Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lessons From 'Letter From a Birmingham Jail'...

Occupy Wall Street seems to be the quintessential 'organic' movement.

It's lack of a central 'leader' or a formal 'agenda', seems to make it the real world equivalent of thousands of Howard Beals crying 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!' There's room for that in a democracy. As I said in yesterday's post, it is the way movements (really revolutions) begin and if they are persistent they result in change. 

At some point - and I think regarding OWS it may be too early for this - someone emerges who, while maybe not called 'the leader', per se, certainly becomes the tactician. He or she, understands that there are tools that must be employed to get a message out that resonates with sympathizers and responds to the opposition and the critics. He or she orchestrates and focuses protest, channeling anger so that it  neither fizzles out or spills over into unproductive or counterproductive rage.

To think that OWS will fade with the winter cold, is simplistic, if not downright naive. All movements (or revolutions) ebb and flow. We will probably not know how real a movement this is until next summer. And then what we may indeed see is some emerging 'leader', or tactician who knows how to strategically harness and focus their energy. 

Again, it is similar to the Civil Rights Movement...

Take for example the Birmingham campaign for civil rights in 1963. It was beginning to wain until the strategy of getting children and youth to march was adopted. It wasn't necessarily a well thought out strategic maneuver. Kids were what movement leaders had because not enough adults would risk getting arrested. 

It got the nation's attention.

Also getting attention was Dr. Martin Luther King's decision to get arrested by defying a court ordered injunction against marching. It was intentional. It was strategic. It wasn't accidental that it took place on Easter weekend. 

While in jail, eight white clergymen had their criticism of the movement printed as an open letter in the local paper. Again, King counters with a tactical move, what we've come to know as 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail'. It becomes an apologetic for the aims of the Birmingham campaign in particular and the movement in general. You can read 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' here ,  here and here.

And this video gives a very interesting 'story behind the story' insight on King's missive.


I can't say for certain whether Occupy Wall Street will follow the historical pattern. My belief is, if its a real movement it probably will. Ultimately forcing change comes with promoting a vision of the world that is different from one's current reality - not just being angry about your reality.

Perhaps its not enough for Occupy Wall Street protesters to have their 'camp-ins'. But it's definitely not enough for us to keep asking 'What do they want?' We know what they want. They want what we want - a country where soaring inequality doesn't leave us behind.

Why not write your own letter?

Monday, November 28, 2011

1963 Birmingham Civil Rights Protests & Occupy Wall Street

I've been asked quite a few times, "So, what do you think of this Occupy Wall Street movement?" Surprisingly, I'm asked by people you would normally think would be in favor of such a protest. Yet, the fundamental disagreement is not with the protests themselves, but with the lack of a 'point' to the protest. The goals are not 'clear'. The strategies don't make sense. The expressed frustrations lend themselves to discernible or immediate resolution.

So what are they up to? What do they want?

I'll confess that there is a reflex in me that sometimes goes to those very sentiments.

And then, I think about the Civil Rights Movement.

Forty years plus, after the fact, when we know the outcome and when the heroes of the movement - the most prominent heroes - are elderly, we see the context of those protests much more clearly than they were seen then. Imagine the strategies: intentionally going to jail; provoking a response to dramatize unjust and inhumane treatment; defying court orders; risking ostracism, the possibility of getting expelled from school or fired from your job all in the name of 'freedom'.

Imagine risking violence and even death, ostensibly so that you, or a nameless 'someone else' can sit at a lunch counter, or use a restroom, or sleep in a hotel room. When custom, tradition and law has made this a societal norm for more than a century!

Then finally, you look at television and right in the middle of "Judgement at Nuremberg" your television viewing is interrupted and you see children and teen-agers being threatened by billy clubs, dogs and fire hoses as they protest.

What do these people want?!

Nearly 50 years after the fact we can answer that question, with any one of a dozen answers and they would all be readily understood. But probably not back then.

Watch this clip about the Birmingham protests of 1963. Maybe you'll see what I mean...


