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Friday, April 30, 2010

You, stand there!

One of the nicer things to happen to me was the recent notification that I had been selected as the 2010 recipient of the Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice Fellowship at Southern Methodist University.  Frankly, I wouldn't have mentioned it here but for my profound respect for Bob Cooper, our past experiences reaching back well over two decades in the struggle for peace and justice in Dallas and the request of my board chair, Dave Shipley asking me to post my speech. 

Bob Cooper served the Southern Methodist University family for years as one of the university chaplains.  He also led students into deeper understandings of the place of ecumenism and the pursuit of peace and justice in any viable life of faith and authentic spirituality.  I'm tempted to start telling stories here of some of our common experiences, but I will resist! 

Bob Cooper has been a loyal advocate for truth, real community and fairness for his entire career.  I was most honored to receive the fellowship and to present the lecture that follows here.

“You stand there. . .”

The Robert O. Cooper Peace & Justice Fellowship Lecture
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Southern Methodist University

 I have regarded Bob Cooper as one of the most important leaders in our community for a very long time. His unflagging commitment to the work of establishing justice and realizing peace here and beyond have inspired us all  across a generation. 

So, I regard this award as an extremely high honor and I accept it with humility on behalf of all of our neighbors who still long for the realization of justice and the experience of peace in their own lives tonight.

It was suggested that I spend this time talking about my work at Central Dallas Ministries, and I expect I’ll do a bit of that before I’m done.  But I want to broaden, focus and personalize our conversation this evening, if that is possible, to face some discomforting realities about our society, most of our faith communities and the manner in which we “do life” as a people today.

I’ve had the “advantage” of having spent most of my 60 years living in Dallas. This is a city and a state I believe that I know and know well.

I also know the faith community here in Dallas. I first met many of you while serving an embarrassingly short stint as Executive Director of the Greater Dallas Community of Churches back in 1998.

I grew up in Richardson where I attended a very conservative congregation that was part of a fundamentalist denomination, a denomination locked in deep denial about its actually being a denomination.  But, that is a subject we need not unpack tonight.

It is worth noting tonight that I thought and experienced my way out of fundamentalism thanks largely to observations I made and experiences I had relative to issues of justice and peace inside the little church where I grew up.  Mostly my current views on faith and society grew up as a reaction formation to the experience I had in that church.  I grew up in the 1960s and came to realize that inside that little Sunday morning box no word was ever uttered about how our nation was on fire literally or how a senseless war of fire waged halfway around the world stood against our best values and traditions as a people, to say nothing of our faith.  I came to realize that my church was strangely, hauntingly irrelevant and disengaged from the real world.

I know that many, if not most of you, had a much more expansive view of faith relative to those revolutionary years, I’m grateful for that for you. 

Yet, forty years later we find ourselves in Dallas facing some of the very same issues, especially those issues related to peace and justice. If anything, in many ways, we’ve moved backward, especially in regard to economic justice in our society.

As I said, I grew up schooled in a rather repressive brand of fundamentalism which meant that I read the Bible again and again. Now, I soon noticed that the people who attended our little church on Abrams Road were reading the Bible also, but not all of it and not with equal regard for all that it contained. It seemed that our hermeneutic could best be characterized as a "pick and choose" process.  Pick what we understood, or what we were comfortable with or what had always been our patterns and tradition.  Choose those requirements that justified our actions, choices and lifestyles, and leave the rest aside.

For example, I remember particularly that we spent a great deal of time in the Epistle of James.  Evidently written by the brother of Jesus, this short letter addressed Christians in Judea and Jerusalem in some of the earliest communities devoted to following the Messiah.  We were correct in valuing this message, but actually we never really got it because of our methodology and our presuppositions. 

To be sure, in one short section of the letter we found a stated emphasis on the place of “works” versus “faith.”  We used this tension in our debates with our Baptist friends and neighbors, as well as any other group that emphasized grace and faith.  Of course, with this interpretive frame we missed the sort of “works” that James actually had in mind:

"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."  (James 2:14-17)

What I discovered about the epistle of James is the simple and rather obvious fact that it was an economic justice tract from start to finish.  To set James over against Paul is to misunderstand both thinkers.

For James, suffering is seen as an opportunity to grow (1:2-4):  how often have I heard this rationale among Dallas’ urban poor?  His advice is set against a backdrop of harsh economic injustice that affects the lives of the vast majority of those who first read and/or heard the words of his letter.  The economic system that the poor members of these early Christian communities faced were established, championed and maintained by the wealthy and the powerful.  The result for the poor of the day, the people of the land, was suffering and grave difficulty. 

For James, like Jesus (see Luke 1:53-55), the structural reality and power nexus at work within the reign of God is characterized by a grand reversal of fortune among poor and rich (1:9-12).  The poor should take pride in the high position they occupy in God's scheme of things, while the rich should take pride in their lowly position. Quite a reversal indeed. 

James singles out the affluent, the wealthy as oppressors who create economic systems that produce the suffering that is clearly in mind throughout the letter.  Hear these strong words:

"Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you."  (James 5:1-6)

In my view today, most of our faith communities have been co-opted by our culture of the "consumer, financial industrial complex." 

