Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Reason to Invest in CitySquare!

When I was working as a leader with Dallas Area Interfaith, I remember a peculiar sense of pride I felt when I would pick up the newspaper and read of a meeting or initiative that had taken place of which I had little or no knowledge. I wondered why I didn't feel left out, as a member of the Executive Committee and then I realized: the reason why I felt pride instead of resentment was that I was a part of something bigger than me! It was actually a mark of the organization's success that I didn't have to have hands on involvement with everything. 

I get the same feeling at CitySquare. Enormous pride that everything doesn't depend on my day to day involvement with everything. Although I supervise most programming, we have competent program directors and faithful volunteer leadership that carry our efforts far beyond the ability of either Larry, Keith Ackerman (our COO) or any of our executive management to have intimate day-to-day knowledge. 

Take, for example, the impact we share with other servant churches in Dallas as they meet needs in their communities throughout Dallas. I don't know every partner that we have in our city, or for instance, all of the partners we have participating in our NKN (Nurture, Knowledge and Nutrition) summer food program. Eventually you get a glimpse and you can't feel anything but pride! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Free Lunch

This summer children are receiving free lunches on weekdays in many of Dallas' low-income neighborhoods.  More than 70% of Dallas public school children qualify for free or reduced price lunches during the school year because they are part of low income families.  When school lets out for the summer, the idea is to use the same school lunch funding stream to continue to provide this meal to the kids at convenient locations in their neighborhoods.  The meals are available to any child up to 18 years of age.  Adults cannot eat the meals, and the children must eat the meals on-site--they cannot take them home.

Dozens and dozens of churches and other non-profit groups serve as on-site coordinators for this free lunch program, and I am so glad that Cliff Temple Baptist Church is one of those.  The church does not buy the lunches--they are provided for them through a contract with CitySquare.  The church provides the place and volunteers to facilitate the on-site feeding. 

About 2 weeks ago, on a Tuesday,  I met up with a team from Cliff Temple Baptist Church to serve free lunches at an apartment community on North Lancaster Avenue in Oak Cliff.  Cliff Temple already has a great ministry at these apartments under the leadership of Greg Cuellar, pastor of the church's Spanish-speaking congregation.  The lunches are delivered to the apartments every day to the  in big coolers, and one of the residents keeps them in her living room until it’s time to pass them out.  Cliff Temple has several tables and chairs set up under big awnings in the courtyard a couple to keep the kids out of the sun.  Around 11:00 the children began arriving.  Some of them came alone, and lots of them came with their mothers. Wes does a great job of including the moms into the leadership of the feeding program.  We all worked together to served about 50 kids.  They ate turkey wraps, fresh broccoli, cantaloupe, and had milk to drink. 

As we watched the kids eat, we were able to chat with some of the moms.  I met a women with three young children.  She was excited because on the following Saturday she and her children were going to get on a Greyhound bus and join her husband in Shreveport.  He had found a job there making $12 an hour, which was $2 an hour more than he had been making in Dallas.  This woman, as well as the other moms there, knew that it was Cliff Temple who was serving them, and they knew which apartment Cliff Temple used for Bible study and worship. 

It’s so important for churches to do ministry and worship on-site at apartment communities.  About 80 percent of people who live in apartments do not attend church. So if churches will serve in apartment communities, we are able to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus who would likely not go to church otherwise.

I’m so glad I was able to volunteer to help pass out those lunches. Contact me if you'd like to volunteer at a summer feeding site, or submit your comment about your church's summer feeding ministry.

Thanks Jana! 

For those of you who read this, remember, we able to make this impact because of partners who invest in our organization beyond the public funds we are able to access. Your time, talent and your treasure help CitySquare attack poverty systemically and through direct service! If you haven't made an investment, we hope you'll consider doing so. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not a Good Day for Dallas

Monday was not a good day in Dallas.

It should have been. A new mayor and three new council members were sworn in. Although the city has significant budget challenges, Mayor Mike Rawlings, and newly elected council members Scott Griggs, Sandy Greyson and Monica Alonzo take office with most of the city looking on with hope and some optimism.

Yet, Monday was not a good day in Dallas.

