Growing Up Poor in America

The experience of childhood poverty against the backdrop of a pandemic and a national reckoning with racism. Set in Ohio, the film follows children and their families navigating issues of poverty, homelessness, race and new challenges due to COVID-19.

AIRED: September 08, 2020 | 0:54:22

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

>> Millions more Americans have filed unemployment claims...

>> Many Americans face a new challenge

of putting food on the table.

>> NARRATOR: Even before the pandemic...

>> I haven't had any income coming in

since before COVID started.

>> NARRATOR: ...deepened the countries economic divide.

>> Please let there be strawberries.

>> NARRATOR: Millions of children were living

in poverty.

>> Thank you.

Have a good one.

>> We have a lot of kids that come to school

and they rely on us to...

They come hungry.

>> NARRATOR: In places like Ohio...

>> Sometimes this is probably the only meal they get.

I don't think anybody thought

we'd be doing this you know, yeah.

>> NARRATOR: Home to some of the poorest communities

in the country.

>> Being a single mom is hard.

You know if I could feed my kids without having assistance,

you best betcha I would, but I can't.

>> Flour, salt?

Chicken or...?

>> Beef! If you have beef.

>> NARRATOR: From the start of the crisis,

"Frontline" followed three children and their families.

>> When we say we don't like have money,

like, we really don't.

>> I have no home, I can't provide a home

for my children right now.

>> I walk to McDonalds because they have a free lunch

for school-aged kids.

>> We're here for the free lunch.

>> NARRATOR: As they navigated months of uncertainty.

>> If we can't finish the rest of the year,

we may get held back again.

>> If they keep these schools shut, I'm gonna go crazy.

I cannot teach her.

>> If I feel sad or something, and I expressed to my mom,

that would make her feel sad

and so I just keep it to myself.

>> I couldn't imagine living like this forever

and I don't want to live like this forever.

>> NARRATOR: Now, the experience of growing up poor in America

through the eyes of children.

>> I think anyone can end up how we are, being homeless.

>> When I get older, I wouldn't want to live here.

I want to get a good, stable job.

>> I just can't, I can't. >> It's all right.

>> No, I can't concentrate.

>> It's way more kids like this that's going through

the same thing as we are.

Because something life just happen,

and things go the wrong way.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

>> Now, the governor of Ohio ordered all schools

in the state to close for three weeks.

>> Governor ordering schools K through 12

to go on an extended spring break.

>> We have to do everything that we can to slow down,

uh, the spread, uh, of, of this virus.

>> Now that he's made that decision,

what exactly is this three-week break gonna look like?

Well, that really depends on where your kid goes to school.

>> My name is Shawn, I'm 13 and I live in The Plains, Ohio.

Coronavirus scares me.

I know it's really dangerous.

Potentially deadly, probably.

We're trying our best to not, like, have it come in here.

We use disinfecting wipes to wipe down the knobs,

the light switches, and a lot of things that we touch a lot.

I don't like cleaning, but, I mean, it's a "have to do"

thing, really.

Um, Mom, do you want me to spray?

>> Um, sure, I'll let you take over after I spray

the stuff in here and you can...

>> Curtain.

>> Spray the curtain and the rod and we're good.

Hey, Dior. How did you get there?

>> I live in a trailer with my mom and my sister Dior.

There's not enough room in the house for my brother to stay,

so he lives with my grandparents,

and he comes over to visit as much as he can.

>> You can make it.

>> This is my first time living in a trailer.

The walls, like, you can-- they're really thin,

and so you can, like, hear a lot of things.

The reason we moved into a trailer is 'cause it's, like,

something we actually can afford.

>> (babbling)

>> (laughs)

>> (babbles in response)

>> Here, you can hang this up.

I'm a single parent mother.

I've always worked, uh, up until I found out

I had a kidney disease and was told by my doctor

that they didn't want me to work.

>> She couldn't really get a job because when she'd stand

or something, like, her feet would get swollen.

>> Because of the fact that I couldn't keep working,

I do get benefits right now.

>> (babbles)

>> That's not a phone, missy.

My mom gets food stamps, HUD pays the rent.

That helps us out a lot 'cause she only has to pay,

like, one or two bills.

So she has other money to buy, like, pay for other things,

like clothes, shoes, and that type of stuff.

>> Right now I am getting assistance until I get back

into the workforce.

So, I do have to work hours off.

Working off hours are basically hours that I'm assigned to be

eligible for my benefits.

(phone ringing)

Thank you for calling the Salvation Army, this is Crystal.

How can I help you?

>> She works at a place called the Salvation Army.

They give out, like, free food, free clothes to other people.

>> Uh, we have sliced potatoes.

What I get is $485 per month, and I get approximately $400

in food stamp assistance.

So I take $885 times 12 equals $10,620, for three.

