Sunday, November 30, 2008
Important value to keep in mind.
No one has "visited" prisoners more effectively than the leaders and students who work in the Innocence Project.
Go here to read a heart-felt thank you from one of the recent exonerees to round out your Thanksgiving holiday reflections.
Freedom is so precious. Justice so important.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Great read so far.
Warren's father, Howard, served in the U. S. Congress during the mid/late 1940s as one of the representatives from Nebraska. He was there during the time that Sam Rayburn served, some would say ruled, as speaker of the House.
Sam was from Texas.
Sam got me thinking about Lyndon Johnson.
And, low and behold, I open The Dallas Morning News Thursday morning and there is a Carl Leubsdorf essay about President Johnson dealing with his contribution to civic advancement in the U. S.
Interesting that President-elect Obama was chosen to serve in the nation's highest office during the 100th anniversary year of Johnson's birth. Leubsdorf's essay is worth reading.
I grew up around lots of Johnson-haters, both young (the war in Vietnam) and old (social policy, especially civil rights), but I'm thinking grateful thoughts this Thanksgiving season for LBJ.
Friday, November 28, 2008
At 7:45, Rolle’s Seminoles teammates will play at Maryland in a pivotal Atlantic Coast Conference matchup. Because Rolle’s final interview is in Birmingham, Ala., a private plane and about 700 miles will play an integral part in one of the most compelling story lines in college football this weekend.
Rolle’s decision to risk missing all or part of the game in order to be interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship, and find out if he joins elite student-athletes like Bill Bradley in winning the Rhodes, has resonated deeply at Florida State. The university is in the final stages of dealing with an academic scandal in the athletic department that affected the eligibility of 60 athletes and resulted in three firings and self-imposed probation.
Read the entire report here.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - A PROCLAMATION
I, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate and set aside Thursday, the twentieth day of November 1941, as a day to be observed in giving thanks to the Heavenly Source of our earthly blessings.
Our beloved country is free and strong. Our moral and physical defenses against the forces of threatened aggression are mounting daily in magnitude and effectiveness.
In the interest of our own future, we are sending succor at increasing pace to those peoples abroad who are bravely defending their homes and their precious liberties against annihilation.
We have not lost our faith in the spiritual dignity of man, our proud belief in the right of all people to live out their lives in freedom and with equal treatment. The love of democracy still burns brightly in our hearts.
We are grateful to the Father of us all for the innumerable daily manifestations of His beneficent mercy in affairs both public and private, for the bounties of the harvest, for opportunities to labor and to serve, and for the continuation of those homely joys and satisfactions which enrich our lives.
Let us ask the Divine Blessing on our decision and determination to protect our way of life against the forces of evil and slavery which seek in these days to encompass us.
On the day appointed for this purpose, let us reflect at our homes or places of worship on the goodness of God and, in giving thanks, let us ray for a speedy end to strife and the establishment on earth of freedom, brotherhood, and justice for enduring time.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.
DONE at the City of Washington this 8th day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and sixty-sixth.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
These days, the Dallas Morning News has him writing a regular opinion column for the paper. Smart move on their part. Smart words from Rev. Britt.
Did you read his recent comments on Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins in the November 17 edition of the paper?
As usual, Gerald was right on in his nomination of Watkins for "Texan of the Year." We are fortunate to have Mr. Watkins as our DA.
Here's how Gerald begins:
Jan.1, 2007, the day Craig Watkins was sworn in as Dallas' first African-American district attorney, marked a seismic shift in local politics. Perhaps even more significant than the election of Ron Kirk, our first black mayor, Mr. Watkins' first two years in office illustrate a commitment to just and effective enforcement of the law; citizens expect as much and rightly so.
Mr. Watkins has taken his charge one step further – an equal commitment to justice. The Dallas D.A.'s office is as committed to seeing the innocent go free as it is in seeing the guilty prosecuted – and Mr. Watkins has redoubled those efforts in 2008.
For that reason, Craig Watkins is my nominee for Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.
Read on here.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Please watch to understand something of the growing pain, need and stress facing additional millions of our neighbors as a result of the severe downturn in our economy.
The story you'll see from CNN is the same story we are seeing here in Dallas every day.
