PeDro's Blog What's Up World...from the mind of Irvin "PeDro" Cohen Mon, 30 Oct 2017 23:32:34 +0000 en hourly 1 When Cultural Norms Prove Financially Costly Mon, 30 Oct 2017 23:32:34 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> By Dr. Irvin Pedro Cohen – I often say children represent the hope of what a community can become. But many of us know it takes a village to get there to ensure our children receive the best education possible, both in and outside the classroom.
In recent years, we have seen tremendous progress in student achievement. High school graduation rates are on the rise. In fact, over the last four years alone, the number of students who graduated in Duval County increased by 11 percentage points, according to the Florida Department of Education.
And while reading, math and science are all core areas of education that are critically important to our children’s futures, we must also make sure they receive the right financial education to reach their fullest potential.
We don’t have to look very far to see why this is so important.
In many Jacksonville neighborhoods, I see that poor financial habits have become ingrained as a cultural norm, particularly within low-income African-American households. For decades, our young people watched their parents, grandparents and other relatives rely on check cashers, money orders and other alternative financial services to access their money and to pay bills.
These unbanked or underbanked families often spend nearly 10 percent of their income annually on the fees associated with these alternative financial services. That’s the same percentage the average family spends on food every year. And yet, these facts do not account for the impact the abundance of alternative financial services providers has on neighborhoods in terms of being destinations where people want to live.
I realize we have to meet people where they are and for many years, these services seemed like the only option for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it was that traditional banks were absent from neighborhoods. In others, people didn’t trust them or had bad experiences in the past. Whatever the reason, we must help our children develop healthier financial habits so that we can break the cycle of poverty that perpetuates when check cashers and alternative financial services become the sole options for people.
And there are ways to do that. For example, while many families have little-to-no access to mainstream financial services, many do own smartphones. Combined with a good prepaid card, instead of using a check casher, they can have their paycheck deposited on the card. And instead of purchasing a money order, they can use that card and their smartphone to pay bills online or with an app.
This does, however, require those same communities to have adequate access to technology platforms. But I’ll save that for another conversation. Bottom line, it’s not an either-or choice – the two go hand in hand.
Adult family members must set the example for how children can manage their money, save, budget and, ultimately, reinvest in their community.
The First Coast YMCA – particularly the James Weldon Johnson Branch and Tiger Academy, the YMCA’s charter school – has made financial navigation on the part of the families and students we serve a focal point of our work. Through collaborations with financial institutions like VyStar and Fifth Third Bank around financial literacy and simple saving tips that consider families’ fiscal capacity, we’ve made inroads. Although small, each step forward counts.
Sometimes, it’s easy to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. But together as a village, we can help our children see a new way and pave the way for Jacksonville’s brightest tomorrow.
Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen is the vice president of social responsibility at the First Coast YMCA.
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4:44 Tue, 04 Jul 2017 13:13:59 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> There is a beautiful yet undeniable intersection between age, wisdom and culture.  That point in your life where you become consciously conscious about your actions and their implications and the inevitability of growth trumps (did I just use that) whatever momentary satisfaction you may incur.  That point where no becomes yes and yes becomes no for no other reason than it’s the right thing do.

That being said over the weekend I had the opportunity to listen to Jay Z’s new CD.   What I came away with was an artist whose artistic contribution has evolved through thought, deeds and arguably through his experiences.  What this album did for me and many of you is put being grown in the context of having been born and raised with hip-hop as your soundtrack.








Parenting are all issues that we as part of the hip-hop generation grapple with NOW and somehow when you juxtapose your reality against all of the aforementioned rolling to a tune that celebrates bitches and hoes, death and destruction and all day drug usage just don’t fit.  See QUALITY OF LIFE at this stage of the game really does matter and the inability to pass on a little something to ensure a bit of a jump off for your children can have consequences that perpetuate generational poverty. The beauty about wisdom and time at this intersection is you can’t un-know what you know.

What this CD further did for me is gave me another tool in my generational tool kit, much like What’s Going on did for my mother and father. For me and for many of my peers who grew up in hip-hop we never saw this point coming because for many of us big swabs of our peers just vanished through the hell hole of the criminal justice system or died tragically to the grips of the streets.  We never saw ourselves as the OG’s or old school or the keepers of the sage wisdom because there was never a true transfer of power or information for that matter that said at this point you do this. Our parents and their parents are still trying to make sense of America and discern was their cause all worth it.  Thus we sort of learned on the fly and now we are here in a place and space where real things matter and being an adult is not an option.

