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What one couple’s lost wages say about the decline of the middle-class American dream

Erica Tatum-Sheade’s heart broke when she saw Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” music video for the first time as a kid.

She watched as images of homelessness, starvation, civil rights protests, and homegrown terror splashed across the screen, while the King of Pop cooed, “I want to make a change.”

When the video debuted in 1988, Erica was just a little girl, and she didn’t have a complete understanding of the issues playing out in front of her. But she knew that she, too, wanted to make a change. She wanted to help.

Although Erica didn’t know it at the time, such work was in her blood—her mother was a social worker and attorney and, after a medical discharge from the military, her father got a degree in social work before he retired. They lived a comfortable middle-class life, but one driven by humanitarian purpose.

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