Overshadowing the inauguration of new municipal political leadership, was the early morning news that County Commissioner John Wiley Price was the subject of an FBI investigation. As a matter of fact, as the news broke, agents were at his downtown office in the commissioners court, his district office and his home collecting evidence. Not only were they at his offices and home, but at the office of long-time political consultant and operative Kathy Nealy and Price's executive assistant Dapheny Fain.

Price has said he has no idea of what they may be looking for. Nealy and Fain have no comment and Maureen Dickey, with whom Price has recently had a very public run in was disturbingly and, in my opinion, unprofessionally gleeful.

I have a very good friend who has told me that, when it comes to my relationships with politicians I have to learn to be very careful. That's generally been my posture. But I do tend to be more supportive than has probably been warranted lately. More and more, scandals such as the one involving Don Hill, his wife Sheila, or more recently Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson involve people that I know and have known for a long time. Price is among them.

I have known John Wiley, for the full 26 years he's been county commissioner. When I was a young pastor and he was first elected to the office, I invited the new commissioner to speak at our church's anniversary banquet. Price is the first (and the only) African-American county commissioner. He has been an incredibly effective politician and he has been a lightening rod for controversy.

Price has been flamboyant, boisterous and revolutionary. His demonstrations for minority hiring, against billboards promoting alcohol and tobacco in low income communities, against unfair depictions of minority in local newscasts and his inflammatory outbursts against racism have won him supporters and enemies.


It's pretty interesting, however, to see John in his element. Most politicians, black, white and Hispanic, have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He has, on more than a few occasions supported white candidates in races against black opponents. He has been shockingly fiscally conservative. And he is one, of, if not the, hardest working office holders I have ever seen.

Personally he has been a friend and supporter. We have lost two sons. Each time John Wiley has personally offered condolences and support. Rarely have I needed his support or advice that I've not received it and never, not in an election or in on an issue has he asked for anything in return and this has been true, when he has known that I've worked with or given leadership to groups that could have been useful to him.

We've not always been on the same sides of an issue and he's not failed to let me know it. But I believe that what we've had is a mutual respect and a friendly relationship that hasn't required lock-step agreement.

So after nearly 30 years of interaction, I do not regard Monday as a good day...

We still await to hear the scope of the charges against him. And while speculation abounds and while FBI investigations are not charges of guilt, most of us know that the type of raids which took place on Monday don't happen on a whim. Someone has said that these investigations take years. What we saw with the Don Hill scandal is that by the time they come to confiscate evidence, the investigation has already been going on for years. And in this case, when you are talking about the arguably the most powerful politician in Dallas, black or white, the FBI knows why they are there and what they're looking for.

It's also not a good day because John Wiley Price is not the only principal involved that I know. I know Kathy Nealy and I know Daphney Fain. I'm praying for them all.


The impact of this as seen in the black community in Dallas is pretty palpable. After the Hill investigation, trials and conviction, everyone is waiting to see what the evidence is before there is full-throated unequivocal community defense. Make no mistake about it John Wiley is hated, feared and loved by many. But just as is true with Al Lipscomb, whether you agreed with him or not, shook your head at his protests, or not, thought that he went too far, or not,  Dallas County owes John Wiley in many of the same ways it owes Al Lipscomb the FBI investigations are just another excuse not to admit it.

So, we all wait to see what evidence emerges. If there is indeed substance to the charges, it will be an even worse day for Dallas. But, really, if there is no substance, it will be an even worse day still. Scandal is never good and guilt or innocence is ultimately never the issue. It's the distraction from what should be hopeful days and good work that should be recognized. We are a city...really we're a country, in need of both.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Does Race Still Matter?

Gwenn Ifill
Gwenn Ifill is a very gifted and intelligent television journalist, so is Michele Norris. 

To their impressive credentials as hosts of managing editor and moderator of Washington Week and co-host of NPR's 'All Things Considered' respectively, these two impressive women can add to their resume author.

Ifill has written the book 'Breakthrough' about emerging black electoral leadership in our country; Norris has written her book about conversations (or the lack of) about race, in her own family as well as in our nation. Her book is entitled, 'The Grace of Silence'.