[To be sure, the military industrial complex is still very much alive and well.  Have you noticed?  We never really review the Department of Defense budget, no matter how large the federal deficit grows; and we always seem to be able to find some enemy to engage in protracted battle that costs billions we could use at home and around the world, not to mention the catastrophic loss of life on both sides of the battle lines and among civilian populations.]

But, the poor seem to be doing worse and worse and their numbers continue to grow, as does the amazing gap between those at the top and those at the bottom of our economy.  It is also interesting that this continuing, worsening trend occurs at a time when the nation’s churches are in decline, but the American Civil Religion seems to be on the ascendency. 

So, indulge me one more text from James, but allow me to broaden its application to the nation and our national response to the poor beyond the comfortable confines of the church.

"My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, 'Have a seat here, please,' while to the one who is poor you say, 'Stand there,' or, 'Sit at my feet,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?"  (James 2:1-7)

 And, it is true, isn't it? 

As a nation and as citizens, over and over again, we say to our neighbors who find themselves trapped in poverty, “You stand there. . .”  While at the same time we honor the rich, the successful from among whom we can identify the very ones responsible for creating and maintaining the systemic injustices that consign the poor and their children to lives of limitation, misery and despair for generations.

"You, stand there!" while your babies cry with hunger.

"You, stand there!" while your schools remain substandard and unlike anything we would allow to continue.

"You, stand there!" while your housing forms a slum due to absentee owners who get rich from your misery.

"You, stand there!" while we trim the housing, health and human services and education budgets annually.

"You, stand there!" in the Emergency Room waiting for hours to see a doctor because you have no health coverage and not access to public benefits.

"You, stand there!" to collect your pay check that reflects a pay scale far below living wage and is attached with no benefits.

"You, stand there!" in the pay day loan line with no banking services you can access, forcing you to pay outrageous interest rates.

"You, stand there!" in the line to get  into the night shelter or stranded outside in the cold, propped up against a back alley wall or curled up in your broke down, old car. 

"You, stand there!" in the soup line or at the food pantry front door because there are not options for you that the community can provide. 

"You, stand there!"  No greeting for a life crafted in God's image, but the only directive you've come to expect from your fellows who control the current rules of the game of life.

"You, stand there!" nameless and problematic.  Like Lazarus, invisible to the rest of us, the ultimate insult.

If you doubt my assessment, consider the findings of a study conducted by that liberal local rag, The Dallas Morning News in an editorial report on life in Texas for the poor and marginalized:
  • Every 7 minutes a child is born in poverty.
  • 25% of Texas children are born in poverty.
  • 49th in the number of working poor (that is, Texas is second in the number of people who work and remain poor).
  • $14,700--the average annual income of the poorest 20% of Texas families.
  • $203,200--average annual income of the richest 5% of Texas families (13.8 times as high as the poorest 20%).
  • 16% of Texans live with hunger or in fear of starvation, just ahead of New Mexico and Mississippi.
  • 48th in the nation in state and local government expenditures for public welfare--$808 per capita.
  • Second highest Gross Domestic Product in the U. S.
  • Number 1 in cancerous emissions into the air and toxic chemicals into the water.
  • Ranks 50th in the number of insured people in the nation--5.5 million Texans are not covered by health insurance or 24% of the population (compared to 15.7% for the U. S.).
  • 1st in the U. S. in executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
  • 2nd highest incarceration rate.
  • 34% of Texas high school students drop out--8th highest in the U. S.
  • 49th in verbal SAT scores and 46th in math.
  • Texas ranks 41st in per capita spending on students in public schools, compared to 25th in 1999.
  • 8th largest GDP in the world--$1.1 trillion in 2006.
  • 1st in number of shopping malls in the nation.
  • 12th in church or synagogue attendance in the U. S
Here's how the editorial board of the local newspaper summed up their report:

"Hidden among Texas' great abundance--the booming businesses and mega-malls--are statistics that all of us would just as soon ignore. But the state can't afford to forget the faces behind those numbers. . . . No liberal blog or legislator is spinning these numbers. In fact, they aren't even new. They are simply compiled from statistics published by sources including the Texas state comptroller's office, the U. S. Census Bureau and other government agencies. . . . Looking at the statistics, it's almost impossible to comprehend how a state with such a healthy bottom line has crashed to the bottom in so many social areas. How many lives must be ruined before we get the picture?"

So, what do we do? 

I'll offer a few suggestions for your consideration.

First,  we must learn to partner with the poor as we seek change.  The days of neo-colonial, one down, charitable approaches are long gone.  We must move from charity to partnerships with poor folks taking positions as leaders and experts.  We believe that people closest to the problems know and understand most about those problems.  We believe that people can solve their own problems if given the opportunity and resources. 

I've learned a long time ago that people don't need me.  They need equity, justice, equal access and opportunity. 

Second, we must speak the truth we know from our experiences in the community against forces that would blunt our message.  Remember:  the revolution will not be funded, nor will it be popular among the powerful.  The arrival of new decision makers and influencers will create tension, a healthy tension that is long overdue.

