News Journal: Poem highlights problems facing inner-city youth

The best part of my column today is written by Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha, a Wilmington City Councilman, and his twin brother, Al Mills, who are the Delaware Poets Laureate.
As a society, and as individual moral human beings, we can’t continue to avoid dealing with an enormous problem in our inner cities. How can we help children with no functioning parents? How do we give them the same opportunities other kids have, starting with showing up for school ready to learn? Doesn’t every child deserve a chance to live the American Dream?
I remember years ago listening to a Middle School principal about to retire. He said that during the school year he devoted 85 percent of his time to students’ problems outside of school. And I have become all too aware of those problems as a long-time member of the board and advisory board of Children and Families First, the wonderful state-wide non-profit run by the wonderful Leslie Newman.
Other state agencies are confronting the problem. The University of Delaware under the leadership of President Dennis Assanis and Director of Community Engagement Initiative Dan Rich introduced one of the newest this month. They call it the Partnership for Healthy Communities. It joins their Partnership for Public Education, which they started last year.
I learned a long time ago that the first step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. I cannot imagine a better way to do that, in a powerful way that may stay with you as it has me, than to share Nnamdi and Al’s poem.
Monday Morning In My House
I imagine you probably wake your kids up with a kiss on the forehead
Saying ‘good morning sunshine’ as you help them make their beds
Your kids have a complete breakfast Then
go rinse, brush & floss -put on their clean uniforms
Grab their bag lunches then skip off to the garage;
They hear “I love you & have a good day” as they get dropped off
But Monday morning in my house is a little different than yours
Because somewhere in her travels home the past few nights my mom got lost
Now I haven’t seen my mom in a day or two
And there are no clean clothes or nothing to eat so what I’m supposed to do?
Yeah, I’m only 12 years old and I haven’t seen my mom all weekend
I not awaken by any “I love you’s” or an alarm clock beeping
But my lil sister standing in my doorway asking me: ‘what we’re going to eat?’
My little sister she is only 7; she don’t know any better
She dressed in the same dirty clothes she wore all last week,
She keeps telling me she’s hungry asking me: ‘what are we going to eat?’
I say, ‘mom ain’t here, go back to sleep’
I got up around 11- while lil sis was still asleep
Hit the corner store and stole us some noodles & chips to eat
We watching TV as my mom staggers back in from her long weekend
We barely looked up from our bowls – we just keep on eating
See this is Monday morning in my house
Love kept us silent- too afraid to hear the truth that might come out
Them unasked questions –
She doesn’t ask us why we aren’t in school? and We don’t ask where she’s been?
She doesn’t even ask where the noodles came from?
She just asked me to make her some
I said there’s not any more
Handed her my full bowl and walked out to go to the store to steal some more
As I open the door
My social worker is standing there asking me: “why am I not in school?”
And I say
Monday morning in my house is a little bit different than yours.
Ted Kaufman is a former U S Senator from Delaware