Yesterday, as I drove up to our headquarters building, the line was already down the sidewalk before 8:00 a.m. As I drove up Peak Street to a meeting out north, I passed a church in the neighborhood where another line had formed.
Or, consider this report about a community farm open to harvesters in need of food.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let's remember that hunger and poverty never enjoy a holiday.
Monday, November 24, 2008
So much for those who report that they are tired of "hearing about race" or that it's time for the nation "to move on beyond racial conversations and categories."
Wishful thinking, folks.
Consider, better, can you believe these tag lines?
Schoolchildren chanting "Assassinate Obama."
Black figures hung from nooses.
Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.
And, that is just for starters. sort of tones down the optimism most of us have been feeling, wouldn't you say?
Across the United States from one corner to the other, authorities document a wide range of racially motivated crimes, threats and attacks. a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to insults and racial taunts, as well as at least one physical attack. Hundreds of incidents have been reported involving people of all ages, including, unbelievably, a group of second-graders.
On second thought, maybe not so unbelievable at all.
From Washington's report:
One [incident] was in Snellville, Ga., where Denene Millner said a boy on the school bus told her 9-year-old daughter the day after the election: "I hope Obama gets assassinated." That night, someone trashed her sister-in-law's front lawn, mangled the Obama lawn signs, and left two pizza boxes filled with human feces outside the front door, Millner said.
She described her emotions as a combination of anger and fear.
"I can't say that every white person in Snellville is evil and anti-Obama and willing to desecrate my property because one or two idiots did it," said Millner, who is black. "But it definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with, and makes you wonder what they're capable of and what they're really thinking."
I'd say Ms. Millner has it about right.Other incidents (can you spell "u-n-b-e-l-i-e-v-a-b-l-e"?, not so fast. . .) Washington includes in his report:
-Four North Carolina State University students admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head." Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.
-At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool." Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. "Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count," the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written "Let's hope someone wins."
-Racist graffiti was found in places including New York's Long Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where the local high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, where swastikas, racial slurs and "Go Back To Africa" were spray painted on sidewalks, houses and cars.
-Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted "assassinate Obama," a district official said.
-University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur.
-Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree was apparently an abandoned swing and not a noose. [I must say, I need to hear more about this investigation at Baylor, how about you? LJ]
-Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.
-A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted 'Obama.'
-In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying "now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house."
Please take the time to read Washington's entire report here.
Minority reports, these acts of hateful stupidity? Let's hope so. Clearly, the work is far from over in this country. Those who want to rush us along without allowing us to invest in the necessary work of reforming and cleansing the nation's soul should be ignored and their commentaries discounted.
And, now that you mention it, a strong, continuing word from the white church in America would be useful. Are you hearing anything out there from that camp?
Sunday, November 23, 2008
It has been a week of death for me.
Four precious people, lost in the same week.
Three funerals on Thursday.
One more yesterday afternoon.
Four people with widely differing life experiences and ends.
One, a young mother of two, shot and killed as she drove to work. A friend who walked alongside us to make the community better for everyone, especially the children. A person of compassion, but much more. An advocate for renewal, justice and hope. Read a local Dallas news opinion about this amazing community leader here.
One, a homeless man with a number of difficult, chronic health issues, died at his new home. No longer forced to live on the mean, tough streets of our city, the ill-health created by so many years out there finally caught up with him.
One, a much beloved grandmother and the mother of one of my good friends and team members who works with us in bringing legal assistance to the poor who can't otherwise afford counsel. A woman who spent her time, her life and her resources serving, connecting, leading, fighting for others and loving everyone in the process.
One, a bright, handsome teenager, a young man who couldn't see himself the way all of the rest of us saw him--so full of potential, brilliance, future-- ended his own life at home. He battled hard. His parents, brothers, grandparents, friends did all they knew to do, but in the end he determined that life hurt too much to go on.
All represent hard, tragic losses to our world. Each so very different in circumstance. Each with completely unique stories.
Yet, still all so much the same.
The passage has occurred for each of them.
In each case I found myself thinking about that small space separating "here" from the approaching "there."
My faith tells me that each has found the perfect, the prepared place "over there." Peace follows this realization.
