Literacy, of any fashion, can create impact, and structure, when retained, and applied, because when you know better you are said to do better. Yet, only knowing is not nearly enough, is it?

On May 24th, Ben Carson stated in an interview on Sirius XM that poverty is a “state of mind” – and while I agree to an extent, poverty is also an actuality. According to Hip Hop Wired, the Housing Secretary went on to further detail what he meant by his comment that poverty is all in the mind. Though it’s kind of redundant to revisit his explanation because it doesn’t change that his comment is not really new. This thought that poverty is only a “state of mind” is the common deflector when a minority mentions white privilege and racism. It’s the go-to phrase used to minimize a very real plight.

Poverty is a lack- scarcity- inferior quality by Merriam-Webster’s definition. Poverty is a lack of something. Poverty is proof of illiteracy. 

Though, while some would attribute poverty solely to the poor and their mental state- couldn’t this lack be attributed to the system that has raised, and governed, these people too? As students that can afford to go to college, usually with federal loans and scholarships, later struggle to get jobs. Then, to pay off the debt accrued from getting this higher education. Also not forgetting the fact that low wage workers are said to be less likely to even receive health care – basic human rights. Couldn’t the lack be in the educational system? Though high school graduation rates improved last year, 2016, a mother found a textbook that called slaves, “workers”, in 2015.

The judicial system, maybe? A young black male was body slammed for “J Walking” and yet over 170,000 rape kits still have not been processed. One third of murders are still unsolved. Over 100,000 missing person cases are still open. This is the same system that has been raising us, and if nothing is done to rectify it, it will go on to raise the future generations to come as carelessly. If the poor is steadily being reproduced- maybe the problem is more collective than individual; bigger than the small.

Contrary to popular belief, it may take a village to raise the village.

Could we really be lacking compassion for one another? Could we be lacking that neighborly spirit so taught in the Bible? Could this poverty mindset- this lack of financial literacy so to speak- really be rooted in this lack of heart and love for our brothers and sisters as fellow humankind? Shouldn’t we investigate the root so as not to pacify the problem?

Mapping Police Violence says that black people are most likely to be killed by police. Last year, police killed 308 blacks, and over 130 in 2017 already- just 6 months in. Since 1980, the murder rates have drastically dropped in our communities, yet more black lives are being taken at the hands of police than ever before. Black children. Black teens. Black women. Black men. This is lack. This is a lack of respect for human life. Further, the emotional, and psychological, abuse of police brutality could easily, and quickly, push people to this poverty mind state that Carson mentioned and drive these same people to criminal activity.  

However, if the dynamic were changed and everyone were treated as equals- people could be more motivated to work within the system, right?

Additionally, in 2014, Mic and NPR reported that it is illegal in certain U.S. cities to feed the homeless. Is this that poverty mindset at work again that Carson was talking about? Over 500,000 youth in the United States are homeless for a week or longer per year, and of the 3.5 million total people that go homeless a year, about 1.3 million are children. In 2015, over 78 million Americans that are recorded as, “Low Wage Workers”, struggled to live. The United States of America is said to have the most low wage workers and most of them are women. That said, maybe we should change the subject from the problem to solutions followed by real deal executions. Let us ask ourselves, ‘Where there is lack- what can be done to inform and create stability and eventually abundance’. One person helping a homeless person could lead to that homeless person getting off the street and helping millions of others regain a working position in society. Traditionally, though, it has been suggested that it depends on the type of help, in that ‘you can lead a horse to water’…

In 2015, CNN reported that over 300,000 veterans may be deceased because of the lack of attention and aid at the VA hospitals.  This is poverty.  This is lack.  Furthermore, an Army vet is currently serving time ultimately for stealing children’s DVDs- and eventually for burglary.  American Bar says he had developed a drug habit while serving, but couldn’t it be deeper than that?  Couldn’t he have been so tired of contacting VA Hospitals for help that they didn’t give him that it led him to self medicate? Couldn’t he have been paid so low after defending his country that he felt forced to steal to make his kids happy? He is not eligible for parole until 2046. While ideas, and knowledge, can open many doors, poverty is a very real obstacle faced by very real people.

Yet, the most disappointing lack seems to be the way that we have responded to it. By choosing to chalk poverty up to a mental problem alone- the issues are only worsening.

Ultimately, financial literacy in Hip Hop stands at the same angle. Though there are positive examples in Hip Hop, many mainstream Hip Hop Artists have committed crimes to get in their position and promote frivolous spending. This is the idea exemplified to children as success. So when the youth is out here trying to be a “success”- he, or she, may start going out committing the same criminal acts that his, or her, favorite rappers may have glorified as getting them paid. Only maybe the young person dies in the process. This is lack. This is lack of faith in our future to not care how what we do and say is affecting them. Hip Hop culture influences all cultures. Let’s be real, we are always under the microscope; the projects get more flack than the trailer park. However, on the platform of Hip Hop- we can start with us. We can buy back the block and buy black because if we don’t invest back into our communities- who will? We don’t need more liquor stores and overcrowded poorly managed apartment complexes. We can show kids how to invest and effectively manage money to attain financial freedom. We can show kids how to keep our community clean and prosperous. We can make sure black children are learning about the real history of our ancestors- our heritage. We can teach our children how to work for themselves so they never become low wage workers of America.

Mr. Carson had a point. Poverty is mental. However, poverty is also a truth that we can walk outside and witness. If we are not working towards economic stability as a nation then aren’t we doing it wrong? While defeating poverty starts in the mind- when we speak of poverty- let’s instead look at how to solve it- as a mentality and a reality. Let’s make sure everyone is literate- financially, mentally, and spiritually. Each one, reach one.


Anora Blazin