Michele Norris
Both were at the Annapolis Book Festival this year to promote their books, but also to help facilitate a public conversation on whether or not race really matters. I defy you to listen to these two and not only come away recognizing how important it is to not only recognize the continued relevance of race, but how we do ourselves no favors by avoiding the conversations or recognizing how our efforts to achieve a 'colorblind society' really don't enrich us at all.

Do yourself a it here and share it with someone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Out of Reach: Place, Poverty and the New Welfare State

This video outlines some of the challenges we face at CitySquare!

Issues of continuing funding. Program location. Effective job training. Public Policy and advocacy. The need for an expanded individual donor base and more effective deployment of volunteer resources. All challenges that have increased since the 'Great Recession'. All challenges that existed before but have intensified over the past several years.


We're seeking to answer the challenges through streamlining operations, identifying programmatic synergies and operational efficiencies - with our CityWalk@Akard vertical community; with our plans for the Opportunity Center located in South Dallas, where we are co-locating our food service programming, job training, health care services and a grocery store with exciting social enterprise implications; with our expanded emphasis on addressing the root causes of poverty through public policy and advocacy.

These are no ordinary times. I'm thankful to be a part of an extraordinary organization!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Lipscomb Legacy

I was unable to make it to former City Councilman Al Lipscomb's homegoing service on yesterday. But I love this report of remarks from our former mayor (now U.S. Trades Representative) Ron Kirk (thanks to Dallas Weekly's Gordon Jackson):

""Matrice (wife) told my kids, "If it hadn't been for Al, your Daddy wouldn't have been mayor". Because Al shouted, I didn't have to raise my voice. Because he marched, I came in through the front door. Because he sat, I was able to rise."

Evaluating the impact, influence and the value of the life of Al Lipscomb is not difficult at all. He made us aware of the degree to which Dallas was still a city of systemic inequality. 

Every time we look around a room where business which will affect our city is done, and we are conscious of who is there - how many men, how many women, how many men and women of color, their relationship with people of little means as well as the affluent - we have Al Lipscomb to thank for that.

Every time we enter into a room and it feels natural to have people of both genders, racially proportionate representation, broader perspectives than just those of the affluent - we have Al Lipscomb to thank for that. 

Not just him, but unquestionably him.

 Let's be in prayer for his family, the friends and colleagues who worked so closely with him and who will miss him more than most of the rest of us can imagine. And let us strive to continue his legacy by continuing to make the system of our political and our communal life, more just and more fair. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Another Victory in the Battle Against Predatory Lending!

Yesterday, was a red letter day for our public policy work at CitySquare! Working with the Anti-Poverty Coalition, we secured from the city council passage of a second zoning ordinance to regulate payday lending in Dallas. Ann Baddour of Texas Appleseed, an advocacy organization in Austin, has said that this is 'the strongest predatory lending ordinance in the country'. If that's true (well, even if it isn't accurate), this is quite a feat! 

Dallas council passes stringent rules limiting payday lenders


Rudolph Bush / Reporter

"The Dallas council today passed another set of rules aimed at limiting payday lenders reach in the city.
Led once more by council member Jerry Allen, the council unanimously agreed that payday and car title loan shops must henceforth register with the city."

"More significantly, the ordinance puts specific restrictions on the amount of loans that can be extended and the terms under which they must be repaid."

"Specifically, the law limits payday loans to no more than 20 percent of a person's gross monthly income. Car title loans can be no more than 3 percent of gross monthly income or 70 percent of the value of the car that serves as collateral."

"The rules also require that the loans be repaid in no more than four installments and that they not be refinanced or renewed more than three times."

"The law also requires that fees not be capitalized as principal on the original loan."

"The ordinance is the latest effort by the Dallas council to restrict payday lending, something council members and many charitable institutions have come to see as a scourge of poor communities."

"In late May, the council passed new zoning restrictions on payday lenders."

"Under that rule, so-called alternative financial establishments must get a special-use permit from the city to open their doors. They cannot be located within 1,500 feet of another payday lender, and must be 500 feet from highways and 300 feet from residences."

Why have we been doing this? Read the message sent to us by one of our colleagues at AARP. Ironically, it was sent to me yesterday while I was in the council chambers waiting for the vote to be taken...