Recently, Newt Gingrich, candidate for the GOP nomination for President, gave a very glib comment and an effective applause line regarding Occupy protesters. It was essentially 'take a bath and get a job'. Aside from being an incredibly insensitive reaction to the protests and their well understood explicit aims (and they are better understood than most of us would like to admit), Gingrich - the historian - ignored the obvious: change most often comes when there are those who stand outside the system demanding change from the system.

Yes, they need to vote.

Yes it would help everyone if their slogans would readily, clearly and conveniently translated into policy. Yet, somehow 'We Shall Overcome' actually did become the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Fair Housing Laws and anti-lynching legislation.

Newt Gingrich - the historian - also knows that his criticism, ridicule and invective mirrors the criticism, ridicule and invective hurled against those who protested against racism and for civil rights (be sure and watch the end of the video clip). He also knows that it is the job of politicians to wake up and translate the aims of protesters into policy.

And every historian - Newt Gingrich included - knows that eventually this is how change happens.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Reminder Rooted in Faith

One of the best vacations I've had, was a road trip a few years ago, where we took a trip through Memphis, Tennessee (still one of my favorite cities) to visit family, on through Atlanta, Georgia (DEFINITELY one of my favorite cities) on to Birmingham, Alabama.

That's right Birmingham.

It was interesting because, having read about the modern day civil rights movement as a teen-ager until now, it was eerily easy to find my way to a place I've always wanted to see - Kelly-Ingram Park. This is the famous/infamous park in which Bull Conner turned water hoses and loosed dogs on child protesters in the summer of 1963. An amazing confrontation which led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Having never been to Birmingham before, I didn't know that it is located diagonally across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church. This is the revered site where four little girls were murdered in the Sunday morning bombing which gave evidence of the extent of white racist terrorism and extremism in the United States.

And, although I had heard that Birmingham also had a Civil Rights Museum (I've been to the one in Memphis several times - I'm due for another trip there!), I had no notion that it was located directly across the street from Kelly-Ingram Park!

It was an amazing stop along a wonderful trip!

What happened in this city is seminal to what our society is today. What we have resolved and have left unresolved, about race, faith, class and poverty have deep roots in what happened in this city that historic summer.

I'm sharing it because we should always remember, reflect and respond to the lessons the very existence of these places teach about justice, humanity and brotherhood.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

'The Warmth of Other Suns' Author Coming to Dallas Next Month

Earlier this year, CitySquare's Public Policy Department's Urban Engagement Book Club, reviewed the book, "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Pulitzer Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson.

The book tells the incredible story of what is referred to as 'The Great Migration', during which millions of African-American from the places of their birth in the south to U.S. northern states in search of greater freedom and opportunity by escaping the terrorism and humiliation of segregation and Jim Crow.

The San Francisco Chronicle writes: “Not since Alex Haley’s Roots has there been a history of equal literary quality where the writing surmounts the rhythmic soul of fiction, where the writer’s voice sings a song of redemptive glory as true as Faulkner’s southern cantatas.”

Imagine, if you can, a system so horrendous and daily degradation so dehumanizing to the human spirit that the only way to deal with it and protect your dignity and sanity is to leave. It is a little known, little understood and understudied piece of American history that deserves telling and remembering. 

That's why I'm excited that our friends Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture will be hosting Ms. Wilkerson at their annual Martin Luther King Symposium in January 2012. She will discuss her book and its place in the history of the Civil Rights Movement in our country. I'm looking forward to it and I encourage you to take the opportunity to share in what I know will be an enlightening and exciting event!

More information later. In the meantime, enjoy this clip of Isabel Wilkerson discussing one of the best books the Urban Engagement Book Club has ever had the pleasure of reviewing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An All Too Relevant Message

John F. Kennedy

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Great Story within a Great Story

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, admittedly an unusual name for a black man (find out the origin of his name in the clip below). But Dr. Hrabowski's contributions are also unique, at least in my opinion.  Since 1992 he has been President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, a university that produces graduates in math and engineering at a rate of some 42%, in time when our country does not produce enough math and engineering majors.

But that isn't Dr. Hrabowski's only distinction. 

As a 12 year old,  Freeman Hrabowski, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, participated in the iconic marches which ultimately led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

He was a childhood friend of Cynthia McNair, one of the four girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in September of 1963. I first came to know of Hrabowski through Spike Lee's excellent documentary on this event, '4 Little Girls'.

