Op/Ed By Wallace Mabry
Dr. Leonard Brock and Hank Rubin corroborated in a Speaking Out essay in the March 5, 2017, Democrat & Chronicle about changing the face of poverty and overcoming the obstacles faced. Their catchphrase, as it were, is “collective impact,” which carries a socialist connotation. That latter point is made only to highlight its unlikely occurrence in a capitalist, socioeconomic environment.
The idea of the hypothesis is that once we meet in a collaborative group such as occurred with the initial Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI) forums of 2015 and forward, we emerge with what we have learned about the problems, the availability of resources, and organizational structures currently in place to support the initiative, and we carry forth with us, to our individual organizations and community groups, those agreed upon sets of outcomes. We, then, inculcate the cultural standards gleaned from those outcomes into our organizational and community group programs, and our extended community outreach efforts.
This newfound cultural awakening should then permeate the everyday lifestyle of those of us who truly want to and are committed to disrupting and alleviating the cycle of poverty in Monroe County.
As individuals, joined now, in a cultural relationship, with the poor and the impoverished of Monroe County, we become a living, cultural collective that will change not only the landscape but the mindsets of the Monroe County community.
While that may sound encouraging and admirable, one wonders about the extent of the investment of time and costs (mental, psychological, physical, financial, and yes, spiritual) will accrue to those who will be charged with the lead responsibility. We are aware that those who are mired in the deepest in poverty do not attend and participate at community forums. They do not subscribe to the Democrat & Chronicle and the Minority Reporter. They do not sit and watch the nightly news broadcasts that will, if the broadcasts would, outreach to them and spell out the approaches to getting their problems resolved. If they do not, who amongst us will make the effort of visiting them and spelling out the cultural undertakings and organizational requirement that must take place in order to extirpate the conditions responsible for what is an organized poverty?
Then, of course, there are those of us who are naturally suspicious about anti-poverty initiatives based on the history of these initiatives. Millions of dollars are poured into these initiatives, similar to the current one, and millions of dollars are already spent. Even more is expected to flow in to address the multifaceted problems of poverty in the county. How is the money being spent?
What we do know of the disbursement process is that the monies are controlled by the United Way of Rochester under whose providence Dr. Brock administers the RMAPI. Since the world today is about transparency, we would like published the amount of the millions provided so far, the breakdown of the expenditures to date based on that figure, and the rationale for the expenditures. In short, we want to know where the money has gone, and who has been profiting from it.
The rhetoric that flows from the lips of politicians and their supporting casts has no meaning for those of us who are cognizant of the histories of anti-poverty initiatives, and of those who invariably walk away with brief cases full of money, leaving the poor and the impoverished poor and impoverished.
The Donald Trump presidency also adds a new wrinkle to the mix. His war is primarily a military one, and his reported intent is to increase the budget for military spending and cut that for domestic spending, which means cutting federal funding for domestic programs that support and benefit organization and community groups that provide services to the poor and the impoverished.
It might not be a bad idea if the poor, Black, white, Puerto Rican, Indian, and others so situated, put down those glasses and bottles of alcohol, take a break from the drug daze, cease killing each other, stop beating up your spouses, cussing out your kids, and take notice of what is going on around you in the larger world. If you want to live better you have to think clearer. The question then is, what is to be done?