"a lady in Balch Springs [a small community just outside of the city limits southeast of Dallas]...took out an auto-title loan for $200 to pay for car repairs.  She got behind on last month’s payment (rollover fee)and they reposed her car after she has already paid more than the original loan amount in monthly fees .  She is 69, in poor health, has no access to public transportation and the car meant everything to her and was her connection to her community, the supermarkets, doctors, church, etc.   Lone Star Title told her that if she could make a payment for $631 she could get her car back.  That is more than her monthly Social Security income!"

That's why we worked so hard on this. And that's why we've at CitySquare must work to fight poverty by service and by speaking out for women like this!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Memoriam: Al Lipscomb (1925-2011)

Former Dallas City Councilman and Civil Rights activist Al Lipscomb died this past Saturday at the age of 86.

I liked Al, a lot! I wouldn't describe us as 'friends'. But I like to believe that we liked and respected one another. But what I also like to believe that Al Lipscomb always sought to do what was best for his community and for his city.

Oh you can question him all you want. Al may well have been, to varying degrees anything you want to call him, good or bad. He was saint, scallywag and statesman. But, with me throughout all of our encounters, I don't ever remember seeing anything about him that wasn't sincere.

I first met Lipscomb when I was about 19 years old. I was a freshman at Bishop College, a young preacher trying to develop a social conscience. I wanted to know more about this guy that I saw raising hell in the streets of Dallas. So I went to the South Dallas Information Center - Al's headquarters then, there among the African Bandits motorcycle club, I talked with Al and listened and pretty much just hung out. I don't remember the conversation at all, but I left impressed. Afterward I went to my father's house and told him, 'I just spent some time with Al Lipscomb.' 'Boy' he said, 'you better watch out hanging around him.'

Of course, that just made me want to know more about him...

I continued to follow Mr. Lipscomb from a distance and was shocked when he won a seat on Dallas' City Council. Al Lipscomb went on to serve an astonishing seven terms on the city council! He was also the first African-American to run for mayor of Dallas. When I became a pastor and got involved in community and civic affairs, Al was always respectful, encouraging and always helpful.

Al Lipscomb and Diane Ragsdale were pretty much the full complement of political leadership that black people had in Dallas. When people criticize their representation on the council many do so without remembering that there was no one else to make sure more black people were hired at city hall, or who got their share of city contracts, or to speak up from an official position on police brutality. And those were just a few of the issues with which they had to deal that went beyond the 'potholes and trash pick up' agenda of many of their white counterparts.

Al wasn't perfect. But the outpouring of sympathy, grief and love, is testimony to the fact that those of us who knew Al Lipscomb knew him to be greater than his failures and inconsistencies. We also know that any of us, elected or un-elected, who have any influence at City Hall or in Dallas County politics, for that matter, have it because of his contributions and his sacrifices. What most people beyond southern Dallas never understood is that black people weren't blind to Al Lipscomb's faults - we knew them - but we also knew that we were as loved and celebrated by him as he was by us. As he said himself,  “I’ve been obnoxious, bodacious, unorthodox, and I have been strident,” he once said. “That’s what I had to use; those are my tools for change.”He was just what politics in Dallas needed during his time, and Dallas is a better, more inclusive city because of him.

Rest in peace Al Lipscomb...and, although I've told you while you were among us, let me say it again...thank you, for all that you've done!

Funeral services for Al Lipscomb will be this Saturday, June 25, at 11:00 am at the Friendship West Baptist Church.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Not So Fast!!

Let me start with a bit of disclosure: I am proud to be a native Dallasite and a native Texan. I'm not quite sure how many generations my family has lived in Texas, but thanks to a cousin whose tracing our roots, I'm pretty sure its at least 6-7. So this is not a post intended to slam Texas.


There's a great deal of talk recently about how Texas well Texas is doing weathering the recession and suggestions that it is a model for America's future. I wouldn't want to argue the point...but let me argue the point.

Texas' economy generally tends to be somewhat counter-cyclical. Meaning, Texas tends to do well when the rest of the country does poorly. I think some of that has to do with the state's oil industry. But I think pundits and political experts might want to tap on the brakes and read the fine print on Texas' 'strengths'...