Strangely though, these losses force me to focus more intently than ever on my "here and now."
"Here" I find my calling.
I can ill-afford to take anyone for granted "here."
"Here" is found the work we have to do among and with one another.
"Here" is where we make sense out of our coming passage to "there."
"Here" is so very short, and so very important.
For those of us left on the "here" side of the passage, death forces us to reflect and to grapple with the meaning and the purpose of our time.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Wow, that is encouraging!
Running, leading, directing a non-profit corporation is much more like managing a business or a venture capital endeavor than a church, I can tell you for sure.
Taking on real risk, sometimes inordinate risk for the sake of your target audience, the community, is simply the nature of the beast in the world of community development.
But, back to Ted Turner. Twenty years of "sweatin' payroll," now there is an encouraging word!
We sweat payroll every two weeks around my world, and we have for the past 15 years! But, like CNN, we have grown and we have served thousands more people than would have been possible without the commitment to "risk it."
In the process we drive the "sideline" crowd nuts. There are some funders who wish we kept 60 to 90 days minimum in cash reserve. Dream on! I'd love to be able to do that. But, you tell me, how do we walk that road when folks are living every day in such devastating need?
Beyond the need there is the fact that what we know needs to be done just requires capacity to risk.
Our payroll comes in at about $145,000 every other week.
Every single member of our team is devoted to helping relieve the pain and the roadblocking reality of poverty here in Dallas. Every single dollar, I mean every single dollar, is spent in a way that makes a difference for those who are struggling for life and hope.
Risk is simply part of the deal.
Thanks, Ted, I needed to hear that you understand what it means to "sweat" a payroll!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Another Destination Home resident has passed away.
Due to our privacy policies, I am not permitted to reveal the gentleman's identity. However, one of our formerly homeless residents was found in his apartment on Friday after staff members became concerned and went to his apartment to check on him. They were able to see him lying on the floor through the sliding glass doors and called 911.
We have no reason to think his death was from anything other than natural causes, but his body was transported to the Medical Examiner's office for further investigation. CDM staff have been in touch with his family members, and they are aware of what happened. We will follow up with the family, the VA, and other appropriate agencies on Monday.
Our departed friend reached his one year anniversary in Destination Home this month.
One thing is becoming very clear to me: The homeless are not in good health.
Years on the street take years away from lives, important, precious lives, invaluable years.
We've got to find ways to work faster at providing permanent supportive housing for our neighbors who must deal with hard, harsh, unforgiving life on the streets of our nation's cities.
God help us to act with swift resolve. A city like Dallas simply must do much, much better.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
If you would like to donate money (in lieu of flowers…or in addition to flowers) to secure a fund for Jordan and Jazmine, please make checks payable to Central Dallas Ministries with Wyshina Harris in the memo line. You can send the checks to Central Dallas Ministries, Attn: Jenny Fogel, P.O. Box 710385, Dallas, TX 75371. Or, if you would rather donate online, go to www.centraldallasministries.org/donate and click on Wyshina Harris in the drop down menu. (Note: if "Wyshina Harris" hasn't been added yet, click on Education and then email me to let me know the amount you donated so that they can make sure your funds are designated correctly).
To read more about this wonderful person and what a great loss our community has experienced in her death visit Janet's blog at http://janetmorrison.blogspot.com/. You'll be able to see a number of photos at Janet's site. Those of us who counted Wyshina as a friend will smile and cry at once.
May God have mercy. May the violence stop.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
We noticed back in January that something wasn't right.
Too many hungry people.
Too many long lines and waits to explain needs.
And, unfortunately, too often this year our warehouse and pantry shelves have been too empty to meet the pressing needs that increasingly feel like flood waters that never recede.
Times are not easy. In fact, they are tough and growing tougher.
Take a moment and watch the ads that you'll find right here.
Pay particular attention to the first video, top left, the one with the child sitting in the front seat of the car. The footage could have been shot just outside my office here on Crutcher Street in inner city East Dallas.
We, no better, our friends here in Dallas need your help.
Your donations today will go a long way toward helping families keep things together. Funds saved on groceries can be shifted to paying rent, utilities, medical and transportation costs.
