The View From Their Recession

Christina Davidson traveled to a National Guard armory in Kansas City, KS, that distributed 3,800 backpacks filled with school supplies to needy children in the area:

"I don't know what's inside, but it's heavy," Deonte Johnson tells me, as he holds onto the straps and spins around in circle. "Maybe it's gold! It's so, so, so heavy I think I might fall over!" With that, a grinning Deonte feigned collapse, pulled by the imaginary weight of a backpack filled with gold. [...] Backpack2

Back in February, Cheryl Johnson, single mother of 7-year-old Deonte, was laid off from her managerial position at a hotel in Overland Park, Kansas. She began working for the same hotel again one month ago, though this time in housekeeping, a job that earns only minimum wage. This is her first year attending the Back-to-School fair. Without it, she is not sure how she would have paid for school supplies. "We already eat ramen for most meals. Deonte is wearing his cousin's old clothes. I priced everything the school said he would need and it came to $32. At Wal-Mart! I know that don't sound like much, but it's $32 more than we have right now."

"Life's hard. Everything so hard right now," Cheryl says, her smile fading, voice trembling. "I never had a chance for real education in my life. I will sacrifice anything to see Deonte gets more opportunity than I did. But right now I got nothing left to sacrifice."