  • For instance Texas has the 2nd highest birthrate in the country, but it also leads the nation in uninsured children and is 4th in the nation in children living in poverty. 

  • Texas is last in its per capita spending on mental health, 48th in the percentage of the population with employer based health care, 49th in the percentage of low income people covered by Medicaid, number 1 in the percent of population that is uninsured and number 1 in the percentage of elderly unemployed.

  • Texas is 4th in the percentage of people living below the poverty level, 2nd in the population living with food insecurity, and ranks 47th in average monthly WIC (Women Infant Children) benefits.

  •  Texas ranks number 1 in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions, in the amount of volatile organic compounds released into air, in the mount of toxic chemicals released into water and the amount of recognized cancer-causing carcinogens released into air. 

  • Texas has the 9th highest level of wealth disparity between rich and poor and the 5th highest income inequality between the rich and the middle class. 

You can find more information at Texas On the Brink...

Again, I love Texas and I try and do all I can to make it better. But shouldn't we improve these figures before we support the export of our 'product'?!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Governor Perry Signs Bills Regulating Payday & Auto Title Lenders

Texas Governor Rick Perry has signed two bills to regulate payday lenders in the Lone Star State. It is the result of the hard work of a number consumer protection advocates and agencies around the state that have worked to get legislative relief for citizens throughout Texas trapped in a cycle of debt because of the predatory practices of this industry. 

Just a few days prior to the Governor signing the legislation, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported...

"The state's first steps toward regulating payday loans are drawing a surprising consensus from the industry and consumer advocates."

"Awaiting Gov. Rick Perry's signature are two measures passed by the Legislature last month that will bring payday lenders and auto title lenders under the authority of the Consumer Credit Commission, which is charged with writing the final rules governing such businesses in Texas. The bills establish a licensing and regulatory framework for the short-term consumer loans, while stopping short of capping fees or loan amounts."

""We understand this is pretty historic by Texas standards -- getting a new regulatory scheme in place for a big industry," said Don Baylor, senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin. While Baylor said he would have preferred limits on the size of loans based on borrowers' income and how many times a payday loan can be renewed, he thinks "it's important to have clear, simple, standard disclosures so the consumer can make an informed decision.""

"Lenders say they don't have a problem with those efforts, although the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas, an industry group, opposed efforts to cap rates charged on the loans."

""We're happy this passed. A lot of legislators told me they wanted to get some regulations on the books," said Dan Feehan, CEO of Fort Worth-based Cash America International, the nation's biggest operator of pawnshops and a payday lender.""

"More than 3,000 storefronts make payday or auto title loans in Texas, according to state filings.
Payday loans are cash advances, generally for a week or two. A borrower writes a check for the loan amount, plus a fee -- a common amount is $15 per $100 borrowed -- while the lender holds the check for the agreed time, after which it can be cashed or redeemed by the borrower."

"Auto title loans have generally longer terms, typically a month, and the borrower puts up a paid-up title to a vehicle as collateral."

On this issue, we didn't quite get everything we wanted. But all legislation involves negotiation and compromise. But, more importantly and at its best, it also involves the engagement of citizens who want to see change and are willing to work for it! And I can't help remember the number of people in and out of the political arena who personally told me that we would get 'nothing' out of the legislature because it was so conservative. I never believed it and fortunately neither did the advocates and legislators who served as our allies. 

As a friend of mine wrote when notifying us of the victory, "...Mandatory CSO licensing through the OCCC, consumer & transaction data reporting, clear and comparative disclosures of fees & typical repayment patterns, a Texas Financial Education Endowment that's funded through fees on the CSOs, disclosure of an OCCC helpline number to consumers, and restitution to customers injured by a CSO's violation of the law or Finance Commission rule -- congratulations to all of you who worked so hard to move the ball on this historically intractable issue."

"And look out, 83rd Legislature: HB 2593's loan product regulations may not have survived this time, but you better believe this isn't over!"

For CitySquare, this is the second straight legislative session in which we have successfully worked to pass legislation benefiting neighbors victimized by systemic injustice. Last session our advocacy in Austin, public awareness work and effective coalition with other organizations resulted in legislation which increased compensation for the wrongfully convicted. 

