Escaping the 'plantation'

Posted: Jan 21, 2004 12:00 AM

To meet Star Parker is to come face-to-face with hope. Her radiant smile and graceful manner make you feel as if you've known her all your life. She is kind and sincere, and an unmistakable twinkle in her eye gives you the impression she has a beautiful secret to share that could change your life forever.

But Star's eyes didn't always twinkle. She used to be a slave to welfare and all the sadness that frequently occupies the lives of those who make it a profession. Star started young: As a child, she would steal money from her own mother and use it to bribe her siblings to do her chores for her. The pattern became worse as she got older. She squandered her chance at an education, carried out a string of burglaries to pay for her expensive tastes in clothes, held up a liquor store, become addicted to drugs, shacked up with more men than she could count and had four abortions.

It got so bad, she had to change the clinic she went to for her taxpayer-funded final abortion because she had become a "regular," and staff had begun to recognize her. Plus, the baby didn't belong to the man she lived with, and she feared his temper ? made worse by constant drug abuse ? might boil over and lead to a severe beating if he found out she'd been unfaithful.

When she realized that having your housing, food, clothing, income and medical care dependent on government handouts not only didn't set her free but actually imprisoned her, she gave new meaning to the phrase "zeal of the converted."

"Slavery still thrives in this country," she says in her new book, "Uncle Sam's Plantation." "But today, the poor are the slaves, and Uncle Sam is the 'massa.'"

She knows. She's been there. That's what makes her story so powerful. I can see that the programs of the Great Society don't seem to have helped America's poor. I don't see ghettos remade, education improving or teen birth rates declining. I can see that the programs don't work. Star Parker can see why.

One example Star gives in her book is the story of what one welfare caseworker told her: "Look, if you want to get along with me, do not open a bank account and do not get married." Either of those actions might help a woman climb out of poverty. Opening a bank account might encourage savings, might point up what spending was necessary and what was wasteful.

Getting married? She hadn't given much thought to it anyway. Her life was sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. Marriage involved commitment. Commitment involved work. Work got on her last nerve. Still, imagine: Government told her not to get married. Research conducted by The Heritage Foundation ? which Parker used extensively in compiling her book ? shows there are few things she could do that would give her a better chance to leave poverty, avoid physical or sexual abuse or enable her daughter to have a better life.

What finally got Star Parker's life turned around? She accepted Jesus Christ as her personal savior ? and the transformation was just that ? very personal.

Star began to take responsibility for her life. She set goals and forced herself to do what it took to reach them. She started small to acquire the job skills she'd need higher up, and she embraced hard work, a good attitude and hope. She got off welfare and took a job taking phone orders for a food distributor. She refused to join the union and persisted in being cheerful, doing a good job and making her employers happy they hired her ? all to the consternation of her coworkers.

When the union she refused to join went on strike, she left and realized her goal of owning her own business. She started a magazine for Christian singles. When many of her advertisers were wiped out in the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict in 1992, she became a talk-show host. When her manifold enemies got to her there, she turned to an organization called the Coalition for Urban Renewal in Education, which helps poor people by getting them to take responsibility for their lives.

Today, she lectures and writes frequently on poverty on behalf of CURE and the themes of "Uncle Sam's Plantation." She urges people to do as she did and take control of their lives. She lashes out at the hijacking of education by those too weak to challenge the Godlessness, evil and moral lethargy of today's society. Star also sounds a clarion call against the dangers of the Washington power structure that creates both a dependency among the poor, and sustains power over them. And when Star speaks, she always provides real hope for those caught in the web of welfare, doom and sadness.

Star is now a true star ? a beautiful light of hope for everyone she meets. And the secret to the twinkle in her eye? It's the radiant love and joy of Christ. He changed her life, and He can change yours too.