Monday, April 18, 2016

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

One of my students did a presentation on this book, and she suggested that I read it, and I did.

This is one of those books that I have put on my “recommend to everybody” list, because it brings up a very important question that we could probably ponder forever and never, ever come up with a single answer: “Why do some people ‘make it’ and some people don’t? Notice that I put “make it” in quotation marks, because that is another idea that we could probably ponder forever and ever and ever......

Both Wes Moores started their lives in similar neighborhoods, were raised by single mothers, and were subjected to failing schools early on. However, one went to college and one is in prison for life. How in the world did this happen? In the very beginning of the book, Wes states that “This book is meant to show that our destinies can be determined by a single stumble down the wrong path, or a tentative step in the right one.” (Hmmmmmmm!!)f

After reading this book, I fully understood the story of the Wes Moore who made it; his story is similar to mine... My folks found a way to instill the importance of school, I went to ok schools and had ok grades, my parents made a way out of no way for me to attend college, and that was that. Yea, I could have been a teenage mother, could have dropped out of school, or could have done a whole bunch of other stuff that could have sent my life on a different course. However, thanks to parents who were very clear about what I was and was not going to do, siblings who went before me and paved the way, and “tentative steps in the right direction," I ended up going to college. So, I am wondering what does expectations, especially our parents’ expectations, have to do with how we feel about ourselves and the decisions that we make?

However, the story of the Wes Moore that ended up in prison for life is the story that has been haunting me every since I read it.... I have been trying to understand why he didn't go to school regularly, didn’t use condoms, sold and used drugs, participated in crimes etc?

I've been thinking about the cutting of Pell Grants to pay for college that caused the imprisoned Wes Moore’s mom to have to drop out of college, I've been thinking about equity vs. equality when it comes to public school funding, I've been thinking about teenage pregnancy and is there anything that we can do to reduce that number, I've been thinking about public housing, I've been thinking about the decision making process, I've been thinking about fate! - All of the things that seem to have impacted Moore’s life. I am not sure if these things added up to play a part in Moore being in prison for life, or was it simply that Moore did not have anyone to believe in him, he did not believe in himself, or did he just take “a single stumble down the wrong path." (I wish I had an answer?) 

If we somehow managed to go back and fix every single issue in the incarcerated Wes Moore’s life, would he be in prison for life? 

The Wes Moores’ stories are all about race and racism, and we must add these stories to the many other stories to continue the discussions to identify and combat systematic racism. I heard Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy, speak, and he stated that “We are taught to stay away from tough neighborhoods, but that is where we are needed the most.”

My people, I wish I had some solutions to offer people like the Wes Moore who ended up in prison, but sadly, I just don't have any right now.

Read this book, and let’s talk!

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