The first-floor windows of Kasim Shaw’s South Philadelphia rowhouse served as babysitter and teacher.
“As soon as I peeked out my window,” Shaw said, “I got a firsthand look of what was going on.”
From this perch, the little boy watched, soaking it all in.
Men-at least they looked like men to him, though they were probably no older than he is now at 20-took to the streets.
The props helped: fancy cars, pretty women, drug money thick as bricks.
Fear or respect, they can look like the same thing to a child.
It all left an impression, even when Shaw’s mother moved him and his younger brothers from the home around Seventh and Cantrell Streets.
And just in time, she thought, as her oldest excelled in school and sports and was making plans for college.
“I knew what he was seeing in the neighborhood,” said Kasim’s mother, Izetta Shaw. “I was just praying that those things wouldn’t influence him, and when I saw that they might, I tried to save every bit that I made to try to hurry to get him away from that.
“But the things you see growing up stick to you.”
It stuck with Shaw, and sometime around his senior year, he began watching other things. How the electricity sometimes got shut off at home. How no matter how hard his mother worked in her nursing program during the day, or her job at night, he was left wanting. Angry.
He thought back to what he saw out those windows. And then, he became one of those man-boys, props and all. Until cops arrested him on multiple drug charges in 2017.
Shaw lucked out. It was his first offense, and a few months later he was granted admission into a diversion program called “The Choice is Yours” that has helped keep him out of prison, earn his high school diploma, and will wipe his record clean, if he stays out of trouble.
Read more about Kasim’s story and his motivation to do better for himself in this Philadelphia Inquirer article by Helen Ubinas.
On June 1, 2018, Kasim and 6 other TCY participants celebrated the earning of their high school diplomas at a graduation ceremony held at Philadelphia City Hall. View the news coverage from NBC10 and Fox 29.