I as well as many of you understand the unique power someone of Jay Z’s magnitude has.  Hell look at how many people now have contracts with Sprint and TidaI because of him.  Lord knows Tom Ford has found its way in my collection of things because of his influence.  However, I am not looking for Jay Z, OJ, Lil Wayne, Colin Kaepernick or Lil Baby Jesus (I mean Barack Obama) or any other icon to come and do the grimy work of cultural and community change for me.  I understand that falls on me.    I am simply looking for them to help when and where they can and not make the road any more laborious than it already is.

Therefore, thank you Jay for giving a grown man a grown man hip-hop album that not only he can listen to but, most of all teach these young cats out here in the streets too.


Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen

Hip Hop Listener since 1979

And this is my truth and I AM sticking to it…

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5 Good Things Thu, 18 May 2017 02:18:42 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> Giving honor to God.  Somewhere, some place a 47-year-old male just took his last breath and therefore, being here with you in this moment is something that I do not take lightly.  Also, I want to thank the Paxon staff for inviting me to be a part of your event.  Although, I am just a fill in I won’t hold that against anyone.

That being said I was asked to provide a few perils of wisdom to you all and I don’t know about you but anytime anyone ask me to do that I always feel a little old.  I mean I am not much of a Nana’er or Dabber but I got a mean two-step and I do Tweet from time to time.  However, given the request I will do my best and not take too much of your time because I do know you all have things to do.

So here we go there are about 5 things that I think are relevant for you to know, particularly as young people as you move forward to your next whatever your next may be.  Now I feel it is personally important for you to know that your next is not going to look like anyone in this room.  One of the things that I find particularly fascinating about you all as a generation is your ability to not only do your own thing, but how you all as a generation can make people and in some instances contort society to fit your own model of how things should be.  But know matter if you are doing you or you are doing the masses I feel like these things will work for you.

Therefore, I present to you my 5 things…

1.     True knowledge comes through experience and everything else represents information.  What I mean by that is you have to go through some things in or to have experiences.  This is particularly important as many of you are navigating your late teens and some of you are about to enter college you have this feel that you know everything and your parents and or care givers ain’t up on what are experiencing, but I am here to tell you that ain’t nothing new under the sun.  It’s just repackaged.  Therefore, take advantage of some of the sage wisdom in your life.  It can save you from having to go through so much drama in the long run.  You don’t have to get burned by a fire in order to prove it’s hot when 10 people in your space have already had the experience and can tell you that’s a fire and it will burn you.

2.     Catastrophe and celebration are like joy and pain they are simultaneous journeys and you cannot have one without the other.  What I mean by this is so many of us get lost in the celebration of success and often times for the toll it took to get there.  Therefore, what I would like to do for you today is encourage each of you to not get to high when things are great and not get to low when things are bad.  Savor the journey through each and appreciate the lessons on each.  I say this knowing it is hard when you are experiencing on of life moments, but I give you this analogy.  No one like to take Pepto Bismol or any other medicine, but man what a relief we feel when it starts its healing action.

3.     Do everything with F.I.R.E





Success no matter how you define it cannot happen without it.

4.     The 4th point I particularly leave with you all as young people because you all have grown up in an era where service to others is more like an obligation rather than just what you do as a member of the human race.  But, the great Shirley Chilsom said, “Service to others is the rent we pay for living on earth.”  No one should have to prod you or offer you bonus points to serve your neighbor.  It should be just something you do.  Therefore, I challenge you to just commit a random act of kindness and watch the liberation you get when you allow yourself to be a manifestation of a POWER that’s greater than you.

5.      The 5th and final point I would like to make is that if you are really going to soar you not only have to know your craft, but know yourself.  Ain’t nothing more disturbing to me than a delusional rapper or ballplayer.  But in all seriousness we have to be honest with ourselves more than anyone because I assure you today is already passed and tomorrow is not promised and the graveyard is fill with people who were either not honest with themselves or full of potential.

