The Poet of Poverty (2010)

The following video excerpts are from the 2010 documentary film Poet of Poverty. This unique documentary investigates how a city like Camden, NJ, which is annually ranked among the poorest and most dangerous cities in America, can come into existence in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The film is based on the letters of Father Michael Doyle, a local parish priest, which are narrated by Martin Sheen.

“I Feel Safe Here”

The film’s opening segment was written in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and accompanies the image of a child walking past boarded-up buildings and trash-filled streets on his way to school.

“A seventh grade boy in Sacred Heart School made this comment after the frightening destruction of the twin towers in New York that killed 2,700 people. ‘I feel safe here,’ he said. It was an amazing statement because most people are shocked in their shoes and scared to death. ‘You’re not afraid,’ he was asked. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I’m not afraid because if the terrorists fly over Camden, they’ll think they have done it already.’”

“Hope in Camden”

This second two minute segment, entitled “Hope in Camden”, features Martin Sheen narrating the poem The Dolphins Danced on Arlington to the visual of impoverished children in Camden at play in a makeshift pool built from a discarded hot tub and their imagination. The poem reads:

“One day God sent a message from of all places Arlington Street, and it brightened up the doorway of my mind. On Arlington, in the awful heat, on that Godforsaken street without light or life, ugly, urban decay at levels straining the imagination, seven children were splashing in cascading water like shining wet dolphins in the sun. Somehow, they had hauled a discarded hot tub from Adventure Spas on Chelton Avenue, opened a fire hydrant and the powerful pressure sent the water upward on an old sheet of plywood into the tub and sent the children into ecstasies of delight in spite of all the awful misery around them…Nothing could daunt the wild surge of their young lives and hopes. What is it about hope? Does its real inspiration only rise out of the tragic emptiness to take its pure and unsupported stand against all odds?”

Fair Use Notice

This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only in an effort to advance the understanding of human rights and social justice issues and is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.

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