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At the ballet classes I took when I first came to New York, I would see great dancers like Cynthia Gregory and Lupe Serrano. I would look at them and study what they could do, and what I couldn't do. And then I'd think maybe they should try what I could do.
I was born on the other side of the tracks, in public housing in Brooklyn, New York. My dad never made more than $20,000 a year, and I grew up in a family that lost health insurance. So I was scarred at a young age with understanding what it was like to watch my parents lose access to the American dream.
During my eleven years as a New York City public school teacher, I saw firsthand the impact that poverty has on the classroom. In low-income neighborhoods like Sunset Park, where I taught, students as young as five years old enter school affected by the stresses often created by poverty: domestic violence, drug abuse, gang activity.
In New York, you've got Donald Trump, Woody Allen, a crack addict and a regular Joe, and they're all on the same subway car.
One of the things is that the good intentions of Prohibition, from reading over the years and from becoming obsessed with the research of gangs in New York City, seems to have allowed crime figures at the time, like Luciano, Capone, Torrio and Rothstein, to organize to become more powerful, which pulled all the way through until the '70s.