>> My mom stretches the money that she gets, like,

to last out the whole month,

but some things I can't get that I want.

The grocery stores are, like, running out of supplies

and stuff, like, um, toilet paper,

bread, meats, I don't-- a few things.

My mom, she does still work, which kind of scares me.

They have to do something called curbside pickup.

>> Okay, we have Edner and Edinger right here.

>> She goes up to people's cars and puts the food box

in the trunk. >> We got you.

You guys have a wonderful day.

>> Thanks a lot, guys. >> Have a good one.

>> Stay safe.

>> If I had my choice, I probably wouldn't want

my mom working.

Because there's still any chance of her getting sick

from contact with other people--

even their cars, like, they, they could have coughed

or something and it could have gotten on the car.

I don't know, there's still any chance that could...

That could-- that she could still get the virus.

>> I am still required to work my hours for my assistance

that I'm getting.


Long-term, I don't know how that's gonna change,

and the virus could very well change that.

If we're not allowed to work, then that means I can't complete

my hours so, to... maybe my, my assistance could get shut down.

You know, I don't know.

I guess that's something that's all coming down the pipeline,

but as of right now, we're at a standstill

with knowing what's gonna happen.

>> My fellow Ohioans, we have not faced an enemy

like we are facing today in 102 years.

You have to go back to the 1918, uh, influenza epidemic.

>> Dang.

>> Uh, we are certainly at war.

I don't know any other way to describe this,

but to say that we are at war.

In a time of war, we have to make sacrifices.

Dr. Acton just signed a stay-at-home order

for all Ohioans.

>> I'm Kyah, and I am 14 years old.

And I live with my sister and my mom.

I would say we were a poor family,

because we really don't have a lot of money at all.

I'm bored.

We've been homeless basically for a year

or something like that.

We had moved into a apartment, and we couldn't afford it,

so we had to move out.

So we've just been living with people.

We're just in one room and there's three of us.

>> I'm homeless, I'm just not your typical what it looks like

to be homeless.

But I have no home.

I can't provide a home

for my children right now.

We need a dentist appointment bad.

She got some cavities.

>> Lately, they've been hurting all the time, for some reason.

I think it's because I was just,

I've been eating a whole lot of candy.

We're homeless because we're not financially stable.

And my mom's just been struggling

because she's a single parent,

and it's really harder than people think.

Prior to losing her house, she just couldn't afford,

um, paying the bills anymore.

She still has not gotten back on her feet with, um, a job which,

um... and she doesn't want to move into another place

where she knows that she can't afford it

and then we'll be out.

>> All of my jobs have been, like, temp jobs.

I haven't had any income coming in since before COVID started,

because I had just ended a position

and I was going into a new position in March.

And then I got a call saying we're not gonna be able

to move forward with your job.

So I have had no income coming in, no child support.

So, I've tried other programs, you know, to assist in helping

us kind of get through this portion of life.

If you was gonna start work and COVID-19 interrupted that,

and/or if you had a child in your home whose schooling

was interrupted by COVID-19, this...

This unemployment is, um, just specifically for that.

They're going to be giving me a weekly benefit

of that much money until I find a job,

but everything is still pending, though,

so I haven't got anything yet.

Every little bit will help the necessities of life,

like toothpaste, toothbrush, stuff that we need

for feminine products or summer clothes,

for example, since our stuff was frickin' taken away

through storage, auctioned off.

>> We had it in a storage unit.

And we didn't have enough money to pay for the storage unit.

So they auctioned our stuff out.

I lost important things like pictures that I can't get again,

some of our clothes were actually in there,

and a whole lot of other stuff.

>> I live in a packed bag.

And all my stuff is in there.

I just keep it packed, 'cause at this point,

there's no reason to keep unpacking it,

so I just keep it all packed.

So, that is stressful, but I've got-- I've gotten used to it.

So I guess it's really not, not anymore.

>> This the first layer.

Then I put this on there... like this.

I just lay these out and then in the morning, I'll put them away,

and then when I go to sleep again, I'll take them out.

I really make this look like, like a little twin-sized bed.

I have to sleep on the floor, and my, um, my sister and my mom

sleep on the bed.

I feel like I should, because my mama's back

is more fragile than mine.

I go like this.

I don't like living in other houses-- I wish we had our own.

I couldn't imagine living like this forever

and I don't want to live like this forever.

>> I have never appreciated having a house until it's gone.

So today, they have, um, bananas, strawberries, pears,

lettuce, and sweet potatoes.

>> It's not only a house that we need support or help with.

It's also, like, getting, like, food, because just, like,

more than for not having money for a house,

it's just in general.

We don't even own the car.

We borrowed it from my mom's friend.

Sometimes we go to get food at the food pantry.

Sometimes when my mom does have, like, a little bit of money,

we'll get it on our own.

>> Y'all still have strawberries?

>> We have different stuff every day.

