Friday, May 31, 2013

Religion & Politics Part II

Religion and politics. A volatile combination. But why? They are two of the most interesting subjects in the world and they speak to the most vital interests of humanity: our individual lives and our life together. They are indeed emotional topics. Who do you know that speaks of either dispassionately? Yet they are the sources of the greatest divisions among humanity, leading to wars, bigotry, injustice and intolerance.

Of course that's not all that religion and politics lead to: breakthroughs in science, magnificent art, literature and architecture, education, health, philosophy and notions of democracy and freedom - to name a few benefits.

Yet there are those who believe that they cannot co-exist in the same place - and yet they do. They always do. They always have.

Religion and politics have battled one another, as in the days of Galileo and Henry VIII but they have complemented one another as in the labor and civil rights movements.

Of course the founding fathers of our country sought to make sure when it came to the governance of the new nation, that there was a 'bright red line', as it were, between religion and it's influence on politics and vice-versa. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." But this is far, far from the cry of 'Separation of Church and State', a phrase employed by those who try and silence the voice of religion when it tries to speak in the political sphere. Ironically, the notion of separation of church and state, is not a Constitutional establishment. It is a phrase coined by Thomas Jefferson, written in a letter to the 'Danbury Baptist', not to warn them of involvement in politics, but to assure them of the wall existing between the church and state as a protection for the Church!

In America, both the free exercise of religion and participation in public (political) life is a guarantee that all voice can be heard in the public square. Unfortunately we try and silence one another. We say we shouldn't 'introduce politics' on one another; or that we can't interject religion into a political discussion. Yet our country doesn't move forward very far without either and more often than we want to admit - without both...

Admittedly, most of us, whether in religion or politics, blend the two badly. I'll try and explain that in another post. But one who did it well, perhaps better than anyone in the 20th century was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  We think of King as a civil rights leader, but we forget, that he was also pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and later, co-pastor with his father, of Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. When Dr. King would take courageous and controversial stances putting him at odds with either other civil rights leaders or even the President of the United States, in opposition to the Viet Nam War, for instance, he was said to have reminded those who questioned such stances, 'You must not forget that M.L. is a preacher of the Gospel.'

It was blending of religion and politics, that has inspired countless leaders, producing changes that have led to a more equitable existence for blacks, Hispanics, women and freedom movements throughout the world. 

Sometimes mentioning specific passages of scripture, sometimes specific pieces of legislation or policy, King spoke to the moral center of our lives and his voice reminds us of most basic cravings and demands for love, justice and brotherhood in time and eternity. 




Perhaps its because religion and politics are so powerful and volatile combinations, that has clumsy as we are at 'mixing' them. We need to embrace them both and get better at it...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Religion & Politics Part I

A friend of mine once preached a sermon entitled, "What Does Athens Have to Do with Jerusalem". It was a powerful presentation that sought to bridge the gulf between the secular and the sacred. The point being that the Christian faith connects all of life.

I'm thinking about this because I've kind of been called to task for mixing a religious sentiment in a political event. Recently, when a politician decided not to run for reelection I responded, that it was 'an answer to prayer'. The response was interesting, because my 'prayer' was not that this person would be injured, scandalized or harmed in anyway, but that they would no longer be in public life as an elected official.

Harsh? Maybe. But let's be clear: I don't seriously spend much prayer time asking for anything regarding a politician except that he or she receive guidance, wisdom and protection. The 'prayer' comment wasn't serious, but an expression of relief that this politician, is particularly unable or unwilling to engage the American electorate with, well, intelligent facts and the truth - by hardly any objective measure. Now I realize that 'facts' and 'truth' have recently become 'subjective' things. But I'm not talking about stances on issues (although in some cases this has indeed been a part of it), but when actual events, proven facts, etc. become fungible, at the very best such people become something less than serious. At worst they bolster the fringe elements in our political discourse and we lose the capacity as a nation to engage in critical and substantive dialogue.

But what if I had 'prayed' that this person, or any other get out of politics? Does that mean that employing such a tactic is wrong or unsophisticated? Let's be clear about something else - the way to get politicians out of office is to find better candidates to run against them and to work for those candidates. Even then, if you are a person of faith, at some point, at bare minimum, you pray that your efforts on behalf of your candidate for office are successful. You pray for them to have wisdom, that they become great Godly leaders.

