Have you ever had the lightbulb go off, and you come up with ideas or strategies that could make a difference in your community or shed significant insight into a situation you were trying to resolve? By now, if you have been following my writings, you are aware of my organization’s vision to eradicate the stigma of mental illness, stomp out bullying, and prevent suicide in our society. My life’s mission is to empower people to maximize their full potentials in life. There are so many people sitting on potentiation that can necessitate life-altering changes, transforming our contextual environment in ways unimaginable.
I had an epiphany while I was engaging in a dialogue with my inner self as I prepared to write a paper for a course assignment. If you have ever had to write a 20-page research paper, you are familiar with the inner dialogue that goes like, “What am I going to write about? Why did I decide to go back to school? A twenty-page paper, wow, where do I start?” As the unconscious versus the conscious faculties of my thinking process escalated, I uncovered a secret. The discovery was not really a hidden secret because my new revelation is a problem that has stained the world for centuries.
President Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In the eyes of our Creator, all men are created equal, but throughout history, a man divided equality and justice for all during slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement. Some people are miseducated and could not visualize that the Civil Rights Movement was all people, nationalities, ethnicities, gender, and people with disabilities. The challenge was for fairness and equality for every color and creed.
In President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, he professed, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” What happens when the country placed certain people at a significant disadvantage by being born the wrong color? How can people who live a life of chronic poverty do anything for their country? What can they do with their lack of education, stability, financial resources, and the absence of the hidden rules of the middle-class? Chronic poverty orchestrates a life of injustice, discrimination, prejudice, and unequal opportunities, regardless of the false impression that people are created equal.
Chronic poverty puts people at higher risks of poor mental and physical health, substance use disorders, complex posttraumatic stress disorder, causing them to live a traumatic and detrimental lifestyle that stifles education, maturation, and personal growth. Lifetime adversities and trauma correlate with low self-esteem, mental illness, lower socioeconomic status, and small educational achievement. Is it possible for people who are reared in chronic poverty to beat the odds and succeed when all odds are against them? Is it possible to provide quality education and security when they stand out from the crowd due to hunger, lack of resources, and inadequate clothing and shelter, making them a target for trauma, demoralization, and being bullied?
We must be the change that we want to see in the world, and we must be willing to stand in uncomfortable situations by being upstanders and not bystanders. There must be a cultural shift in our society to break the chain of generational curses and chronic poverty. We hear that children are our future so we must teach them well so that they can lead the way. Our children must be the generation of today and not tomorrow. The cultural shift that is going to change the infrastructure in our community probably will not happen during our lifetime. We can train our children to establish goals and draft their blueprints for a success that will change the culture of society and families, not only nationally but globally. We want our children to be successful, but we must help them define success by ensuring that they are secure in the 5 S’s (Self-Identity, Self-Esteem, Self-Concept, Self-Efficacy, and Self-Compassion). Our task, as parents, guardians, educators, and community leaders, is to help our children lay the foundation to break the curse of generational poverty. For more information about the 5 S’s, follow Kevin Johnson on Twitter @youbethe1, or visit the website at youbethe1.org or tune in to You Be The 1 on TheLight.Live (Internet Radio) every Wednesday at 12 PM. Be Inspired; Be Empowered; Be You! Be the change you want to see in the world so you can Be the Difference!