Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Shocking Facts About America's Children

Marian Wright Edelman recently spoke at the City Club of Cleveland. She is the president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund. Her accomplishments and credentials are too numerous to include here. She spoke on the issue of child poverty in the United States.

"A nation that does not stand for its children does not stand for anything and will not stand tall in the 21st century or before our God."

This so-called great United States of America has the second highest child poverty rate among 35 industrialized nations despite having the largest economy in the world.  Shocking. Shameful.

There are 14.7 million poor children in this country.  This exceeds the population of Ohio and Iowa put together.  An American child has a 1 in 5 chance of being poor.
Six and a half million are in extreme poverty. This exceeds the population of Connecticut and Mississippi put together.

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County:
Over half the children in Cleveland are poor (54%) with 28% considered in extreme poverty.
Twenty-four percent of Cleveland's children were food insecure in 2013.

Poverty has life-long consequences.  The younger the child the poorer he or she is likely to be - this is during the time of crucial brain development.  Growing up poor decreases the likelihood of graduating from high school, and increases the likelihood of having poor health, being poor in adulthood and being  involved in the criminal justice system.  It costs this country dearly everyday.

As Edelman said - these children did not ask to be born, did not choose their parents, their country, state, city, faith or race but in 35 other nation they would be less likely to be poor only ahead of Rumania whose economy is 99% smaller than ours.

"Saving our children is about saving our country. I hope we will begin to counter the fact that too often our politics trumps these policies, moral decency and responsibility for the next generation."

Edelman stated that there are nine programs, already proven successful, that could eradicate at least 60% of child poverty. Her organization has detailed them and shown what they would cost.  The cost would be 77.2 billion dollars as opposed to the $500 billion that poverty costs this country every year.   These programs would include things like basic housing (which would in itself eliminate 2.3 million  children from poverty), food availability for children, early childhood programs, school nurses, and home intervention programs.

(These could easily be paid for if only our leaders would allow it.  If they simply eliminated tax breaks to the rich in America we could save $84 billion.  Congress just voted to repeal the estate tax for the wealthiest 5400 Americans at a cost of $269 billion. They just voted to give the Pentagon $38 billion even though it was not asked for.)

WHY can't our government do what's right?  Why wouldn't they want to eliminate our citizen's suffering? Why wouldn't they want to improve children's futures? Why wouldn't they want to actually save money by spending some on the poor?  Why wouldn't they want to reduce the billions of dollars spent on mass incarceration in our country?

The answer is moral judgement.  What other reason could it be?  They are against "hand-outs". They want people to pull them up by their bootstraps - but children don't have bootstraps - they are victims. And what poverty does to children will simply be passed down to their children. Poor health, poor education, prone to crime.

And moral judgment includes that those who have comfy lives think they deserve it. They've earned it. They do not recognize the advantages they started out with because they do not want to admit that they could have been born into poverty as well, but were simply fortunate not to be.  They do not want to share what they have. It is greed. It is entitlement. It is discriminatory.

You may not believe in helping poor people that, in your judgement, have no reason to be - but children don't have those choices.  Yet, they are the future of America.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A New Kind of Bucket List

Being retired I feel like I should have a bucket list. I am pretty much open to doing anything I haven't done before and traveling anywhere I have the chance to go. A bucket list has to be feasible to be successful and I am a practical thinker so we'll see.

I already wrote a novel and published a lot a of poetry but I would like to find a way for more people to read what I have labored over for so many years.

I mostly think about traveling, but my husband is not retired and time and money are a factor. (We are planning a trip to Italy, but we have planned that trip before and life got in the way.)

I truly feel like this is the time in my life to just become a better person - the person I've always wanted to be but couldn't always focus on. My time is not filled up with raising children, building relationships or working full time.  I believe retirement gives you time not just for yourself, but for others. I am currently caring for my mother and tutoring people studying to get their GEDs.  But there is so much more I would like to do. I don't want to spend every day purely focused on myself. (Also, spending time with my grandson, but that's just pure fun.)

Cleveland's popular local writer, Regina Brett wrote a column about a new kind of bucket list. These are excerpts from her column of April 29, 2015.

What if you turned your bucket list into a bucket life? Instead of making a list of things you want to do once in your life, how about a bucket full of gifts for others?  

Instead of risking your life for a thrill, save a life. Learn CPR, the Heimlich maneuver and how to use a defibrillator.  Donate blood, be an organ donor or a bone marrow donor. Become a disaster action volunteer with the Red Cross.

Instead of learning something new, teach someone to read, to speak Spanish, sew, bake, play guitar, change a tire, or to hit a home run.

You want an adventure? Become a foster parent or adopt a special needs child.

If travel is your thing, spend Sunday in a church with people of a different race or religion. Build a home with Habitat for Humanity. Spend a week living with the poor in Africa, El Salvador or India, not to fix them, but to learn from them.

If you love challenges, try this one: Forgive everyone everything.

Instead of writing a book, write a will so your family isn't left confused over who gets what. Write thank you cards to every teacher who shaped your life. Write love letters to everyone you love.

Write your eulogy, then live a bucket-list that will make it all come true.