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Children, families are at mercy of economic, racial changes.

"I have a wound in my head, I will always remember"

So begins a poem by third grader Javiar Larrache, about the beating of Rodney King, according to New York Times writer Isabell Wilkerson. Javiar goes on to say that the "wound gets bigger as he grows."

Clearly, in the case of cities and towns across America, these wounds have been continuously exacerbated with each draconian budget cut for housing, social services, education, employment training, environmental mandates and other factors which impact the infrastructure of cities.

In speaking with various officials across the nation about the challenges ahead and the affect recent events in Los Angeles and elsewhere will have on children and families in cities, most noted that economics and racism were at the core of any solution. Another, notion which was recognized as an important factor was involvement by the community as stakeholders in its growth.

Alice Wolf, Councilmember, Cambridge, Mass., said that "basically, the L.A. incident was a wake-up call to the country in two respects." First, she goes on to say is "recognition of the continuous issues of racism; and second is recognition of at least a decade of neglect of the inner cities." Wolf notes that all levels of government ought to provide "far more resources and attention to the needs of people, particularly in urban centers." She noted that children and family issues such as child care, employment training, and education are vital concerns which the country needs to address.

Dick Mammen, of the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board said that "L.A. was unlike any other civil disturbance." In effect the "genie was out of the bottle." The real issues of racism and economics have to be dealt with in order to bring about a change in paradigms, according to Mammen.

He further noted that everybody has to learn to be accountable to their respective community. Cities on the other hand must respond with new views for delivering such services as police and fire protection, public works, employment services and other resources. Mammen stated that although children in L.A. were seen on the front line as looters and victims, they remain our only hope for building and sustainment of our communities.

In Newport News, Va., Councilmember Terry Martin believes that the key to decreasing and ultimately eliminating the problems of racism, joblessness and so forth is involvement of the community in the solution. He says that "rather than government being the focal point, it should be a catalyst for new initiatives to support and promote more community involvement."

Danny Tabor, Councilmember from Inglewood, Calif., stated in a panel discussion on Black Entertainment Television that America needs to take this opportunity and build on it, in terms of economics and employment to give our youth something to look forward to and work toward. The basic building blocks of employment, housing, education will form the link for establishing a viable community and thus a place where businesses [economy] will thrive. The challenge, according to Tabor, is for elected officials, educators and parents is to listen to what our children have to say.

Russell Owens of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies shared a different perspective. He believes that there is a "vacuum of leadership at the federal level." Owens pointed out that historically civil unrest was met with periods of great repression. As a result, Owens does not think that cities will see any significant reinvestments. He notes that long term effects will be negligible until there is a national commitment to save cities.

Ed Vincent, Mayor of Inglewood, Calif., stated that although this was a terrible time in Southern California, he was proud of the responsiveness and constraint of many Inglewood citizens. He noted that the Inglewood community worked together to hold damage to a minimum and that with this spirit of cooperation, they except the challenge to rebuild affected areas.

For millions of children and their families across America there remains a wound in their head, that perhaps will fade in time, but more than likely remain with them for ever. The last days of the "war" as children are calling it, represents what the New York Times describes as a "generation defining event," such as the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. or John F. Kennedy.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Report: Stepping Up to the Issues of Race and Economics
Author:Kelsey, Serita R.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 18, 1992
Previous Article:Simi Valley speaks out, sets record straight.
Next Article:Cost concept drives solid waste management.

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