Running From Poverty

Lakeya (Omogun) Afolalu, Ph.D.
2 min readApr 27, 2021


Photographer: Jon DeBoer

poverty scares me

it always has

i remember
the first time
i met poverty

on the corner
of puritan avenue
and roselawn street
right outside
of my first
elementary school

i could
clearly see
from the
second floor
in Ms. Korn’s classroom

it loomed
over and inside
of the brick
liquor store
owned by
Lebanese men
who sold every
convenient item

they’d smile at us
take our cash
or food stamps
and even speak
in our Detroit lingo

their hands never touched ours

we were
by the thick
bulletproof glass
that they installed

a clear boundary that separated their world from ours


and when they locked
their stores at night
they’d drive back
to their fancy homes
in fancy Bloomfield Hills
in their fully insured
fancy foreign cars

i eventually
asked Ms. Korn
to move my seat

poverty kept
staring at me
through her
classroom windows

and i could
never figure
out why
the friendly
Lebanese men
only sold us
high sodium
and high sugar

no fruits
no vegetables

twelve years later,
the lady in my salon chair
offered me one of her grapes

i told her, no thank you

she could
barely afford
the $95 dollar
that i was
plaiting in her hair

that i saved
throughout college
so that i could
slowly build a life
of visiting stores
bulletproof glass windows

i could not take a piece of her fruit

poverty can look like that too

hair on point
nails on point
clothed in the latest
and most expensive fashion

bank accounts —

it works for some people

i never
that life

so i started running

i ran
from the
gucci bags
cartier glasses
and liquor stores

i ran from it all

now, people
keep telling me
that i’ve worked
hard enough
and that
i should finally
treat myself

At least, get yourself a nice bag, they tell me

i am running
i am still running
from poverty



Lakeya (Omogun) Afolalu, Ph.D.

Professor of Language, Literacy & Culture | Writer | Speaker | Twitter @LakeyaAfolalu