As I prepare to sit I leave you with a saying my Granddaddy Rob use to say

Walk Slow – What he meant by that was no Holy person whether it was Jesus, Mohammad or Buddha ever was in a hurry to do anything.  Therefore, take your time and enjoy the ride.  I assure you it whatever it is will be there.

Drink Plenty of Water – The journey of life is long.  Therefore, if you are going to go you must stay hydrated.  There is something to this water thing.

And keep your nose in front of you – What he meant was mind your own business.

With that said

I bid you love

I bid you peace

And most of I bid you understand


Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen

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In Light Of Thu, 07 Jul 2016 14:19:23 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> I have often suggested that African American men are by far the best actors on the plant.  Not particularly because of any cinematic skills we posses, but because of the real time, real life character dexterity we must show at all times. I guess one could call it an inherent bi-polarness or innate code switching ability you are born with that lies dormant until the appropriate time and then BAM it appears. However, with the latest round of public executions of African-American men it is making me question if somehow my inherent navigational tool is miscalibrated or have we sped back into a time when the perception of what made America great constituted Strange Fruit (Google Billie Holliday).

As both a front line solider and a public intellectual even I am at a loss for what is appropriate actions when you see the lives of so many being taken by those who masquerade as public servants under the guise of protecting and serving.  The rules that were passed down to allow me to navigate the inherent system of injustices seem to be out of date without a corresponding upgrade.

Don’t do crime and you will be ok seems to be the prevailing wisdom from those least impacted, but what is seemingly victimless incidents both legal and questionable are leaving countless African-American men DEAD.  I offer the following for proof:

Alton Sterling selling CD’s

Philando Castile sitting in his car reaching for his registration

Eric Gardner selling lose cigarettes

Samuel Dubois missing a front license plate

Oscar Grant riding a commuter train

These are just a few of the instances that ended in a loss of life not just for them, but for those of us share their ethnicity and gender.  I attest to both my own reality and my even larger humanity that a part of me dies every time I hear about an African-American dying at the hands of the police.

I immediately find myself asking was not the corresponding code switching apparatus not working for these men?  Did they forget the scene and stayed in a previous character to long, therefore forgetting the consequences were going to be death.  I am not sure and the pain of having to wait for a system of injustice that has proven way more favorable to the other side seems unbearable.

One of my favorite poets/musician/thinkers of all time Gil Scott Heron said the Revolution Will Not Be Televised, but I beg to differ the revolution is being televised courtesy of Apple and Android and is being beamed into our sub-consciousness via Facebook.  Yet a significant reaction that will equally disrupt the moral consciousness of the masses has yet to be birthed so for now I give what I have to the cause and that’s the breath I breathe into these thoughts, the work of illuminating my larger humanity and the part of my spirit that dies tragically every time an African-American is killed by law enforcement.

This is my truth and it is real heavy right now.

Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen



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No Hash Tag Sun, 31 Jan 2016 23:57:41 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> The rash of violence that has seemed to engulf my beloved city has taken me like many other people throughout my city aback.  However, the recent death of young Aiden McClendon struck a particular cord with me.  Not only because of his youth (22 months old), but the seemly randomness by which his young life was taken. At 22 months he had yet to discover any of the gifts or let alone curses life would even offer him and now we collectively mourn his tragic death.

Over the last 24hrs as I have trolled my social media timeline I have seen the ubiquitous call for prayers and the political response by both the Mayor and the Sheriff.  Personally, I have found little solace in either as none of the aforementioned has brought about a true reconciliation with what I see and hear.  Mentally and spiritually I am conflicted as I try and reject the idea that the very communities that raised me and so many of my peers have evolved into violent hinterlands where not even the youngest of lives is spared. Joy and pain are celebrated equally at the same story line depending on the neighborhood you from.

As I gather my thoughts I find myself asking what is the tipping point for our community? What is the line that everyone understands we cannot cross despite any larger beefs?  Under what circumstances do we say jail is the consequence for this particular action?  Or have we just evolved to a space and place where no one or any place is safe?  Even on the Wire and the Godfather they had rules.

