Yesha Callahan

Life Ain’t Been No Crystal Stair~ Blog Action Day

Mother To Son by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor–
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where ther ain’t been no light-
So boy, don’t you turn back.
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now–
For I’se still goin’ honey,
I’se still climbin’
And life ain’t been no crystal stair.


Children in Poverty

Children in Poverty

 Children in Poverty
Children living in poverty in South Carolina, shot for the New York Times Magazine story, Why Is America Failing Its Children ©nubar alexanian, 1998-2000

I remember reading the above poem for the first time when I was in elementary school. I was standing in front of a class of about 25 students. The 4th grade was one of the hardest years for me growing up. It was then when I realized that unlike most kids in my class, there was a lot of things my family didn’t have. I looked down at my 2nd hand clothes that were usually bought from a thrift store, or given to us by my older cousin, I saw that my sneakers were worn down and that I had my ‘free’ lunch ticket in my pocket. As I was reading the poem, I remembered all the times we were ‘in the dark’ because our utilities were shut off and we had to do everything by candlelight. As I was reading the poem, tears started to stream down my face. Of course my classmates looked at me as if I was crazy, they had no clue as to why I was crying. For a lot of my younger years, the struggle was there, for my family to maintain. My siblings and I didn’t realize we were ‘poor’ until someone pointed it out to us. We usually stuck to ourselves, just so we wouldn’t have to deal with the teasing from the kids. We had each other and that’s the only thing that mattered. Nowadays, when I look back at the struggles and sacrifices we went through growing up, I feel that it definitely made us stronger and more appreciative of what we had and what we have now.

In my spare time, I volunteer at a woman’s and children short term shelter. I have seen first hand the issues of poverty and how it affects women and children. I’ve looked into a few woman’s eyes and saw the despair and desperation that they have. They can’t seem to fathom thinking about the future when they don’t even know what is in store for them the next day. When you see children having to live in a shelter, it makes you realize who the true victims of poverty are. These children didn’t ask to be brought into the world they’re being subjected to. They’re the innocent victims who have to see their mother’s cry at night because their life truly hasn’t been a crystal stair.

Today is Blog Action Day and thousands of people in the blogosphere have come together to discuss poverty.  Poverty in America is a serious issue. According to the Census Bureau Married-couple families had a poverty rate of 4.9 percent (2.9 million), compared with 28.3 percent (4.1 million) for female-householder, no-husband-present families and 13.2 percent (671,000) for those with a male householder and no wife present at the end of 2006. The areas with the highest poverty rates ironically included the District of Columbia and Mississippi. Poverty and the lack of health insurance go hand in hand, in 2006 8.7 million people were without health insurance.

Will there ever be an end to poverty? I doubt anyone has a right answer for that. Everyone will always have solutions, but what part do people truly play in trying to end poverty? It takes a village to affect change. No matter how much or little time or money you can donate, every little bit makes a difference. All it takes is a point & click of your mouse to start affecting change, below are a few links to help you get started!

  1. October 15, 2008 - Reply

    This was an excellent post. It had me thinking back to my sugar water days way back when. I’ve always said that the measure of success in this country should be measured by the percentage of poor people rather than the number of CEO’s receiving Golden Parachutes.

    • October 15, 2008 - Reply


      Thanks, Rippa! Where’s the bail out package for people living in poverty?

