Doreszell Cohen of Link-Up 2 Lift-Up: “Living a purpose-driven life”

Finally, I wish someone could have told me about the root of “living a purpose-driven life” when I first started linking up to lift up others. You see, we are not inherently born knowing what feeling purposeful feels like, so we mentally create a rosy prototype to satisfy our “living a life of purpose” stereotype. […]

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Finally, I wish someone could have told me about the root of “living a purpose-driven life” when I first started linking up to lift up others. You see, we are not inherently born knowing what feeling purposeful feels like, so we mentally create a rosy prototype to satisfy our “living a life of purpose” stereotype. When in fact many people get to “living a life of purpose” after having survived a life-altering tragedy. Therefore, I wish I could have been told the ugly truth about institutional racism and how it breaks you down; especially when you are trying to move forward, onward, and upward. This is the very reason that I decided to create an institution with specific and targeted kinds of support at Link-Up 2 Lift-Up, Inc.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Doreszell Cohen.

Doreszell Cohen was born December 1, 1976 in Jacksonville, Florida. She was raised in an integrated neighborhood on the north side; most of her life and has witnessed the demographics of the area change significantly.

Doreszell worked as a highly qualified educator in Duval County Public Schools (DCPS); where she conducted an empirical study — Reducing Non-academic Distractions to Increase Student Achievement. During this time, she withstood institutional racism as an employee in the educational system. As a victorious and liberated professional educator, Doreszell founded an Africentric blended learning homeschool tutoring service, Mammah D Academy in October 2005.

By December 2011, Doreszell realized how lack of knowledge was part cause of disenfranchisement, marginalization, and other discriminatory effects between the powerful and the powerless, so she founded Link-Up 2 Lift-Up, Inc. as a helping institution that assists individuals who may need cultural awareness and/or camaraderie, professional development, personal-or-career coaching, and other related human services — to realize their independence and navigate a path toward their dreams and goals.

Doreszell is committed to working toward abolishing institutional racism (AIR) — using her knowledge, skills, and other abilities as an organizational consultant, advocate, and author of her new wokebook series, Link-Up 2 Lift-Up: Sorting through Our Culture Kingdom for Our Future Generations.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The pleasure is all mine. As a result of coronavirus abruptly forcing the entire world to change how we engage as a human race, I stayed tuned-in to the media to learn of the daily updates. Then, the end of May 2020 happened, and we all witnessed the outright disregard of George Floyd’s life. The cold-blooded killer’s lack of regard for another human being shocked our senses. The American people experienced a mass psychological shift. As a result of the media, our collective conscious has been awakened. Both our collective sense of hearing the context of a man begging for his life and the sound of his dying groans, and our collective sense of sight visually seeing this tragic context (i.e., real-time images of his trapped living body change into a lifeless body) was too sorrowful. Finally, millions more American people are consciously awake and have taken actions to work towards abolishing institutional racism (AIR) in the United States.

After years of suppressing my intellect and voice, the George Floyd movement caused my dormancy to end. I finally expressed myself about police brutality and institutional racism — going Live on Facebook for the very first time. Shortly thereafter, I realized that I had too much to say surrounding the topic: Institutional racism. From here, I challenged myself with a 30-day writing prompt to contain my thoughts. My goal was to share my ideas about institutional racism to my children, so that when they are all grown up and are wise enough to understand life, they could have solutions to deal with it.

Therefore, both social isolation from Covid-19 and watching the world “wake up” to the institutional racism that negatively impact black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved Africans brought me to my career path to become a published author of my new series of “wokebooks” that are written to help people “lift up” out of adverse conditions and advance forward, onward, and upward toward their goals, dreams, and life’s purpose.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

The ideology of Link-Up 2 Lift-Up attracts those old and young who are selfless and/or who are concerned for our future generations. As a result, Link-Up 2 Lift-Up transcends the physical borders of any nation and is a framework in which we can collectively, intentionally, and literally unite on common goals that bring universal good to humanity’s future generations.