The real question becomes "Is it wrong to mix faith/religion and politics?'




The answer is 'It depends'...

I recently spoke with a group of college students and I explained to them, that when Christians come into the public square, its important that they learn how to be 'multi-lingual'. In other words, at CitySquare, although most of our organization is comprised of people of faith, we advocate for housing for the homeless is a moral issue, it is an economic issue - it costs more to shelter the homeless or leave them on the street than to provide them with housing and case management. It is a loss an almost unfathomable loss of human capital. It is a health care issue. It is a mental health issue.

But it is also a moral issue.

The Bible doesn't speak specifically about the homeless, but it does talk about our responsibility for the poor...
  • "This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place." Jeremiah 22:3
  • "'He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD." Jeremiah 22:16
  • "Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked." Jeremiah 20:13
  • "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." Ezekiel 16:49
  • "Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need." 1 Timothy 5:3
  • "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27
  • "Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and becomes judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?" James 2:2-6
  • "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18
The point is, what is morally right is right in a number of ways that make sense by other measures. And believers need to be able to speak the 'language' of those disciplines in the public square. It's not enough to say 'Because God says so...' because that's really not why legislation is passed or why people get elected. It may be a motivator for me as a Christian, but I also need to know how issues important to me speak to others who don't share my faith, or who don't view issues of 'fairness or equality' the way I do. Ultimately and eventually, though what as fair, good and just resonates with even those who don't share my faith because almost all of us have a sense of how we want to be treated and our own sense of dignity. 

The political and the faith orientations align in ways that can speak to all of us. 

Is the Bible 'political'? It is a story of God and man that often takes place within the contexts of tribes and cities and nations  (politics). God deals with them (religion) in those contexts. 
The Bible has books called I and II Kings (political office). It speaks about wars between nations, treaties between governments (foreign affairs) and it tells tales of laws, immigration policy and domestic policy in how citizens of kingdoms are provided for. It all takes place among peoples hostile to the faith of people who serve God and it tells stories of how those people who serve God sought to influence political policy and custom.

No serious person can say that religion doesn't belong in politics. 

More on this. But I think it's important that we get this straight: prayer, faith and faith commitments are not wrong in the public sphere. My values and perspectives are informed by my faith.But it is incumbent upon me to express those values and perspectives in inclusive ways and build a constituency in support of my issues just like anyone else. 

Even if a decision by a politician to leave public life as a politician is an 'answer to prayer' because I considered that person to be an ill informed, frivolous and misleading public servant, and because I thought that room should be made for a more serious person, I would actually hope you would join in such a prayer. 

By the way: what happens if such a 'prayer' is prayed and the person doesn't leave office? Well, 'No' is as much an answer to prayer, as 'Yes'. We push on...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Real Culprit Behind Lagging Student Achievement: POVERTY

I usually write my monthly column solo. This time I picked up a partner - a good one too! Michael Sorrell is President of Dallas' Paul Quinn College. He's a friend and one whom I admire greatly. As the leader of Dallas' only HBCU (Historically Black College/University), his perspective on the current DISD crisis - and it is a crisis - is one which mirrors my own. So we co-authored this months column in the Dallas Morning News...
____________________________________________

Michael Sorrell and Gerald Britt: Confront poverty or Dallas schools are stuck in place