As for payday lenders, on March 25, CitySquare's public policy work resulted in a land use zoning ordinance, passed unanimously by Dallas' City Council. And, we're not quite through, this Wednesday, the City Council will vote on a companion zoning ordinance which will regulate the operation of payday and auto title lenders. 

CitySquare is proving that the most effective way to address the root causes of poverty is by direct service and advocacy. We hope you're encouraged and inspired to join us in making a difference and making history!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Man Who Raised Me

I realize that I've been more blessed than many of my friends throughout my life.

I've written about my father, Rev. Gerald Britt, Sr.,  who passed away last year. But I was blessed to have a man who raised me, who was loving and generous to my mother, my brother and I. His name is Paul Mayfield and most would commonly refer to him as a 'step-father'. I only make that distinction because many people would get confused when I refer to both my biological father and my father who raised me in the same sentence. But, my dad, when he spoke of Paul in public, always spoke of him with respect and gratitude. He refused to call him a 'step-father'. "My boys",  he would say, "didn't wear 'step clothes', eat 'step food', or live in a 'step' home. I thank him for the job he did in raising my boys." 

No words could be more true. 

My brother and I grew up with one of the hardest working men I have ever known. He is a devoted Christian and he raised us in the church where my grandfather served as pastor, and where he was a deacon. I used to covet the opportunities that I got to ride with him to church for deacons meeting, or choir rehearsal (he sang in the choir as well). He reinforced the love for church instilled in me be my grandfather's example, by his example. Paul was also a trustee in the church and in those roles he cleaned the church, cut the church lawn, brought home the receipts of each Sundays offering to count and record for deposit. 

But more than that. More often than most of us knew or talked about, what we took in on Sundays was insufficient to cover expenses. Paul made up the difference out of his own pocket (a little secret he tended to keep from my mother). One of the proudest moments of my life happened after my grandfather died when he and my mother joined the church I served and I was able to become their pastor. 

Paul took us hunting and fishing. And when neither my brother or I showed much of an affinity for either, he never complained or scolded us. He co-signed for our first cars. He taught us about love by showing us how deeply he loved our mother. Anniversaries and birthdays are special to me now, because I saw that he never forgot or failed to celebrate an anniversary of birthday. As we grew older it's been almost charming to hear how he stopped referring to our mother as 'your mother' and started saying 'my wife'

As I mentioned previously, my biological father taught me how to understand the civil rights movement, but it was Paul who exemplified the courage by our family to restaurants and stores that black people didn't frequent.We didn't understand it then, but we that's because he managed to make being the only black people in a restaurant or in a department store the most normal thing in the world. We had no idea that we were quite literally testing the limits of civil rights legislation!

Paul encouraged us in the sports we played. Gave us dating advice. And, yes, disciplined us when we needed it. We took family vacations: California, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Detroit, Canada - all road trips, all whetting our appetites to know more about this country and the world. 

I don't know that I've ever adequately explained to him what I've done beyond my more conventional roles as pastor and preacher. But I know he's never expressed anything but pride and never given me anything but encouragement. Even when I've failed, I've never been known anything but support.

At this point in my life, I still have several ambitions that I am trying to fulfill. One of those ambitions is to be a good father. I think I've done fairly well so far. But then again, the man who raised me set the bar pretty high.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

'Pulling Up the Ladder' on Our Future?

How is America changing and what changes can we anticipate because of it? Our ability to provide the same opportunities to an emerging majority of people of color, will largly determine how our country masters its future.

Is that what we're doing?

Watch the conversation between Angela Glover Blackwell and Manuel Pastor...take special note to the phrase 'pulling up the ladder' and think about what we're proposing for our future in education, job training, the worker security...

America's Tomorrow: Angela Glover Blackwell and Manuel Pastor from PolicyLink on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jay Leno Coming for CitySquare in October!


It's fitting to watch this video clip as Jay Leno catches some 'Jaywalkers' culturally, geographically and, well, generally unaware.

But it's also fitting because sponsorships are available and tickets have gone on sale for CitySquare's 'A Night to Remember' annual concert and Jay Leno is our guest.