As a human race, we are concerned with the sustainability of the earth. Our government officials, public and private sectors, scientists, and others are deeply vested and interested in saving our planet. You see, I am concerned with the sustainability of the human race. Link-Up 2 Lift-Up is vested and interested in saving the people occupying the planet.

Well, last year, I was scrolling Facebook and came across a video of a song called Pull Up by the late Emmanuel Aikins, who was a Ghanaian musician, well-known as Unruly Grank, My deepest condolences are extended to his mother, family, and friends in Cape Coast, Ghana.

On Unruly Grank’s Pull Up video, he wore a slavery “look-a-like” chain around his neck which resonated deeply within me. I wear gold chains around my body as a form of creative expression as well. After watching the video, I liked his vibe and shared his song on my Facebook page. Interestingly, Unruly Grank left a comment giving thanks for my willingness to share his work to my social media friends. I was intrigued by his humble spirit, so I direct messaged him. On our first talk, I immediately felt a mothering spirit and voiced to him that “for some reason, I feel like you are a son to me”. He responded, “then I shall call you mom”.

From this moment onward, I reason with him about my Africentric ideology with hopes to see better lyrics coming from music that inspires our future generations. In fact, Unruly Grank’s most recently released dancehall reggae song, Frass pon Frass, he discouraged drug use. After he shot the video, he told me that he had a surprise for me. When I watched the video for the first time on January 4, 2021, I was entranced to see that Unruly Grank was a soldier carrying the flag for our worldwide revolution.

We are still grieving the loss of Unruly Grank. My fondest thought is how he and I always engaged at length about our high hopes for Africans all over the world “coming together in unity”. This youth made me so excited because he would listen humbly to wisdom and incorporate it into his love for reggae dancehall music. Unruly Grank was my “Africans Unite” voice to the future and an enemy of unity violently ended his life on February 7, 2021.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Link-Up 2 Lift-Up’s core values focus on the human capacity to overcome hardships and despair, and we are committed to empowering the oppressed and impoverished with a wide variety of services and programs that are designed to help others meet their goals and dreams.

For example, Link-Up 2 Lift-Up had an account with Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), so we could legitimately pay disadvantaged people’s utility bills, if they were disconnected or threatened to be disconnected. However, I had no government contracts, charitable grants, or altruistic sponsors to give our humanitarian cause the financial support it deserved to distribute resources to those in need. To solve this problem, I designed our helping institution in a manner that those who were truly in need could volunteer with one of our community projects that Link-Up 2 Lift-Up would secure in exchange for their utility bill being paid. The business model promotes independence, so I created an organizational climate and culture of self-sufficiency.

But one day, I was setting up appointments for orientation for our program. Suddenly, a lady walked in with her dry cleaners clothes in hand. She carefully laid the plastic-covered clothes down on the back of a chair so that she could complete the orientation reservation. She was excited and made small talk about her birthday party. She had her mind set to get her utility bill paid. She spoke like she was an expert service seeker and Link-Up 2 Lift-Up was her next service provider. I sat there stupefied. When she exited my office, I thought to myself- oh hell no.

This turned out to be a mistake that I could laugh at myself about — Having limited funds and targeting to helping disadvantaged Americans with unmet basic life needs were experiments to learn from in the most literal sense.

You see, I did not consider the four-hundred-year American experiment that has both overt and covert institutional designs that continue the dehumanizing processes of removing independence from the enslaved Africans and now many of their descendants. I did not consider how members of my unique socio-ethnic group — African Americans — have been psychologically “linked” to the psychological dependency of learned helplessness.