For almost 10 months, Dallas has been engaged in a very public local battle in the national war to “fix” urban education.
Nationally, and locally, some combatants on both sides of the war — while sincere — employ logic and tactics that insult and belittle the very communities they purport to save. All parties in this war share the goals of higher-performing students, better-equipped schools and the redevelopment of economically depressed neighborhoods.
Yet in Dallas and across the country, communities that presumably have the most to gain from the efforts of the reformers are rebelling against them. To quote Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs: “What’s the matter here?”
Addressing the educational deficits of under-resourced communities is more complex than merely replacing personnel and implementing new plans. If we are truly sincere about fixing our schools, we must create an environment for our students where real learning can take place. This will only occur by taking aim against the largest barrier to a quality education. This necessitates acknowledging and combating the havoc that extreme and concentrated poverty plays in the learning process in Dallas’ poorest communities.
We all know what it takes to create an ideal environment for a great education: nurturing adults at home and in the community, access to affordable health care and quality food, exposure to great literature, art and music, and safe neighborhoods teeming with adults living productive lives. However, we have become comfortable ignoring the fact that some neighborhoods lack most if not all of what inspires student achievement. Additionally, many of the schools in these neighborhoods do not have the resources to adequately facilitate such achievement. In these environments, how does one design pedagogical techniques that will result in statistically measured success? What numbers accurately reflect academic achievement when returning to school unscathed each day merits an “A”?
This is the danger with becoming overly reliant on test scores as the sole indicators of academic progress. Passing standardized tests should matter, but that cannot be the only way to gauge whether a student is prepared for college and if a school is successful.
The next “Big Thing,” on both sides of the Trinity River, must be to end our internecine squabbles and personality conflicts so that we can work together to provide adequately resourced campuses and safe communities that inspire students to learn. Education does not exist in a vacuum. Our children can learn at high levels. But to do so, they need environments where they are free to excel without fear of life beyond the schoolyard. Every entity and individual that touches the lives of our students has the responsibility to help produce that environment. It’s time we all own up to that charge.
But in owning up to this responsibility, we must learn how to disagree with each other without demonizing the holders of viewpoints that differ from our own. Intelligent people of goodwill should be able to debate in a respectful manner that allows them to work together and create an effective public education system.
The problems facing us today are larger than whether every school should have a strong leader or a great teacher. That is non-negotiable. The real issue is that we must simultaneously address the debilitating poverty in these communities while improving the resources to the schools. Failing to do so renders the personality of the superintendent or the names of the principals and teachers immaterial. Moreover, it guarantees that we will be fighting the same battles in this war 10 years from now.
Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell may be contacted at president@pqc.edu. The Rev. Gerald Britt Jr., vice president of public policy at CitySquare, may be contacted at gbritt@citysquare.org.

Poisoned Apple?!


Monday, May 27, 2013

A Memorial Day Reminder





President Franklin D. Roosevelt


"I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping exhausted men come out of line-the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight 
hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of 
mothers and wives."

"I hate war." 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

At True Lee Missionary Baptist Church: In Protest of the Protest

I prayerfully agonized over it...'Should I go to True Lee, or not?'

The True Lee Missionary Baptist Church, where my good friend Rev. Donald Parish, Sr. is pastor, has been the sight of some controversy for a few days now. Don had invited embattled Superintendent Mike Miles to speak to his congregation and there were a number of people I know who were not happy. In defiance of a call by County Commissioner John Wiley Price for pastors not to expose themselves to Miles' personal pleas for support and understanding, and in spite of threats of pickets and protests, Parish decided to have him anyway.

Good for Donald Parish, good for True Lee and I was proud that I decided to be there in support of my colleague and a wonderful church.

Full disclosure: although Rev. Parish and I have served congregations and communities as contemporaries for decades, our relationship goes back much further than that. In fact our families' have been in relationship with one another for nearly 70 years. Donald's father Dr. Robert Parish and my grandfather were best friends and served as pastors in the same community for more than 50 years. Dr. Parish was moderator of the baptist association of which my grandfather's church was a member. He performed the marriage ceremony for my mother and step-father (50 years ago this year) and preached the funeral for my grandmother.Donald and I served as pastors in the south and east Dallas area for almost 20 years and our work in our respective neighborhoods made us co-workers on several issues. His son even worked for me at CitySquare. So we know one another.

Donald Parish is a thoughtful and determined leader. He's not given to snap judgments and he shills for nobody! He doesn't grandstand. Even on my own blog, I don't have enough time to relate how he has served his community and the city at large. His church has a forward looking ministry and a servant's heart. So I took news of a 'protest' somewhat personally.

As I have said, I understand and on some levels agree with some of the criticisms that Miles' opponents have of him. They articulate certain fears and apprehensions of many. And they have a right - even a responsibility to be somewhat skeptical and voice their concerns. But I draw the line at protesting at church.

What I witnessed, on the inside of this meeting was Pastor Donald Parish, allowing his members to hear - first hand - Miles' defense of his strategy, the personnel decisions he has made, his vision for the schools for which this congregation are most concerned. Miles, in his defense, apparently barred no line of questioning and smart, direct, specific questions were raised.

