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American Bar Association combats Poverty

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Plagued by poverty

 Penny Dickerson Special to The Miami Times | 10/14/2015, 2 p.m.

http://miamitimesonline.com/news/2015/oct/14/plagued-poverty/

A Miami youth whose life had been paralyzed by poverty and the criminal justice system spoke openly regarding her plight: ...
 A Miami youth whose life had been paralyzed by poverty and the criminal justice system spoke openly regarding her plight: while stealing food to feed both herself and a 2-year-old sibling, she was charged and arrested for theft. With no income or support system, she was left hopeless and unable to retain legal counsel or sufficiently advocate for herself.

Previously homeless adults who had been thrust in and out of foster care through their formative years shared similar struggles. Most of their short life span had been dedicated to navigating complex systems for survival—daily battles to simply exist as respectable citizens in society.

These crisis-driven scenarios—and formidable solutions to prevent them—were among the personal narratives shared during the recent Miami launch of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) anti-poverty initiative titled, “Collaborate to Advocate: Lawyers and Communities Working Together to end Poverty.”

A STIGMA DEFINED

Poverty is arguably a dual contender with race as America’s most important conversation in the millennium. And as the national representative of the legal profession, the ABA has embraced poverty in America as one of its foremost priorities.

A common American stigma, poverty is often misconstrued by language and assumption. The varied vernacular used to describe the impoverished ranges from economically challenged, poor, disenfranchised, dispossessed and indigent. To best advance the “Collaborate to Advocate” initiative, the ABA applied the working definition for poverty as follows:

“A state or lived experience caused and perpetuated by various and often compounded factors including inadequate economic resources and opportunity to build assets, including employment, adequate income and assets to meet basic human needs such as food, housing, clothing, etc.”

CAUSE AND EFFECT

The ABA cites an ongoing trend of “societal, economic and political events” as contributors and catalysts. They include America’s 2007 economic meltdown, the mortgage foreclosure epidemic, Trayvon Martin, Hurricane Katrina, Ferguson, Missouri, Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” 9/11, the “school to prison pipeline,” unaccompanied minors coming across the border, etc. to each have played a role in the number of children living in poverty as well as the disparate treatment and impacts of the law and justice systems on communities of color.

Manifestations of poverty include substandard and unaffordable housing and homelessness; disproportionate involvement in criminal and civil justice systems; inadequacies in food, health care and poor educational and health outcomes. Two of the least considered, yet relevant, poverty manifestations include lack of personal dignity and isolation from community and political infrastructure.

MIAMI’S IMPOVERISHED BLACKS

Blacks and “people of color” are faced with barriers and obstacles to justice such as disability, limited English proficiency, immigrant status and other factors at a rate higher than any other demographic.

Nearly 50 million Americans now live below the federal poverty line. In Florida, 17 percent of people in the state have incomes below the poverty line—$23,834 for a family of four, according to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey. In Miami-Dade County alone, 20 percent of residents are living below the poverty line and 30 percent of them are Black.

The latter statistic is further compounded for impoverished Blacks who additionally suffer education, employment and criminal justice disparity. In Miami-Dade, Black youth enter the judicial system due to school arrests at a 58 percent disproportionate rate to their white counterparts.

Advocacy and intervention by the ABA will be integral in breaking cyclic patterns that begin with poverty and too often end with a life of crime.

COMMISSION ON POVERTY

The ABA has established the Commission on Poverty and Homelessness as a governing body for the “Collaborate to Advocate” initiative. On Oct. 2, a committed panel of community and philanthropic liaisons gathered at the University of Miami School of Law for the first of many nationally scheduled anti-poverty community roundtable discussions.

“This convening serves as our official launch of the commission’s new, multi-year initiative,” said Ted Small, chair of the ABA Commission on Poverty and Homelessness. “The initiative is aimed at identifying and promoting best practices for eliminating legal and justice system-related policies, practices and procedures that unfairly perpetuate or worsen the harmful effects of poverty in low-income communities.”

POVERTY PANEL

Panelists in attendance collectively represented the voices of anti-poverty expertise from the state and local government, service providers, religious, academic, political and legal communities.

Included were Amy E. Horton-Newell, director, Commission on Homelessness & Poverty; Oliver G. Gilbert III, mayor of Miami Gardens; Lars Gilberts, United Way of Broward County, (Director, ALICE); Barbara “Bobbie” Ibarra, executive director, Miami Coalition for the Homeless; Paco Velez, president and CEO, of Feeding South Florida and a host of others.

