Nobody else notices the shift when we turn past the gray box that reads, "Children in poverty are less likely to complete high school or pursue higher education. Instead, many opt to pursue hourly-waged jobs post-secondary school."

The footnote is not about how property tax is linked to the funding received by public schools or bodies decaying in poverty or minds that look at words and just see letters or shoulders stuffed in jail cells or stomped jaws in Civil Rights marches. There’s no picture. There’s nothing to picture. There’s just a community of people depicted as having willfully resigned themselves to lives of stagnancy. It’s just them, wrapping systemic poverty in newspapers and gifting it generation after generation. I dug for seventeen years to find this one statistic in a textbook. With no footnote.

I am at a full stop. The class spills on somewhere else, but I can’t follow. The unacknowledged aspirations of the youth on the page, the “less likely,” have stopped me. Within each of them, I see a distorted reflection of my own identity–the forgotten faces of those left behind. If I don’t return to my hometown and work to improve the community that is left, who will? I am motivated not only by my own aspirations, but the aspirations of those who are systematically denied the opportunity to reach their full potential. The class moves on to the next section, but I can’t. It took me so long to get here.

By Zahrah Abdulrauf

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