The lesson I learned about this component of our helping institution was that without the members of our unique socio-ethnic group understanding their history and future possibilities, Link-Up 2 Lift-Up was vulnerable to attract too many people with high levels of learned helplessness. After more than a hundred people attended an orientation; whereby, less than one percent came to do the work to remain independent, I reorganized the organization’s model. Now, Link-Up 2 Lift Up’s business model focuses on personal and business coaching, professional development, and Africentric culture.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

I cannot go on without saying that, as a member of an ethnic group that has dehumanization incorporated into its mainstream culture, it was important for me to get to know myself — which included reconstructing my learning, thinking, emotions, and behaviors until inner peace-and-happiness was achieved. The ideology of mental liberation and total independence (as was espoused by Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers of the United States) is difficult to achieve in my unique socio-ethnic group. As a result of the so called great American experiment and its institutional design around race, many of my brothers and sisters have on an individual level successfully attained mental liberation and/or independence, but, as a collective socio-ethnic group — African Americans — whose ancestors were enslaved Africans, we continue to fail.

Therefore, my organizational design creates an Africentric American experiment- Link-Up 2 Lift-Up. This helping institution is significant because Americans who are descendants of enslaved Africans now have access to our emic perspectives and unique socio-ethnic group’s collective vision and mission for our future generations.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

On July 11, 2014, a diverse team that included fifteen law enforcement officers which consisted of Drug Abatement Response Team (DART), USDA detective, and other Jacksonville Sherriff Officers (JSO) raided a senior citizen of Haitian descent, Marie Charlemagne’s business. Marie is a retired nurse who made an investment, Mainstreet Wholesale and Grocery, in a severely disenfranchised community. JSO alleged that Marie had conspired and committed welfare fraud crimes. She and her daughter were wrongfully arrested and had their Civil Rights violated in a number of ways. Since neither of them broke any laws, this experience broke her spirit because there was no one to turn to for real help. You see, institutional racism is embedded into every fabric of American culture- including people.

Well, I went to patronize Mainstreet Wholesale and Grocery for a summer fundraiser for children residing in Blodgett Villas — a public housing community. The warehouse was closed with police tape and postings on the door. I instinctively peeked through the window and walked back to my van. However, a confused lady pulled the doors open. I immediately recognized the overt behaviors of a victim of institutional racism, so I asked a few questions in curiosity of her bewildered mental state coupled with shock of just having been released from jail. I felt compassion for Marie’s naïveté and vulnerability and stood by her side — as her communications liaison- as she fought for her freedom, rights, and justice.

Marie strongly believed that (a) her large sum of money (over one hundred thousand dollars) and the unfair Civil Forfeiture laws explain best why her precious daughter and she were falsely arrested and charged with identical criminal charges. Marie says that JSO and State Attorney’s Office used her daughter as “bait” to pressure her to plea. You see, if Marie pled guilty to any one of those criminal charges, she would have enabled the government to keep her money that they abused their power to lawfully seize.

Marie faced a life-changing dilemma: To either lose her rights, upstanding background, and money in exchange for her daughter and her freedom — but no justice. Although more than half a dozen attorneys pressured Marie to plea, she refused to give in.

On November 16, 2017, Marie became a victor when a jury found her NOT GUILTY of the seven felony charges and two misdemeanor Conspiracy- RICO and Welfare Fraud criminal charges that were wrongfully alleged against her by the local criminal justice system. This is how Marie was helped by Link-Up 2 Lift-Up’s criminal justice reform platform. We believe that her having an independent criminal justice communications liaison made the difference in upholding “justice for all”. In my next book, I share this personal story and others because they epitomize my leadership style and experiences that reflect the efficacy of Link-Up 2 Lift-Up’s services.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Community Engagement — Members of the African American socio-ethnic group can help sort through our culture kingdom for our future generations in two easy steps: First, read my wokebooks with a humble, honest, reflective, and constructive mindset to (a) free yourself from psychological slavery, (b) begin the healing process, and © work toward reconciliation as a woke Africentric citizen of the United States of America. Second, become a Link-Up 2 Lift-Up member, join a team, and engage frequently as coworkers in the culture kingdom for our future generations!

Societal Engagement — Fellow Americans can help our unique socio-ethnic group in one willing step: Read my wokebooks and take daily actions to break the cycle of racism at the individual level. This will help abolish institutional racism and the ideology that dehumanize descendants of enslaved Africans. We can — in unity –counteract the “race-based” exploitation and hate that has negatively influenced this unique socio-ethnic group to date. Together, we can work to improve the quality of life for all Americans’ future generations.