>> Please let there be strawberries.

Please let there be strawberries.

>> I hope they have them.

>> All right, baby, you can...

>> All right, thank you.

>> Hi. >> (laughs): Hi.

>> We have chips and apples... >> Okay.

>> And premade lunches.

>> Oh. Want one of those?

>> Do you want some of those? >> Sure.

>> Okay, I can give you, like, four or five?

>> We'll just take three, yeah.

Thank you, though. >> Yeah.

>> Thank you.

>> You're welcome.

>> Y'all have a good one.

>> Yeah, you, too. >> There you go.

>> Have a nice day, guys. >> You, too.

I like her mask.

I wonder if they give away masks.

>> Oh, Jesus.

>> What makes me the saddest about all this

is seeing my mom like this.

I try not to, like, show my feelings

because I know it will be overwhelming,

and it makes things worse.

I don't think I should have to carry these worries as a kid,

but I just choose to.

Because when my mom-- when I can see that, like, my mom feels

like that, it makes me feel like that, then I start to, like,

not blame it on myself, but feel like I wish, like, I could help,

but I can't.

So just, like, I feel like I stress myself out,

even though my mom tells me not to worry.

>> My stomach is hurting.

>> Okay.

You want to lay down?

>> (murmurs)

>> You sure you don't want to lay down?


Like, sit up, kind of?

>> When I'm trapped, I actually feel...

I actually am-- I feel depressed,

even though kids shouldn't be depressed,

but I feel like it really makes us depressed.

And when I feel that way, I actually-- sometimes, I do cry.

I feel drained and dark.

♪ ♪

>> Where-- Oh, she's crying.

>> Yeah.

Something's wrong, for her to be responding like that.

♪ ♪

>> Ohio food pantries are feeling the weight

of the health crisis.

>> Food pantries are finding new ways to keep our communities

safe while providing their much-needed services.

>> Many Americans face a new challenge

of putting food on the table.

>> I'm Laikyen, and I'm 12 years old.

I live in Marietta, Ohio, with my mom and my sister.

>> (laughs): Your aim sucks.

>> I am not in school right now because of the coronavirus.

For three weeks.

You can't even throw a football.

All you can do is throw pom poms.

It's kind of sad because it's kind of boring,

and I don't get to see my friends.




My mom works at a gas station.

This week she's worked all, um, nights.

Next week, she's gonna work mornings.

And sometimes she has mid-shift.

(dog barking)

>> Mox, come on.

>> He's happy you're home.

>> You're happy I'm home?

Did you have a good day today, girls?

>> She woke up at 12:00.

I woke her up.

>> Did you do dishes?

>> No.

>> Is it just too much to ask for?

>> I could sweep.

And do laundry.

>> Uh, dishes ain't hard.

>> Dishes suck.

>> Well, what are you gonna do when you get older?

How you gonna make it in college?

>> Paper plates.

>> Paper plates.

>> Yep.

>> You are going far away.

>> I don't think it's good that

I'm missing lots of school,

because my grades right now, my schoolwork is not very well.

I watch my movies and, um, that's really all I do.

And eat-- that's what I do.

Eat, sleep... sometimes learn.

(phone chirps)

>> (coughs)

(song playing on phone)

>> I have to take ADHD medicine, but I don't take it 'cause, uh,

I don't like it.

Sorry, I was in Laikyen Land.

I have a land that's called Laikyen Land,

and when I, like...

Do you guys know when you guys just, like, zone out,

like when you just stare and don't blink?

I have that, and I have Laikyen Land; it's where I think.

I think it's when I, like, I get stressed or something, or, like,

when I'm, like, I don't know.

And, like, I just stare at something.

And, then, like, it, like, calms me down, and I don't know why,

but yeah.

I just stare at something, and then I zone out.

Everything except what I'm staring at becomes blurry.

Like, see I'm cross-eyed?

Like, see how I'm doing this right now?

It looks, like, blurry.

Like, I stare at it... (growls)

Don't it...

>> My mom has food stamps.

Our food stamps have not stayed the same probably

throughout my whole life.

Depending on my mom's raise or decline, or what job she's had,

they've always gone up and down.

She doesn't really use her paychecks from work

to buy our food, 'cause that's more important

to put towards bills and other stuff that we need.

>> My paycheck yesterday was $214, and it's already gone.

'Cause I had to get everything I needed.

Plus, I had a bill I had to pay.

And I literally have $20 left to my name.

>> In my opinion, my mom don't get paid as much as she should,

because my mom works hard, and she...

deserves a little bit more.

But yeah.

>> Being a single mom is hard.

I mean, I can't... I mean, there's days I'm, like,

"How am I even gonna pay my electric bill?"

You know, if I could feed my kids without having assistance,

you best betcha I would.

But I can't, you know.

Especially when I'm doing everything alone.