Visit our website at www.CentralDallasMinistries.org to make a secure donation on-line or mail your checks to my attention: Larry James Urban Daily, c/o Central Dallas Ministries, P. O. Box 710385, Dallas, Texas 75371-0385.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Take the Cesar Chavez naming controversy that's been in the news since last summer.
Here's a summary.
With the Trinity River project going forward, the City decided to have a contest to rename Industrial Boulevard. Given all the new development, the anticipated park land and the rebirth of the Trinity River and its corridor, a new name seemed appropriate. You know, something like "Riverside Drive" or "Park Lake Lane."
Well no, wrong.
The name that won, and won overwhelmingly, was Cesar Chavez, the iconic Latino labor and civil rights leader of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s era and value-vision. In the Hispanic community Chavez holds the place of Dr. King, as should both for the entire nation in terms of how their lives affected needed change, progress and the further realization of justice in the nation as a whole.
Not hard to see how the name of Mr. Chavez won out in the contest, what with the growing Hispanic population in our community and the dearth of Latino street names to celebrate the various achievements of folks who shared this ethnic heritage.
But, our city leaders see it differently. Last week they voted to go with the name "Riverfront." In addition, they turned back the suggestion that Ross Avenue be renamed after the civil rights leader. The argument being that changing historic designations like the use of a family name of a prominent figure in the history of Dallas would be inappropriate. Needless to say, the Hispanic members of the City Council--Dr. Elba Garcia, Pauline Medrano, and Steve Salazar--were not pleased.
Alternative suggestions are now floating about, including the idea to rename the Dallas Farmers Market after Chavez, possibly a fitting tribute to a leader who did so much to ease the burden for so many farm workers.
Even The Dallas Morning News' editorial board expressed concern over the snub to Hispanic Dallasites. You can read their opinion here.
But, back to being from Dallas.
There are lots of street names here, mostly Anglo, though we do have our M. L. King Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard. Even our freeways hold out lots of prominent Anglo names: George H. W. Bush, Lyndon B. Johnson, Woodall Rogers, John Stemmons, John Carpenter, R. L. Thornton.
Hmmm. That last one is interesting.
"R. L. Thornton. "
Robert L. Thornton, to be exact.
I grew up hearing my dad speak fondly of "Uncle Bob" Thornton. Thornton served as Dallas Mayor from 1953 to 1961. He was president of the Dallas County State Bank and a prominent business and civic figure in the city.
What's really interesting is the fact that, like most Dallas leaders of the era, Thornton was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Thornton's firm proudly advertised in local media that the bank he led was a "KKK business firm 100%" (see Michael Phillips, White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Relgion In Dallas, 1841-2001, University of Texas Press, page 96).
I'm sure "Uncle Bob" did a lot of good back in the day for folks who looked about like me. But I suspect that African American, Mexican American, Catholic and Jewish folks didn't get along quite as well under his leadership.
I don't know, but a little digging into these Anglo street and freeway names might not be such a bad idea. Maybe brushing up on the history of our city might take the luster off of some of the old names we seem so bound and determined to hang on to.
Of course, I don't see why we can't rename Main, Elm, Commerce or Pacific after Cesar Chavez. It's not like we don't have lots of options. In my view, it would be a really good thing to have the memory of Cesar Chavez running right through the middle of Downtown Dallas.
What do you think?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Those of us who are white likely will never fully appreciate what's back of the continuing public displays of emotion, hope, celebration and pure joy.
But, we can try, and in this new opportunity to try, we may discover a phenomenal basis for the growth of community and real progress in pursuing racial reconciliation.
In this same spirit, I just had to share this one from YouTube! Check it out here.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
David and Barbara Sorensen
Friday, November 14, 2008
I'm meeting with the "missions" committee of a local church. The church sends us a nice contribution every month, for which we are most grateful.
But, the church has a problem.
They are very devoted to "mission work" and they have limited funds. At least half of their revenue is devoted to missions. Their challenge is how to define what qualifies as legitimate mission work.
We spend almost two hours together.
