Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Ghetto Life 101
In 1993 producer David Isay put a tape machine into the hands of a pair of 13-year-old boys living in the "projects" in Chicago's rough South Side. The result was a spontaneous, honest, and surprisingly profound half-hour diary of life in the ghetto. They named it "Ghetto Life 101". During a hot summer day, we shared the 30 minute recording with the participants.
"After standing in the hot unbearable summer heat, I found myself back in the office and sat in my seat wondering how relevant listening to the audio would be to journalism. The sounds of old school hip-hop filled the room, which put me at ease. The high-pitched voice of 13-year-old LeAlan Jones and 14-year-old Lloyd Newman came through the speakers. They introduced themselves to their audience as young journalist making a radio documentary of their life and environment growing up in the Ida B. Wells housing on the south side of Chicago.
I listened very intently and made sure I digested everything that they were saying. As they described their lives growing up with a lot of hardships in their community, I looked around the room trying to figure out what everyone was thinking by their facial expressions. How much they knew and how professional LeAlan and Lloyd were amazed me when they were interviewing people. LeAlan and Lloyd shared some very personal information about their lives.
LeAlan lived with his grandmother, mother and sister just outside of the Ida B. Wells. He interviewed everyone in his house. He seemed unfazed by some of the shocking answers that he got from them. The boys asked some very sensitive questions to their family.
Lloyd’s mom died form drinking and his dad was a drunk, which left his 19-year-old sister to take care of six kids.
LeAlan admits that living in their community gets depressing sometimes. He also says that it forces kids to grow up fast.
Even with living in these types of conditions they still manage to have their spirits up. I sometimes forget how many people have it worst than others. LeAlan and Lloyd were very successful in helping people understand their experiences."