Thank God I own my house,

or I wouldn't be able to make it, period.

I mean, there's no way I could afford rent right now.

I don't know how people do it.

No insurance on my home.

That I don't have, and that's the risk I have to take

every day waking up and hoping to hell it don't burn down

to the ground.

>> How many in your family? >> Three.

>> Any veterans? >> No.

>> Some weeks I'm paycheck to paycheck.

Most weeks I'm paycheck till the next day.


>> How many children in your family?

>> Two. >> Two? Are you a single parent?

>> Yes.

>> Is there anyone disabled? >> No.

Thank heavens there's the pantry down the street.

>> How we doing? Come on in.

>> Good.

>> Got some flour, salt.

A chicken...

>> Beef. If you have beef.

>> Yeah, we got beef.

Why do I have to hold it?

You're the mom.

Food pantry is, like, um, what Miss Candy does,

and she helps people that needs help.

She can give you food if you need it.

(gasps): Miss Candy!

>> My princess!

Oh... oh, Laikyen, I love you. I love you.

>> I love you, too!

>> I love you, too.

>> Well, how was school for you before you guys had to, um,

take a break?

>> Oh, I'm failing. >> You're what?

>> I'm failing. >> Oh, my. Yeah?

>> I have all Ds.

>> Get 'em up a little bit.

>> Mm-hmm. >> Apply yourself.

Yeah, don't stress about it, just, just work a little bit

at a time and get them up a little bit each time.

>> Okay, I will.

>> Just work on one thing at a time, okay?

>> Mm-hmm. >> Okay.

>> I'll let you get back to...

>> Cruisin' around.

>> Yep. On your new-- what's the word?

(gasps): Wheels.

>> Yeah. Yeah.

I love you.

>> I love you.

>> Don't you forget.

>> It is not fun being off school this long at all.

But we possibly may not even go back to school.

But yeah, and Miracle's very depressed about that,

'cause now she probably won't have prom.

That's my sister's prom dress, that black one.

>> I got it from my cousin.

Uh, she wore it as a bridesmaid dress,

and she only wore it once, and I thought it was cute.

This is my first, like, actual prom.

I also have a date.

I'm looking forward to having a date. (laughs)

'Cause I've never had a, you know,

date to a dance before, so...

>> It's beautiful. Want to see me walk?

♪ ♪

>> Like, don't wrinkle your sister's dress up, now.

>> Oh, I actually look pretty in it.

(chuckles): This is my sister's prom dress.

♪ ♪

>> I haven't done schoolwork yet.

My mom got a message by someone, she works at the school.

Today the school's planning on, like, delivering Chromebooks.

>> He's gonna be getting his Chromebook,

and it's gonna be his homework and studies.

>> Want to put some of her animal crackers on the tray?

>> Not right now, honey.

Shawn, slow your roll.

>> Transportation is difficult, because my mom don't have a car,

because hers broke down.

>> I was told that they think that it's a blown head gasket.

It's, basically, my car is dead.

When you have a vehicle, you have to have money

saved back for that, and...

It's not always easy.

♪ ♪


We are gonna have to just go...

See, that says, "Stay in your cars."

All right, we're just gonna get in line here.

Here, you wanna... you hold your sister,

you just hold your sister back there.

>> Are you guys here to pick up computers?

>> Yes, ma'am.

>> Do you have a vehicle?

>> I don't have a vehicle.

I live across the street, and I... I have no way to get here.

>> Okay. Who are you picking up for?

>> Shawn (no audio) and Edward (no audio).

>> And what grade?

>> Eighth. Both of them.

(woman speaks indistinctly)

Sorry, my car's broke down, so it's been unfortunate.

(chuckles): Especially during this time.

Thank you so much. God bless you.

>> You're welcome. You, too.

>> Let's put these under here so they don't get wet.

Nice Chromebooks.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> Ready to start your education.

>> Mm-mm. >> You want me to push?

I am so, so glad... >> I'm not.

>> ...that you get to start doing some schoolwork, son.

>> Why? Then we'd be asking if you're homeschooling me.

"Yup, yup."

>> Yeah. I mean...

We'll figure it out together.

>> What's important about school is, like, that I have support

by my teachers, counseling, and, mm, some of my friends.

Hey, really?

One of the main teachers that helped me a lot

was Mrs. Matters, and I haven't seen her since lockdown.

But I know that she does have cancer, which really worries me.

Is there anything that I have to do? Like, assigned?

>> What?

>> Is there something I'm assigned to do yet?

>> Um, I don't know, we'll have to read-- let me see my phone,

and I'll read the email.

Let's check the emails.

>> (crying loudly)

>> This email-- Shawn, I have to tell you something.

>> I'm listening.

>> The, the email said that Mrs. Matters passed away.

>> Nuh-uh!

>> It said she...

"Passed away at her home

surrounded by her family and friends."

