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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 20, 2012 12:00am-12:25am EDT

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the author of innocent confessions of a welfare mother she speaks about her own experiences to dispel some of the myths and understanding about those in poverty. please welcome barbara f. morrison. [applause] thank you. hi, everybody. welcome. i'm glad you're here. i may not look like what you would expect of a welfare mother but indeed i was on welfare. these days i successful engineer, but when i was 24, was a very scared young woman. i'd been abandoned by my husband and disowned by my parents. i had a baby and i was pregnant again. i had no money and i had no job. i have a lot of very serious decisions to make.
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i found a temporary place working as a live-in housekeeper for a family. they were very nice to me but when they found out i was pregnant, they asked me to leave so i'm going to read you a little from the book at that point. it was october by than by the time i realized i had to leave and the darkness closed in early. the house was empty and silent. the family having gone out for the evening. there were no curtains in the window of the sitting room on that third floor. i sit close to the window and look at the small bright stars in the sky so far away with jeremy, that was my baby. i went over and sat at the table to count my assets. i was 24-years-old, had an english degree, no money, a 15 month old son and another child on the way. there were three piles of paper
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next to my journal on the table. one pile consisted of the help wanted ads torn out of the paper and other possible jobs. i checked them out but i had nothing to offer in the way of skills or experience, and even the factories didn't want to hire somebody pregnant. a second title contained brochures from the day care centers, child care for children under three in that town was almost nonexistent and very expensive. the third play of the most disorderly slipping back with the old envelopes, napkins' and old stray pieces of paper on which i'd been scribbling budgets for weeks. jeremy came over and crawled onto my lap. i held him with my left hand and with my right to move to the papers away from his hand and spread them out. i kept trying to make the numbers work. looking at them now it seems clear the salary i would have to
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make simply to pay for room and board and child care was well out of my reach. with no alimony or child support, i would have to work two or three jobs just to survive, but then who would raise my children? i wanted to raise myself, not dump them in a home for an hours a day even assuming i could find such a place. as i looked at the title of budgets, i realized that with no job, no money, no child support, no health insurance and looming medical bills for my pregnancy and for my baby, i had no choice but to go on welfare. a choice list twice as my friend jill who was also on welfare called it. i had sought against going on welfare for so long, trying to find some other situation from a communal situation or stay at home job. the idea of taking handouts
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asking for charity made me cringe but i didn't see any of their way to provide for my children in the coming months. welfare seemed to be the only door left open for me. it was like getting unemployment. i paid taxes for years already and i would again someday send. psas safety net for a difficult time. would be like the victim of hurricane my life had been picked up and shaken around and jump to the ground leaving me without resources of my own to care for my children. welfare was not an attractive option even then in 1974 even in massachusetts where the a lot and was one of the best in the country. i have seen what it was like for my friend in return for food stamps and barely enough cash to pay for rent on the cheapest apartments with the minimal utilities. she was subject to surprise
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inspections from social workers entitled to criticize every aspect of her life. when she handed over food stamps the of the shoppers inspected dhaka content of her cart ready to condemn anything frivolous. she often had to fight to keep her meager allotment from being cut as some administrators when dependent on an office for social workers were told to act as if the money were coming out of their own pocket. jill sometimes cry and frustration. how bad, how bad do you traces have to be before welfare seems like your best choice? i felt so old as if i'd lived 100 years already. i have only one bit of philosophy left, one model to hold my life together: the kids come first. the kids come first. every decision had to be based on what was right for my
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children, jeremy and this new baby. i was all they had. i raised my head of the darkness filled the room beyond the table and i shivered and held jeremy closer crossing my arms over his tummy and pressing him back against me. he craned his head back to look at me with surprised office. it's okay, sweetheart, i said and kissed his neck. everything is going to be okay. okay, jeremy repeated as he stroked my cheek with his small hand. i couldn't allow us to lie down and die. i had to be an adult, even the way billy knew how having rely on my husband's knowledge of the world. the children depended on my making the right choices. the october wind rattled the window for attending our precarious refuge.
