Alphonso's family

Chapter 47




For those who attempt to escape the vicious circle of dependence and underclass pathology, the alternatives do not look bright. They are easily forced into a criminal existence like my friend Alphonso in Baltimore.



Alphonso's wife had a job in a coffee shop which brought the family less than $50 a week, far below minimum wage. There is in America an entire underworld of millions of hotel and hospital workers, servants and hamburger sellers who are exploited mercilessly as Congress (pressed by a strong lobby) Will not legislate decent minimum wages for them. The U.S.A. thus has more menial service jobs than any other developed country.



Alphonso and his wife loved each other and their six children dearly, and it hurt him immensely that he was unable to find a job to support his family. It was my first year in America and I remember how shocked I was to learn that there was no aid to get in such a situation.



In my country everybody can get at least a couple of hundred dollars monthly plus rent as soon as they are out of school in order not to be forced into crime until they are able to find a job. Families get full support. I was therefore very moved that in order to survive Alphonso simply had to rob in the street.



I went with him to steal shoes for the children and he introduced me to Baltimore's criminal underworld. In this way he was capable of maintaining a nice home and could even rent a car a couple of times a year to drive his children on a picnic.



However, when I returned a year later his children looked very sad, but they wouldn't tell me why. I found out that Alphonso was in prison and sentenced to more than six years' confinement.



When I arrived at the penitentiary I discovered that his oldest son also was in prison with him. When the family had suddenly lost the income of the father, the son had attempted a bank robbery to help out the family. Here is Alphonso's wife seen on a visit to the prison.



For the next six years she will not be able to touch her husband and can only hear him through noisy monitored telephones. Thousands of black marriages have been dissolved this way. Thus modern society has institutionalized the legacy from chattel slavery of destroying the black family.



In the years after I saw Alphonso's family undergoing severe hardships; the children were left to their own devices and everything was decaying in the house. Their marriage fell apart and for some years Alphonso survived in the streets from selling my book and went with me to colleges to entertain my many sheltered students about his life in a ghetto, a life they have never known. He turned out to be a great entertainer and usually got long standing ovations from the hundreds of students when told them about the time he and his gangster friends had first plotted to rob me in the streets.



Here I am delivering my book to Alphonso's and his sons between my university lectures in 1986. The son, Nathaniel, receiving my books on the right photo was later shot to death.



For some years I lost touch with him and both I and his children thought Alphonso was dead from AIDS since he had used drugs most of his life. However, when I wanted him to appear in a Danish TV-program, we managed to track him down in a nursing home, very sick:

- I've been thinking of you this whole month. How are you?
- All right. I came to get you to speak to an audience tonight. But when I asked for you in the street, they said you were sick.
- Yeah, I've been here more than a year now, but it is good to see you, man.



Here he is today living in the worst projects of the ghetto. With the help of his daughter's - both now ministers - he has found the Lord today and managed to get away from drugs and crime.



On the left I am spending my birthday with Alphonso in 2003. On the right he is entertaining my wife in 2004 with stories about the approximately 40 times he was in prison and the two people he shot before he found God. 

See updates on his life story and family here.