Who is Jonathan Kozol? What is his purpose? Why is he documenting and telling the stories of these families in poverty? These are some of the many questions that transpired in my mind. I needed answers to my questions. There is a famous photograph taken by Kevin Carter where he shoots a shot of a famine child on the ground with a vulture looking to prey on this human life. He waited 20 minutes for the Vulture to spread it wings but it never did. After he got the photograph he left, he was told not to touch famine people there in fear a disease may be transmitted. Even though he scared the vulture off after his shot, no one knows how that young child ended. The problem I have with photographers and journalist at times is they profit off of someone else’s suffering. We as a human race have lost our sense of humanity and we have become dehumanized beings. That is why I had all these questions about Jonathon Kozol because I see all these award winning books he have written off of other people sufferings. What is he doing for them?
I did some research and it seems like we have a lot more in common than I thought. Jonathon Kozol is an activist who served as an elementary teacher and following that career he became an author. He admits that it wasn’t until his late 20s or early 30s where he drove across town in the black community for the first time, even though he grew up not too far a distance from the area. As many people were headed down south to Mississippi to fight for the racial injustices there, Kozol went to a minister by the name of Jim Breeden. Jim Breeden was a prominent figure in the black community who was a great associate of Dr. King. Kozol asked Jim Breeden, “Can I be of use?”. Breeden responded, “Yes young man you can. I’m glad you came here to talk with me in your own hometown because you don’t need to go to Mississippi to find injustice in America. You can join the struggle here, come into our schools and try to help our students”. I must acknowledge, during the time period Kozol became a teacher was during a time in American history where he could of easily used his white male privilege to benefit himself in many ways, the year of 1964. This was the year after President Kennedy was assassinated, the year before Malcom X was killed and less the a half a decade before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Imagine during this time teaching in the inner city of Boston where a year after he began teaching the 1965 Racial Imbalance Act was passed. This was an act that ordered public schools to desegregate in the state of Massachusetts. This led to an uproar of riots and protests called the Boston Busing Crisis. However, Kozol was already fired from the Boston Public Schools for teaching a Langston Hughes poem by the time the Boston Busing Crisis occurred. Kozol recognizes his privilege and that is why I quickly gained respect for him. He realized he came from an ambitious two parent house hold and has obtained one of the most prestigious college degrees, a degree from Harvard University.
Activism comes in many forms and Kozol used his talents in writing as one of his mainstream ways of allowing the voices of others to be heard through his work. As we blog about this, I hope we take one thing from Kozol. That one thing is for each of us to search deep within to find our talents and use that as a driving force to make an impact. A lot of things Kozol was involved in did not make mainstream media nor did he become well known for his work until he began writing. Jim Breeden gave an eye opening message as he talked about joining the struggle in your own community to make a difference. We are in the city of Flint and there are limitless amounts of work that needs to be done on a social justice scale. I feel that Kozol has the heart of someone who realizes it is not about an individual doing the work but the impact of the work being done by the individual.
Sankofa- It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.