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deciding to go on welfare i had in the sense that a door slammed shut behind the and i was stepping out into the cold on a journey with no mask without even knowing what my destination would look like. all i know for sure is i would never give up my baby. i grew up in a middle class neighborhood, going on welfare was a shock shall we say, it was like going into a new country for me. so this book is a coming-of-age story. it's about learning to be an adult, learning how to be a parent come in also learning how to deal with this crazy system. from example, in order to apply for welfare, had to have my own apartment. i couldn't share it with somebody else comes abutment sure i was with no money i had to somehow scrape together rent
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and a security deposit and get an apartment and once i had an apartment on had nothing to put an end. i had a credit, a changing table, a kitchen table someone had thrown out but the was it. no refrigerator, no stove, no couch, no dead, nothing. my friend came to the rescue again and told me about the emergency assistance. they would provide some money for furniture and appliances, but would they give me the money so i could go to good will or a yard sale and get something second-hand? no, we can't be trusted with cash, we are given vouchers and i will read you a little about that. with furniture and appliances like gotten through emergency assistance there was one voucher i hadn't used yet. it was for a crib, a second credit for this new baby. the voucher was made out to a
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discount store on main street where they supposedly have a crib for the price on this voucher. the welfare office policy was to find the lowest price in town and issue a voucher for that store for that exact amount and there's a caveat that the recipient could not add more money to purchase a more expensive item that was to protect us from the and switched tactics of unscrupulous merchants. running out of time to get the credit at this point i was nine months pregnant i went awkwardly holding the door open to push jeremy's stroller through and i walked past the table where will lead these figured mincy stacks of nylon panties. i presented the voucher to a salesman. he was middle-aged, balding with a tie holding the on button the collar of his shirtsleeves dress shirt together.
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no, he said, we don't have a crib for that price. but you have to, i said. no, we don't. he started to walk away. she turned back. this voucher the welfare office has you down as having a crib for this price. he looked down with the fluorescent light leaning on his forehead. one side of his upper lip curling. we don't. we used to it costs more now. she turned away. i stood their gripping the handle of jeremy's stroller not sure what to do. a social worker had been very clear she was not allowed to change the voucher no matter what the circumstances, not even if the store raised their prices. it was this voucher or nothing and i couldn't make up the difference in the price for the caveat on the culture. all my childhood training came back to me. all those good little girls don't make a fuss at monitions told me to back down and leave
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without an argument. i looked around and dearest. i was embarrassed and hoping none of the other women had heard. i fought briefly. well, the baby could sleep in a cardboard box or maybe a bureau drawer. maybe we could get by until jeremy didn't need a credit any longer. the life of my friends, i thought of jill and i stood up a little straighter. jeremy twisted around to see what i was doing, and then on, the child who had always hidden in the shadows slipping into neighbors' yards hoping no one was looking out of the window, i raised my voice. so, i said, loud so the little old ladies stopped what they were doing and looked up. so, you won't sylvia christa that the price you promised? dewaal ladies started to murmur. so, i said, raising my voice a little more and laying a hand on my nine months stomach coming you want my baby to have to
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sleep in a cardboard box? imagine that, the lady is dropping of of the nylon the head and looking through and moving closer. jeremy looked up at the man with a scowl. you are a bad man, he said. laughter could the man stepped back, he looked to his right, he looked to his left to read the store was silent as a free betty listened to what he had to say. no, he stumbled coming know, of course not. you can have the credit, of course we will honor the voucher. i kept my hard look on him as the lady saw it and turned back to their shopping. thank you am i said. now, please show me which one it is. i actually didn't learn that lesson very well. that lesson about having to speak at to get what you needed. when i did rejoin the work force, which of course i did after a few years hence we all did because the average time to be on welfare has always been less than two years and so after a few years when i was working
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again i didn't tell anyone i had been on welfare. i felt the stigma to strongly. so i listened to my co-workers as they complained about greedy welfare moms ripping off the system, and i didn't say as i could have a welfare worked for me and the people i knew exactly the way it was supposed to. it kept us and the children alive during this time when we couldn't work. then a few years ago i met a writer and teacher who is in the d.c. area pure dividing she teaches at american university and is a wonderful writer but she encouraged me to tell my story and write this memoir to write a true story. so, this book isn't just the coming-of-age story about learning how to survive, learning how to get along with the biker gang in the neighborhood, learning how to deal with landlords who burned on their buildings for the insurance money. it's a story about real people.
