Mariah was on her lunch break when we approached her. I explained that we were conducting interviews with people to discuss their experiences around poverty, and Mariah waved her hand. “I didn’t have that personal experience - but my parents did,” she offered. Mariah explained how her parents had been able to emerge from poverty and she had access to a greater number of opportunities, as a result. Her greatest concerns are racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and other systems of oppression that perpetuate the cycles of poverty. “I hope everyone can have access to the educational opportunities I had.”
“I grew up beneath the poverty line,” Henry said. He went to college but had to quit because he couldn’t afford it. “I got lucky, though, I have a good job at a public relations firm.” His greatest concerns are income inequality, racism, and excessive police force.
“Public policy or police culture?”
“[I’m concerned about] both. Everything might fall apart - the racism and poverty, it might just continue to get worse.”
Unless we do something about it.
Clyford sat upon a single chair in the grass of Union Square Park. He seemed excited to see us, excited about Breaking Ground NYC’s mission. “It’s so important for kids to go to school so they can have a future.” Clyford’s parents are back in Haiti, he explained, and they are both working hard. “I’m proud of myself because I have a job and I go to school. I will keep getting closer to what I want to do,” Clyford explained. “If someone really wants something, and they pay attention, they can get it - sometimes bigger than they thought.”
Edwin’s greatest concerns around intergenerational poverty are around the economic imbalance within society. He would like to see politicians being proactive and investing in education.
Once Tafari learned of the issues Breaking Ground NYC addresses, he expressed his passion for our mission. He named the cycle that can be found in economically segregated neighborhoods as one of the contributors to intergenerational poverty. Tafari discussed that people are socialized into their behaviors, and that negative influences on children exist in these neighborhoods. “Kids are idolizing basketball stars and rappers because they don’t see themselves represented beyond entertainment in the media.” As a former participant in a similar program, he hopes that initiatives like Breaking Ground NYC make people think about their futures in a different way. “More resources need to be put towards programs like yours.”