Third, we must find partners in our sector and in the communities of distress who “aren’t playin’” and  we must determine to work with and support them.

Fourth, we must recognize that we are in this together and, therefore, we must learn to work across the lines and categories that have been cleverly deployed and used to divide us in the past by those who wield unreasonable power and influence over public and private systems and resources. .

Fifth, we must energize, organize, mobilize and criticize to achieve the change we know will save us all.

Finally, we must commit to hold one another, our community and every public and private institution accountable for performance on these matters of life and decline.

Saying to a poor neighbor, “You, stand there!” is not an option for people seeking justice and peace.

Rather, the time has come for us to say to one another, “Let’s stand together for a just and peaceful society. Let’s sit down together at the table of fellowship and strategy to celebrate our progress and plan our next steps together.”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New feature on Urban Daily

Please notice at the upper right of this page a new feature. 

I'll be conducting unscientific opinion polls on various subjects of interest to our community and to our work.

I need your feedback! 

Take a look at the poll on immigration reform and give me your opinion! 

Thanks!

Income moves upward, gap grows

Where has all the income gone? Look up.


March 3, 2010
By Lawrence Mishel

The 400 American households with the highest incomes also have enjoyed a much faster pace of income growth than the vast majority. And, because tax rates applied to their income have fallen by a third, their after-tax incomes grew substantially faster than their pre-tax incomes. The figure looks at inflation-adjusted pre-tax and after-tax income growth for the 400 top-income families between 1992 and 2007, based on new data recently released by the Internal Revenue Service. It shows that while pre-tax income grew by a staggering 409% over that 15-year period, after-tax income increased even more, by 476%.


The third line in the figure offers some perspective by showing the change in the pre-tax median household income over the same period, which grew just 13.2%. The median pre-tax household income for a family of four in 2007 was $50,233, while the top-earning 400 households earned a median $345 million, almost 6900 times as much income. In contrast, in 1992 the ratio was just a sixth as large, with the top 400 households having 1124 times as much income.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wealth Gap? No real surprise here. . .

Small group takes large slice of capital income

April 14, 2010
By Andrea Orr

Rising rates of stock ownership and home ownership in recent decades notwithstanding, the families with the highest incomes are receiving a growing share of total capital income. The Figure shows the share of capital income that went to different income groups in 1979 and 2006, the last year for which data are available. In 1979, the top 10% of families received 67.0% of all income generated by assets such as stocks, bonds and real estate. By 2006, that share had risen to 81.3%. By contrast, the share of capital income that went to the other 90% of families has fallen from 33.0% in 1979 to 18.7% in 2006. The portion of capital income going to the top 1% of families has gradually increased from 38.0% in 1979, so that by 2006 this small group received more than half – 57.7% -- of all capital income.


While it is common to think of an individual’s or a family’s income in terms of their wages and salary, ownership of assets like stocks, bonds and real estate can also be a major contributor to total income. The shift of more of this capital income to the top income groups has helped make income disparities more pronounced.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona, Saturday's MegaMarch and my neighbors

This coming Saturday, May 1, beginning at 1 p.m. at Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe (2215 Ross Avenue in Downtown Dallas) the 2010 MegaMarch for immigration reform will gather thousands who will stand for justice and long, long overdue legislation to address our current national crisis.

I remember marching in the Palm Sunday demonstration in 2006 (see photo at left) when an estimated 500,000 walked peacefully through the streets of Downtown Dallas.  We expect to witness a similar scene this Saturday.

Plan now to join us! 
_________________________________

Quotes from media--Major Religious Groups Condemn Inhumane Anti-Immigrant Law in Arizona:

As AZ Bill is Signed into Law, Faith Community Urgently Calls for Comprehensive Reform

As Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signs into law today the most extreme anti-immigrant legislation in the country (SB-1070), the national and Arizona faith community are condemning it as an affront to moral conscience that will divide families and communities. The inhumane legislation demonstrates the urgent need for national political leadership to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Arizona Senate Bill 1070 tasks law enforcement with checking papers for anyone they suspect as undocumented and penalizes those who provide aid to illegal immigrants.

Below are statements on Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill from a dozen evangelical, mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders representing millions of Americans:

Rev. Jan Flaaten, Executive Director, Arizona Ecumenical Council
"All the religious leaders of Arizona know and understand that this law will not solve the issue of crime along the border or in our state, but it will demonize anyone who looks suspiciously like an undocumented person leading to inevitable racial profiling. Our religious traditions ask us to treat people with dignity and respect, and we look for a more enlightened and hopeful way of working with the undocumented people who live along side us."

Bishop Minerva Carcaño, United Methodist Church, Desert Southwest Conference
“This bill does nothing to address any border security concerns. At our borders and in our congregations, schools, workplaces and service programs, we witness the human consequences of an inadequate, outdated system. The passage of SB1070 demonstrates why America needs Comprehensive Immigration Reform: frustration with our broken immigration system is driving Arizona to make inappropriate and self-defeating efforts in this area. We want our broken immigration system to be healed through a just transformation of the law at the appropriate federal level of jurisdiction, which makes it possible to meet the labor needs of American business while making our border secure.”