I review, explain, show and discuss all that we are up to among some of the poorest folks and neighborhoods in Dallas. I talk about health care services, food distribution, employment training, the Central Dallas Church, legal services, housing development, work among youth who age out of the foster care system, the summer lunch and reading program, our after school academies, the list gets almost unmanageable as I go over it.
Then at the end of our session the question, "Larry, do you do evangelism? Do you have a method for sharing the gospel as you do you work?"
A discussion follows during which I attempt to make the case that the gospel is best revealed in the context of authentic responses to the pain and difficulty of suffering men, women and children. At the end of the conversation I want to ask these sweet people, "How much of the money that you spend on Sunday mornings is really evangelistic?" but I don't.
It is very frustrating to me to engage in discussions like this. From my perspective such conversations are a huge waste of time.
Cutting to the chase let me say this to church folks who are struggling with this very artificial distinction:
. . .stop talking about being redemptive, bring redemption;
. . .stop talking about salvation and insert a saving moment into the life of just one struggling person;
. . .stop preaching a message of reconciliation and become reconcilers;
. . .stop worrying about your message and live a message that produces hope.
I could go on, but I'll stop here.
I am convinced that things of the spirit that turn out to be eternal will always begin rooted in the here and now of the pain of people whom God hears, acknowledges and cares about. The church needs to save its breath and act redemptive.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Take Steps to End Homelessness at the
2nd Annual Help the Homeless WalkAThon in Downtown Dallas
Event Includes Concert by Nuttin’ But Stringz
DALLAS, TX (OCTOBER 10, 2008) – Fannie Mae, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) and the City of Dallas are pleased to host the 2nd Annual Help the Homeless WalkAThon, which will take place on Saturday, November 22, 2008.
Located at City Hall Plaza in Downtown Dallas, the WalkAThon begins at 10:00 a.m. and concludes with a concert by Nuttin’ But Stringz, finalists in the third season of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. The young brothers, who are violinists, will electrify audiences with their unique blend of classical music, hip-hop, jazz and R&B.
Proceeds from this year's WalkAThon will be used to support the creation of more permanent supportive housing units, a proven solution to ending chronic homelessness. The City of Dallas plan calls for the development of 1,200 additional units of permanent supportive housing (PSH) during the next five years.
A prime example is Central Dallas Ministries and Central Dalals Community Development Corporation's City Walk @Akard project, which will offer housing, retail and office space beginning in Spring 2009.
Assisting the homeless into permanent housing is one of the most effective means to ensure that formerly homeless persons become more active and meaningful members of this vibrant city. Unlike shelters that operate on an emergency basis, supportive housing provides long-term solutions centered on individuals. PSH allows homeless individuals to make lasting changes in their lives by providing the ultimate symbol of dignity; the safety, security and pride of having a place to call home.
Whether you walk as an individual, a corporate team, or a group, you can make a significant difference. Last year, more than 1,200 participants put their soles into helping the chronic homeless in Dallas, raising more than $200,000.
To learn more, please visit www.HelpTheHomelessDallas.org or call Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance 214/670-1144.
For event sponsorship information or corporate participation, contact Judy Noble of MDHA at 214/670-1138.
Participants may pre-register for $25 through November 21 by Noon at http://www.helpthehomelessdallas.org/.
On-site registration, from 8:30AM to 10:00AM, is $30.
Registration for children 18-years-old and younger is $15.
The registration fee also entitles walkers to a commemorative WalkAThon T-shirt, which includes colorful artwork designed by a 10-year-old camper from Rainbow Days, a non-profit member of Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance that hosted a summer camp for homeless children.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
What she says about our basic interconnectedness as humans needs to be heard.
How she views the capacity and the strength of poor people is extremely instructive.
The struggle against poverty is the same all over the world. The economics differ in terms of scale and net value, but the essential principles Novogratz delineates relative to consequences and how to approach the challenges sound and feel familiar.
Engagement and self-sufficiency are inviolate values in the battle we all share. . .way beyond charity.
Worth your time to listen.
Reactions will be useful.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
"What can the next President do to support philanthropy, volunteering and civil society overall?"
Here's my answer:
My work takes place in the inner city of Dallas, Texas. So, my perspective is more narrow than what one would expect from someone writing about philanthropy in general or at-large.
