Last year, 13-year-old Adeola “Abraham” Olagbegi was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, aplastic anemia, that required him to undergo surgery for a bone marrow transplant. The good news is that Olagbegi’s transplant was a success. Olagbegi had another bit of good news coming his way on top of his successful surgery: The Make-A-Wish foundation was going to grant him a wish. Olagbegi’s wish is a moving one: to feed the homeless citizens of his hometown in Jackson, Mississippi, for one year.
CNN promoted this story, as did CBS and others, as a feel good story. It does feel good to learn about a young teen who has overcome very serious odds. It is also inspiring that a child undergoing what must be some of the scariest moments of his life has the wherewithal to continue to think about others less fortunate than himself. But it is also important to remember that the fact that a 13-year-old boy, fighting for his life, uses a very special wish to try and ameliorate the problems that adults in our society refuse to face collectively is not simply a “happy” story. It’s a damning story about our society as a whole.
According to Olagbegi, his family has always done service for the community. Since he was a young child, the Olagbegis would serve meals to people in need every month. After Olagbegi was diagnosed, the family had to put some of that service on hold. Make-A-Wish Mississippi’s Linda Sermons told WLBT: “We were excited this is our first philanthropic wish in our 20+ years of the chapter in the state—a huge milestone for us, but also this is the first meal that Abraham is able to serve.” Make-A-Wish helped Abraham Olagbeli begin Abraham’s Table.
For one year, on the third Saturday of every month, Olagbegi’s table will be set up in Poindexter Park, and will provide food to at least 80 unhoused folks. Olagbegi told WLBT: “It is just a blessing to see people getting fed. When I leave, I am going to feel joyful.” The Washington Post reports that “various donors and sponsors, including local churches and businesses” will provide the food.
Make-A-Wish began back in 1980 when the Phoenix, Arizona, community around a 7-year-old child, Christopher James Greicius, who was living with leukemia, made his dream of being a police office come true shortly before he passed. Since that time the group has set up chapters all over the world, fundraising and granting the wishes of children living with very serious health issues. Those wishes can be anything from being Batman for the day and saving a U.S. city from the bad guys, to signing a single day contract with a Major League Baseball team and playing with the team.
It wasn’t until 2018 that being homeless in Mississippi became technically legal. Like many places across the country, not having a home and asking people for help is still mostly illegal. In fact, Jackson, Mississippi, where Olagbegi is doing his best to fight our country’s sins, has made most activities associated with the unhoused against the law. CNN and CBS never mention that. Advocates say that Jackson’s unhoused population is around 2,000. Also not mentioned.
Jackson’s homelessness is reported on as a problem from time to time. Usually those stories mention that since only churches seem to do anything in the way of creating housing and other resources, unhoused folks are bumming out local businesses. A much larger effort must be made to help a Jackson, Mississippi, where roughly 1 our of every 77 people are unhoused.
Progressive Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has attempted to create programs that would serve the dual purpose of public service with employment for the unhoused, but considerably more needs to be done. Lumumba, having shown the basic human decency of recognizing the unhoused people in his community, is also fighting against the fact that surrounding municipalities seem to spend their resources transporting and dropping off their unhoused citizens in Jackson.
Abraham Olagbegi is a good person. I would point out that he’s a better person than Gov. Tate Reeves who, in the poorest state in the nation, decided to cancel federal unemployment aid offered through the American Rescue Plan Act. But saying someone is a better person than Reeves is similar to saying water is wet and the sun is shiny. It is the source of the unhoused problems facing not only Jackson, Mississippi, but the rest of the country that is missing from this “feel good” story. That should be a big part of CNN’s good news story.
You can read about CNN’s history of “The Good Stuff” stories that get presented with zero social context over at community member SemDem’s story about it here.
Here is a news report of Olagbegi’s story.
And here is a short reminder of how Make-A-Wish started.
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