I thought you might enjoy the documentary so I've provided it below. If you have never seen the it or don't know of this seminal event in America's history, you owe it to yourself to learn the story and the lives impacted by this tragedy. It is clear that it changed the trajectory of some lives and fortunately, the impact on the life of Freeman Hrabowski III put him on a pathway to undergird the lives of young people with education and purpose. 

A great story, that has yielded great stories!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So...What are You Doing?

If you work with me long enough, you know how profoundly enamored I am of the Clinton Global Initiative. It's not just because of President Bill Clinton, for whom I have an enormous amount of admiration, rather it is because this is a gathering of people determined to make the world better.

For me, the greatest irritants are those people who have decided that the problems of the world are too big and who, in response to those problems, shrink the world down to their address and hurl invective and insult and those who still try. Those people are really tiring. They are tiring because there is always something we can do. Always a change we can make. Always lives we can make better, beyond our household, beyond our friends and our family. It's just easy to not want to be bothered and get defensive when someone else's work makes you realize you should be doing something as well.

This clip is really just to give you another sense of what I find thrilling about the CGI. It's a forum where people can report, converse, think, commit and then go back out into an impossible world and try again.  To me, that kind of fellowship of servants is the fellowship to which I belong. And whether they work in a school or in a church, or a fraternity or sorority, or on their job really helping others, they inspire, encourage and enrich my life with their examples.

They keep me going.

By the way - what are you doing?!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I'm a Proud and Grateful Father - In More Ways Than You Know

One of the best thing about being a pastor is that you can have a lot of children! No, I don't mean personally, I mean the kids at the church.

It can be just as hard as it is with your own children. You have to rescue, discipline, scold, praise, reward and withhold rewards. And there are times when you wonder whether or not they will ever grow up and whether or not they hear anything your saying! 

But then they do grow up. You realize they caught more than you knew. The older they get the more proud you become. You see it in them, their children and yes, their grandchildren (REALLY!). 

When I encounter the 'kids' from the church now, I always walk away proud of the men and women they've become. Time would fail me to write about what they are doing. Their endeavors run the gamut from graduate college students and young professionals to entrreprenuers. And I get tongue-tied expressing my pride in them and the gratitude I have for having had the opportunity to serve them and their families. 

Shawn Scott is one of my 'boys' (he's nearly 40 now!), and he's a blogger (how's that for a chip off the old block?!). His thoughts will show you why I'm so proud of him and my other 'kids'. 