I also find myself asking what is the solution to such rampant and senseless violence that has seemingly become commonplace for not only my community, but also many others like it across the country.  I have evolved from a place where I simply believe that economic piety is the cure all for what ails many within these troubled neighborhoods and simply blaming the structural racism that exist is far to easy.  Fact of the matter is none of the referenced is valid reasons as to why young Aiden is dead.  He was too young to understand the value of a dollar and far to innocent to be sucked into the vortex of racism.

Yet as the days go by and the Internet trolls on there will be no shutting down of roads, or calls for justice about his death.  There will be no tears shed beyond his families or any marches with participants shouting “No Justice, No Peace.”  His death won’t represent a watershed moment worthy of a hash tag. It will be just another day, with just another name that died on the mean city streets of our beloved city.

And for that I am truly ashamed.

This is my truth and I AM sticking to it.


Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen

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Cocktails and Conversation Sun, 27 Sep 2015 20:34:37 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> In a conversation with a friend regarding Richard Sherman’s comments about the merits of the Blacklivesmatter Movement it amazed me how stark the difference can be depending on your perspective and your belief regarding Power and who has it.  I mentioned to my friend that I found nothing wrong with Richard Sherman’s comments, nor did I see where it took the focus off the issue of police brutality.  However, it did put the issue of Black on Black crime and how we as a community address it or not.

First and foremost allow me to say that I am well aware of the fact that people kill who they have proximity to therefore, not only do blacks kill blacks more often than anyone else, whites kill whites just as much.  Matter of fact according to the Department of Justice, 84% of whites who are killed in this country are killed by someone who looks just like them.  That being said the backlash Richard Sherman received was indicative of the level of sensitivity we as a community have when someone from within floats commentary that seemingly goes against the collective mindset.

I went on to suggest to him that while I am personally, emotionally and spiritually sensitive to the lives that are lost at the hands of law enforcement I am even more impacted at the lives that are lost on the blocks and in the hoods at the hands of people who look just like me.  I went on to explain that I feel this way because it is on those same blocks and in those same neighborhoods I see the greatest reflection of my own story both good and bad.

Therefore, it is my opinion that there is a greater accountability there because when you see me you should be seeing a reflection of yourself.  Yet daily many young black and brown men die on the corners and streets across this country and no one marches, no one protest and in many cases vows of not to snitch are taken and as I argued to him the pain is just as real.

A family’s pain is no less painful when their son or daughter dies at the hands of Officer Friendly or at the hands of De Bo.  My friend disagreed in terms of his belief that we have learned to live with one while the other is completely unacceptable.  One is an outcome of structural racism and the other is because of a learned behavior regarding self.

My friend’s position rested in the Power and Responsibility law enforcement has versus everyone else.  While I tend to agree I also know that Power by in large rest in Perception and having Responsibility does not automatically make you Competent to have any of the aforementioned.  I did suggest to him that what the Blacklivesmatter Movement has done through the aid of technology is galvanized people around the ghost in the machine relative to police behavior in communities of color and how that behavior can and has led to death for many people of color at the slightest provocation or lack thereof.

I further suggested to him that police behavior or lack thereof in communities of color is about Power and the ability to enforce that Power simply because of who and what they represent, sorta like the Overseer on a plantation. Matter of opinion I think we give away our God given Power way to often to our very own detriment and that act of surrender leaves communities of color vulnerable to many things including the bullet, the Bible and the ballot.  However, I personally refuse to acquiesce my own personal Power to the Power of anyone simple because they have a badge, Bible or anything else so I guess I will simply die with my Chuck Taylor’s on and a clean consciousness.

That’s my truth and I AM sticking to it…


Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen

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The New Normal Fri, 06 Mar 2015 22:46:44 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> In preparation for an upcoming talk to some young men I thought about how the paradigm for normalcy has been shifted for young boys of color.  What I mean by that is I personally don’t think there is anything abnormal about being educated, not incarcerated, having a job (non-athletic or non-entertainer) or better yet being socially responsible.  Yet somehow this narrative puts me and many of my peers in elite status.  Although, I do recognize that only about 20% of African Americans hold college degrees and to go even deeper less than 1% have a doctorate degree, but this message is not solely about academic credentials.  I also am keenly aware of the urban myth regarding black men and prison.

