Mike Everett-Lane and I have been corresponding about Dukie of The Wire. (See yesterday’s post.) Mike works for Donors Choose, an internet intermediary that makes it easier for donors to find causes and make contributions.
I had asked Mike what contribution would help a guy like Dukie. He was circumspect, as he should be, noting that there are no easy answers and no uniform ones. But he did give me a couple of links. Thanks to Mike and Donors Choose, I found Mrs. B who says this about a project she wants funded.
Imagine the place you feel safest. Most of you would probably say it is at home, possibly in your favorite chair, or sitting around the kitchen table with your family. At the urban high school where I teach art, “safe” is not a word my students would use to describe their homes or neighborhoods.
School is a respite, a protective coating for a guy like Dukie. Anything that makes it more interesting, anything that gives it longer hours, serves him well.
I once had a student who grew up in a tough neighborhood in Florida. He told me he always felt that he was "one mistake" away from the world of the gang.
All you had to do is to get in the wrong car once, and you belonged to the street.
So if we think about this in a mechanical way, we want to reduce the number of hours that Dukie is out, about and at large. Mrs. B’s class could eliminate some hours and one of these might be the one he in which he "got in the wrong car."
There are two strategies here, I guess. Lots of little distractions that whittle away the time Dukie has to spend on the street. The other is one big distraction, the consuming activity that preempts all of Dukie’s free time.
With the possibility, and the cost, of error so high, we’ll take what we can get. But I prefer the first strategy: lots of little distractions. The thing about one big distraction is that it often comes in the form of team sports. With practices after school, and two-a-days on the weekend, football is very good at soaking up your time.
But the thing about sports is that you end up learning very little (and perfecting, you hope, quite a lot). The thing we want for Dukie, once we fireproof him against the street, is to broaden his knowledge and skill sets so that he is eventually mobile in social and cultural space, and in a position to choose. In a sense, his is a choice between being Berlin’s Fox and Hedgehog. I think Dukie is better being a fox who knows many things. Again, this assumes we can choose.
The trouble with a fox’s "many interests" strategy is that it is hard to create, hard to sustain, and it is bound to leave patches, an hour here and there, where disaster can sneak in. Ideally, we could find some bundle of activities. I guess this gives the nod to a community center where you can check in after school and stay late.
The next piece of this puzzle is to make role models a piece of the solution. The more inspirational the better. Bill Strickland appears to be one model here. (I know about him and Manchester Bidwell thanks to a comment from Suzi yesterday.)
But look at this. Here I am grinding away at a strategy and a plan. And it will not have escaped your notice, I expect, that I am making a hash of it. Surely, this is something David Simon might have developed from the beginning. Plainly this guy is the master of the televisual medium. Just as plainly he is hopeless when it comes to something more "360" as we say in the biz. The Wire ought to have been surrounded by lots of new media links, thoughts and comments. The path from The Wire to philanthropy should be well marked, well lit, and there from the beginning. Maybe next series.
Mrs. B’s Classroom at donorschoose.org here.
The new media approach to The Wire and Dukie came up in the course of a conversation I had at a PSFK event this evening. I am not sure who raised the point. The following people were party to the conversation: Noah Brier, Marissa Shrum, and [2 names to follow]. I think it might have been Marissa. Thanks to Piers Fawkes for the event.