Because "poverty" is my issue of concern, I must begin by saying that philanthropy will not solve the problem, at least not on its own. No doubt, philanthropy will need to play a prominent role, but only when combined with more progressive, comprehensive public policy decisions that “take the battle” to poverty and its various attendant evils and challenges. As the title of a provocative volume of essays on the issue declares, "the revolution will not be funded."
Public funds must be increased and strategically directed toward public education, higher education, housing, hunger and nutrition, health/wellness and health care, jobs and employment training, livable wage policy and many other important issues. Philanthropic dollars can follow, supplement and enhance, but without a new view of how public policy can impact poverty and provide solutions, philanthropic approaches will continue to struggle to make substantial progress for and among the poor.
That said, the new President could make philanthropy more powerful and effective in our struggle against poverty. Reforming tax policy that incentivize charitable contributions directed toward non-profits devoted to challenging poverty would be a place to begin. As long as non-profits whose mission involves serving the poor stand on the same platform as organizations devoted to the arts, health care institutions, and higher education, progress will not be realized as quickly as could be the case.
What if Congress devised a stratified deduction scale that provided a dollar for dollar deduction (100%) for funds given to organizations working with the poor? In other words, what if donations aimed at helping the poor could be considered 100% "excluded" from taxable income, rather than a simple deduction linked to one's tax bracket? No doubt, such a change would drive up donations given to serve the poor and or communities affected by poverty.
Volunteers are extremely important in many areas of our work in the inner city. For example, volunteer physicians and dentists offer wonderful service to thousands of patients every year in our various community-based health care efforts. What if the hours donated by doctors, dentists, nurses, lawyers (in our public interest law firm), legal aids, architects, professional fundraisers, entertainers, real estate professionals and developers, accountants--the list is long, were deductible and tied to a value scale that would establish the tax deduction such a professional volunteer could claim?
Forgive me for really meddling with my last suggestion. What if it became a federal/IRS requirement that tax-exempt organizations, like churches and faith communities, had to prove up the amount they invested in their communities to overcome poverty in order to maintain their tax status. The requirements to protect their tax status could be formulaic and tied to their size and budget history. As a former pastor, I realize this one will not be too popular with some church leaders, but I've always wondered why faith groups didn't have to do more to prove up their actual public/community benefit.
Monday, November 10, 2008
I haven't been able to write about the results of the election until now.
Frankly, the outcome is so overwhelming to me personally that I haven't been able to type a word. More on that below.
And then, it seemed to me that I needed to remain quiet and listen to my friends--black, white and brown--and their emotional, thankful and celebratory reactions.
My feelings here really have nothing to do with politics or political party or philosophy.
My response emerges from my own life, my experiences and my own journey as it relates to race, community, love and hate, division and unity.
The election of Senator Barack Obama is historic for the nation. And, it is historic for me, a white man.
It is also somehow redemptive, or so it seems and feels to me.
I grew up in a segregated community.
I lived a thoroughly segregated childhood in Jim Crow Dallas.
I enjoyed and had the benefit of virtually no exposure to African Americans as a child. Though, I do remember attending a fundraiser for some local organization when I was 9 or 10 that involved a black-face minstrel performance
I attended completely segregated public schools.
My first real experience of and exposure to black youth came during the summer prior to my junior year in high school when I landed a job with the school district mowing football fields and working as a custodial assistant. Two of my young workmates were black, Carl and Leotis. I have never forgotten them or that summer. They attended the Hamilton Park schools, the campus where African American students went to school, their only choice back then.
That first experience was extremely positive and, thus, very confusing to me. These young men were just like me, except they couldn't go into all the places I could enter during that summer. I remember clearly a hot summer afternoon when we were taking a break. They were asked to leave a convenience store where we had all entered to buy a cold drink. Until then, it had never occurred to me that such treatment took place in my hometown.
They were just like me, but I'd been schooled by my environment, and the people I trusted, who dominated and informed it, to believe that black people were not like me at all. This was undoubtedly the most significant and crippling lie of my childhood.
I remember playing in a football game during my junior year at Richardson High School against South Oak Cliff High School, an all black public school in Dallas. I remember how nervous we were before that game--the first time any of us had competed against black students. Frankly, we were afraid. We won the game, but I remember once again feeling confused and relieved by my experience.