Peg Chemberlin, President, National Council of Churches
“Our current immigration system serves no one well: not those of us worried about our jobs and the future of our children, nor the businesses that need labor that complements our own skills, nor those who want a better life for themselves and for their children. But this Arizona law changes none of that, instead it heightens tensions, crosses constitutional boundaries, and will be intolerably costly. Comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level has never been more needed.”

Rev. Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners
“The law signed today by Arizona Gov. Brewer is a social and racial sin, and should be denounced as such by people of faith and conscience across the nation. It is not just about Arizona, but about all of us, and about what kind of country we want to be. It is not only mean-spirited – it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform. Enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable. This law will make it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona, and will force us to disobey Jesus and his gospel. We will not comply.”

Dallas students need your help with garden prep. . .

This now in from Sheri Anne MacNeil:

As some of my more vocal supporters of Healthy Harvest, I am hoping that you will both lend a hand and do some recruiting. As most of you know, I recently started the build out of a community garden at "The Miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue" called St. Phillips School. Since the students will take responsibility for a lot of the garden bed space through their science and community service curriculum, they are not as far along in construction as some others. (Little kiddo hands can only carry so much versus the adult volunteers at the other sites). In short, I need your help because I want to get them ready to plant veggies as soon as possible!


Please join me and spread the word that I need volunteers to fill beds and rows with soil and mulch Thursday, April 29 at 5:00 p.m. I will supply as many wheel barrows and shovels as I can but if you have em' - bring em'! The garden itself is behind the school at 1605 Panama Place. Feel free to forward this email and I hope to see you there!!!! (Kids, teens and adults are welcome!) Please RSVP directly to sheriannemacneil@hotmail.com.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Parents and progress

The following essay appeared in the Sunday, April 18, 2010 edition of The Dallas Morning News in the Points section of the paper. 

The systemic forces at work that maintain deeply entrenched poverty in our community contribute to the challenges facing low-income parents and families.  Still, the call to poor parents and children is to rise to the occasion to do everything possible to overcome the terrible obstacles in the way of their progress.  I suspect that the success Mr. Robberson suggests in his essay must alos involve a strong community component. 

What do you think?

Tod Robberson: Bridging the gap through better parenting

Principal Lucy Hakemack got a shocking response from her H. Grady Spruce High School students when they were told that their Pleasant Grove neighborhood ranks second in the nation in teen pregnancies.

They applauded.

It seems the students regarded their school and community as having accomplished something noteworthy. They just didn't get that a top national ranking for ruined futures is not a good thing.

To read the entire report click here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Daddy

So, I've been thinking about my father today.

Had he lived, we would be celebrating his 90th birthday.

He was a good man.

I miss him a lot.

For some reason I've been thinking about when I was 16-years-old and he handed me the keys to our 1957 Buick Super 4-door hardtop, the family car. It became my car that day.

I painted it maroon, removed the hubcaps and painted the wheel rims black. He never said a word. It was my car. The '57 above is just like the car I first drove, except for the color and less 2 doors.

Great memories.

Life moves on.

Memories remain. . .thankfully.

Another great tune from Willie. . .

Friday, April 23, 2010

Urban Farm at Paul Quinn College

Michael Sorrell, President of Paul Quinn College, possesses a clear vision for the renaissance of the historically black college. A new factor in Dr. Sorrell's dream involves engagement, big time engagement, in the urban farming movement that is gaining strength in Dallas.

Recently, I visited the Paul Quinn campus and captured the video posted below. The school recently plowed up its football field as a part of its conversion into an "urban farm."

The idea is to involve students and neighbors in the farming/gardening. The crop will be distributed to the growers, the community and hopefully a market.

Students at the school will benefit from the experiences of the farm in numerous ways. Much about the plan is still being worked out, but I believe Dr. Sorrell is really onto something important and special.

The revival of this important community institution may be one of the results of this innovative approach to community health and development.

Stay tuned.




Thursday, April 22, 2010

The First Family, taxes and charity. . .

Interesting report on America's First Family, taxes and philanthropy.

Obamas: $5.5 million income, $1.8 million tax bill
By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Thanks to revived book sales after he became president, Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, made $5.5 million last year. They paid about one-third of it in federal income taxes.

The Obamas gave $329,100 to charities in 2009. The president, who released his tax returns Thursday, also donated his entire $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize award to 10 charitable groups. He never received the $1.4 million, and it was not included in his 2009 income.

Obama, a former law school instructor and U.S. senator, became a millionaire a few years ago through sales of his 1995 memoir "Dreams From My Father" and his 2006 political book, "The Audacity of Hope." He earned about $4 million in royalties in 2007, the year he launched his presidential campaign.

To read complete report click here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Update on one of our next projects. . .

Communities Foundation of Texas and Meadows Foundation Join Forces to Fight Chronic Homelessness in Dallas
AP
April, 2010

DALLAS – April 6, 2010 – Communities Foundation of Texas and the Meadows Foundation have partnered to combat the problem of chronic homelessness in Dallas through a private-public partnership that involves a collaboration of six local organizations to create the first permanent supportive housing community for homeless individuals with histories of mental illness, substance abuse and involvement with the criminal justice system.

