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When a Heart Turns Rock Solid

Andrea Cole and Jeff T. Steen
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Jeff T. Steen

on 24 May 2013

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Transcript of When a Heart Turns Rock Solid

When a Heart Turns Rock Solid The Lives of Three Puerto Rican Brothers On and Off the Streets Written by Timothy Black A Discussion Facilitated by Andrea Cole and Jeff T. Steen Spring Semester 2013 May 7, 2013 Social Welfare Policy Analysis with Dr. Robert L. Hawkins Examine the effects of neoliberalism on
marginalized communities

Connect broader policies to the lived experiences
of individuals

Follow the trajectory of the lives of young adults
in his community

Critiques of this publication Timothy Black Background and academic training

Career in sociology and ethnography

Present projects and priorities 'hope moves mountains' ~ Fausto, age 15 'la fe mueve las montanas' ~ Fausto, age 15 Overview of topics and activities Please enjoy the snacks:
Buen provecho! Let's eat! Context: About the author and the setting
Content: About the young men and their experiences
Consider: Linking lives and social policies
Convene: Discuss impressions and feedback
Conclude: Reflect upon local and national implications Relevant historical information

Economic and political trends

Contemporary issues Puerto Ricans in Springfield Puerto Rican experiences in the
Continental US POLICY Linkages with From the author Policy recommendations There may be space for more sweeping and/or controversial change when private funders become involved in policy making

Ad hoc interventions, such as only repealing mandatory minimum sentences may do little to truly alter the trajectories of young men

As Black points out, preventative efforts are likely to create more substantive, sustainable change:

- Improve access to bilingual education, allow more to enroll and stay in the program, train educators on the importance of bilingual education as a nurturing environment for immigrant youth.
- Improve quality of public education in urban areas, increase funding
- Provide mentors to young men and alternative models of masculinity
- To the extent possible, decrease neighborhood isolation and segregation. Introduction, Young Men's Initiative Critique and the Confessore article What does it mean that the wealthy have not only disproportionate access to policy makers but also to make policy through private donations?

What about sustainability in the long run? What happens when the money dries up?

Can the wealthy truly create social change in this way? What are the pluses of this type of policy-making? For further discussion Additional reflections, questions, and comments Concluding this presentation (and the semester!) More about Fausto Accumulates a criminal background and significant periods of incarceration at a young age

Serves 6 years in jail, becoming involved with a gang and forced into solitary confinement for 14 months, witnesses horrific violence

Fausto’s daughter dies while he’s in jail

Once out of jail, he has a difficult time readjusting to life and begins using heroin again and stealing to support his drug use

Eventually he becomes depressed and suicidal

After a year of rehab, Fausto begins culinary school and is able to find some stability while working Sammy Rivera Youngest of the three Rivera brothers

Although he moved to Springfield in the 6th grade, he'd previously been involved in street fights and criminal activities

Sells and uses heroin, which results in sporadic periods of jail time

Father of three children

Works low-wage jobs and occasionally returns to selling drugs for extra income Julio Rivera The oldest of the three brothers

Moved to Springfield in the 9th grade

Graduated from high school as part of a bilingual education program, briefly attended community college

Became a father around age 19 (girlfriend was 13 and she dropped out of school)

He describes his motivation for leaving the streets as “fatherhood” and is able to find work as a truck driver

By 2006 he and Clara (wife) have obtained middle income status with combined salaries of $80,000/year.