I Am Black in America

"Last night I finally had the chance to view CNN's "Black in America" series which highlighted a group of black entrepreneurs working in Silicon Valley. I had been following these companies since learning about the NewMe Accelerator right before their demo day earlier this year. As some people know, the Internet erupted in controversy over the last couple weeks as clips from the show were released. The most controversial topic was related to Michael Arrington's statement that he "didn't know a single black entrepreneur in the Valley"."
"After following this story pretty closely and watching the show last night I can say that I'm glad the issue of the lack of blacks in tech is finally starting to be talked about. It has been said that the tech industry is full of white and Asian guys and I would tend to agree. I have worked in the industry for about 15 years now and could probably count on my hands the number of blacks I have had the priviledge of working with in tech companies. While I'm sure there are a number of factors that have led to this happening, it is definitely an issue that needs to be talked about, dealt with and improved."
"While I've never worked in Silicon Valley, I did have the pleasure of working in the Los Angeles area over the course of the last year. In January 2010 I was visiting the area on vacation and while on Facebook I saw an ad about a technology incubator located in Ventura, CA. It caught my attention so I decided to click through and learn more about it, little did I know this would be one of the most important ads I would see in my lifetime."
"After looking around the website of the Ventura Ventures Technology Center (V2TC), I was instantly interested in learning more. Although I was only visiting the area, I always knew California was the best place to be to launch a tech startup. I had been laid off from my previous job at a tech startup in DC a few months prior and since then had been working on trying to get my own tech company off the ground. This seemed like it would be the perfect opportunity to get me going in the right direction."
"My next step was to do a bit of research on the companies currently in the incubator program as well as the venture capital firm associated with it. Everything looked good so I made an appointment to visit with the then Executive Director, Alex Schneider the next day. Upon arrival Alex gave me a tour of the facility which was a part of Ventura's city hall. The city was forward thinking enough to realize that the tech industry is currently booming and in order to attract companies to the area they would need to get involved in a big way."
"After the tour we went back to Alex's office to talk more about the incubator as well as my business. It turned out that Alex had also lived in DC prior to moving to Ventura and we also discussed the differences between the two coasts. I let him know that I was currently living in Dallas, and this was only my second trip to the area so he gave me a number of other resources to check out in order to make sure I was making the best decision about moving. The next step was to fill out an application and submit my business plan."
"It took me a day or two to revise my business plan and get my application submitted. A few days later I got an email back from Alex saying I had been accepted and could move in whenever I was ready. Never in a million years would I have guessed any of this would have happened when I first decided to go to California for this trip. The only way I can explain is that an opportunity came up and I was in the perfect position to take advantage of it."
"When I was a kid I spent a bit of time in Boy Scouts and as most people know their motto is "be prepared". This is the biggest piece of advice that I can give any entrepreneur because you never know what is going to come your way. One of the moments I found interesting during the program last night was when each company had to get on stage and pitch their company. Most of them nervously stumbled through the presentations and later complained that they didn't expect to have to pitch their companies so soon. Not being prepared is never an excuse, especially when it comes to running a business and anyone who tries to use it as one is not serious about whatever they are doing."
Read the rest of Shawn's post here...
Our church was a comparatively small congregation in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Dallas. Shawn and the other boys and girls whom we all tried to teach and train to be productive Christians, citizens are the evidence I have that making deep investments in the lives of our children is the most worthwhile thing we can do. 
I am, of course, proud of my three daughters. I'm proud of the two sons I have who await me in Heaven. But I am also proud of the children, now grown and many with families of their own, whose parents and grandparents gave me the chance to be a spiritual father to them. Shawn's just one example, but you can see through him why I remain proud and grateful!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - "But If Not..."

When I started preaching at the age of 18, I listened to a number of sermons in preparation for delivering my first sermons. Among the preachers I listened to was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

No, I don't mean his speeches - I mean his sermons. With the accolades and monuments devoted to his life and work, we tend to forget that it King's work was motivated by his faith and calling as a minister of the Gospel. 

I know it's not Sunday, but I think its a good thing to listen to a good sermon during the week. This is a great one!

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Flow Control" Doesn't Necessarily Equal Economic Development

It's called 'flow control'. But it's a euphemism for sending virtually all of the trash and waste to southern Dallas in a misguided effort to balance the city's budget and bring 'economic development' to south of our city.

Now 'green' can be good. It can be a tool in economic development in jobs, tax revenue and tax payer/consumer savings.

Paul Quinn and residents of the most immediately affected community have been fighting the decision. Ultimately we have to ask the question, 'Is this real economic development' or a short-sighted boon doggle?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Feed the Hungry

"Give your food to the hungry and care for the homeless. Then your light will shine in the dark; your darkest our will be like the noonday sun."
Isaiah 58:10 (Contemporary English Version)

When it comes to the subject of hunger and a city like Dallas, there are people who actually believe that it cannot possibly exist. Why? Dallas is too rich! We have great philanthropic institutions. We have churches. We have generous individuals who regardless of income, volunteer and give to any number of charities, large and small. There surely can't be hunger in Dallas and especially not hungry children.

The difficulty that some people have in believing this is the reason why Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's 'No Kid Hungry' Summit was so very important.

The summit, held on November 9, at the Dallas Farmers Market, focused on the issue of childhood hunger and it's the available resources and the programs that can help us solve it. Bill Ludwig of  regional administrator of the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture says that, more than $15 billion is available to address hunger in Texas and yet our state appropriates on 60% of these funds. 'We have the tools and the resources to end hunger in Dallas and in Texas', he said.

""Child hunger is a serious issue in Dallas and surrounding communities, but the good news is that we have the resources to solve it," Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson said. "The group of talented and strategic partners at this hunger summit is dedicated and will help ensure our children are fed three meals a day, every day.""