“I am happy we are finally thinking about the generational causes and effects of poverty. Far too often we treat poverty like a headache that we can get rid of; take two special programs and call me in the morning,” said Mayor Gilbert. “It’s more like a genetic predisposition that can be planned for and planned around. But it all begins with diagnosing it and treating it like it is something real that won’t just go away because we want it to.”

ROUNDTABLE GOALS

The goal of each roundtable is to bring together a consortium of 10-15 community stakeholders. Professor Kele Stewart, associate dean of experiential learning, at the University of Miami School of Law, served as moderator and led the consortium through an interview-style dialogue.

Queries posed included, “How can those who are already addressing poverty in Miami/Dade-Fort Lauderdale/Broward work more collaboratively and in a cross-disciplinary fashion?”

“This [roundtable] was a good start to identifying synergies and shared priorities that will hopefully lead to collaborative initiatives,” said Stewart.

“The roundtable also included powerful insights from community advocates who have themselves experienced first-hand the harsh realities of homelessness and community displacement in Miami,” Stewart added.

POSITIVE OUTCOMES

The four-hour, Miami anti-poverty roundtable discussion informally “kicked-off” an ongoing collaboration of community representatives. Most panelists work in tandem on a regular basis, but the roundtable provided a forum for future motivation.

“What I walked away with most was the exposure to actual youth and adults who had experienced poverty and homelessness,” offered Brett McNaught, CEO and founder of Educate Tomorrow.

“They were able to give roundtable guests and the commission some real firsthand stories and experiences. I think the take away is they all found value from having support from a mentor, coach, or someone in the community organization who had taken time to get to know them and help them get out of situations,” McNaught added.

Future poverty roundtables are scheduled and include San Diego (Feb. 5, 2016), a variety of communities in Alabama (Spring 2016), two communities in Oklahoma (including a rural convening with tribal representation), and San Francisco (Aug. 5, 2016—with the possible addition of a convening with farmworkers in northern California).

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Penny Dickerson is a 2015 Journalism Fellow of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, a private, nonprofit grant-making organization, which seeks to increase the public’s understanding of the issues and policies that affect families living in poverty. Through profiles, vignettes and features, Dickerson’s series hopes to shift public perception and broaden awareness in areas that critically affect the definition of poor people of color by reporting from four-quadrants of the state: Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Daytona and Miami.

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ENZIAN Theatre & Florida Film Festival 2015

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If by chance you have not caught wind of or visited first hand one of Florida’s finest establishments, allow me to introduce you. “The Enzian Theatre,” indulges adults via cinematic cool, an on-site-upscale “Eden Bar” and gourmet food that makes popcorn seem soooooo yesterday, read my feature on the 30th Anniversary of ENZIAN and the 2015 Florida Film Festival just published in the March/April 2015 issue of Orlando Arts Magazine.

 Click link to read Penny Dickerson’s feature.

OAM M-A 15 Feature-FFF

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Destination Orlando: Experience “Grown Folks Magic.”

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Click link to original EBONY.COM original article with photo gallery
14  February 2014

Life  /  Travel

Destination Orlando: Grown Folks’ Magic!

Hey travelers, don’t sleep on the Central Florida haven. It’s so much more  than you thought.

     The Aloft Hotel
           
Don’t get me  wrong ─ Mickey Mouse and Tinker Bell’s pixie dust still  rule, but the city of Orlando, Florida’s tourism epicenter also embodies a plethora of  ­­treasures designed to satisfy the adult travelers’ insatiable  thirsts. Forget packing the kids and a salivating Labrador in the family SUV for  a multi-day, whine-a-thon. It’s the 21st Century folks. It’s time for  some “Grown Folks Magic!”

The new kid on the block and beacon of light in the city skyline is the Aloft─the  quintessential hotel and hub for millennium travelers seeking “style at a  steal.” The usual bells and whistles dubbed amenities are inclusive, but these  rooms boast some serious cool; the sleek ambiance alone frees endorphins.  Eclectic décor complements massive living space and mature guests gather nightly  in the WXYZ lounge for wasabi almonds and Smirnoff smiles.