The three-year model program—called The Cottages at Hickory Crossing—will provide permanent housing and on-site support services to 50 people on a site just southeast of downtown Dallas. The W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation Fund at CFT has committed up to $3.5 million to the effort, with the initial $1 million being used to support pre-development costs and to provide immediate transitional housing services to individuals that had been served at The Bridge, the city’s homeless assistance center. The remaining Caruth Foundation contribution is a challenge grant, with one dollar matched for every three dollars raised, up to $2.5 million toward the costs of construction, support services for residents, and independent program evaluation over the three-year life of the demonstration project. The Meadows Foundation is providing additional support in the form of a $750,000 program related loan to support land acquisition and development. Private fundraising and government grants will fund the balance of project costs.

The Cottages at Hickory Crossing represents the first time that six leading agencies join the local effort to end chronic homelessness, and have come together on a single project. Project partners include Metrocare Services, Central Dallas Ministries, Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Dallas County Criminal Justice System.

To read on click here

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

White revisionist history. . .

White folks don't like "revisionist history," white code for historians who remind us of events, decisions and even laws that we don't want to face or honestly discuss.  Race and racism continue to present challenges to our nation and its people.  Often people of color don't receive their due in the nation's textbooks and classrooms. 

I suppose we might expect better from the governors of the nation, especially in the South.  But then, maybe not since the people who select the official texts often work for them. 

Maybe you heard Haley Barbour's recent comments.  The report that follows comes from Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post.  Check it out:

Haley Barbour's 'diddly' sense of slavery's history

By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It was bad enough when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell proclaimed "Confederate History Month" without mentioning slavery, but at least he came to his senses and apologized. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's contention that the whole controversy "doesn't amount to diddly" is much worse.

"I don't know what you would say about slavery," Barbour told CNN, "but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing, I think that goes without saying."

And that's the problem -- Barbour thinks it "goes without saying." The governor of the state whose population includes the nation's highest percentage of African Americans believes it is appropriate to "honor" those who fought for the Confederacy. Clearly, he has no problem revisiting the distant past. Yet he sees no reason to mention the vile, unthinkable practices -- state-sanctioned kidnapping, torture and rape -- that those Confederate soldiers were fighting to protect.

It amounts to much more than "diddly" that so many Americans try hard to avoid coming to terms with the reality of slavery. It wasn't just "a bad thing." Littering is a bad thing. Slavery was this nation's Original Sin, and yet many people will not look at it except through a gauze of Spanish moss.

The Atlantic slave trade was one of the last millennium's greatest horrors. An estimated 17 million Africans, most of them teenagers, were snatched from their families, stuffed into the holds of ships and brought to the New World. As many as 7 million of them died en route, either on the high seas or at "seasoning" camps in the Caribbean where they were "broken" to the will of their masters.

To read the entire article click here.

So, what do you think?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Henry Folsom Frazer comes home!

From a "Founding Father" of the nation

"All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it."

- Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mobile Homeless Sheler?

So, what do you think?

As clever as this appears, I'm thinking he's never been homeless. 

What do you think?

Check this out here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Very cool. . .remember Haiti when you pray. . .we are all brothers and sisters



Thanks, Ann Curry.

Only one homeless man left in Times Square

While Rosanne Haggerty (Common Ground Community in NYC) was in Dallas for our annual prayer breakfast, she brought to our attention the following article that recently appeared in The New York Times.  The report points up the amazing impact of the development of permanent supportive housing on neighborhoods with a history of a high concentration of very poor and homeless persons. 

Developing housing for the homeless should not cause us fear.  To the contrary, such work should  inspire hope in everyone. 

We can end chronic homelessness in a city like Dallas, Texas. 

That fact is no longer in question. 

What remains very questionable is whether or not we've got the political will and the faith to move forward as a community to do exactly that. 

Here's the beginning of this must-read report:

Times Square’s Homeless Holdout, Not Budging
By JULIE BOSMAN
Published: March 29, 2010

Heavy, as he is known, is said to be the only person still living on the streets of Times Square.

As long as there have been homeless people sleeping in Times Square, there have been social workers and city officials trying to persuade them to leave.

The homeless man Heavy slept in a cardboard box on Sunday as a worker from the Times Square Alliance swept 48th Street.

In the past, the homeless were offered a free ride to one of the city’s warehouselike shelters. These days, workers for nonprofit groups help people move into apartments, keeping track as the number of the chronically homeless in Times Square goes down.

According to their records, by 2005, there were only 55. Last summer, it was down to 7.

Now there is one.

His name is Heavy, and he has lived on the streets of Times Square for decades. Day after day, he has politely declined offers of housing, explaining that he is a protector of the neighborhood and cannot possibly leave, the workers who visit him every day said.

Yet they are determined to get through to Heavy, the last homeless holdout in Times Square.

To keep reading click here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Families thankful for school lunches. . .

The U. S. Department of Agriculture's free and reduced lunch program is growing. The Huffington Post picked up the following report from the Associated Press.