"An important announcement made during the hunger summit was the creation of a Dallas-Area Food Planning Association, which is currently underway as part of the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign. This group will consist of educators, elected officials, corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, community leaders and local residents who will take a close look at where child hunger needs are greatest in the area, and will then work to implement programs there."

""Kids who face hunger fall behind in virtually every way, and the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign seeks to connect children at risk of hunger to programs that can provide regular, nutritious meals," Jeremy Everett, director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, said. "The focus of the campaign during its first year is to connect more eligible low-income children to federally funded School Breakfast and Summer Meals Programs.""

"This meeting of the minds touched on a wide range of topics related to child hunger in North Texas, including alarming new statistics, Dallas-area "food deserts," the importance of fighting hunger in the faith community, and solutions currently being put in place through the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign. This statewide public-private partnership was launched last month by the Texas Hunger Initiative, a project of the Baylor University School of Social Work, and Share Our Strength, the leading national child anti-hunger organization."

""Dallas is already moving the needle on child hunger through the Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, said. "We have the necessary programs funded and in place to make certain that every child in Dallas receives the food they need to excel in and out of the classroom. By working together, we can guarantee easy access to these programs for those most in need--our children at risk of hunger.""

I certainly hope Dallas does make this commitment. Solutions are not as complex as people think: making certain that all eligible children and their families are enrolled in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - food stamps), or the free/reduced lunch program, or that schools serve breakfast or breakfast in the classroom.

There are even solutions that are broader in their economic and societal implications. At the summit, for instance, Friends of the Dallas Farmers Market announced resolution to an issue on which the DFM and CitySquare have been working for nearly a year: the Dallas Farmers Market will begin accepting the Lone Star Card (SNAP) as a form of payment, around the spring of 2012. This is an economic benefit as well as one which brings down a significant barrier to the problem of food deserts (neighborhoods in which there is little or no access to groceries or nutriticious foods) a prticular problem in communities in southern Dallas.

And then there is this...

Obeying the command to feed the hungry isn't just a matter of charity, it should be the ethos of a just society. It a powerful, creative, community building endeavor that ministers to the overall health and well being of neighborhods, demonstrating the contributive possibilities of everyone who lives there. Taking this dictum seriously can enhance the dignity and worth of everyone - hungry or not.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Week...

Just a few thoughts from the week...

The news from Penn State has been absolutely horrible! But one thing is certain - way too much time has been spent talking about Joe Paterno's treatment and not the pain of the family and the institution that gave him so much for 60 years. It's a shame that his image and his legacy has been defaced so tragically, but a simple phone call to the police would have changed everything.

There are no circumstances under which I would vote for Rick Perry - for anything. BUT, anyone who has spoken in public often enough or long enough KNOWS what its like to lose your train of thought. However, if you tend to get a pass if people trust your competence BEFORE your gaffe...

And finally, Eddie Murphy...

Have you absolutely LOST YOUR MIND?!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Prescription for U.S. Economic Recovery

I thought I'd share this interview with President Bill Clinton from yesterday morning. It's always interesting to listen to his analysis of politics and the economy. I don't think the Democratic Party still doesn't pay enough attention to him...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Memoriam: Joe Frazier (1944-2011)

I find it hard to watch boxing nowadays. As a matter of fact, its been years since I've sat through a fight. Part of the reason is, I've been spoiled...

When I was growing up, the dramatic saga of the Ali-Frazier fights, were the stuff of legend. Although an unabashed Ali fan, I couldn't help but have admiration for Smokin' Joe Frazier. His bobbing and weaving, his devastating left hook, his relentless attack made him a great foil for Muhammad Ali's antics, but it also made him a great fighter...a very great fighter. 

While all of us Ali fans remember his victory in the 'Thrilla in Manilla', his defeat of Frazier didn't diminish us. But Frazier's loss to cancer in some way makes us all a little poorer. Frazier was a great boxing champion, with a tremendous heart and an indomitable spirit. He is rightfully has a place in the Pantheon of athletes whose talent, hard work and competitiveness made him an example to us all...