They buy a home with a variable-rate mortgage and eventually face foreclosure when the interest rate becomes too high. Exclamation of Julio 'I tell 'em, yeah, how many languages you speak, one? Well I speak two, so who's superior to who?... And then I tell them, 'Yeah, well you got no pride, 'cause when the Americans told your family to give up their language and learn English, they did. But my people got pride, they wouldn't give their language up. We said hell no, we'll learn English, but we ain't giving up our language or our ways for you all.' p. 173 La familia Rivera The Rivera family Fausto Rivera Black and C. Wright Mills 'The challenge to sociological storytelling is to see the social-historical currents that are running through individuals' lives. As individuals, most of us are too busy navigating the currents to see the larger social forces that are generating them.' p. xii Black and the Riveras Initial interactions

Study, 1990-2008

On-going relationships Aims of the book Springfield, Massachussets A (very brief) history of migration

Experiences with relocation and acculturation

Contemporary considerations Dynamics and difficulties

Springfield during the time of the young adulthood of the Riveras

Springfield, then and now Moved to Springfield, Massachusetts in 7th grade

Shut out of bilingual education and drops out of high school, is mostly unable to read or write but has exceptional analytical and verbal communication skills

His daughter is born when he’s in 11th grade

Drug use-- heroin-- begins in early adulthood A comment from Fausto 'After a while you start learning how to live and you start learning the rules... So now you're not an inmate anymore... Now you've learned how to act. Now you're getting into doing your time, accepting it and trying to get out. That's when you become a convict.' p. 254 Sammy's reflections (speaking about his experiences in the criminal justice system) (speaking about the relationship between a drug user and the drug of choice) 'This is how I know Satan exists. There ain't nothing on this earth that is as powerful at that fucking powder, I'm telling you, nothing bro... Once you have it, you be wanting more, it's always in your head with you. It's the most powerful thing on earth, I swear to God, it can make you do things you could not imagine.' p. 187 (speaking about experiences as a Puerto Rican living in the continental US, particularly related to language and cultural differences) “The redistribution of income and wealth upward and the loss of public monies work against the Rivera brothers and others portrayed in this book. Transforming the social economic conditions in which they live would require social reform on the level of what might be called the New New Deal or Urban Marshall Plan. Public works programs, universal health care, two-way bilingual education programs, tuition-free quality public schools and colleges, affordable child care and housing require serious investments…Instead of social reform, the U.S. continues to rely largely on prisons to manage the lives of a segment of the population left behind by the post-1970s economy…” Identification of problems Numerous policies throughout the book are described as impacting the Rivera brothers and their peers:

Colonialism and deep-seated racism
Bilingual education
Police brutality
Lack of safe and resource-rich community spaces
NAFTA (leading to further deindustrialization of U.S.)
Deregulation (specifically of the trucking industry)
War on Drugs including mandatory minimum sentencing and “three strikes” legislation
Continued “invisible punishment” of those in prison after release
Policies that allowed for the proliferation of variable-rate mortgages Continued discussion Please identify some thoughts, observations, questions regarding this book and the issues it raises

How do you see policy impacting the lives of the Rivera brothers?

Where to you see options for policy change? Review articles that were distributed and present key points

How would such an initiative have helped or not helped the brothers?

How would such an initiative work (or not work) in a smaller city like Springfield?

What are some of the implications of a program like YMI? Will it work?

Can it address the structural issues that prevent the success of young men of color or of low income? For example, job training may be helpful but does not make it more likely that business owners will hire young men of color. http://www.holycross.edu/departments/crec/media/black/ Key comments from the video Multiple social structures in society ifluence the trajectories of the 3 brothers, such as:

deindustrialization,
“double displacement,"
community and social isolation,
stigma toward Puerto Ricans in Springfield

These circumstances lead to “the lost generation” where 50% drop out of high school, unemployment rates soar, many turn to drugs, gangs for a sense of purpose and identity, and then, end up in jail The Young Men's Initiative From Springfield to NYC Given that the young men in the book are saddled by multiple inept institutions-- including the educational institutions, the prison complex, neighborhood networks, drug rehab programs, etc.-- as well as structural barriers to success, we wanted to consider and potentially apply a policy that aims at creating, to some extent, more sweeping change at multiple levels of society, addressing multiple barriers to inclusion for young men of color. We chose to focus on the Young Men’s Initiative here in New York City.
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