Political Engagement — Politicians — with the political will — can universally make Americans who are descendants of enslaved Africans a constituency group in three easy steps: First, make our voting block a democratic transaction- comparable to all other constituency groups. In exchange for our “black” vote helping politicians get sworn into office, these representatives of our republic and government can work explicitly and transparently every day towards reforming the constitution, federal laws, state statutes, municipalities, federal and state codes, regulations, policies, etc. that intentionally and/or unintentionally negatively impact our unique socio-ethnic group. Second, political stakeholders can help our cause by using political resources to help influence Africentric agendas that solve problems caused-by or correlated-to institutional racism. Third, politicians sworn into office can commit to (a) legislate for all groups of people who make up our society and (b) guarantee all groups become coworkers in American culture in meaningful and significant ways– finally making pluralism more superior to racism in the United States of America.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I would be remiss if I did not mention again that my next wokebook is called Link-Up 2 Lift-Up: Real Leadership for Our Future Generations. To whet readers’ appetite, let me briefly say that I share some interesting research on leadership from my Africentric ideology and emic perspectives. I also share my personal life experiences when I ran for public office as a filed candidate for the Office of Mayor in the City of Jacksonville from November 2016 through August 2018. The purpose of this Link-Up 2 Lift-Up series is to engage readers in philosophical ideas that embraces divergent thinking and intellectual creativity and curiosity but with practical solutions to our problems. It is my hope that we become more aware of the traits and behaviors of real leadership, so that we may increase our support for those with effective leadership skills and decrease our support for those with poor leadership skills.

You see, my personal definition of leadership is twofold –

Internally, leadership entails fusing into one’s personality aspects of creativity, intelligence, wisdom, integrity, and modesty which enable the individual to effortlessly make meaning of things and/or ideas that others feel secure in following. Externally, leadership entails possessing the ability to strategically captivate and inspire others to act. Therefore, leadership is a combination of using one’s personality (i.e., traits) and skills (i.e., training) to help (a) solve our problems and (b) continue to advance humanity and our environments every day.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Some other persons’ wisdom could not have taught me to know what Africentric-life experiences post the Civil Rights era have shown me. You see, some constructs cannot be learned through telling. Take for example the construct self-actualization. Self-actualization is personal and must be experienced by the individual. In fact, three out of the five things I wish someone could have told me when I first started my mission to link-up to lift-up others had to be experienced — to some degree — to learn their full impact and ground me in my life’s purpose.

For example, I wish someone could have told me that the journey to re-humanization was an energy draining process. I wish I could have been told how deep emotional damages can cut into the hearts and minds of those who resist institutional racism. In fact, the within-and-between group isolation, ostracization, socialization, limitations, alienation, discrimination, regardless of my level of education was inescapable.

It seems to me that institutional racism and my fight for equality, dignity, and integrity were/are always in conflict. Therefore, if someone could have told me how to protect my heart’s emotions from responding to institutional racism’s toxic overt, covert, explicit, implicit, intentional, and unintentional consequences, then I would have had a much lighter load to carry on my journey to re-humanization and self-actualization as an Africentric American.

The second thing I wish someone could have told me is closely related to the first which is how volatile re-humanization processes can become for Africentric Americans seeking the fullest extent of equality, freedom, and justice in the United States. In my next wokebook, I share personal examples of some of these fiery experiences.

The third thing I wish someone could have told me was that, as a descendant of enslaved Africans, my true healing would be realized in both Africa and the United States of America. You see, as an Africentric American, I spent the last twenty years striving to feel whole. However, it was not until I took a pilgrimage to the continent of Africa that I discovered true healing to my mind, body, spirit, and soul. In fact, tears were streaming down my face as I cried to myself — while watching the 2019 blockbuster movie, Harriet — while flying over the continent of Africa, seeing the night skies turn into day. This was some different kind of beauty to behold.