We know this program well here in Dallas, Texas.


What many people are surprised to learn is that over 85% of Dallas Independent School District students are eligible for free meals at school every day. Read the report and let me know what you think.

Struggling families depend more on school lunches
HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH
March 27, 2010 09:32 PM EST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For a couple tight weeks after taking in her sixth-grade stepson, Lisa Lewis fretted about how to pay for his school lunches.

Unable to find a full-time job, the 37-year-old works part-time at a Kansas City, Kan., daycare, earning minimum wage. On that money alone, she supports herself, her unemployed husband, her stepson and her 11th-grade son.

"I sometimes cry myself to sleep wondering how I am going to keep my family fed and things like that," Lewis said. "I'm making it but barely."

Her worries were eased when she found out she could get government assistance to pay for the younger boy's meals. Her older son already is part of the subsidized lunch program.

In the midst of a blistering recession, more families are flocking to the federal program that gives students free or reduced-priced lunches. Schools are watching for who enrolls in the program because it gives teachers insight into life at home and officials consider it a barometer of poverty.

The numbers are telling.

During the 2008-2009 school year, about 19 million students received free and reduced lunches, which is 895,000 more than the previous year – a jump of nearly 5 percent and that greatly outpaced the overall increase in school enrollment, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. Typically, the increases are about 1 to 2 percent each year.

To read the entire report click here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The poverty trap. . .

One of our organizational goals is to move toward the day, as quickly as possible, when the minimum wage inside Central Dallas Ministries is a "living wage." 

But, what exactly does that mean in real dollars? 

Often, in such discussions, people will throw out a range of $12-$15 an hour. 

John Greenan, Executive Director of the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, sent me a link to what follows as it appeared on Aaron M. Renn's provocative blog, Urbanophile. 

Poverty is complicated when you are living in its midst.  Poverty is awfully hard to escape, harder than the vast majority of Americans can even begin to understand. 

What follows should give us great pause.

Megan Cottrell: Don’t Fall in the Poverty Trap – You May Never Get Out

[ Megan Cottrell's One Story Up blog might be one of the most important in the United States. It is certainly a must-read for anyone in Chicago. She covers housing and poverty, two un-glamorous subjects that have all but been abandoned by newspapers. These aren't topics beloved of urbanist blogs either, but they are critical to understanding our cities and building successful lives for all citizens. As Megan notes, the phenomenon she describes affects up to 40% of all Chicagoans. I encourage you to check out her work. ]

Until you earn about $40,000 a year, you’re pretty much stuck in poverty, an economist’s numbers show.

In fact, until you get past $40,000 a year, any raise or higher paying job you get might actually sink you deeper into poverty.

Take a look at this story from economist Jeff Liebman, who now works in the Obama Administration.

The poverty trap is still very much a reality in the U.S.

A woman called me out of the blue last week and told me her self-sufficiency counselor had suggested she get in touch with me. She had moved from a $25,000 a year job to a $35,000 a year job, and suddenly she couldn’t make ends meet any more. I told her I didn’t know what I could do for her, but agreed to meet with her. She showed me all her pay stubs, etc. She really did come out behind by several hundred dollars a month. She lost free health insurance and instead had to pay $230 a month for her employer-provided health insurance. Her rent associated with her section 8 voucher went up by 30% of the income gain (which is the rule). She lost the ($280 a month) subsidized child care voucher she had for after-school care for her child. She lost around $1600 a year of the EITC. She paid payroll tax on the additional income. Finally, the new job was in Boston, and she lived in a suburb. So now she has $300 a month of additional gas and parking charges. She asked me if she should go back to earning $25,000.

To continue reading and to view a very revealing graph, click here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What is enough?

Randy Mayeux sent me this post from Seth Godin's blog.  It raises an interesting question for fundraisers to confront. 

What do you think?

Fear of philanthropy (avert your eyes)

Peter Singer is famous for posing a stunningly difficult question, paraphrased as, "If you are walking by a pond and you see a child drowning, do you save her? What if it means ruining a very fancy pair of Italian shoes?" Okay, if we assume the answer is yes, then why not spend the cost of those shoes to save 20 kids who are starving to death across town or the world? There's really no difference. Or by, extension, invest in research or development that solves a problem forever... The issues are proximity and attention.

My take is that most people would instantly save the kid, but given the choice, probably wouldn't take the road by the pond again any time soon. We like to avoid these situations, because these situations make us uncomfortable.

Avert your eyes.

The reporter tells you, I'm going to show you a video of the meat you're going to eat for dinner being slaughtered. Avert your eyes. Or the fundraiser says I'm going to tell you about easily avoidable suffering in the developing world. Avert your eyes...

It boils down to a simple question, "how much is enough?" She knows that one iPod is all she needs, but she wonders how much philanthropy is enough? And this is a key marketing question for anyone seeking donors.

To continue reading click here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

John Greenan on the other Jon!

To check out John Greenan's blog today click here

Jon Bon Jovi on Channel 8 last evening. . .

To read more about Jon Bon Jovi's visit to Citywalk@ Akard yesterday click here.