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i didn't try to gold cadillac or have ten children. i wasn't able to get a bigger check guess people mentioned. i didn't do drugs or trader bought the system to get no one, not a single one of the stereotypes. we are trying like every other parent to the best we could for our children to provide for our children. thank you. [applause] i think we have a couple minutes if anybody has questions. yes.
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>> the question was have things changed since i was on welfare? the have changed for the worse. the welfare reform act reduced the amount of time you could be on welfare while most people were off any way and still the averages less than two years for people to be on welfare but a lot of the training programs since i discussed it was a training program, the comprehensive education and training act that helped me trend for a job and get the experience i needed for a job. those were not around anymore. there were other jobs i'm not up to date on all the legislation but the whole support network has been reduced the rich and the recent election to the people who are poor or being criminalize and i felt like a criminal and that is why i
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called the book innocent life is very young but made to feel like a criminal so thank you for that question. >> did my parents taught to me? knott now because they've passed away, luckily. not likely that this past week but they don't talk to me now. that was part of my growing poses to learn how to get along with my parents again and for them to learn how to get along with me. we have reconciled by the end of the book. any other questions? okay. thank you very much. [applause] i will be over here signing books.
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surveys are available in the back of the tent. enjoy the rest of your day at the festival. [inaudible conversations] welcome to the federal emanuel bach festival. a couple of quick announcements before the presentation begins for the consideration of everyone here please silence any devices that make any kind of place in order to keep improving
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this event we love your feedback surveys are available at the bows and online at our web site. she will be signing books immediately after this presentation. her books are for sale in the politics and prose bookstore tent. jersey justice the story of the trend in six is her third book following up dear mrs. roosevelt letters to roosevelt through depression and war in the crimber of maryland a living legacy of the new deal. please welcome kathy. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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>> i'm glad you are here to hear about the story of the trenton six. my book is about six african-american men who were rounded up, tried, convicted and sentenced to be electrocuted for the murder of a white man. this was done more or less with the law by police and prosecutors who follow the procedure and knew that the men were innocent cahal. i'm going to very briefly tell you some facts of the case because i want to spend some time reading from the book. on january 27th, 1948, a white
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man who was a second hand dealer in downtown trend in new jersey was murdered and a scene of leaving the crime were two white skinned african-americans. six men were ultimately arrested and they had no way to fight back, no knowledge of the right. the sister of one was determined to find justice and the civil rights conference they know enough would help. the civil rights conference was in the communist party usa. the men's cases were appealed to the new jersey supreme court.
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the convictions were overturned. they were tried again. the men were acquitted and two of the men were found guilty and this time not sentenced to be electrocuted. they appealed the convictions were overturned again this time boston health and made a deal for time served. people think this couldn't happen now deutsch of the cases of the norfolk that happened in this century in virginia, so
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unfortunately not much has changed. the time period and please are important for this story. 1948 to 1953 trenton new jersey was very stubborn. they had jim-crow laws firmly in place. world war two had ended only a few years previously and this was important because the most employer famous for building in the brooklyn bridge they were not only of hiring the they were actually laying off people. at the same time, blacks throughout the south for coming to the north and a fair number of them landed in trenton. this meant that previously the blackberry's were filled up
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savitt to spread out and move into the previously all white areas. also this is a time when in the beginning of the cold war communism in the mccarthy era senator joseph mccarthy used the beginning of the cold war to his political vantage. this is at the time from the countries of eastern europe were being devoured by the soviet union. this created a hyper atmosphere of fear. the police after the murder were under tremendous pressure to do something and this isn't good because they do. they created a constant machine-gun toting a policeman. the head of public safety said


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