Joe Frazier - dead at the age of 67.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Challenges of Having Conversations About Race

Conversations about race struggle to transcend the pain of history and seek the more noble aspirations of humanity for hope and brotherhood. We, more often than not, there is this notion - bound to frustrate - that we can actually move to hope and brotherhood without revisiting the pain of history. We like to think that we are above the anger feelings, hatreds and humiliations that were a part of our yesterdays - and make no mistake about it they are OUR yesterdays. We like to try and distance ourselves from those days by saying, its 'ancient' history, or there's no need to open up old wounds. There are even some who say, we should all 'just get over it'.  Interestingly enough, we don't say that about our engagement in and emotional attachment to the World Wars, the Great Depression, space travel or the Revolutionary War. But when it comes to America's racial history, we are content to suppress and deny.

David Margolick's book 'Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock' shows takes the lives of two women forever linked by an iconic photo and tells the story of race, the Civil Rights Movement and the legacy of which must be both embraced and overcome embodied in the very lives of these two women.

I watched the review of this book and realized that this was the world into which I was born. The photo was taken September 4, 1957. For days after this picture was taken, my brother was born. It was, interestingly enough one of a myriad of events that would be the springboard to the freedoms and opportunities that he and I would experience. Yet, there was nothing in the world in which he and I was born that would have seen to harbinger the prospect that we, or even our children, would live the lives we've had the opportunity to live.

In the clip (which you can see here), we learn that Hazel Bryan, the 15 year old girl whose face is contorted with such intimidating hatred, rage and meanness, experiences a significant change in her attitude and life when she recognizes that this picture will not go away. Reprinted in school text books, in books which recounted the story of school desegregation, the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement against racial injustice and terrorism, Hazel comes to know that she was becoming the 'face' of segregation, not just in Little Rock, Arkansas, but in the United States. She calls to apologize to Elizabeth Eckford, the young black girl in the photo, stoically enduring the hatred showering down upon over her.

There is a period of reconciliation. There is the 'road show' in which they tell the story of that day, that period of time and the relationship which was trying to make peace with those days and forge a new tomorrow. And then there is the story of Elizabeth and, what some might call the post traumatic experience which brings to surface suspicion, resentment and a need to distance herself from a woman with whom she has now come to know and achieve some affinity.

It is amazing to me that there are people totally sympathetic to trauma victims of abuse, assault, wrongful imprisonment, POW's experience, yet when it comes to an entire people whose experience of state sponsored and culturally condoned terrorism there appears to be a need to cast it as a willful attempt to remain victims. It also is interesting that there is the belief that for the deeply embedded attitudes which breathed life to an atmosphere of hatred, vitriol and daily life threatening danger to become covertly institutionalized should, in some way, be less traumatic to the descendants of those who experienced more covert terror. It's as if some people believe that parents would never pass any of their fear, or resentment or humiliation on to their children. Or, in some way, passed on to their grandchildren.

Hazel's own resentments of being frozen in time, even though she is no longer who she was at 15 and to have none of the acceptance which should rightfully come from trying to make amends for that one moment of her young life. Hazel was not totally embraced by black people and was vilified by some white people for whom she was an embarrassing diacritical mark in their own histories. The sad fact that Hazel, in spite of the fact that she has tried to overcome September 4, 1957 she is apparently tethered to that awful snapshot. Interestingly, enough Hazel was never identified in the photo. She was according to one member of the press at that time, 'an anonymous white girl'.

Elizabeth and Hazel's relationship is interesting. They are both 70 now (Elizabeth can be seen in the clip). For them, reconciliation has not been a totally linear path. It apparently has had mountain peaks and valley moments, littered with the stones and deep depressions of race. Much more important have been the ways in which they have each tried to transcend that September morning more than half a century ago, when they were both victims of what adults had done to them.

Maybe they can't move on because we haven't moved on. Maybe they can't get over it, because we can't get over it. And maybe we can't move on and get over it because we haven't done what they have tried to do - they really worked at reconciliation, as difficult as it is.

I plan on reading this book. And I think this is the type of challenge we all have to accept. Whatever happens to their relationship, maybe theirs will get better as we take the risk at getting better.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Paul Quinn Students are Making Us Proud - Now Put a Grocery Store in This Community

Many of us who have fought to make a difference in our community for any length of time have bemoaned the lack of engagement on the part of young people in our communities and our country. 

We can stop complaining...