Valet park and experience frugality with finesse by engaging downtown  Orlando on foot ─ grown folks hate traffic! Cultural entertainment is on deck at  Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center (November 2014) and a brisk walk several  blocks leads to Church Street Station for hip nightlife and diverse dining  from sushi to subs.  Start with happy hour and end with midnight martinis.  All choices in between are ideal for responsible adults perusing town sans  wheels.  When you’re ready to bounce, Orlando Magic hoops are a  trek away at the Amway  Center.

But, what about your inner child? For those who still crave youthful  engagement, I’ve got three words for you: The History Center.  This multicultural museum is  “Smart, Surprising, Fun” and welcomes The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons through March 2014.  So, get ready to revive your Looney Tunes  memories.  What know this generation about a Wabbit or a Putty cat?   Orlando is the popular cultural capital of the world for its theme park  allure, but this exploratory jewel is so inexpensive, it’s free every Monday  during the summer. “Grown Folks” love free!

Hidden in the heart of Orlando’s municipal district, the Orange County  Regional History Center is a Smithsonian Institute affiliate encompassing four  floors of a restored 1927 courthouse. Interactive limited release exhibits  complement permanent installations like the impressive How Distant Seems Our  Starting Place.  James Weldon Johnson’s poignant poem birthed the  title and patrons of every race can celebrate African-American heritage.   Ancestral beginnings progress to an awareness of Central Florida trailblazers  like Bessie Coleman, the nation’s first licensed black pilot; Folklorist and  author Zora Neale Hurston; and Paul Perkins, the areas first black  lawyer.

Meet the Mack Daddy of Magic in exhibits that chronicle how Walt Disney altered the city landscape with a world that now  includes Africa ─ no passport required.  A short drive invites you to  indulge the Disney Animal Kingdom Resort and Serengeti.  Embrace authentic  African cuisine at Jiko [The Cooking Place] or head back to town for  soul food at Chef  Eddies, a 40- year legacy.

For business or just a quick getaway: visit Orlando. It’s ripe with options  and “grown folks” love alternatives. —Penny Dickerson

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Soul Food – Healthy & Alternative Preparations

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A NEW ERA FOR SOUL FOOD

Filed under FOOD, METRO

Some African-Americans have adapted new approaches to cooking, which leads to better health and living longer.

Editor’s note: This is the second installment on the legacy of soul food. Part 1 appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of the Florida Courier.

BY PENNY DICKERSON
FLORIDA COURIER

Soul food has taken center stage in the millennium as both a Southern indulgence and palate pleaser.

Restaurants boasting the original recipe of elderly relatives have opened throughout the Southeastern region of the country, and the ubiquitous food genre is even the focus of the reality television show, “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s.”

According to Adrian Miller, author of the James Beard award-winning book, “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time,’’ “Traditional (soul food) places are having a generational moment. The people who started them are retiring, or dying off, but the kids in the family and other employees are still interested in carrying on the business.”

Soul or Southern?
Originated by the resourcefulness of enslaved African-Americans, soul food remains controversial for its heritage and its high sodium, fried foods and bountiful sugar content, which contributes to debilitating diseases. Included are hypertension, diagnosed arthritis and diabetes, all types of heart disease, and cancer.

“Southern food is the mother cuisine that soul food claims heritage to, but soul food is distinct unto itself,” Miller said. “Part of the confusion surrounding soul food is that it stems from cultural stiff-arming that occurred in the 1960s.

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Soul Food: cultural lifestyle or disease trap?

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Soul Food ─ Cultural Lifestyle or Disease Trap?

Soul Food ─ Cultural Lifestyle or Disease Trap?

 Florida Courier/New America Media , News Feature, Penny Dickerson, Posted: Feb 21, 2017

Photo: Olean McCaskill in her celebrated soul-food eatery, Olean’s.TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–The roots of soul food run deep within the annals of African American living. The South reigns as king of soul food cuisine. Its origins can be traced back to slavery when plantation owners allowed enslaved Africans to cook and eat only what known as the hog’s undesirable leftovers, the ears, feet, tail, stomach and the intestinal tract known as chitterlings or in the Southern vernacular, simply “chitlins.”

African Americans exhibited resourcefulness and took what was deemed scraps – along with plants native to or domesticated in West Africa, such as okra, yams, black-eyed peas and rice – and created a menu of delicacies that would become soul food staples.

