I wished I had given them more. Saturdays were not enough.

No doubt those children had everything to do with my founding, at the Advocate, an organization to infuse our inner city with the healing and educational power of African-American arts and letters. In the past ten years, Art Sanctuary has mushroomed into a full-time not-for-profit with a staff of six and year-round programs that reach up to 10,000 people a year. I hadn't planned on running a business, but that's what was required. The North Stars teen after-school program is only one component, but it's the one that most closely mirrors the aims of that first youth group. Its handpicked team of fabulous faculty teaches love and discipline along with the poetry, dance, and music. North Stars has transformed the lives of hundreds of young people, a great bunch of kids. All but one have graduated from high school, and nearly 90 percent have gone on to higher education.

Last year the child with whom I was pregnant on the white-van beach trip joined the program. And my older daughter, now in her 20s, has added to her university research job a weekend gig, leading inner-city youths in northern New Jersey on rock-climbing wilderness excursions. The journey to connection is longer than we could have known, stretching unbroken, like the ocean from our little New Jersey beach to Lisbon, Portugal, offering the hope of love but no guarantees.

Lorene Cary has written Black Ice, a memoir; two novels, The Price of a Child and Pride and Free!, a collection of real-life stories for children about the Underground Railroad. Art Sanctuary, which she founded and directs, celebrated 10years in June. 


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