Recently the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement littered with broad swaths of young people, worried about their present and their future, have captured the nation's attention. And locally still another organized effort, led by young people appears to be taking hold.

Yesterday, a march protesting the Dallas City Council's decision to expand the landfill near Paul Quinn College and fueled by the energy of youth, restores my faith that young people are capable of enlightened self interest. 

Michael Sorrell, the president of Paul Quinn College, has rightly expressed his concern and, yes, anger, that a working class area of our city has no grocery store to service at least 4300 homes in the surrounding area. None of the elected representatives of this area have been able to interest major retail grocers to the area. A grocery store is not necessary to address starvation in this community (only to the degree that college students usually starve!). I was a student on this campus when it was Bishop College. I lived in the area for 25 years. I can assure you, everyone in this area eats. They travel to WalMart stores outside of the city of Dallas to shop for the foods they need. This is more than an inconvenience for the residents who live here. This is revenue going to the southern suburbs of Lancaster, DeSoto or even Cedar Hill. 

But also being missed is the economic development that comes collaterally with a grocery store that can be located in proximity to the homes, the schools and the higher ed institutions in the area (the University of North Texas at Dallas is located just a few miles west of Paul Quinn's campus). 

While promises of state of the art recycling at the McCommas Landfill are important, the fact is, this sends the wrong message to the schools (including Paul Quinn) and community 2-3 miles west of this location. As Dallas officials cogitate on the economic development of its southern communities, it is showing an appalling, and insulting lack of vision. Mayor Rawlings, whom I believe wants to do the right thing, is committing to a $1 million throw off of revenue from the expanded landfill operations. 

Too little money that will take too long to produce results that hardly any of us will see. 

These young people have a right to be upset. And they have the responsibility to express their displeasure in a way that is non-violent and productive. These young people have been to the city council. They have talked with their council representative. They are now gathering allies and taking to the streets in a lawful protest. 

It is inspirational....

And it is also important to know that they know what they want. In a recent op-ed column in the Dallas Morning News, freshmen David Bowens and Celia Soto, sophomore Valette Reese, junior Dexter Evans and senior Patrick Hillard eloquently expressed the position of Paul Quinn students...

"We are the students of Paul Quinn College and the organizers of “We Are Not Trash: A March for the Future of Dallas.” Given the amount of discussion our actions have generated, we thought it would be a good idea to explain why we have decided to stand up — not only for ourselves, our school and our community, but for all of the people in Dallas who have given up because they believe no one is listening to them."
"For the past six months, we have had a front-row seat in what could serve as a blueprint for an advanced seminar called “Politics and Policy-Making in Dallas.” Our syllabus has given us the assignment of watching people we once looked up to make decisions we do not understand or agree with. We have hosted meetings and have listened to city officials who attended those sessions offer answers to the same question in two completely different ways. We have sat in meetings where our school president, Michael Sorrell, has been pressured to make us stop protesting. We have stood in City Council meetings and watched leaders ignore a simple request to study an issue before voting on it."
"In short, for the past six months we have had our faith challenged and our idealism destroyed."
"All we want is a neighborhood we can be proud of. We want a quality grocery store. We want a pharmacy. We want to be listened to by the people we elect. We want simple things that most other citizens of Dallas take for granted."
"What we have heard thus far from our elected officials is that we are not worth more than trash. What they appear not to have heard from us is that we are a new generation of Quinnites and that we are servant-leaders dedicated to creating a better environment for ourselves and our neighbors. Most of us are not natives of the Dallas area, but we have found home and haven in the Paul Quinn College-Highland Hills community, a community that we have grown to love and will fight to protect."
(If you subscribe to the Dallas Morning News, you can read the rest of the column here)
Now its not enough for adults in Dallas to admire the spirit of these young people. It's not enough to laud their engagement and speak wistfully of how this reassures us of a future in 'good hands'. These young people are doing what they can do. Its time for the adults who 'run things' to do what they can do...
Put more grocery stores in the southern part of our city!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So How do You Like Them Now?

Howard Schulz, CEO of Starbucks, is embarking on a different type of responsible corporate citizenship. One which is stepping into a breach caused by government inactivity and the need for investment small businesses.