Come here, it's all right.

>> (crying)

>> It's okay.

>> (sniffles and gasps)

>> And the, the school says that they're sorry

that your life has been disrupted,

and they'll be making every attempt to support you.

And if you want, we can request a phone call

from your counselor.


You want to give him a hug?

You want to give bubby a hug?


Do you know, was there something, was she ill?

>> Cancer.

>> She's been battling cancer.


>> When was it?

>> This was just sent today, honey.

>> The loss of her is, like, really big to me,

and, like, I don't think anyone else can take her spot.

She was there for me when I needed her.

She taught me how to read.

Like, she'd just brighten up my morning by just, like,

simply saying, by, like, smiling and by saying, "Good morning."

♪ ♪

>> Coronavirus has had a big impact on us,

because the place we're at is getting annoying.

It's such a tight space, and it's three people.

Sometimes we'll go to my mom's friend's house,

like, to get away.

>> Nikki has a degree-- she's a surgical tech.

>> Well, that's one of my options.

>> Of what?

>> Surgical tech.

>> As a career?

>> Uh-huh.

>> Really? You didn't tell me that.

>> Yes, huh. I did tell a lot.

It's a relief being here.

You just feel like you have more freedom.

This is what I would look up.

>> ...farmer's cottage with sauna, steam, massage area...

>> Hmm.

I used to watch these all the time.

>> $40,500,000-- let's take a look.

>> $40... Can you imagine a $40 million house, Kalia?

>> What?

>> Can you imagine a $40 million house?

>> I like looking at houses on the internet to,

like, know that someday we're gonna get that again.

>> The next move is getting a job to bring that income

and saving and then we can...

We can apartment-hunt, because I have to have the application fee

and the processing fees.

I don't have another $185 for every place that I apply for.

♪ ♪

Imagine the pivot with your foot still there, though.

Now just turn.

Where we find housing is important to me

because Kyah has already expressed to me

time and time again that she wants to stay

in her school district.

Her school district is a lot more expensive.

And that kind of does make the search for housing harder.

>> Well, I would choose not to change schools

because I used to not like going to school

because I used to get bullied a lot.

So I used to beg my mom to stay home

and I don't think it will just be wise

to go through that all again and messing up my education.

I just think that education should be your first priority.

>> So every time I call, she say she's going call me back.

Every time I call her, she say she gonna call me back.

>> Okay.

When I was going through getting bullied, it made me,

like, I don't know, it just made me really sad

and, like, self-conscious about myself.

It can affect people more than it affected me.

Because I know people who have actually, like, cut their self

and stuff like that over bullying,

and, like, a lot of people take their lives over it,

but luckily, I was, like, younger.

My mindset wasn't there, and I wouldn't think about,

like, suicidal stuff.

I would just, like, not want to be there.

♪ ♪

When I'm dancing, I feel like I can just,

like, let all my emotions out, and, like, just, like,

breathe and don't have to worry about anything else, like,

that you know you're going through.

>> First, Ohio children were to stay out of the classroom

and focus on virtual learning until April 6.

Now it's May 1.

State leaders say it was a difficult decision,

and what you can do to make sure your child does not fall behind.

>> Okay.

>> Come on.

You got this.

Um, the government shut down school for the rest

of next month and we'll go back to school on May 1,

but we possibly may not even go back to school.

>> There you go-- good job!

>> I got a Twitter notification about the announcement.

The governor tweeted about it.

It kind of made me a little bummed out

because it meant that I don't get to see my friends

or really anybody else for, like, another month.

Um... prom I knew was gone by Trump's announcement of the 30,

April 30 being in quarantine.

>> "During this time of mandated school closures,

it is important that our students keep their skills

and continue to grow as learners.

Helpful tips for parents-- remain calm.

Monitor television and viewing on social media."

>> (laughs)

>> "Maintain a normal routine as much as possible

and make yourself available."

>> If we can't finish the rest of the year,

we might get held back again.

I was held back in kindergarten.

I was held back because, um, I was not smart.

Fifth grade assignment packet!

Seven timetable targets?

We have not even learned any of this!

Like, I think there's, like, this teacher thing.

And I think it, like, helps us, like, learn it.

>> There might be something.

>> I can watch videos. >> Yeah.

>> Oh, Lord, I hate these things.

>> I do worry about Laikyen a lot.

She's gonna be the wild child,

I can already see it, 'cause, you know,

I got my head on my shoulders and there's always that one.

>> That's too much.

Oh, God, more reading.

>> Don't say that.

>> Nine times two is 152, right?

>> No. >> I'm thinking.

>> If they keep these schools shut, I'm gonna go crazy.

I cannot teach her.

I don't have the patience.

>> All of the younger grades, like,

it's really hard for any of them to do their work

because they're younger, and they're used to having

that structure at school where their teacher,

like, tells them to do their work and, like,

if they're at home, their parents, like, are at work

or just don't enforce it how they should,

of how they need to do their school work.