To be blunt, I wasn't prepared for life in my own country--my upbringing, my education, my experiences in the church, nothing had really provided me what I needed to negotiate the American racial reality.
These experiences caused me to recall images and experiences from earlier in my life. The real nature of my community and of its unspoken, but clearly normative values were coming into focus for me. I remembered hearing classmates shouting and celebrating as they ran down the halls and out of school on that terrible day--November 22, 1963--when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated here in Dallas.
I heard children shouting, "Thank God, he's dead, the Catholic is dead!"
I also remembered the hatred that was directed toward President Lyndon Johnson, mostly around issues related to civil rights, voting rights and segregation.
Then, I went off to Harding College (1968-1972).
During road trips as a member of the football team, I remember confronting the racism that greeted my black teammates. We staged a mass walkout in Jackson, Mississippi when black members of the team were asked to leave a restaurant. Painful, embarrassing, but not unusual at all to these African American friends.
But, it was on campus as well, and from the top.
Why didn't I?
After college, I spent a year in Memphis, Tennessee doing graduate work. Less than four years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We moved from there to Shreveport, Louisiana where I served my first church full-time.
My church was located on a boundary line between a relatively affluent, historic area and a very low-income community. Across the street from the church, really adjacent to the parking lot was a row of slum housing, owned by an absentee slumlord. A small, struggling black community occupied the substandard housing.
Early on I met a little boy who lived in that housing. His name was Wayne. He came to church with us and we became good friends. He lived with his Granny. He was a sweet, wonderful little boy. He loved to wag Jennifer, our first child around on his hip! I can still see him at our church.
Church members took exception to my inviting Wayne and other African Americans to church services, as well as to membership. I have many stories I could tell.
I suppose the most revealing involved a meeting with one of my deacons. He called me to his office at Louisiana Bank and Trust located at the time in the tallest building in downtown Shreveport. He served as one of the Vice-Presidents of the bank, a very successful, well-placed young guy who had attended a Christian university.
"Larry, are you telling me that I could go to hell because I don't like n_________?" he asked with real aggression.
I tell people we were in Shreveport for two years and 45 minutes for good reason!
My experiences while living in New Orleans for five years were much better. But the segregation, the classism, the barriers remained, as they do still in Dallas and across the nation today.
I'm not wise enough to weave even my own story together with much insight. But, one thing I do know: the election of Senator Barack Obama as our 44th President is a national accomplishment, a moment of great significance.
It would be a mistake to assume now that race doesn't matter or that we now live in a post-racial nation.
But the ascendancy and success of Barack Obama represents a redemption of sorts, a crossing over, a sorting out, a clarifying experience. The pain, the suffering, and the endurance in the face of great injustice and national evil has been vindicated in a very necessary manner.
I am a white man.
I, too, have been crying since November 4. Tears of joy, even though there is much yet to do.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Nooses appeared in trees on the campus of Baylor University in Waco, Texas (take a look here) and on the property of Bell Helicopter here in the Metroplex. The Terrell, Texas newspaper didn't feel the election outcome important enough to merit front page coverage. Other examples abound.
Racism and hatred based on racial categories remain very much alive and well in the United States today.
Beyond the deep, grave sadness, I am lifted by the amazing words of America's greatest preacher of all time, a man of great courage, integrity and strength. Sadly, a man I heard vilified when I was a child, even in the church.
Hear him out today:
The relevance of what I have said to the crisis in race relations should be readily apparent. There will be no permanent solution to the, race problem until oppressed men develop the capacity to love their enemies. The darkness of racial injustice will be dispelled only by the light of forgiving love. For more than three centuries American Negroes have been battered by the iron rod of oppression, frustrated by day and bewildered by night by unbearable injustice and burdened with the ugly weight of discrimination. Forced to live with these shameful conditions, we are tempted to become bitter and to retaliate with a corresponding hate. But if this happens, the new order we seek will be little more than a duplicate of the old order. We must in strength and humility meet hate with love.