Between my God, my ancestors, and me — I knew I had experienced some sort of unwritten rite of passage. From the moment I landed at the airport in the country of Ghana, an inner peace and purpose as a descendant of enslaved Africans comforted me. You see, I have been told many times about others’ experience to Africa. However, when I arrived on the Motherland, I experienced for myself this unexplainable feeling of healing. In fact, I have made it one of my commitments to share this healing to its fullest extent with others- a Pilgrimage to Africa for Natural Healing in Ghana (PANHG). For more information, please visit PANHG — LINK UP 2 LIFT UP.

The fourth thing I wish someone could have told me is that recruiting volunteers who are truly altruistic is difficult to attain, maintain, and sustain. I understand that we are co-existing in a capitalistic society, so doing good to promote an egalitarian society does not pay the bills. In my next book, Link-Up 2 Lift-Up: Real Leadership for Our Future Generations, I share several personal stories detailing the many difficulties I experienced recruiting volunteers when I ran unsuccessfully for the Office of Mayor for the City of Jacksonville.

Finally, I wish someone could have told me about the root of “living a purpose-driven life” when I first started linking up to lift up others. You see, we are not inherently born knowing what feeling purposeful feels like, so we mentally create a rosy prototype to satisfy our “living a life of purpose” stereotype. When in fact many people get to “living a life of purpose” after having survived a life-altering tragedy. Therefore, I wish I could have been told the ugly truth about institutional racism and how it breaks you down; especially when you are trying to move forward, onward, and upward. This is the very reason that I decided to create an institution with specific and targeted kinds of support at Link-Up 2 Lift-Up, Inc.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Link-Up 2 Lift-Up is committed to seeing black Americans’ — who are the descendants of enslaved Africans — transformation, so we can focus our concentration on our future generations; as we engage in our nation’s, representative republic, democracy, and our unique socio-ethnic group because we — too — are proud Americans. This movement extends on what we do in human nature when we support and help each other. Thus, Link-Up 2 Lift-Up, Inc. is a helping institution with the potential to (a) design different systems, departments, agencies, and (b) to solve problems with humanitarian people who are open and willing to collaborate and compound our efforts, resources, and human capital for our future generations.

Since 2011, I have been doing the best I can as an individual. I know that if we, the collective and as a people come together, we cannot not measure the good we will do. Our universal unity will compound and trickle down for many generations of Americans to come.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Go back and get it” which means we must learn from our past to realize the potential of our future. This quote is well known in Ghana and is symbolized with the Sankofa bird which has its feet facing forward, its head looking backwards, while carrying its precious egg in its mouth.

Go back and get it is relevant to me because it requires me to be open-minded to the knowledge and subjective experiences of others. Go back and get it also helps me seek historical accounts of the past. I learn with the intent to be guided in charting a better future and new culture for myself and others. Go back and get it enables me to draw conclusions, make comparisons, examine effects of past causes, and so forth to understand my life as it is in order to see the big picture ahead towards my highest future potential.

In short, this quote grounds me in the duty to help bridge the past and the future as we chart a viable path toward unity and pluralism in the boundlessness United States of America.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

The person in the US whom I would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with is Jeff Bezos. I know that my vision for Link-Up 2 Lift-Up, Inc. has limitations. I would like to hear Jeff Bezos’ ideas, insight, and strategy for a practical human service model; whereby my helping institution, Link-Up 2 Lift-Up, Inc., could offer individual, group, and business coaching, professional development, Africentric “wokeshops”, and other human services that touch on a variety of topics- in a similar fashion to how Amazon’s sophisticated business model has master-minded a product-based ecosystem that works efficiently and proficiently to keep producers and consumers smiling.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on

– Facebook @ doreszellcohen

– Instagram @ authordoreszellcohen

– Twitter @ doreszellcohen

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you very much for the opportunity to share my Link-Up 2 Lift-Up experiences and organization with those who are interested in joining our movement to help others who want to take action to change their situations for our future generations.

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