>> Democracy is...

>> They gave me a packet.

And I go down to the Gospel Mission and Miss Candy helps me.

>> We're gonna get that D up.

>> I don't care.

>> Yeah, you do.

Yeah, you do care.

I care, Jeff cares, and you'd care, it's just a lot...

>> I don't really care.

>> It's just a lot on you right now,

'cause you didn't get it done,

like we could have done it and now we're just...

>> I just can-- I can't.


>> It's all right.

>> No, I can't concentrate.

>> If Laikyen doesn't do her work,

then she's probably going to struggle.

It's harder for Laikyen because she has ADHD,

and, like, her mind's all over the place.

>> I can't concentrate.


>> The leader of North Korea...

>> I'm reading it!

I have to read it myself.

>> Okay.

>> I just need to know what I'm doing

and I know what I'm doing.

I just need, just...

>> You just need what?

>> I don't know, just...

Just, just let me try to figure it out.

If I was held back again, I would be sad

because I want to go to the middle school already.

>> So are you getting the, um, cheeseburger?

>> Yeah, Shawn, what are you getting, chicken nuggets?

>> Yeah, and I'm getting...

What I miss most about school is spending time

with my friends, um, talking to them,

being able to communicate.

Some classes where I had, like, a lot of friends

in, like, gym class or recess, stuff like that.

Because of the virus, don't do a lot of contact

with other people outside of family.

>> Great, McDonald's is packed today.

Yo, it's gonna be a minute before we order our food.

>> Well, we ought to hurry up, man.

I only have so much to do at home, like, inside,

and, like, I usually like to, like, go outside

and play basketball, but now I can't really do that

'cause of the virus.

You're not supposed to be in a group with a lot of people.

Being online, I can still talk to people

and, like, communicate with them, but I'd much rather,

like, communicate with, with them in person.

You want, you want a cheeseburger or nuggets?

>> Nuggets.

>> Nuggets?

>> Yo, a Mustang.

>> I usually spend time with my brother and my sister Dior.

I usually, like, take her out on walks sometimes.

I walk to McDonald's because they have a free lunch

for, uh, school-aged kids.

>> Hello.

>> Hello! Hello!

>> We're here for the free lunch.

>> My mom thinks of me as, like, a father figure to her,

'cause she don't really have one.

>> He is the little man of this house, he takes on that role.

>> Oh, really now? Oh, really?

>> Help me feed her, get her diapers together, carry her,

watch cartoons with her, play with her, you know, those type

of things that a father would do, so I tell Shawn

that he is her brother-father, and he likes that. (laughs)

>> (babbling to Dior)

>> (blows raspberry)

>> Oh!

Family is really important to me.

My family was, like, my role model.

Now, now that, now that I, like, now I'm older,

now I have to be Dior's role model.

I mean, it's a lot of pressure on me, but I try to do my best.

If I feel sad or something,

I have a counselor to talk to.

I told my mom that I needed one because there,

there aren't as much people, like, my skin color down here.

I just keep building up stuff

that I really want to talk about.

I first had a counselor, I'd say in fifth grade.

>> What I like about this location is if it ends up

being rainy, we could probably then meet here

if we need to. >> Mm-hmm, okay.

Jesse is my counselor.

Since this virus and stuff hit,

um, I haven't seen him much,

maybe around, like, once a month.

>> Where should we start?

Where would you like to start? >> Um...

>> We got finishing the school year...

>> Mm-hmm.

>> Dealing with coronavirus,

and all of the things that's done in our life.

>> If I feel sad or something, and I expressed to my mom,

that would make her feel sad, and so I just sort of

keep it to myself.

If, if my anger keeps building up, I could get mad and, like,

do something that wouldn't be good

or do something that would get me in trouble

instead of talking to somebody and, like,

releasing all the anger and stress and just, like...

And it's, like...

It's pretty much, like, gone.

>> Hundreds rally to protest police brutality

after the death of George Floyd.

>> Demonstrations have popped up in cities small and large,

including places like Cleveland and Columbus.

>> Protests are happening during a pandemic,

so they are advising people to wear their masks.

>> Okay, y'all good?

Can I wear those?

Looking adorable.

>> My grandma actually does help us sometimes.

She's been more of a help than anyone else.

My grandma doesn't have lots of money,

but she can do what she can.

She does a lot in the community.

She actually gives back a lot.

Through her work, I've watched her be an advocate for people

who don't have voices.

>> Back in our days, there were, they were fighting.

People were dying just to get the right to vote.

>> Yeah.

>> Back then, it was just the boys.

>> Boys, yeah.

>> But now we have to tell our daughters,

if you get into a confrontation with the police,

just, you know, keep your hands up and don't get smart.

>> Something I saw...

