Thursday, December 31, 2009

Anniversary of a New Year's Showdown in Dallas

I really thank Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow, for posting this on the Dallas Metro Blog. It's a great story. Peter Johnson, a friend of mine, has told me about this and it always makes me proud to see how some in Dallas stood up to establishment leaders, in and outside of our community. But more importantly, the stood up with South Dallas residents in recognition of their dignity. Those of us working now, stand on their shoulders.

By the way: it was a very proud moment for me, when I ended up sitting at a table with J.B. Jackson (mentioned later in Steve's post). Mr. Jackson (who has a street named in his honor in South Dallas), said when I introduced myself, that he had read about me, heard about me and encouraged me to keep up the good work!

It was quite a moment for me...

"Longtime local civil rights leader Peter Johnson called to remind me that today is the 40th anniversary of one of the most dramatic and important events in race relations here."

"It was 40 years ago today that a group of activists threatened to disrupt the next day's Cotton Bowl parade unless the mayor met with Fair Park homeowners, who felt they were being cheated out of their homes."

"The tactic worked. And Peter told the story well in a 1994 guest column for the paper. I'll excerpt it below."

"I requested [from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta} additional time here to help some Fair Park homeowners whose land was being sought by the city for additional parking at the Cotton Bowl. African-American homeowners were being offered 50 cents per square foot for their property, while white property owners were offered $2.

"Mayor Erik Jonsson refused to meet with the homeowners. The city's black leadership felt the homeowners should accept the 50 cents per square foot and go quietly. But a growing number of younger men were moving closer to violent confrontation. Despair and frustration were everywhere. Some senior citizens talked of protecting their property with guns. I requested staff help from Atlanta and was denied."

"That was when I decided to organize and train a local staff. The first hurdle was persuading my new friends to accept non-violence. But after several workshops, they did, and we turned our attention to bringing major social change to Dallas.... "

You can read the rest of the story here.

Thanks again Steve! And thank you Peter!

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