You don't want to miss this!

More info on sponsorships and tickets here...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

So, How's Business?

At CitySquare, measuring the effectiveness of our work has become increasingly important.

You can imagine that it is important to those who invest in our work - individuals, businesses, foundations, churches and other funders - are all keenly interested to know that they are investing wisely. It's important to our supporters, especially those volunteers, whose time, talent and energy supplement a staff which has grown significantly larger, during my 7 years here, but which is never really large enough to meet the need. But it is also important to those of us who, day-by-day do the best we working to address the root causes of poverty, by advocacy and direct service.

CitySquare started as a food pantry in 1988. While we have grown and the way we operate in the food pantry, more than 30,000 people received more than 1.5 million lbs of food in 2010 and there is no sign that these numbers will decrease anytime soon. We always want to know exactly who we are serving (CitySquare is now too large for all of us to know all of our neighbors now) and how are we doing in meeting the need? But we also need to know the depth of the need - how are we doing in meeting the needs of those who come to us and whom we discover need more than just food.

So we asked. And these charts are the results of a survey taken by 540 of our neighbors whom we've had the privilege to serve.

You can actually read the survey here...

We're still going over the results of the survey developing a profile of the people who come to meet one of the most basic human needs - the need for food. But what we do know is that 25% of the families in Texas are classified as poor. The numbers are similar in Dallas County. We're working to make sure some of these families don't need us anymore. We hope you'll help us!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What a Concept: Church as Caring Community!

"Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ" - Galatians 6:2

These types of church ministry initiatives have always been attractive to me. 

At their most healthy, they transfer the focus of meeting a congregation's needs from one person or a staff of professionals to members whose giftedness transform the lives of everyone involved. 

It a context that helps facilitate something I'm growing to appreciate more and 

'Since its inception 10 years ago, the ministry of congregational care and counseling at Union Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, has made Stephen Ministry a vital component of its continuum of care.'

'Union—a thriving, predominantly African-American congregation of about 4500 members—enrolled in Stephen Ministry in the spring of 2000 and sent me to a leadership training course in Orlando. When I returned to North Carolina, I conferred with Union’s pastor, Kenneth R. Hammond, and began recruiting additional Stephen leaders from the church. Six months later, Union’s first Stephen Ministry class began with nine trainees.'
'One of the most appealing aspects of this model of ministry is its ability to balance attention between both the spiritual and emotional needs of care receivers. Stephen Ministry trainees receive 50 hours of preparation over four months in areas such as listening non-judgmentally, managing care receivers’ feelings, practicing assertiveness, establishing boundaries, observing confidentiality, and recognizing the limits of the care they can offer. These practical skills help to establish a trusting bond between the Stephen minister and care receiver, and they also provide a superb foundation for the care receivers themselves to cope with challenging circumstances in their lives.'
'Because Stephen Ministry trainees are encouraged to establish prayer-partner relationships with one another, they too are formed spiritually by their work. Specific training on using scriptures when providing care and identifying ways that Christ cared for others augment the spiritual experiences Stephen ministers have as they devote themselves to what is a two-year “calling.” While Stephen Ministry is unapologetically Christ-centered, it allows space to accept care receivers at their specified point of need, which often is not articulated as faith-based. Stephen ministers can openly reflect their own Christian identity without proselytizing.'

Read more about the Stephen's Ministry here and here...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

George Halas


NFL Hall of Fame, Head Coach, Team Owner, Player

"Nothing is work unless you'd rather be doing something else."

Friday, June 10, 2011

CitySquare Public Policy's Next Documentary Screening, 'Killer at Large'

One of the most enjoyable new features of CitySquare's Public Policy Department has been the introduction of documentary screenings as an opportunity for advocacy and public awareness for our issues.

You've got an opportunity to share in one of these events on June 23...

Private Screening of "Killer at Large"
At CitySquare, we believe in health for all. Over 600,000 residents of Dallas County lack health insurance, which means they are forced to use emergency rooms as their sole source of medical care. Often, these crises could have been prevented with proper preventative health care. A simple cavity becomes an abcess without infection. Uncontrolled diabetes becomes a life-threatening blood sugar crisis. A heart condition becomes fatal without proper medication and maintenance.