The purchase of a $5 bracelet with the words 'Indivisible' inscribed upon it, will help finance a loan fund which Starbucks will start for entrepreneurs.

"That money can be leveraged seven times into $35 million worth of loans. And ultimately, Schultz said today in a meeting with Bloomberg View editors, he hopes to raise millions more for the project, "Create Jobs for USA.""
"Beginning Nov. 1, donors who give at least $5 will get a red, white and blue bracelet bearing the message "Indivisible." Mark Pinsky, the president and CEO of Opportunity Finance Network, a Philadelphia group that runs a network of 180 community-based lenders, will oversee the actual lending."
"Donations will be distributed to Pinsky's network of so-called Community Development Financial Institutions, which can be banks, nonprofits or faith-based organizations. CDFIs are certified by the Treasury Dept. to provide credit to businesses unable to get conventional loans, such as those located in low-income and underserved areas. Those often are the places with the highest rates of unemployment, too."

You can read more here.

Will it work? Who knows? All I can say is Starbucks got me to buy an occasional cup of coffee when I learned that they pay their employees health care benefits. And while I'm not one of those people who wear bracelets, I'm probably going to purchase one too. Will it influence you? Your opinion of Starbucks? And what is the role and responsibility of the corporate community to balance rightful concern with profitability with an engaged citizenship presence in our society...one that goes beyond charity?

The answers are critical...I'll say this: at least Schultz is among those trying!

A Call to Conscience on Poverty

I'm a fan of 'Morning Joe', it can be extremely informative, interesting and irritating at times. But more often than not, Joe and the crew have a fairly balanced view on the issues and when they don't, they tend to make you think.

Here's a clip from a couple of weeks ago; its a segement that promos Tavis Smiley and Cornell West's PBS special about their 'Poverty Tour'. It's a conversation that really does get to the heart of poverty and wealth inequality in our country. We know what to expect from Tavis and West, but check out what Joe says near the end of the clip!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Let Them Get a Cab?!

Since I expressed my admiration for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel's efforts to address the issue of food deserts in the Windy City, I guess its only fair to point to an apparent...shall we say problem, within his administration...

"The head of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services had a Marie Antoinette moment on Monday — when she suggested that homeless Chicagoans who need overnight transport this winter “take a cab” to emergency shelters."
"After testifying at City Council budget hearings, Commissioner Evelyn Diaz was discussing the $2.4 million, mid-year cut in state funding that forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel to lay off 24 city employees who worked the overnight shift picking up homeless residents and transporting them to shelters."

"Diaz was asked what would happen this winter without the overnight shift. How were homeless Chicagoans — many of them suffering from alcohol, substance abuse and mental health problems — supposed to get to emergency shelters overnight? Were they supposed to just hang tough until 8 a.m?"

"“If they can’t find another alternative,” she said."
"Asked to identify an alternative, Diaz said, “Public transportation, cabs.”"
"When a reporter reminded the commissioner that homeless people can’t afford cab fare, an apparently embarrassed Diaz ignored the question."
"Hours later, department spokeswoman Anne Sheahan attempted to explain away the commissioner’s statement.Sheahan said Diaz was referring to an expanded contract with the American Red Cross that, in the absence of overnight homeless services, provides families who lose their homes in a fire with a cab voucher to transport them to shelters."
"When reporters were questioning Diaz, there was never any mention of fire victims."
"The cab remark sounded a bit like Marie Antoinette’s notorious, “Let ‘em eat cake.”"

CitySquare's HOT (Homeless Outreach Team) does pretty much the same job. It's funded by the Central Business District of Dallas and designed to try and get the homeless off of downtown streets into shelters, housing and in a number of cases back home.

Fortunately, we've not had to tell anyone to take a cab...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Another Way to Invest in CitySquare!

One of the big challenges at CitySquare is having so much to tell people about that we are often guilty of not telling people about some of our 14 different programs...

For instance, we don't mention our Thrift Store nearly enough!

Located in Dallas near the corner of Live Oak and Washington, it's been in operation for several years now and we are really proud of how well it is doing. It is an important revenue stream for our organization and it offers some great deals!

Check it out!

View more videos at: http://nbcdfw.com.