Urban Myth

There are more black men in prison than in college…

If I were to reflect just upon my social circle both now as an adult and when I was a kid I would venture to say I know more dudes who became truck drivers, longshoremen, work at the Post Office or are school teachers in some capacity than I do in jail, the league (NFL or NBA) or in the studio with Rick Ross, Kanye or Jay Z.  However, the launchpad to a quality life has been co-opted to the two aforementioned entry points (sports or entertainment) and anything short represent failure.  What this further suggests to me is the perceived economic windfall that comes from such career pursuits trumps any focus on real world options that may allow many of our boys to evolve into to functional young men much less feel good and optimistic about being something other than a ball player or a hot rapper.

The all in approach of sports leave many young men of color degreeless and broken economically without a functional skill that’s applicable to the real world and the repercussions of the music game I would offer are even worse. The requisite narrative in order to be considered “hot” and even get a semblance of attention requires you to profess to a lifestyle that goes counterproductive to the greater good of any potential beneficiary of your success (see Bobby Shmurda).

What we have to do is say to young boys of color your ability to drain a 3, fly through the air and dunk, catch a pass or run like the wind are quite limiting relative to the totality of your life and this is just a moment and skill set in time.  Therefore, use that skill as the jump off to educate yourself and develop options.

And to those young boys of color who see their microphone proficiency as their gateway from the mean streets of wherever they come from they have to be reminded that there is no romanticism in the conditions that create oppression.  

You know it’s hard out here for a pimp
When he tryin’ to get this money for the rent
For the Cadillacs and gas money spent

Three Six Mafia

Their words have become antiseptic to a harsh reality that allows the struggles of many to go unnoticed or at the most taken for granted.  Furthermore, those very same words normalize the hurt and pain relative to premature death and prison and ain’t nothing normal about that.  Matter of fact your narrative has evolved through your lyrical experiences (both real and flat out bull shit) created an entire industrial complex that thrives upon your destruction.

There is NOTHING wrong with being able to fix, analyze or develop things, nor is there anything wrong with driving a truck or any of the other honorable professions that allow you to be free physically and mentally of harm.  Matter of fact I would say that’s more normal than anything.

Shout out to all the dudes working normal jobs…

That’s My Truth and I am Sticking To It…


Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen

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Heavy Heart and Headiness Thu, 04 Dec 2014 12:54:53 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> In this season of giving thanks and for all intents and purposes of good cheer I find myself both with a heavy heart and feeling a little headiness.  Heavy hearted for the fact that another African American male has died at the hands of a known assailant and yet no one is to be held accountable for his death.

Heavy hearted because no matter if you know the victim or not as an African American male you carry the weight of his death as if it was your own or one of an immediate member of your family.  Heavy hearted because with every instance of such public deaths a portion of you dies and yet you are still conscious enough to ask yourself why and what can be done to prevent such occurrences from happening again.  However, in those instances I remember Emmitt Till, Johnny Mae Chappell and Fred Hampton and the countless others that died the same kinds of public deaths only to have their perpetrators go knowingly free.

Heavy hearted because you want to believe in those who have sworn to protect and serve and in a system of laws.  Yet the realty is you know that our lighter shade of brown brethren don’t die because of loose cigarettes, loud music, whistling at women of a different race or simply walking through neighborhoods at night with nothing more than Skittles and ice tea.

Hang ups, let downs

Bad breaks, set backs

Natural fact is

I can’t pay my taxes

Oh, make me wanna holler

And throw up both my hands

Yea, it makes me wanna holler

And throw up both my hands

Crime is increasing

Trigger happy policing

Marvin Gaye

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

The headiness I feel is paralyzing because as a conscious African American male you want to over stand because to understand may cause you to miss something that can be the difference between life and death.   Therefore, you relive both your youth and your present for instances when you could have been a cautionary tale about what can happen when you forget the rules of code switching.  And you immediately account for the young African American males you are responsible for to make sure that you have taught them the rules of engagement.

There is a level of headiness as you try to find a plausible escape for the emotions that you feel when your entire humanity has been reduce to a hash tag that simply says black lives matter.  However, the moment I have to remind you of my humanity as a man, in particular an African American man is the moment I have lost because it gives you the right to not see me as human and therefore my right to exist becomes a matter of your judgment.