Pork parts were cooked down for hours and seasoned with salt, onion and garlic. Chicken and fish were deep fried in vegetable oil, and collard-green leaves as big as elephant ears were cleaned, cut and seasoned with smoked meats. Yams were candied with generous amounts of brown sugar and butter, while macaroni and cheese was prepared with abundant portions of eggs and butter.

The Cooking Gene

“When, in the history of humankind, has an enslaved people revolutionized how the people who enslaved them ate, drank, believed the way Africans did in America,” ask culinary historian Michael W. Twitty?

Twitty is the author of the forthcoming book, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, his memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture. It traces his ancestry through food from Africa to America and from slavery to freedom.

For all of its delectable glory, though, eating soul food comes with a price. The sodium, sugar, and fat in traditional dishes are also the catalysts for debilitating diseases. Many African American elders do not enjoy their golden years because of ailments caused by poor eating. Some, especially black men, never reach the age 60.

According to the U.S. Administration on Community Living, [http://tinyurl.com/hjg8ole] which includes the Administration on Aging, older people have at least one chronic illness and many have multiple conditions. Some of the most frequently occurring conditions among African Americans age 65 or older are: hypertension (85 percent); diagnosed arthritis (51 percent); all types of heart disease (27 percent); diagnosed diabetes (39 percent); and cancer (17 percent).

Oxtails and Chitlins

In Tallahassee, soul food aficionados can find Olean’s, a 22-year community legacy that is owned and operated by its petite namesake, Olean McCaskill, and her husband Johnny. A quaint establishment with just 10 tables and brick walls covered with autographed photos of both famous patrons and everyday customers looking for a home cooked meal.

If long lines are a sign, McCaskill, 66, is pleasing a whole lot of folks with diverse southern offerings of southern. From oxtails and chitlins on Wednesday and Thursdays, Olean’s also offers an array of sides including black-eyed peas, cabbage, green beans and her specialty — collard greens.

“I season my collards with bacon,” said McCaskill. “I used to use ham hocks and learned that from my mama and my grandmama, but over time I just started using bacon cause it made them taste better. And you know you have to pour a little of that good ‘ole grease in there too,” she mused.

Older customers are regulars at Olean’s, as well as college students from neighboring Florida A&M University. They all know the specials say McCaskill. Her Black History Month special includes fried chicken (leg and thigh), a choice of two sides, corn muffin, and a 16 oz. fountain soda for $5.99. No substitutions!

Mindful of the health pitfalls associated with southern cooking, McCaskill notes that she cooks a case of chicken per week, baking some, but frying most. McCaskill says she puts no meat in her vegetables to accommodate customers who do not eat pork

”If you eat something you know you are not supposed to then you know tomorrow and the next day–and the next day you’re going to have to do something different,” McCaskill advised. “I cook to make people feel loved and happy, and if it’s good, it makes them feel good,” she added.

McCaskill said she eats at home whatever she cooks at Olean’s. “I don’t go home to do anything. I go home to sit down,” McCaskill quipped and noted that neither she nor Johnny has had any health problems. She praises the Lord for that.

Research Reveals the—Yum– Risks

Some active seniors like McCaskill boast no debilitating ailments. However, other aging African Americans are not as lucky. AARP reported that University of Alabama researchers identified why: all that fried chicken, bacon, ham, pies and sweet tea.

The researchers, who presented their results at a 2013 International Stroke Conference, found that those who ate typical Southern food six times a week had a 41 percent increased risk of stroke over those who indulged only once a month.

Participants in the same study who ate a very non-Southern diet also had a lower risk of stroke. People whose diets were high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish (but not fried fish) had a 29 percent lower stroke risk.

Lead researcher Suzanne Judd, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist at the university, said the study is the first large-scale effort to look at stroke and the typical Southern diet. The high amount of salt in deep-fried food raises blood pressure, a known stroke risk factor, Judd said. And sweetened drinks can contribute to diabetes.

Willie James Cousar says he was “raised on the hog.” The Jacksonville native, age 68, is a Vietnam veteran whose mother birthed 14 children: seven boys and seven girls. Money was scarce, meals were stretched, and pork was plentiful. The children never complained.

“We ate the food that white folks didn’t want, said Cousar, who has been an avid fisherman since age 14, and a proficient hunter who can kill, skin, and grill any raccoon. “I caught fresh fish that we would eat and it was always fried,” he added.

