Remembering Gordon Parks Photographer during Black History Month 2012 Poverty has always existed in the United States among-st the working class. I can’t recall a time when the working class were treated fairly in terms of income and opportunities afford to the rich. Most working class folks work themselves to the bone but never get anywhere. Folks are given false hope and told that if you work as hard as us. You will be successful. That has always been an lie and for the first time. Folks that believed they are privileged during the 21st are finding out that they are not immune from poverty either.
I don’t think anything is wrong with being an 1% but there is something wrong when there is an huge disparity of income. When Mitt Romney said he does not care about the working class poor people. Believe him, no matter how much back-peddling he does. Romney meant every word of what he said the first time. Someone pull his coat tail in the back room and advise him to correct his script. Too late….we had enough of the script conversations from the 1% to hoodwink the working class people into believe they will have our back. Your eyes should show you everything you need to see. Over the last four years the GOP has done everything to block President Obama’s efforts to provide full recovery, GOP almost shut the government down, GOP promised to cut jobs during mid term elections, GOP wants to cut medicare, social security and lord only knows what else is on the chopping block once the GOP trick the American people into voting for them in November 2012. If the GOP have their way we all will be standing in a soup kitchen line while the 1% clink their champagne glasses. Working class folks will become slaves desperate to do anything to take care of themselves and their families.
Notice how the emphasis always come back to blaming President Obama? In another words shit just started under Obama watch? I think not..lies! What has Romney done for the people lately. What about the GOP opposing all of President Obama efforts? What about higher taxes for the rich? What about all those folks on Wall Street? What about the blockage of the Job Act? What about all the stalling, delaying and blocking anything that would help the working class folks? What about that Romney? And what exactly is the Romney plan again? Piggybacking off of the president efforts. Oh yeah…it is too obvious. Pay attention, what President Obama does, the GOP attempts to trump him as if there is some personal contest going on between the parties. The working class livelihoods are on the line. What would Romney know about that….dude is a millionaire several times over.
“You can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That’s not my focus. My focus is on middle income Americans, retirees living on social security, people who cannot find work, folks who have kids that are getting ready to go to college. That — these are the people who’ve been most badly hurt during the Obama years.”
The Fontanelle Family
Bessie and Kenneth, Little Richard, Norman Jr. and Ellen at the Poverty Board in New York City, 1967
When the subject of the Fontanelle family comes up, Parks becomes somber. “The problem in documenting a family like that,” he explains, “is that, you wonder, in the end, whether you should have touched the family, or just left them alone.”
Parks questions the issue of altering lives, such as the Fontanelle family’s, because of the tragic outcome of their story. Parks assignment began when LIFE managing editor Philip Kunhardt asked Parks why black people were rioting throughout urban areas of America. Parks answered Kunhardt by going to live with a black family for one month in Harlem. After assuring Bessie Fontanelle, the family matriarch, that Parks’s essay would benefit the community, she welcomed him into her family’s home in a decrepit Harlem tenement building. Here, the family is shown at a Harlem welfare office.
“It was difficult,” Parks admits. “The husband was unemployed, the family had no food, it was wintertime but the kids couldn’t attend school because they had no winter clothes. And it was difficult not to immediately, being in my position, take money in, take food in, to ease their situation. Because the minute you do that you’ve lost your story. So you pray and hope that you can get your story over as quickly as possible, and that there will be a response from the public.” Which is what happened, but before money poured in from the public, Parks had to stand back and watch the family suffer.
With the funds LIFE and its readers contributed to the Fontanelles, a small house was bought on Long Island as a refuge for the family from the filth and chaos of the Harlem tenement. Three months after they moved in, the father [drunk at the time] burned down the house by dropping a lit cigarette on the family’s new sofa. “The father died in the fire, little Kenneth, one of my favorites, died in the fire. Little Norman died mysteriously two years later, the other girl [sucking her thumb in the image shown here] died from AIDS, as did two of her sisters. The whole family was destroyed,” Parks sighs.