  2. October 15, 2008 - Reply

    I never had to deal with living poor or hand me downs or sugar water, but my mother did and I guess that’s why I did not. I also guess thats why with my mom being a teacher at my elementary school if a child really NEEDED something they always went to talk to my mom. We took kids shopping for shoes, pants, underwear…toothbrushes, hair bows and combs brushes…even soap and deoderant. As one of nine kids (and theirs wasnt the only family living in the house) she had to wear hand me downs, went without winter coats, socks, stockings, underwear etc and they too always kept to themselves…she never explained it and I guess I understand why now. I always hated that they had kept to themselves because my aunts and my mom have very few friends and rely moreso on one another than outsiders and to outsiders they all come off as really snobbish and unapproachable which I always attributed to them keeping to themselves….I also find it incredible that the poem had that kind of weight for you at such a young age. My brother and I are about 10 years apart so all I really had was books (and an active imagination) to keep me company. Whereas you read that poem and could relate it to your life and your struggles, Around that time I had an aunt attending Yale to receive her degree in English Literature and who was introducing me to all kinds of poetry and literature that I soaked up like a sponge. The first book I read was the bluest eye. I was hooked!!! I read a lot of langston hughes, zora neale hurston and toni morrison and I cant say that I ever read them with my life in mind, I always imagined my mothers or my grandmothers era and those before them…and their struggles. Very interesting indeed.
    I have volunteered a lot of time also through shelters, schools, and various other organizations throughout the city and the work I curently do helps seniors who are living way below the poverty line receive some of the basic necessities needed to survive. Poverty in America is a sad situation and I dont know how familiar you are with the Mississippi Delta region but there are people there still living without electricity, or running water in their houses. They still take baths in tin tubs in the middle of the yard and if they do it like my mom has said it was done…the whole family used that same tub of water to bathe in to avoid wasting well water. This less than 3 hours from where I live and to hear these folks speak is like hearing a totally different dialect from what we speak. Its like travelling back 50 or 60 years in time…
    We definitely need to do whatever is needed to aid those in need at home instead of all around the world. I wonder how far would a pallet full of rice go in Mississippi or Arkansas where so many children go hungry…

  3. October 15, 2008 - Reply

    I think it’s society’s responsibility to address the issues and make sure political leaders do what they promise. Sometimes the smallest gesture can make the biggest difference. I’ve worked for a few nonprofits, among them, one that champions community health care and the other poverty/health issues in Uganda. Here we are in the wealthiest place on earth yet people are hungry, homeless and, some even, hopeless. Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair but I thank God for bringing me through and providing the resources to help others. Great post, chica!

  4. October 16, 2008 - Reply

    I love that fact that you take the time out to volunteer for a cause. I really need to do more of that myself. Seriously. I’ve fallen off over the years. But poverty is crazy! People have no idea how sad it is to not have or to barely have anything at all. I’ve never struggled because my mother grew up poor and made sure her kids didn’t have to. But seeing what she’s worked to gain makes me appreciate everything I’ve earned that much more. But if I can help wherever I can whether it’s donating clothes to charity or seeing a kid struggle in the supermarket because their grocery bill came up $5 short (because their benefit card is over the limit), then I’ll just pay the difference (as I have). I guess we all should try to contribute wherever we can, even if we don’t volunteer. Because at the end of the day, that could be any one of us.

  5. October 17, 2008 - Reply

    Hey Fungke,
    wow. I don’t know what it is to be poor like that. Growing up I didn’t need for anything (nor did my friends, noticeably at least). But, I think my mom just struggled (being a single mom now myself I can see that was the case) and didn’t let me see it. She didn’t lavish on herself and still gave me just about everything I wanted. Have I ever teased another child for wearing aasics instead of jordans? maybe 🙁 but that’s what kids do – unfortunately. they just don’t understand.
    And in America things are sooooo twisted. I don’t struggle persay (sp) but I feel like I don’t deserve to use WIC or any other g’ment services that are out there for single mothers or less fortunate people. bc, I’m not less-fortunate but dammit, white people use that sh!t up! they know how to work the system. I used to feel like if I get the services, I’d feel ashamed and like I’m taking something away from someone more deserving. Meanwhile white ppl are out there using it up driving a fancy car living in a 5-br house.
    But real talk, as far as the really impoverished, I don’t volunteer and I don’t donate – well lemme say I don’t go out of my way to do these things. I say that bc a friend of mine’s is a pastor and from time to time he will ask for donations for inner-city kids or volunteers and I do it, other than that, nada. I’ll hear about it (like I just heard u talk about it) and be like damn – but I still don’t do anything. So, I just don’t really talk about it. may sound harsh but I can only be honest.
    (I’ve posted as Ani before but figured I’d stick with cuzzo from now on – all bi-polar like and sh!t, lol)

  6. October 18, 2008 - Reply

    i would say the opposite, made us more lazy – when a baby cries u stick something in its mouth, a benz, a neimen marcus credit card – shit we dont read but will be mad a law passed and aint even read it for ourselves

  7. October 18, 2008 - Reply

    you are who u are bc of what you went through as a child…i appreciate the fact that you live the lifestyle you live now…im sure you realize at the drop of a dime riches can be taken away…you always reminded me of the little girl in the old shirley temple movie, “the little princess” (added by Mobile using Mippin)

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