That’s My Truth and I AM Sticking to It


Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen

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2014 the Summer of Discontent Thu, 21 Aug 2014 22:01:32 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> The Revolution will not be Televised

2014 the Summer of Discontent

You will not be able to stay at home and play with your video games, my brother

You will not be able to download the latest porno flick and simply lose yourself

You will not be able to roll up a blunt and poor a glass of Ciroc

Text your boo thang and let her know you’ll be through in 45 minutes

Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by Puffy/P-Diddy or any other hip-hop artist

Or will be hosted by DJ Drama

The revolution will not show you pictures of Obama with cool shades on dapping up Jay-Z and Beyonce with Michelle standing off in the cut nodding here head to “Partition

The Revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you via satellite in HD with subtext and a Spanish interpreter and will not have guest appearances by Kevin Hart or a tribute to T.D Jakes or a special appearance by Rev Al or Jessie

The revolution will not get you to Heaven but will accept your contributions.

The revolution will not make you popular

The revolution will not make you slimmer if you commit to a plan of 5 days a week and 2 hours a night, Family.

There will be no post of you taking a selfie next to a burnt out storefront or an overturned vehicle for anyone to like on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

There won’t be any Google analytics to help you get to the top of a web page or trending topics for you to Tweet

The revolution will not be televised.

There won’t be a Happy Hour with a roped off VIP and bottle services or valet to park your car, Uber and Lift won’t be available to drop you off.  You won’t be able to use acronyms like lol, lmao or ijs to describe the time you are having to your BMF or BFF.

The revolution will not be televised.

Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop or Scandal wont be so damn relevant because it won’t matter who slept with who or who got shot.

Folks will be rioting in the streets because they will know the names of who got shot (Michael Brown, Timothy Stansbury, Oscar Grant, Aaron Campbell, Alonzo Ashley, Wendell Allen, Eric Garner, Jonathan Ferrell, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis) – the pain and the blood will be more real than any housewife in Atlanta and the love will be so deep that not to start a revolution will be the least of the scandals that people will be worried about.

There will be no Fox News commentary to slant the views of what went on or Don Lemon to tell the world they called me the N word and no hash tag to start a trend or motherly looking white women to say it could have been my child.

The theme song won’t be “Happy” or contain folks singing and dancing with smiles on their faces, instead James Brown’s the “Big Payback” or Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” might be playing in the background

The Revolution will not be televised

The Revolution will not return right after a message about

Christian Singles or E-Harmony.

You wont have to listen out for jingles that say they would like to buy the world a Coke and fill it with perfect harmony or even tell you to have a Coke and a smile.  It won’t contain the most interesting man in the world, but might have images of angry people both black and white

The Revolution won’t be safer in a Subaru or in the suburbs or allow you time to comparative shopping for his and her matching Glocs

The Revolution will put you in the front seat and disrupt all your creature comforts.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,

will not be televised, will not be televised.

The revolution will be no re-run family;

The revolution will be live.

Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen

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A Nonpolitical Poverty Conversation Tue, 19 Aug 2014 02:50:05 +0000 Administrator Continue reading ]]> I recently read an article published by the Heritage Foundation ( regarding poverty and came away with how subjective poverty is based upon the individual’s social lens. I read this article not only as a practitioner, but also as someone who has an academic interest in the subject matter as well.  Therefore, the following is my reaction to the information I read.

The term poverty as the authors’ uses it is subjective when the idea of what it means to be poor in this country is far more complex.  Simply put poverty in the U.S. can have negligible and legal consequences that do not exist in other countries.  Therefore, to look at poverty through the lens of the nightly news and a late night infomercial and determine what passes for acceptable poverty levels domestically is rather shortsighted, if not naïve.

It seems to me that the authors’ define poor simply in terms of access to goods and services.  However, at the very onset of the article they acknowledge that the cost of goods goes down considerably following a products introduction into the marketplace.  Therefore, cost and access are relative depending upon where we are in the products market cycle.