My friends, we have followed the so-called practical way for too long a time now, and it has led inexorably to deeper confusion and chaos. Time is cluttered with the wreckage of communities which surrendered to hatred and violence. For the salvation of our nation and the salvation of mankind, we must follow another way.
While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.
To our most bitter opponents we say: "We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this message to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, Christmas 1957.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
People who have a hard time understanding what we mean when we talk and write about "systemic justice" need to spend some time with this brilliant community leader.
Most of us have no clue what the residents of low-income communities go through on a regular basis. As a result, we don't give the negative forces their due and we write off and past the reality facing poor friends who are made and kept poor by bad, unjust, at times evil public policy.
Give Ms. Carter a listen. You'll learn something very important if you do.
Pay special attention to what she calls "triple bottom line."
Will look forward to your reactions.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
His thinking and vision are beyond sound.
You can get a feel for Jones and his argument here.
I hope we can get him to Dallas soon. I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Janet Morrison is right. She has lived all of her adult life in South Dallas! I hired her in 1995 and she has been making things better for this city ever since, with no sign of letting up.
The comment about where she has lived since moving to Dallas to begin her "adult life" appeared in a great Op-Ed piece that The Dallas Morning News published on Friday, October 24, 2008.
Here's how Janet begins:
Ever wonder why people in our inner cities are angry?
Since the slated demolition of the Turner Courts housing development in South Dallas, my office and our After-School Academy have moved to Roseland Townhomes, a Dallas Housing Authority property in the City Place area.
As I left my new office at 7 one Friday night, 30 to 40 people rounded the corner of the recreation center, running toward a fight. My co-worker quickly called 911 and, before I could even leave the apartments, her call had produced an immediate police response.
Within five minutes, one police car had blocked off traffic while two others jumped the curb and sped across an open lot. As I drove off, yet two more police cars rapidly approached from another direction and a police helicopter hovered overhead.
I know I should be elated by the quick response of our very capable Police Department. Instead, I was extremely angry, and my blood pressure rose each time I heard another siren.
Wonder why she was angry?
Read the entire article here.
Your reactions are welcome, as always.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Did you hear the news report about the effect of the Presidential election on the price and sales of AR-15 assault rifles?
It seems that people feel that Barack Obama will be the winner in next Tuesday's election and that he will extend the ban on automatic assault weapons that President George W. Bush allowed to expire.
The rush to buy is motivated by several factors. People who want such a weapon fear that they will not be able to purchase one after Obama takes office. Others evidently are in the market feeling that the expected new policy will drive up the price of the weapons, making them a good investment.
Automatic assault weapons, military grade, designed to kill human beings. This is no sport weapon. We can debate the original intention of the Constitution's second amendment another time (for my part, I know Jefferson would be appalled!).
But, I'm thinking of my community just now.
The presence of AR-15 assault weapons on our streets doesn't make sense and cannot be justified by any argument, at least not if your goal is to improve and sustain community health, public safety and human well-being.
Why does anyone need such a weapon? How does the availability of these weapons help anyone.
Whoever is elected Tuesday, I pray the ban is extended. . .permanently.
What do you think?
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Deuteronomy 15 1-11 (The Message)
At the end of every seventh year, cancel all debts. This is the procedure: Everyone who has lent money to a neighbor writes it off. You must not press your neighbor or his brother for payment: All-Debts-Are-Canceled—God says so.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Last night we shared candy with way over 300 children of all ages--likely closer to 400. It was an amazing run on our front porch! At one time we counted 30 kids in our front yard. It was unbelievable. We've never had more children come by for trick or treat.
Our block felt like a carnival. Neighbors out on their front porches ready for the children, enjoying the mild Texas night. Families coming and going to escort their little ones to the candy.
So many cute children. So many who obviously had very little.
The moment of the night for me took place between "bowl fillings." You know, the time between when the candy bowl runs out and you manage to fill it up again.
Four little girls, all in late elementary school noted the condition of my supply of candy. They reached in their bags and each pulled out a contribution to my diminished supply.
"Here, mister," the spokesman for the group explained. "We'll make a contribution to your bowl."
They laughed and ran off my porch to the next house.
There is a lesson in there somewhere, don't you think?
What a grand night.
I love the city.