Miles was direct and forthcoming, most of the time. He deflected some questions and flat out dodged some others (there was the one question, dealing with the instability of his senior administrative staff, which Miles tried to answer by implying it was no more remarkable than any other business with nearly 20,000 employees. That's patently disingenuous). The Superintendent gave some answers I found interesting. For instance he's been criticized for not adopting enough of Dallas businessman Don Williams' signature school reform effort, Dallas Achieves. Miles' likened it to a team hiring a new coach and giving him the old coaches playbook. And it's also clear that he has conflated the communities call that he understand the role poverty has played in creating challenges for principals he is either replacing or who's contracts have not been renewed as being a sign that some believe poverty has been an excuse for not having high expectations of students, their teachers or their principals.

But Miles also said some other things that are important. He has put an additional $8 million in next year's budget for schools in south and west Dallas (essentially restoring cuts made by the previous superintendent. He wants equity (not equality) in resources for those schools. He wants to find a way to help avoid further school closures and to reopen some of the schools that have been closed. And he talks with confidence about the ability to genuinely educate children.

It's a mixed bag. Miles is clearly defending himself, and at some points he is clearly defensive.  But you know what? Donald Parish's congregation deserved to hear all of that from Mike Miles. And as pastor in his community context, it Donald Parish's responsibility to create the opportunity for them to hear him.

I know for a fact that Rev. Parish has reservations about Mike Miles, but he didn't allow those reservations to close off conversation. It shows a tacit understanding that the public school is a democratic institution, as such, policy is a matter of debate, conversation, argument and negotiation. As Miles said, there are some 'non-negotiables' but that is true in any system. But beyond those 'non-negotiables', as citizens, we have the capacity - indeed the responsibility - to create responses to they system that meet the needs, dreams and desires we have for our children. In short, the beauty of schools as democratic institutions, is that they transcend any one person or set of ideas.

Parish and True Lee demonstrated one other thing: as a democratic institution, it doesn't work unless we are all engaged. That means we all have to have information to process and make informed judgments. We don't have to have those judgments filtered for us. The most intelligent opponents of Miles have information regarding his performance in Colorado Springs that we need to be aware of. But we also have to know that we all have a part to play in the education of our children. Mike Miles, the principals of these schools, the students in them and their families won't be successful unless we figure out a way to work with them. Public education isn't a spectator sport. It's an 'all-hands-on deck' proposition. We can never be so critical that we try and decide who should be informed about what and by whom.

For the record, I had friends protesting outside the church and legacy friends inside the church. I decided to be with those on the inside because I think protesting at a church is disrespectful and because I believe that, for all the baggage we've seen come with Miles, 10-11 months is too early to say his failures rise to the level of doing irreparable harm. Most of what he's talking about he hasn't even had a chance to do yet.

But I also believe that no pastor worth his or her salt, should ever be told by anyone outside that church (or inside, for that matter), who that congregation should be allowed to hear. In the black community, we have not only revered, we have depended on the independent voice of our churches. We cannot have that benefit...that blessing, at our convenience. I frankly make no distinction between protesting Miles and protesting the church and pastor who host him. Sooner or later, those same protesters will need that independent voice.

It was an interesting morning. I stayed for the worship that followed. So did Mike Miles. The protesters didn't...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

For Those Who Would Change the Wind


Socrates
 c. 469 BC – 399 BC




Philosopher

"I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think."

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Great Principal Debate is Over (for now)...Now What?!



In last night's Dallas ISD school board meeting, the school board made decisions on the fate of the careers of two principals and some 400 school teachers. Considerably fewer principals than the 50 anticipated originally and far more teachers than anyone imagined. 

Among those two principals being fired was indeed the principal of Madison High School, the one position that was source of such controversy over the past several months (there will be more replacements as principals and some teachers, will either resign, accept demotions, or be transferred to other schools; in short, the controversy hasn't ended). 

I think it's very important to mention as Mike Miles does in this interview, that citizens have a right to express displeasure with this decision. The principals involved have a right to appeal the decision. Jason Whitely, the reporter in this interview, mentions pastors and ministers who were 'indifferent' to the process. I am assuming his reference was to me and Pastor Jones in our appearance on 'Inside Texas Politics'. But it's important to make a clarification, I am not (nor do I believe Pastor Jones is) 'indifferent'. My stance has always been that this is a complex issue. Behind all of the emotions expressed by students, parents and other stakeholders, are some very valid points, that should not be dismissed. 