Jon Bon Jovi visits Central Dallas Ministries and CityWalk!

Yesterday Jon Bon Jovi visited to Central Dallas Ministries and http://www.citywalkatakard.com/!

As a part of his current concert tour, the rock and roll celebrity, along with the leader of his foundation and his partners in Philadelphia, is visiting organizations dedicated to providing permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

What a boost to everyone at CDM and the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation to have this extremely commited public figure join us for a 2-hour tour.

His humility and unassuming attitude put everyone at ease as we enjoyed a substantive conversation about how permanent housing can radically address the nation's challenges with homeless person.

What a great guy!

What a great experience!

There is much yet to do.





Monday, April 12, 2010

Giving youth a chance. . .

Check out the Challenge Program here

Brent Brown, our partner from bcWorkshop, dreams of turning our joint venture into just such a program for Dallas inner-city youth.  Our plan would also involve an AmeriCorps component if can land a national program grant. 

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Seeking a new way. . .calling for new will

"But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited [laboring underclass], robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity. Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order."


— Gustavo Gutiérrez

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How about a one state country. . .ready for density?

Talk about density and urban planning!


Since I'm not sure everyone can read the text, here's what it says from left to right across the page after this header line:

There are about 300,000,000 of us in the USA, spread out over 3,794,101 sq miles. . .

But let's say we all wanted to live in 1 sate together, comfortably.

Using the density of Brooklyn, NY as an example: at about 35,000 people to a square mile. . .

What state wold we all fit into?

In other words if we wanted to we could all move into and live in an area the size of New Hampshire; the 5th smallest US state (8,968 sq miles) with extra room for more parks. (because Brooklyn cold use more)

And if the area were square, it would be about 100 miles wide. You could ride a bike to the other side for the "country" in a day. Our "green belt" would be the rest of the USA. Not only would we all have access to mass transit and live in spaces with small footprints, the need for Air travel would be greatly reduced. You'd only fly when leaving the country. WE'D ALL BE NEIGHBORS.

What do you think? Any urban planners out there?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Wordless love

The greatest love stories can be told without a word.

The story of Carl and Ellie reveal the way it was intended to be between a man and a woman. . .forever.

This is dedicated to Jessika and Lou, one of my special Angels and her Beloved. Best forever and ever, kids!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

YouthBuild

Here's a very strong and effective effort to walk alongside youth eager to move out of poverty and all of its limitations. Young people plus hope equals real change!

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Shelters and housing

Here are some shocking stats
  • New York City spends $750,000,000 annually operating emergency shelters for the homeless.
  • New York City spends over $2 billion annually on all services for its homeless population.
  • It is reported that Dallas spends $50,000,000 on its homeless population--I have a hunch that number is low when we factor in all costs associated with the homeless in our community.
Quesiton:  How many permanent homes, complete with supportive services, could be developed annually if major urban centers like New York City and Dallas devoted just half of the current costs associated with serving the homeless to that end? 

Just wondering

Unemployed Executives Working Among Non-Profits

My good friend and former teammate, Jeremy Gregg left Central Dallas Ministries almost two years ago to help create Executives in Action.

Great concept for high level leaders caught between their last opportunity and their next one.

Great for our community.

Great organization!

Way to go, Jermey!

Col K

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Permanent Supportive Housing for the hardest to house and most expensive to keep on the streets

This morning at beginning at 7:15 a.m. at the Fairmont Hotel, located in Downtown Dallas just a couple of blocks from CityWalk@ Akard, Central Dallas Ministries hosts our 15th Annual Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast

Our speaker this year will be Rosanne Haggerty, national expert on housing approaches for the chronically homeless.  Following breakfast, Ms. Haggerty will join others for a panel discussion on the subject. 

The morning promises to be extremely important as we continue to advance the community conversation about permanent supportive housing as a strategy for ending chronic homelessness in Dallas. 

In view of our subject this morning, the report published by Kim Horner last Sunday in The Dallas Morning News is certainly timely. 

Horner's report describes one of our next big efforts to provide housing for our poorest neighbors.   Here's a taste of the report:

Dallas cottage project aims to benefit both homeless 'frequent fliers,' taxpayers


By KIM HORNER / The Dallas Morning News

Fifty of Dallas' most costly homeless "frequent fliers" – people who repeatedly cycle through institutions such as hospitals and jail at a cost to taxpayers – could soon be finding homes, just south of Deep Ellum.

The Cottages at Hickory Crossing as proposed would include 50 dwellings, each 400 square feet. The residents would be the city's chronically homeless, people who often have disabling mental illnesses and addictions along with criminal histories.

The project aims to stabilize that population – and save taxpayers money.

Studies across the nation have found that each chronically homeless person costs taxpayers between $35,000 and $150,000 a year. Dallas has an estimated 600 to 1,000 chronically homeless people.

"These are the most expensive people on the streets in Dallas," said Larry James, president and chief executive officer of Central Dallas Ministries, which would provide caseworkers to assist the tenants.

The Communities Foundation of Texas and the Meadows Foundation are working with other agencies to raise the $10 million in public and private funds needed to build and operate the housing program over three years.

