Dekker denies having any special artistic gift or special world-saving impulses, but Prince Ermias demurs. “He’s very creative, and identifies passionately with the neglected. He believes that given opportunities, others would be successful as he has been.”

“I’ve learned in my life,” Dekker concedes, “you take a negative and turn it into a positive. I had the blessing of an upbringing that set me free in my thinking. And I certainly believe that we have a collective responsibility to the people we live with. So I should use that talent to show the world, to show children who are disadvantaged, from my own experience, that no matter how negative your upbringing is, no matter how dreadful it is, that can become your strength.

“That can become your power — your competitive advantage over everybody else who was spoiled as a child. That can become your blessing.”



tim okamura is a brooklyn-based painter, illustrator, and college professor whose work has been frequently featured in magazines, on book and album covers, and in london’s national portrait gallery.