Not only does lack of healthcare affect the health of individuals in our community, but it impacts their ability to work and to be the type of parent, spouse or community member they could otherwise become.Join us for a free screening of the provocative documentary about the correlation between obesity and poor health, “Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat.”
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Angelika Film Center & Cafe 
5321 East Mockingbird Lane, Suite 230, Dallas, TX 75206
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Obesity rates in the United States have reached epidemic proportions in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that at least 110,000 people die per year due to obesity and 1/3 of all cancer deaths are directly related to it. From our human evolution and our changing environment to the way our government's public policies are actually causing obesity, Killer at Large shows how little is being done and more importantly, what can be done to reverse it.

Killer at Large also explores the human element of the problem with portions of the film that follow a 12-year old girl who has a controversial liposuction procedure to fix her weight gain and a number of others suffering from obesity, including filmmaker Neil Labute.

We really want you to join us if you can. You can register here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Different Reminder of the Costs of War

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, what I regard as the seminal event in the history of our country.

The war was fought over slavery, in spite of all the efforts to erase the shameful stain that comes from the realization that men would take up arms for the right to own and sell other men, that is an indisputable and inglorious fact.

But the Civil War is a troubling reminder of the cost of war. The horror of it. The brave men and women who fight and die because of it. The loss of talent and treasure. And the separation of loved ones from one another, in life and through death.

Ken Burn's classic documentary, now some 20 years old is a wonderful and accessible retelling of that tail and this clip is a version of one of my favorite segments: Union soldier Sullivan Ballou's farewell letter to his wife Sarah. These photos (although not from the original segment of the documentary are a haunting depiction of the terror of armed conflict. And the music - Ashokan Farewell - is a wonderfully wistful piece that lends excruciating pathos to beautiful prose of the letter.

Maybe President's should be required to listen to this before they determine to send our citizens into war. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Just Who Are We Now?

I loved the Twilight Zone. Each show was more than entertainment, they were morality plays which spoke volumes about the human condition. Our hopes. Our dreams. Our ambitions. Our fears.

Fear. It's a dreadful thing. It's very easy to incite and its very difficult to banish. Fear can cause us to turn to one another and it can cause us to turn on one another. Fear can expose heroes, villains, the courageous and the cowards. After we've been shown that we have nothing to fear, we can be frozen at our most base or our best. We can emerge from our fears in triumph or in shame.

I'm not sure where we are in our politics or our culture. We've been taught to fear others and ourselves. Are we still in the throes of desperate fear? Or are we coming out of that era and discovering something that we'll be ashamed of when we come to our senses?

Take the time to watch this episode called, 'The Shelter'. Ask yourself...Who are we?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Tribute to Clarice Taylor (1917-2011) and 'The Cosby Show'

I was actually looking for a clip of an interview done by the late Clarice Taylor (September 20, 1917- May 30, 2011) and Earle Hyman, who played Anna and Russell Huxtable on 'The Crosby Show', when I found this...

Controversy over Bill Cosby's messages about parental and personal responsibility in the African-American community, have obscured the tremendous contribution he has made in his devotion to excellence in his craft. Although I was an adult when the Cosby Show aired, it had a profound impact on me and how I viewed the potential of the black community, whether poor or affluent. Though often criticized as an unrealistic portrayal of black family life, I knew more families like the Huxtables (in values if not in wealth) than I ever knew of those depicted in 'Sanford and Son' or 'The Jeffersons'. I also knew that the regard with which the show was held by people of all races and all classes, was, in itself, historic.

There is entertainment which can ennoble and inspire. Clarice Taylor belonged to a generation of entertainers who used their craft to tell the common story of the human condition, in spite of the fact that the reality of their lives in America belied the truth they sought to tell on screen and on stage. They paved the way for the more popular and more prosperous actors who entertain us today. But thank goodness we had her body of work, the kindly face and the beautiful face to remind us, no matter our work, that if you remain devoted to your life's work and dedicated to being the best that you can be, one day your story can be among those that bless countless others. The Cosby Show was that kind of entertainment. Clarice Taylor was that kind of actor. I'm thankful to have her example to inspire me!