>> I was aware of racism and being black at a very young age.

In third grade, I remember bringing, um, a Baby Alive doll

to school for, um, show and tell.

And the baby doll was Caucasian, and I was a little Black...

you know, little African American kid.

And everyone was asking me, like,

"Why is your doll a different color than you?

Like, you're not Caucasian,

like, you need, a, um, African American doll."

And that's, like, when I became aware of the difference

in skin tones, and how people could treat you.

>> You have to get involved.

You know, you got to encourage your friends

and your older friends to vote.

Kalia, you got to vote.

>> Do you think (inaudible).

>> You're 18.

You're gonna vote.

You registered?

We can get you started on that right now.

>> Are you registered, Becky?

>> I get phone calls now all the time from friends

who are asking, how do they activate white lives

to, uh, change or be effective in awareness

of what's happening.

I think that this grew different because of, you know,

just being on lockdown, being told what to do.

I, I think y'all probably experienced that Black life,

you know, that we do every day.

That the knee on the neck is also the pandemic locking down

the whole America.

You know, we, we can't breathe, we're, we're done.

You know what I'm saying?

That, that helplessness.

You're a registered voter.


The power of one, you're now the-- part of the team.

You are going to be a, uh, law changer, you're...

you get to vote for the president of the United States.

You can keep that favorite person in there now

or you can vote for somebody else.

>> If this is still going on, I'm not having no kids.

>> The younger generation are part of the bigger heart.

I believe that this generation is a generation of change.

And they have more answers than they think.

>> My first year ever doing stuff like this,

so I just think that I should get all the experience I can.

We shouldn't have to do all this stuff.

We shouldn't have to riot or protest

just for them to hear us.

Your color doesn't define anything.

Well, it shouldn't.

>> It's so many layers.

It's easier to give up.

It's harder to fight and win.

>> Don't shoot.

Don't shoot.

Don't shoot-- don't shoot.

>> I think that them having an education, going to college,

um, you know, just being able to live the life that,

statistically, they say we will fail at, you know?

So, yeah, this, this affects every dynamic

of where we go in life.

Um, because of the color of our skin.

It just-- all... it's always been an issue.

>> I think it does make it harder to get out of poverty.

I actually am worried about the future,

'cause I just want us to be good and don't have to worry

about how we're gonna get the next thing

or how we're gonna get food.

I just want us to be all right.

>> I, I have hope, though.

I have hope that, um, this is where the struggle stops

for my family.

'Cause I'm a female, maybe I'm not as--

I don't feel as scared or threatened.

But I think the males have it way, way, way harder

than Black females.

>> What about that? That's awesome.

I like that one right there.

>> I'm gonna do that.

>> I think being Black could affect my opportunities

in the future.

Like, if I want to get a job

and it's a white person that don't want Black people,

they just would turn me down.

So yeah, I think it could affect my opportunities in the future.

>> I want you guys to experience what it's like tomorrow

when people come together and when you stand up

for what you believe in.

I don't want you to be afraid to do that.

When I turned 18, I moved into an area

where it was predominantly Black,

and when I first moved to that area,

my first feelings was, "Oh, my gosh, there's Black people,

roll up-- roll up your windows."

I was scared because I was never exposed to that culture,

and my father always made it something for me to fear.

Um, I ended up meeting Edward and Shawn's dad

and learned it was okay to love somebody

that wasn't of my skin color.

It just made me feel like what my father taught,

taught me was ignorant, disgusting, and stupid.

I'm just glad that, uh, I didn't follow in his footsteps.

I wouldn't have Shawn, Edward, or Dior.


Their dad isn't an active part in their life.

I was with him 11 years, but, uh, ended up separating.

>> No racist police, no justice, no peace!

No racist police... >> Black lives matter!

Black lives matter! Black lives matter!

Black lives matter!

>> My boys prove that I broke the chains.

It's a scary world for them to live in right now,

because that racism does exist.

I want them to know that,

that they can stick up for themselves.

When I was their age, I wouldn't even be allowed

at a place like this.

It was a very, very different world that I live in today.

>> I can't breathe! >> I can't breathe!

>> I can't breathe! >> I can't breathe!

>> I can feel why people are sad, especially when they said,

"I can't breathe."

To think that that's the last words

that he said before he died.

(voice trembling): How cruel that is.

It makes me feel good that I broke, broken that cycle.

I think if I can do it, anybody can do it.

>> (laughing)

>> My mom, she says my A.D.D. kicks in

because I don't get to see anyone.

My A.D.D., ADHD, same potato, potahto.


It's A.D., A.D., A.D.

Cats and boots, cats and boots, cats and boots.

Just listen, okay?

Everything will be okay, even if you feel...

Oh, that's my...

>> Ow!

I worry about her.

I really hope she gets everything done

and grows to be a little bit more responsible.

