Ed. note: The following article, by former Riverdale Press reporter Tommy Hallissey, about Bronxite Fekri Kram, is part of a joint project of SalaamGarageNYC and the Long Island Children’s Museum, highlighting problems faced by those aging out of foster care. Entitled “Everybody Needs Someone, The Aging-Out of Foster Care Project,” the project is currently fundraising with crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com (through June 13, 2012). The exhibition runs June 16-September 2, 2012 at the LICM located at 11 Davis Ave. in Garden City, NY. Opening event June 23, 2012 1-4:30pm.
By Tommy Hallissey
Without a word, Fekri Kram’s disarming, toothy smile betrays the suffering he endured coming of age in the New York City foster care system. His crooked pearly whites also hide the agony of being sold into slavery in Tunisia at the age of 5 for a mere $100.
Taken from Tunisia, Fekri was exchanged between parental figures that were often physically and sexually abusive. At age 9, he was beaten severely in Jackson Heights, Queens by his family of the moment. After he was hospitalized, the city recommended he not return to an abusive environment.
Without doting parents, Fekri spent most of his formative years in the less than picturesque settings of New York foster homes. At 21, Fekri was one of nearly 1,000 individuals that year forced to navigate independent living after “aging out” of the city’s foster system. These young adults must transition from a system of familiar structure to the unsettled, often cold reality of independence. According to a 2011 report by the Center for an Urban Future, roughly two-thirds of the 16,000 foster youth in America age out of the system without reuniting with their birth families or being adopted.
“I’ve been through hell and back,” explained Fekri, wearing faded, ripped jeans and a trendy white t-shirt. His inner strength has fueled his drive to succeed where others would have quit. He has overcome such obstacles as slavery, poverty, abuse and solitude to now enjoy some of the gifts of independence, including no direct supervision or curfew.