Back in April at our annual urban ministry prayer breakfast, we hosted the top seven Dallas mayoral candidates in a public forum. We asked each of them to tell us what they intended to do in response to the growing needs of our fellow citizens who struggle daily in poor neighborhoods, especially in South Dallas and the Southern Sector of our city.
It was an interesting morning attended by about 1,200 people.
Included in the morning's program was a "testimony" by Wyshina Harris, a member of our staff of community builders. Wyshina works in the public housing development where she lives. She does great work in our After School Academy located at Turner Courts. She is working every day to make her neighborhood better for everyone.
Her powerful words need to be heard, not only in Dallas, but across the nation. Here's what she had to say to the candidates and the large audience that was present.
My name is Wyshina Harris and I am a resident of South Dallas. I have two kids--a 10-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.
I want South Dallas to become a place where I don't have to worry about my kids' safety every day. We see violence and drug dealing all around us. We hear gunshots fired regularly. My kids still get scared when they hear the gunshots. I don't want my kids to get over being scared of that. Kids aren't supposed to get used to hearing gunfire outside their front door.
There are as many liquor stores as churches in South Dallas. I'd like to see that change. We need a decent grocery store, clothing store, and gas station. It's hard to travel all the way to North Dallas to buy a decent pair of sneakers for my kids.
My kids go to H.S. Thompson Elementary. When people outside of the neighborhood find out where my kids go to school, they say, "Oh my gosh. You let your kids go to school there?!" Well, what's my alternative?! That's the neighborhood school. I can't afford private school for my kids. Our school needs good teachers and counselors who will fight to get kids on par with their grade level rather than sticking them into slow learning classes. We need resources to enable our kids to learn technology and to explore the arts. We can't allow our schools to set our kids up to fail.
I will tell you that there are a lot of things that need fixing in our neighborhood. I will also tell you that there is a lot of hope and a lot of strength in our neighborhood.
I think sometimes people think that people in poverty are just too lazy to pull themselves out. That isn't true. My neighbors talk to me about desperately wanting to find work and wanting to go to school to change their lives. We want the same things for ourselves and our children that you want for yourselves and your children.
I'm not giving up on South Dallas. I ask that you not give up on South Dallas either. We don't need a handout. We need authentic, impactful partnerships to help us solve these issues.
I don't share this with you today because I want your pity. I share this because I want your partnership. I want to work with you, and with the future mayor of our great city, to make Dallas a better place for all of us.
Thank you for listening.