The authors identified a combination of at least 10 of the following items as an example of an improved lifestyle that contradicted what “liberals” define as poor.  As if to say if you own any of the 10 you are no longer poor, you simply lack comforts.  The list is as follows:

  • Microwave Oven
  • Air Conditioner
  • Car or Truck
  • VCR
  • DVD Player
  • Cable or Satellite TV
  • Cell Phone
  • Video Game
  • Personal Computer
  • Internet Service
  • Dishwasher
  • Stereo
  • Big Screen TV or LCD
  • Video Recorder

Going back to an earlier point depending on where the product is in its life cycle consumers can obtain the aforementioned at relatively inexpensive prices.  Case and point with a microwave oven.  You can purchase one for as low as $38.00 from Wal-Mart brand new.  Also, both a DVD Player and a VCR can be purchased for basically the same price with the later not available in some cases.

Also, you would be hard pressed to find any well meaning, social conscious advocate to consider items like cars and trucks, personal computers and internet service as examples of “luxury” items.

Depending on the city access to adequate transportation is absolutely vital in terms of functionality.  In Jacksonville, FL dependable transportation can be the difference between employability and being unemployed because of our lack of investment in an adequate public transportation system.  Furthermore, the suburbanization of job opportunities makes access to a car far more important to those who live in core communities than it ever has been in our country.   The lack of investment made in core communities regarding jobs and the infrastructure associated with jobs continues to be a leading indicator regarding generational poverty, which leads me to my next point and that being technology.

Technology or lack thereof can be a major factor in terms of lifting up or keeping people in generational poverty.  I would question if the authors have ever had to fill out any public assistance forms.  To merely apply for “help” requires you to have online access.  Given the Internet as an access point to even get services I would question if you could still consider a computer or the Internet as a “luxury” amenity.   In some cases it is actually a cheaper proposition to access services online because of the fees associated with talking to a live a person.  Therefore, creating a codependency on the part of poor people who cannot afford to be with or without ample technology.

Computer and Internet access is all-together a different story when it comes to children, particularly children from poverty stricken families.  Research is very clear regarding technology and child development, those who have access achieve and those who don’t simply fall behind.  Furthermore, given our country’s propensity for testing technology is simply a must have access.  In the State of FL starting this year certain aspects of the statewide assessment will be done solely online.  Can you imagine being a student who only has access to a computer in school or at the neighborhood library, who by the way have limited access and only allows you up to an hour per session?  This is not to even mention that here in Jacksonville the library and its hours are the 1st targets for cuts in at least the last 2 different mayor’s budget.

The final category in which I take particular issue with is the authors’ lack thereof “evidence” regarding poverty-induced malnutrition.  They suggest that overconsumption of calories is a major problem within the U.S. in general and not germane to poor communities.  As evidence the authors’ sited the nutriment intake of adult women in the upper middle class as resembling that of poor women and suggesting the same evidence was consistent across the board despite the ethnic or gender subset.  However, the one glaring issue that is overlooked is choice.  The lower subsets of people have very little choice based upon access.  In poorer communities’ access to healthier food options is limited at best and simply not available worst case creating terms like “food desert,” which mean an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.  Therefore, foods that are high in calories become part of an unhealthy diet out of necessity rather than a life style choice.  All of this combined leads to run away medical bills, which can have a crippling effect even on the best-managed households.

What this article does is it makes the issue of poverty simply an issue of choice, particularly regarding marriage and work ethic.  I have coined this “urbanization of poverty,” which means if poor inner city people would simply make better choices socially, get married and get jobs their social and economic condition would change. This approach de-humanizes people based upon the idea that somehow poor people, particularly those from inner city communities’ somehow make poor decisions, don’t get married, have out of wedlock children as a result of some cultural norm and neither have the aptitude or attitude to work.  However, all of those statements are over generalizations and inaccurate regarding poor people.

Finally, what I do know as a practitioner first and an academician second is poverty is less about choice, although it does play a small part, but more about the environmental circumstances that create the conditions that lead to poverty.  And it is those environmental circumstances, which are created through the vessel of public policy that allows politicians and policy makers the ability to inflict their social will.

No one wakes up in the morning and decides that today is a great day to be poor.  Nor do they wake up and decide that I want to be educated in the worst schools, or eat the unhealthiest foods and find a job that’s the furthest away from my home.  However, this is the reality many poor people find themselves in yet the expectation is to somehow simply pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make it without any social safety nets.

That’s My Truth and I AM Sticking to it…


Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen

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