The Article The Huff Post Rejected

November 9, 2012

My Mentee and I

A couple of weeks ago, I linked up with the brother Robert Kyle Hoggard, whom I met at the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference this past Summer, to interview for The Huffington Post in support of my book with my mentee called Different Families, Still Brothers. After Huff Post rejected it without a given reason, he posted it on another site he blogs for called HBCU Buzz. I think it was a great article. It is such a shame that the Huff Post didn’t publish it. It provided a unique look into poverty. Do check it out and feel free to hit up Huff Post with your disappointment in them. As a bonus to the article, I’m posting the unedited interview. In it, I talk about how poverty was address in the 1960’s, what can be done to address it today, what poverty looks like today, how I address poverty, how I overcame it, what inspired me to put out the book with my mentee and how my faith backs my willingness to help others. Check it out below!

1. What solutions do you have to cripple poverty?
Back in 2009, I published my first article on poverty on my Hip Hop blog. In it, I talked about how poverty decreased dramatically in the 1960’s and stayed the same well into the 2000’s. That had a lot to do with President Johnson’s “Great Society” programs. With these programs, he extended the life span of those in poverty and put them in a place where they suffered less. He created Medicaid which provided health care to the poor. He created Medicare which provided health care to one of our most vulnerable, our seniors. He created Job Corps and Neighborhood Youth Corps to help the youth get into the work force. He expanded Social Security benefits and the Food Stamp program. He created Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) which paid people to help the poor in various opportunity and school programs. He created Upward Bound which helped poor high school students get into college. He created the Community Action Program which helped the poor help themselves.

All of these things and many more programs he and congress initiated helped lift people out of poverty. These things provided opportunities to the poor, kept them alive, got them to help themselves and got other people to help them. More could have been done, but the Vietnam War picked up. The war killed any hope of poverty being eliminated.

Towards the end of the 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were on the verge of diminishing poverty even further. Dr. King started the Poor People’s Campaign just before he was killed in 1968. The campaign was to unite all poor people and demand more action from the government. During his 1968 Presidential run, Senator Kennedy focused on poverty in a major way. He was killed just as he was a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination. These two men along with President Johnson were getting to the root of the real problem in America, poverty. Since they were doing this, they became targets. Dr. King and Senator Kennedy paid the price of death. President Johnson didn’t get a chance at a second elected term.

To cripple poverty today, we need another “Great Society” initiative. We need another Poor People’s Campaign. We need another Presidential candidate who cares. In the article I mentioned earlier, I said, “The combined efforts of the government, non-poor people and poor people helping their own selves can cause the number of people in poverty to drop. The percentage has the potential to drop even more than it did in the sixties.” In the years since I put out that article, that thought as expanded to include people who used to be poor helping those who are poor. That can happen in a VISTA program or even joining a mentoring program. The book I’m putting out with my mentee Gaetan Lamy, Different Families, Still Brothers, showcases how it is possible to assist those in poverty on a seemly small level. It shows that people who used to be poor can be a great ally to those who are poor. But this is not limited to them. Everyone can provide the tools and education poor people need. Those who don’t know what it is like to be poor need to do research on poverty or talk to a person who used to be poor like me to be able to better assist those who are poor.

2. What is poverty? How is one classified as someone affected by poverty?

Poverty has many faces, but it knows no color. The Federal guideline isn’t a definition of poverty. It doesn’t reflect rising food prices, rising housing costs and transportation. I have a lecture called “Poverty: Bigger than the Block” where I talk about the issues poor people face. Poverty is going to bed hungry. It is cereal for dinner. If lucky, it is white rice and eggs for dinner. It is deciding between paying the light bill or buying food for the family. It is living in a hotel room with your whole family because you lost your home. It is having to work sick because you could lose your job if you don’t. It is having to take a day off from work without pay, risking losing your job, to make sure your benefits stay intact. It is filling out job application after job application at the library. It is going to job fair after job fair. It is isolating yourself because you don’t have the money to do anything. It is having failing grades in college because public school didn’t prepare you. It is using a credit card to pay for groceries and bills to be able to live another day. It is going bankrupt due to health care bills or credit card bills. I could go on and on about the many faces of poverty. It is the greatest tragedy in American history.

3. How will your dreams play into empowering person’s affected by poverty?

Since I won the Children’s Defense Fund’s Beat the Odds Scholarship in 2004, I made it my mission to help my fellow brothers and sisters. I always wanted to help people. In winning that scholarship, I was inspired, empowered and motivated to act on my emotions. My approach now is to help young people in poverty get out one by one. I do that by sharing my life story, providing words of encouragement and advice, providing education on the college admission process and applying to jobs, inspiring them to stand up against the injustices they endure and see, and telling them how faith in God sustains them. These are things I do in my own time, not as my main job where I help people get public health insurance. I do hope to have a main job where I buttress all my efforts. I’ve been applying to jobs and going to interviews for about a year. Nothing has popped up for me yet.

4. How have you overcome poverty?

If it wasn’t for President Johnson’s “Great Society” programs, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I benefited from Medicaid and Food Stamps. These programs kept me alive to be able to succeed. Pace University’s Upward Bound Program gave me the hope that I could escape my living situation. I wasn’t just dealing with going hungry and in risk of losing my home. I was dealing with parents who weren’t involved in my doings. I was also dealing with a father who was abusive. I didn’t have a constant positive role model. The Pace Upward Bound program helped me see education as my way out. I see education as the great equalizer.

5. What inspired you to write this book?

What inspired me to put out Different Families, Still Brothers with my mentee Gaetan Lamy was how many of my brothers and sisters who grew up in poverty weren’t interested in “going back” to help those who are poor now. What also inspired me was how those who do help end up doing more harm than good because they don’t know what it is like to be poor. I hope this book changes people’s mind about helping the poor in an effective way and bring hope to the youth in poverty.

6. Why did you end the book with Ephesians 4:26-29?

I’m glad you caught that. As my mentee and I were wrapping up the book, I came across these verses in my daily reading of the Bible. So this wasn’t in the original cut. My mentee and I talked a lot about our shared Christian faith in the book. We talked about how it got us to where we are and how it sustains us. I’ve become more faithful over the course of our mentoring relationship. But for me, my faith is much more than a selfish thing. It’s about being my brother’s and sister’s keeper. When I read these verses, they spoke to me because of what I’m about. We all endure the devil trying to get ahead of us in our daily lives, but we shouldn’t let him stop us. We shouldn’t let him stop us from helping others. We all have the duty to help others. We all have something to offer. These verses are at the end of the book because it is exactly the message I’m trying to get across with the book. I wanted to leave the readers with something memorable.


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