But Mike Miles, for all of his missteps, has some valid points as well. If what we expect is 'reform' but 'reform' with all of the same personnel, we have to question whether what we are getting is real reform. I hope going forward that the Superintendent is more collaborative and more relational during his tenure. No one holding a public office, certainly one giving oversight, management and direction to a democratic institution like a public school district, can do so without engaging the constituent groups that are the direct beneficiaries and stakeholders of that institution. There are some real issues to be taken into account. For the most part, the main issue being that a change in principal or new teachers do not address the real problem of education in poor communities. Be it TAKS, TAAS of STAAR (the three generations of standardized testing administered to students in Texas) or the ACT or SAT tests, we have shown throughout the country that we can create generations of proficient test takers. What we have not proven is that we can truly and adequately educate students in 12 years of schooling. 

Some 80% of DISD students going on to colleges and universities in our country require remediation. That means they are requiring remediation after passing every standardized tests that implies that they read, write, do math and grasp social studies proficiently enough to graduate and go to a post secondary school and work. It is only when they get to a college, university or work that we find out that this isn't the case. If the goal of moving a principal is to make sure more children can pass the standardized tests, then we should all let Mr. Miles know that we expect more. We should let him know that increased graduation rates are not enough. We need to require that our students have been educated enough to employ that education meaningfully in an institution of higher learning or in the workforce. 

Far from 'indifferent', I believe we owe it to Mike Miles to give him that chance. I believe we owe it to our children, our community and to our city. I believe that if we fail to give him that chance, we will all suffer. 

I have very good friends who are smart people who feel differently than I do. But the real question is not how we feel about Miles. The real question is what is our responsibility to the children of Dallas, and how do we undergird the efforts of these principals and teachers to help make sure that these children succeed? I would argue that the highest and best energies of those who have spent calling for Mike Miles' retirement, could be utilized addressing issues of poverty in communities that constitutes the barriers to the education our children. 

We're in the Commencement season. Graduating students aren't just ending their public school life, they are 'commencing' - starting - a new phase of life. I suggest it's about time we ALL 'commence' making these schools better - for all of us. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The DISD Controversy: Missing the Mark by Hitting Easy Targets



The school year is coming to an end, but not one of the most heated school district controversy since former DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa ran up an $84 million deficit!

For those who don't live in Dallas, the new Superintendent Mike Miles has raised just about everyone's ire. The business community has been put off because of an apparent arrogance and aloofness. There have been school board members offended because of he seems not to respect them. Teachers accuse him of micromanagement. Some principals seem terrorized by the executive directors overseeing their schools. And there are members of the community, more particularly the South Dallas community who are livid because of reported plans to replace principals in their neighborhood schools. 

Not only are these just a few of the complaints against him - each one of these complaints have subtexts to them that will make your head spin. 

And this is after 10 months!

I have some very smart friends on the anti-Miles/pro-Miles sides whom I feel are really missing the point, particularly when it comes to the schools in South Dallas. 

The problem is really simpler (and more complex) than whether or not we vigorously support or are vehemently against Miles' programs. 

The problem is poverty. South Dallas is an area of concentrated poverty and even when it comes to public education, the pathology associated with it cannot be addressed by changes in personnel and pedagogical techniques designed to raise test scores. 

Don't get me wrong. Strong principals in every school and a great teacher in every class is an inarguable objective. Creating an atmosphere in which expectations are are clear and in which students are cared for is laudable. But one cannot ignore what poor health, chaotic home situations, poor diet and a number of other challenges associated with poverty children bring with them in a classroom setting. 

The answer isn't as simple as replacing Superintendents, principals and teachers. Frankly, we always replace superintendents, principals and teachers. We need to provide an atmosphere in which real learning can take place (what that looks like is another argument), but we need to provide a safe atmosphere in which children are inspired to aspire and achieve, beyond the campus. We cannot afford to act as if education exists in a vacuum and our city has to take responsibility to address neighborhood issues that frustrate what our schools are trying to accomplish. 