Following his honorable Air Force discharge in 1972, Cousar returned to Florida. He was gainfully employed, but every day he drank a fifth of gin and a copious amount of Schlitz Malt Liquor. While his drinking days ceased in 1998, he continued to drink sodas and devoured sweets, including his homemade pound cake and special-recipe cookies.

“A recent visit to the doctor really alarmed me,” Cousar said. “My glucose levels were elevated and I was overweight. I stand 5’11” and have weighed as much as 225 pounds, so I’ve stopped drinking soda, stopped eating fried chicken and fried pork chops and cut back on portions. I also try not to eat after 7 p.m. unless it’s something light like a salad.”

Diabetes and Strokes

The federal Administration on Aging reports that in 2014, there were 46.2 million Americans 65 and older and 6.2 million aged 85-plus. African Americans made up nine percent of the older population, and by 2060, the percentage of black seniors is projected to grow to 12 percent.

And according to WebMD:

Diabetes is 60 percent more common in black Americans than in whites. Blacks are up to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a limb amputation and up to 5.6 times more apt to suffer kidney disease than other people with diabetes.

• Strokes kill four times more blacks Americans ages 35-54 than whites. Blacks have nearly twice the first-time stroke risk of whites.

Blacks develop high blood pressure earlier in life — and with much higher blood pressure levels — than whites. About four African Americans in 10 ages 20 and older have high blood pressure.

Cancer treatment is equally successful for all races. Yet black men have a 40 percent higher cancer death rate than white men. African American women have a 20 percent higher cancer death rate than white women.

Cousar, a divorced father of three, currently visits the gym every day with his companion, Annie Fason. He currently weighs 200 pounds, and if he continues his 90-hour a week fitness regime, he’ll reach his goal weight of 180 pounds.

“I have to check my glucose every day,” said Cousar. “My work at BAE Systems — a ship building and repair company — is very physical, but I’m not trying to body build. I mostly do cardio on the treadmill and stationary cycles. I just want to be in good shape and live long.”

Penny Dickerson wrote this article for the Florida Courier supported by a journalism fellowship from New America Media, the Gerontological Society of America and AARP. Also, read “Eat, Pray, Gain–Black Church Meals May Serve Fellowship With Obesity,” 

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Freelance Journalist

penny_dickerson_caro_article-small_26761Contact: pennydickersonwrites@gmail.com

Penny Dickerson is an independent journalist with a passion for cool people, extraordinary places, and good sushi.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) and an Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Lesley University (Cambridge, MA).

 

Temple UniversityLesley LogoPassionate about words and writing, Penny has augmented her freelance writing life by previously working as an adjunct English professor at  Florida State College at Jacksonville where she once taught English composition and Humanities courses including Writing for Non-Fiction, Introduction to Literature,     & Film and Literature.

Media contributions include: Orlando Arts Magazine, Jacksonville Arts & Business Magazine (ARBUS), EBONY.com, New America Media, Equal Voice, Miami Times,Mosaic Literary Magazine, Florida Times-Union, Florida Courier, Philadelphia Stories, Daytona Times, Tallahassee Women’s Magazine and others.

Journalism fellowships awarded include the New America Media Four Freedoms Fund Fellowship (2013); Henry Frank Guggenheim Fellowship (2015); Marguerite Casey Equal Voice Fellowship (2015); Journalists in Aging Fellows Program (2016). Continue Reading »

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New Lens on Aging

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‘New Lens on Aging’

Filed under HEALTH, METRO

Scholars shine light on Blacks and aging during annual scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society of America

BY PENNY DICKERSON
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER

Little Freddie King is a 76-year-old Blues master and New Orleans icon whose performance range includes appearing in Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video and portrayal on the 2015 poster for the French Quarter Festival.

Little Freddie King is a New Orleans Blues legend. He’s a self-taught guitar player who has always used his thumb versus a pick. It allows him to feel the music better. King appeared alert, spry and possessed the mental facility to fully engage a standing room only audience as he told the story of how he hopped a train from Mississippi to New Orleans when he was merely 14 years old. “The Big Easy” has been his home since.

King is now 76 and lives as a statistical example of aging elders who served as the focus of study at the 2016 annual scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society held Nov. 16-20 in New Orleans. A field of study often confused with geriatrics, gerontology defined is the scientific study of old age, the process of aging, and the particular problems of old people. Continue Reading »

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