Residents would be referred by the Dallas County criminal justice system and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, which runs the city's homeless assistance center, The Bridge. The agencies would research jail, mental health and hospital records to determine the homeless people with the highest costs to public systems.

To continue reading, click here.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Just something about opening day. . .no matter how bad or good your team

Profits, Wages and Unemployment

Figures that surprise
Mar 22nd 2010, 14:25 by Buttonwood

IF YOU need an explanation as to why political discontent is so widespread on both sides of the Atlantic, take a look at figures compiled by Dhaval Joshi of the hedge fund RAB Capital. This recovery has benefited companies a lot and workers not at all.

In the US, Joshi calculates that, in cash terms, national income has risen $200 billion since the depths of the recession in March 2009. But corporate profits have risen by $280 billion over that period, while wages are down by $90 billion. One would have to go back to the 1950s to find profits outperforming wages in absolute (cash) terms, and even then it was on a much smaller scale. In Britain, national income rose $27 billion in the last two quarters of last year. Profits were up £24 billion and wages just £2 billion.

The latest issue has a piece on this puzzle; US productivity has outpaced European largely because the US has been quicker to sack workers. This is a decidedly mixed blessing. In theory, it is good for resources (including labour) to be relloacted to more productive use. Thus it would be OK if the workers were quickly rehired by new, growing industries or if they were at least retrained, but there is little sign of such a positive development.

Continue reading here.

Reactions?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

An indescribable Easter blessing

My third grandson, Henry Folsom Frazer arrived, as I've already reported, on March 29, 2010.  He decided to enter our world about 5-6 weeks early, causing quite a stir with his family. 

But, what a blessing!

On this Easter morning, I am so grateful for little "Hank."  I've already had a talk with him, part of my granddad bonding ritual that already has tied me to his big brother, Owen and his bigger cousin, Wyatt.

For me, today, these pictures represent hope and peace.

Bono and Resurrection

Bono published this essay in The New York Times last year at Easter.  Still worth reading for soul searching: 

I come to lowly church halls and lofty cathedrals for what purpose? I search the Scriptures to what end? To check my head? My heart? No, my soul. For me these meditations are like a plumb line dropped by a master builder — to see if the walls are straight or crooked. I check my emotional life with music, my intellectual life with writing, but religion is where I soul-search.


The preacher said, “What good does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” Hearing this, every one of the pilgrims gathered in the room asked, “Is it me, Lord?” In America, in Europe, people are asking, “Is it us?”


Well, yes. It is us.

Read the entire essay here.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Immigration and wages. . .

Immigration and Wages—Methodological advancements confirm modest gains for native workers

Heidi Shierholz
February 4, 2010
EPI Briefing Paper #255

Executive summary

In the ongoing debate on immigration, there is broad agreement among academic economists that it has a small but positive impact on the wages of native-born workers overall: although new immigrant workers add to the labor supply, they also consume goods and services, which creates more jobs. 

The real debate among researchers is whether a large influx of a specific type of worker (say, workers with a particular level of education or training) has the potential to have a negative impact on the wages of existing workers of that same type. Some research argues that immigrant competition is quite costly to certain groups of native-born U.S. workers, while other research finds that native workers—even those who have levels of education and experience similar to new immigrants—may actually reap modest benefits from immigration.

We begin this paper with a review of the scholarly literature on immigration’s effect on wages, focusing on recent methodological advancements. We then use Current Population Survey (CPS) data from 1994 to 2007 to conduct our own empirical analysis of immigration’s effect on wages over this period, incorporating these recent methodological advancements. Our analysis finds little evidence that immigration negatively impacts native-born workers.

A key result from this work is that the estimated effect of immigration from 1994 to 2007 was to raise the wages of U.S.-born workers, relative to foreign-born workers, by 0.4% (or $3.68 per week), and to lower the wages of foreign-born workers, relative to U.S.-born workers, by 4.6% (or $33.11 per week). In other words, any negative effects of new immigration over this period were felt largely by the workers who are the most substitutable for new immigrants—that is, earlier immigrants.

Click here to read the full report.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Lifting families from poverty. . .

Consider:

The estimated "poverty line" (based on an antiquated index linked to the cost of food) for a family of four (4) is $21,946. 

By applying the benefits of three very equitable, simple and efficient public support programs, such a family can be lifted above that crushing line. 

Here's how.

One family member working at a minimum wage job earns $13,391, less payroll taxes--this assumes 2,000 hours of work per year. 

By enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), filing for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and including the child tax credit, this family rises to 105% ($23,043.30) of poverty and has a much better chance to move ahead. 

Finding ways to enroll more families in SNAP is essential to loosening poverty's grip on family life. 

The EITC rewards hard work and makes it possible for working families to advance. 

A challenge we continue to address is certification difficulties and outreach to inform all who are eligible for the benefits. 

Public programs and progressive public policy are essential if we are to achieve real, sustainable progress in overcoming poverty for 40 million Americans.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Authentic Community in San Antonio

Watch the interview below involving two residents of Lincoln Heights Courts who are involved in Urban Connection--San Antonio.

Our efforts bring people together in power ways.