Flavio's Home by Gordon Parks

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Making a DifferenceGordon Parks grew up as an African-American in the United States during the early 1900s. He endured much hardship but, through art, used it as inspiration to help others. Parks was a self-taught photographer that used his camera to show the intolerance of the world (Bush 36). It wasn’t until he had studied some photos that were taken during the Depression, when he realized the value of the words tied to a photograph (Parks, Weapons 228). He soon began writing photographic stories, to include his famous Life magazine article, “Flavio’s Home.” The article showed the world exactly how ugly poverty is. Parks wrote this story as an attempt to help fight poverty by exposing it.

The story of “Flavio’s Home” began in 1961. Parks and his colleague, José Gallo, were sent to Catacumba, Brazil for an assignment on poverty. Shortly after their arrival, they met a twelve-year-old boy, named Flavio da Silva.

He lived in a 6-foot by 10-foot tin shack with his father, pregnant mother, and seven siblings. They had little furniture and even less food. Their toilet was a hole in the far corner of their home. Flavio, severely malnourished and suffering from an untreated sickness, was responsible for cleaning, cooking, and taking care of his seven siblings. There was a moment when Flavio began coughing until he fell to the floor. His skin turned blue and began to sweat. Immediately after it was over, Flavio stood up, with a smile on his face, and continued his chores. Parks had decided to take the boy to the local doctor and found out that he had less then a year to live. With that news, Parks told Flavio he was going to be all right and not to worry. Flavio responded by saying his only concerns were of his brothers and sisters. He didn’t know what they would do without him.

Flavio da Silva is a child with more responsibilities than most adults I know; he had more responsibilities than his own father did. Through all the appalling conditions, this selfless, twelve-year-old boy stayed positive and fought to live because of the love he had for his siblings. They were like his children. Gordon Parks did an amazing job writing this story in a way that people can visualize. Parks made the statement, “This frail boy bent under his load said more to me about poverty than a dozen poor fathers” (Parks, “Flavio” 85). I couldn’t agree more. To Parks, Flavio symbolized millions of impoverished families struggling to survive. In a 1983 interview, Parks states, “What the camera had to do was expose the evils of racism, the evils of poverty, the discrimination and the bigotry, by showing the people who suffered the most under it” (Bush 38). Parks wasn’t just trying to tell a story; he wanted people to see what this child was going through. Parks wanted to make a difference.

Overcoming our trials and tribulations help us to understand and inspire us to help. The first line in “Flavio’s Home” reads, “I’ve never lost my fierce grudge against poverty” (Parks, “Flavio” 84). That is because Parks spent much of his early life in poverty. Parks’ work is a combination of real life and photography. He felt the injustice and experienced the inequalities of the world. Parks saw the camera as a weapon against all types of social wrongs. I applaud Gordon Parks. He could have given up and been claimed by urban poverty and crime. Parks suffered many evils of his own, but he would not to allow them to rob him of his freedom to expand. He used his past tribulations as motivation, and it helped save a sick, twelve-year-old boy.

After “Flavio’s Home” was published and made available to the public, Life's readers everywhere donated approximately $30,000 to Flavio and his family. The magazine arranged to have the boy flown to Denver for medical treatment. He stayed in America for two years, until he got better, then he went back to Brazil with his family. Parks continued to focus on exposing the evils of the world. He kept working on making a difference until he died on March 7, 2006. He was 93 (Grundberg).

Works CitedBush, Martin, H. "A Conversation with Gordon Parks," in Martin H. Bush, Photographs of Gordon Parks. Wichita, Kansas: Wichita State University, 1983.

Grundberg, Andy. “Gordon Parks, A Master of the Camera.” Zonezero.com 16 Jun. 2009. .

Parks, Gordon. A Choice of Weapons. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

Parks, Gordon. “Flavio’s Home.” Longman Reader. 7th ed. Judith Nadell, John Langan, and Eliza A. Comodromos. New York: Pearson, 2005. 84-90.