It's for that reason, I don't think replacing Miles is the right answer. Let's face it. If we get rid of Mike Miles, he'll do just fine. Virtually every principal or teacher replaced will do fine. But if we don't address the barriers to student achievement on the campus and the community, it really won't matter. We'll be doing this again 10 months from now...or less. 

More on this later...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bad Form to Suggest Investment in Poor Neighborhoods?



Interesting article in yesterday's Dallas Morning News. It's about the transformational impact Dallas' wealthy philanthropic community...


"[Dallas'] philanthropists may be the most civic-minded in the country. Over several decades, Dallas’ superrich have transformed their city, making it the “American capital of philanthropy,” according to Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and himself a member of the giving class."
"“Dallas has always been a city driven by private philanthropy, with active civic involvement going hand in glove with the accumulation of wealth,” Fisher says. “Now, with the enormous riches that have come with Texas’ economic boom — not just in oil and gas but in financial and business services, technology, health care and other areas — the levels of philanthropic giving have skyrocketed to levels that would be unimaginable most anywhere else in America.”"
"The Dallas donors have funded everything from world-class cultural institutions to parks and even bridges, showing the power of American philanthropy to contribute to urban flourishing..."
"The city’s wealthiest philanthropists are also sometimes called the new Medicis, and there’s something to the comparison: Not a single major cultural institution in Dallas would exist in its current form — or exist at all, in many cases — without their help, whether it’s the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science or the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The George W. Bush Presidential Library arose on property donated by Ray Hunt, head of a global petroleum company."
"The philanthropists’ generosity extends beyond cultural organizations. The superb new bridge that spans the Trinity River, designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, was partly funded by Margaret McDermott, the vivacious centenarian widow of the founder of Texas Instruments and the “queen mother” of Texan philanthropy. (McDermott attributes her longevity to the vodka martinis she drinks with her meals.)"
"Yet Hunt rejects the Medici comparison. “We are new rich — we’ve made our own fortunes, starting from nothing, in one generation,” he says. This swiftly made wealth, he thinks, motivates generosity: “We know we have been lucky.”" (Full article can be read here).
To be sure, Dallas looks different - especially downtown. It looks positively wealthy!
But Sharon Grigsby, Deputy Editorial Page Editor, raises a question I've been chewing on in a different way: why doesn't this largess extend to some of Dallas' most poor citizens?!


"Yes, philanthropists in this city knows how to lift up a beautiful building or urban park, but what about lifting up a neighborhood?"
"I know that a lot of do-good groups in the city raise money for all sorts of worthy causes — from literacy to prevention of child abuse. And lots of those big shiny new buildings offer programs for the so-called “underprivileged.”"
"That’s not the kind of spending I’m talking about — I’m talking about doing something transformative — transforming the neighborhoods in this city that need to be healed in the same way that the philanthropists have transformed the Arts District."
"This isn’t the first time I’ve written these sentiments — and I’m far, far from the first person to write them. But the Points cover just got under my skin. I think it’s great that the private sector steps up to the plate — but how about stepping up to the plate on behalf of social justice? And stepping up in a big all-out way."
"It was tough to see our city gushed over in print for its success in creating sparkly baubles and to see “givers” lionized for their can-do-great-things spirit. What we need is a lot more projects that are at least as big as Jubilee Park — and preferable a lot bigger."
"When Dallas philanthropists are ready to write some huge checks on behalf of healing needy neighborhoods, then I’ll think it’s time to gush over them."
Ok. It's impolite to tell someone how to 'spend' their money. But there are rich people who prioritize transforming human lives over civic projects. There's nothing wrong with these projects, by the way. They contribute to our civic vitality. Yet there are poor and homeless people who will never be able to enjoy that benefit. With a fraction of that generosity, we could practically end homelessness and strengthen whole neighborhoods.
Sharon's right: investing in people and their neighborhoods isn't glitzy - it just makes a city an even better place to live...


Monday, May 20, 2013

Proud Moment for Morehouse


Morehouse College has a long and storied history as a Historically Black College. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Benjamin Mays are among the legendary leaders produced by this hallowed institution. 

To have the nation's first black president is a signal occasion. I'm thrilled for them. This is a wonderful reminder of the price paid by great Americans to help our country realize its democratic ideals.