She's gonna be behind, 'cause she hasn't done her work

at the end of this school year.

Some of her friends could be in, like, higher classes,

and she'll be in lower classes

and it could separate her from her friends

or other stuff like that.

>> Oh, hangry.

My mommy, I need food.


I don't even think I had a drink today.

>> Hopefully she grows up a little bit and realizes,

you know, I have to do this and this to make it through.

>> I'm hungry!

>> There is no way I could pay for extra schooling

for that child, not even tutoring.

I have received extra food stamps because of COVID.

Um, that stimulus, that paid half my bills,

but now it's getting down to the nitty gritty again.

I get disconnects every month.

I just got a disconnect on my electric today.

Get a disconnect, you either pay it or it gets shut off.

That ain't getting paid right now.

This is our new normal.

(machine whirring)

(machine thuds, stops)

I might need a washer now.

(laughs): By the sounds of it.

What do you want to move away from me for?

>> Because.

>> Because why?

>> I want to leave here, explore the world.

>> Are you gonna take me with you?

>> No. >> Thanks.

>> I need some time without my my mother.

Mom, I, I need time to be free, be myself.

>> Well, you're yourself now.

>> No, away from you.

>> Thanks.

I've lived here my whole life.

I mean, you can only get up out of it if you want up out of it,

want a better life for yourself,

and that is something Miracle does.

She does want a better life for herself.

>> Um, the biggest barrier would definitely be money,

going to college, because I'm gonna be a first generation.

>> Them little hood rats busted out the windows and stuff.

>> It was an antique shop, too.

>> After the Harmer grocery, yes, yes, it was.

>> See, I know stuff.

A perfect picture of my future would be to live

in a suburb-type area and be teaching at an elementary school

with, you know, a big, happy family.


If it all went wrong, um, well, I'd probably be poor.

>> 'Cause Miracle-- I know Miracle.

She'll become a teacher, not even think about her mom,

maybe call her once in a while.

Move to New York or California.

Because Miracle will just leave her, and...

So when Mom needs me, I'll be there.

I'll be the good daughter.

Because I want to live a very good life

with my very good children I hope to have one day.

But yeah.


>> Signs the economy may be recovering,

as consumer confidence is up.

Businesses are reopening across the country.

>> The hope is, though, that the worst might be behind us.

>> Recently, my mom just started doing nails at some girl's shop,

and she's the only nail tech in there.

So what services they get determine

how much money she makes.

>> Things were closed.

When we opened back up, salons opened back up, right?

I called a salon and they were looking for a nail tech,

and it just worked out.

I've been here for about, what, three weeks,

and I'm just excited about being able to start making,

making a little bit of money.

>> She is really good at doing nails.

She's doing good.

She's doing really good.

I just love her.

>> With being back, just kind of nervous and hope,

hoping and praying that we don't get shut back down

because of this pandemic.

For right now, I'm taking it one day at a time, and just saving,

you know, as much as I can.

>> There's way more kids like this that's going through

the same thing as we are.

Because sometimes, life just happen and things go

the wrong way,

and maybe you end up losing a job or something,

and it just doesn't go right.

I just want us to be good, and, and in a house.

Just, just happy.

>> Ten count.

>> Ten, nine, eight, seven,

six, five, four, three, two...

>> Two, one.

>> Well, you keep chewing your fingernails,

you're gonna get the coronavirus.

>> I hope I don't get it.

I hope so, too, but...

>> 'Cause if I get it, you'll be emotional,

and if I die, you'll be emotional.

>> I'll be a mess.

I'd rather have it than you have it.

>> When I get older, I wouldn't want to live here.

I'd want to get a good, stable job.

I want to live somewhere where there's a beach.

To climb out of poverty, it's probably a really hard struggle,

but I think it is possible,

and and that I'm going to try my best to.

>> ♪ You are my sunshine, my only sunshine ♪

>> I don't think nobody would choose to be poor.

Sometimes it may look like that,

'cause sometimes people can just give up and accept it.

But I don't think nobody would choose to be poor.

>> I'm gonna be a first generation.

So I'm gonna show that it's okay to get out of this.

So, yeah.

>> It's not gonna be easy at all, trying to make my dreams.

I feel like I'm gonna have to work very hard and stay focused

and be determined, so I can get there.

>> Go to for more from the director

of this film, Jezza Neumann.

>> What happens when the virus is over?

Because when the virus is over, these families we are following

today will still be in this situation.

They won't be getting jobs that are coming back.

>> And find out the latest data on child poverty in America.

>> We're here for the free lunch.

>> Connect to the "Frontline" community on Facebook

and Twitter and watch any time on the PBS Video app


♪ ♪

>> For more on this and other "Frontline" programs,

visit our website at

♪ ♪

"Frontline's" "Growing Up Poor In America"

is available on Amazon Prime Video.

♪ ♪


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