It is true that many people’s personalities show consistency throughout their lives. But there are also people who do change, long after their childhood, all by themselves. They change for the better, persevering on their own, without ever having seen an analyst, depth or otherwise—have overcome every conceivable kind of psychological problem, regardless of age.
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This is what happens to Montrey, main character in the documentary film by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady which shows how the most miserable children of Baltimore can find hope given a different kind of setting. The documentary followed them in Kenya and Baltimore before they even started attending the Baraka School in Kenya. It is worth noting that this should be seen in the context where 76% of African Americans in Baltimore do not graduate at all. As Ewing and Grady record, their new environment makes the boys excel in their studies and gives them a better future to hope for.
The dialogues of the boys in the playground as they talk about the lack of schooling they have had make one’s heart go out for them. One of the boys states, “They only taught us one year. That’s not enough.” This can be encouraging for other Black students who are given all the opportunities to study yet do not give any importance to it at all. The good part of the documentary is the situations where the boys admit that their personal worth exists, as evidenced by their own internal experience. They slowly understand what is happening to them. They are able to live in a world in which they must constantly struggle to meet basic needs.
Almost all of their energies go into their major need areas. They do the best they can, given their resources. But the available strategies that they have in meeting their needs are limited by what they know and do not know, their conditioning, their emotional make-up, the degree of support that they receive from others, their health, and their sensitivity to pain and pleasure, and so on. And all through this struggle to survive, they are aware that both their intellectual and physical sustenance is available. They are assured on that in this project and that gives them the comfort that they badly need. In the face of all the pain, past and to come, they continue to struggle.
They plan, they cope, they decide. They continue to live and feel. If they let this awareness soak in, if they allow themselves to really feel the struggle, they can begin to get a glimpse of their real worth. It is the force, the life energy that keeps them trying. The degree of success is irrelevant. The only thing that counts is the effort. And the source of their worth is the effort.
The individual’s self-concept which is a result of the perceived members of social groups is what the boys experience. The concept of identity illustrates the different ways in which people view themselves in the context of specific conflicts. In dealing with these children, it is important to adopt not just to adapt one strategy, but a variety of strategies for managing impressions of their social identities. In the end, there is a tug at the heart as one sees Montrey excel in his subjects including Math and says in all honesty and sincerity, that he is going to make a differences and actually put back Baltimore on the map. Indeed, when Montrey is not shackled by past mistakes or future concerns, he has enough time to prioritize the more important things in his life.