Radio France International Interviewed Emma Speaks

Radio France International interviewed Emma Speaks, ATD Fourth World Activist from Brooklyn, New York. You can listen to the international version here.

The bridge to Brooklyn, New York.
The bridge to Brooklyn, New York. A photo from Radio France International.

To find Emma, you need to go at the end of the subway line 3, which connects two neighborhoods that tourists will never set foot on: Harlem in North and East Brooklyn in South. It is here, stocked in between the overloaded highways and the international airport JFK, that Emma’s project is located – a neighborhood that everyone crosses without ever stopping by.

Emma: A lot of cursing, a lot of disrespect, a lot of drinking, a lot of drugs. When I moved into the projects which is still right there in poverty, I had to threaten the drug dealers to leave my son alone, because they were trying to get him to sell drugs.

For a long time, East Brooklyn was one of the poorest neighborhoods and especially the place for all the traffics in New York. At 19 years old, Emma couldn’t escape her destiny.

Emma: It wasn’t really a job. It wasn’t really a good job but I was in poverty and you look to how you can make money. Even though I was socializing with the dealers, I was also getting money and was buying my mother nice stuff, furniture and all of this. Just one of those teenage things. It was the beginning of the end.

Prison, the first child, and three others followed but still there was no man in the picture. Emma hold on accumulating jobs and night classes. One day, in this fourth world neighborhood of the richest city in the world, a mobile library took place in her street. It was the organization of Father Joseph Wresinski, ATD Fourth World Movement.

Emma: When the Movement came along, I would see them doing what they were doing and I felt like I had some help. I felt like i could help them, and I felt like, together, we would be stronger together.

Emma spoke at the United Nations in February 2017 as ATD Fourth World Activist.
Emma spoke at the United Nations in February 2017 as ATD Fourth World Activist.

25 years ago, Emma became a member of ATD Fourth World Movement and looked at her neighborhoods with fresh eyes.

Emma: It can get hard, it can get rough, but if you keep trying to reach for the positive, you can survive. You can breathe, and you can help somebody else to breathe.

Emma now links her dreams to the words of Joseph Wresinski: “Poverty is not a fatality.”

Emma: I’m still going to school at this age. I’m still trying to learn this, I’m still trying to be that, cause you don’t have to give up. If I don’t give up at my age, you have no reason giving up at your age. I don’t know, maybe I might get out of poverty one day. If I do I do, if I don’t, well, but I know I don’t have to ever give up.