National Geographic : 1977 Feb
Sensitivity training helps police better understand their own attitudes at a seminar to improve race relations in the 32d Precinct. In this exercise black officers form a clique, and whites learn what it's like to be the out siders trying to gain acceptance. "Drugs are destroying our children," the Reverend Carlton Coleman testifies at a street rally against the scourge that spreads across New York City. Working with police and churches, a group called CASH-Citizen Action for Safer Harlems-advises on how to stop crime. The smile of a winsome, willful child irra diated her beautiful African face. "Yes," she answered. "You mustn't," I told her. "Let love seek you. No one who seeks love ever finds it." She nodded, acceptingly. And as though re leased by my little homily, the closed door of some inner compartment of her life flew open, and she said: "I've been a dope addict, a burglar, a stickup woman-to support my habit-but I've never been a prostitute." Pride elevated her voice. "How old are you now?" I asked. "Twenty-six, going on twenty-seven. And I have four children." "How would it be," the police officer in quired with dispassion, "if you were to find yourself up against it-maybe your children were hungry-would you get a gun and... ?" She smiled, shaking her head. No. "And how about the heroin?" he persisted. "Done with that too?" "Yes," she answered. And summoning a remnant of a band of angels to do battle with a legion of devils, she said, "I've enrolled at college. My children are with my parents." How to Leave the Ghetto Behind Entering college is one way out of the ghet to. But there are, in the main, two triumphal paths to transfiguring success for the blacks of Harlem or any other black ghetto. They are relatively short and thus offer to those suitably endowed more or less speedy transit to popular acclaim. One is by way of athletic prowess; the other, talented entertainment. Out of the first emerges a Willie Mays or Wilt Chamberlain, a "Doctor" Julius Erving or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Out of the second comes a Harry Belafonte or Sidney Poitier, a Diahann Carroll or Diana Sands, a Lena Home or Sammy Davis, Jr., a Nina Simone. Sports and entertainment are legendary accreditations that entitle the bearer to leave the slums. The ghetto now is behind him. The rats, cockroaches, dope addicts, dope pushers, the filthy tenements and disease ridden hovels, dilapidated houses that are colder in winter than the open streets, the de caying people whom death itself rejects, the dreary hours and the hopeless years, social scorn and self-contempt, are all behind him now. The cat's gone. The brother's made it. Man, he's too strong. To Live in Harlem...