Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Juan works hard

Our Sunday paper arrived complete win a Christmas card from Juan.

Juan delivers my paper every day long before 6 a. m.

I expect his days begin well before 5 in the morning.

Of course, his paper route allows him to work two jobs, at least.

I know Juan hopes I'll use the Christmas card envelop, self-addressed, to pass along a tip for his service this last year. And, I'll gladly respond as he hopes.

Juan works hard.

I am fortunate that he is assigned to my street.

Even more blessed that he came to the U. S.

I don't get folks who oppose immigrants.

Merry Christmas, to you and your family, Juan!

(2,500th post.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Children rally for fairness. . .by faith

Recently, I received a copy of the "lobbying" plan developed by a group of 6th grade Sunday School members who live in St. Louis, Missouri.  I've reproduced their simple booklet that they created for a trip to their state capitol.  They met with representatives to argue for a new state policy that would create an earned income tax provision for working people in their state. 

I find the media that they developed for their trip to be most effective. 

Even more impressive is the fact that their teachers and their congregation clearly established a link between faith and fairness in public policy. 

Seen anything like this coming out of your Sunday School lately? 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Policeman's view of homeless

For a firsthand view of the police perspective and experience with homelessness on the streets of Dallas click here to see Robert Wilonsky's Dallas Observer report.

Thanks to Robert for his reporting and to my friend, John Greenan who brought this report to my attention. 

Thanksgiving in Dallas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Honest broken man. . .how often do we really "see"?

Often our main challenge is to simply open our eyes and allow heart and head to follow. Something about the Golden Rule comes to mind just here. . .

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful for children!

During this time of thankful reflection, I've come back again and again to the four little ones who bring so much joy to my life. 

Indulge my "granddad pride" as you enjoy (from left to right) Wyatt James Toombs (6), Henry Folsom Frazer (8 months), Gracie Bea Toombs (8) and Owen James Frazer (4)! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Support the DREAM Act today!

To learn more about why the U. S. Congress should pass the DREAM Act before the end of the current session and to sign on as a supporter of the much-needed legislation, click here to visit the DREAM Act website.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More on urban farming and Detroit

Urban Farming: Vacant Public Land Could Provide Most of Detroit's Produce
BY Ariel Schwartz
from Fast Company
Thu Nov 18, 2010

The decline of the automotive industry and subsequent collapse of Detroit has been well documented. But as we explained last year, some entrepreneurs see agricultural opportunity in the city's decay. Now a study from Michigan State University backs them up by revealing that a combination of community gardens, urban farms, and greenhouses in the city could provide locals with more than 75% of their vegetables and 40% of their fruits.

According to PhysOrg, MSU researchers catalogued all vacant land plots in the city (excluding sensitive areas around schools, cemeteries, churches, etc.) and found 44,085 available plots spanning 4,848 acres. All of the plots are publicly owned.

The big task, of course, is to find people to farm all that land -- and pay to cultivate it. Michigan entrepreneur John Hantz invested $30 million last year in the Hantz Farms project, which aims to farm 5,000 acres of city land. So far, Hantz is only working around 30 acres -- a testament to the time and energy it takes to really get farming. But unless the auto industry magically recuperates, Detroit has time to spare.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A home run I will always remember. . .

I was 10-years-old and watching the 7th game of the 1960 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburg Pirates. Bill Mazeroski came to the plate and the rest is history. I was cheering for New York, but I couldn't help being thrilled by this series ending blast. What a moment! It is as if it were yesterday. . .50 years ago!

Enjoy this post dedicated to my dear friend and partner, Keith Ackerman and his father, Bishop Ackerman.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hungry nation

Here's the latest on "food insecurity" and hunger in the United States today from Daily Kos.  The work we do in our Food Pantry on a daily basis keeps families, working families going in inner city Dallas.  Demand is way up.  Want to help?  Visit http://www.citysq.org/ to lend your hand and engage your heart.

One in four Americans gets government food assistance
by Joan McCarter
Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 08:36:03 AM PST

We really don't need more austerity right now in America.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in 2009, nearly 50 million Americans -- 15 percent of U.S. families -- were "food insecure," meaning they were "uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their family members" -- either they didn't have enough money or lacked other resources to buy food. One in 10 families with children worried about food at some point in the year. Between 500,000 and 1 million families were so strapped the children had to go without eating at some point....

The United States is increasingly a safety-net nation, with one in four Americans now enrolled in one of the 15 federal feeding programs. Forty-two million people currently receive monthly benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. That's up by 10 million from a year ago....

Feeding America, an organization that runs a nationwide network of food banks and bills itself as "the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity," said the number of people seeking help from its food banks has increased 46 percent over the past four years, from 25 million to 37 million.

This is just one part of why every reputable poll in the past two years has shown jobs and the economy far and away the most important issue for Americans. Food insecurity has reached deep into the working and middle classes. These people have had their fill of austerity in trying to conduct their daily lives. The last thing they need is their government imposing more on them.

To visit this site click here.

What can you do today to help a neighbor?

1)  Organize a food drive in your neighborhood, church, school or community group and bring what you collect to 409 N. Haskell in Dallas, Texas.

2)  Even better, make a check payable to CitySquare with a note in the Memo line: "food products."  We will go to the North Texas Food Bank and obtain food for a shared maintanence fee of about 20 cents per pound, much more than you can buy in a retail store.

3)  Raise the issue of domestic hunger and food insecurity in your circle of influence. 

4)  Come down for a visit at our Food Pantry and observe and hear the need first hand. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

D.R.E.A.M. Act: The Time is Now!

Watch this very helpful video to understand more about the D.R.E.A.M. Act and its current status. Millions of young people need the protection provided by this bi-partisan legislation.

Watch and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Joe and Harvard

We work with so many wonderful and amazing young people who come to us as interns or through our robust AmeriCorps program.  Recently, Dr. Keven Vicknair, the director of CitySquare's AmeriCorps initiative sent me the following message.  I thought it would be encouraging while providing an insight into the powerful effect our program has on young leaders.  I'll let you judge for yourself.


Below is an email from one of our Food on the Move leaders this past summer. A young man, first generation US citizen, who grew up in a Dallas barrio and is now pursuing a Masters degree at Harvard.

His email gave me hope for the next generation set to lead our country so I thought to pass it along.


Teisha and Keven, (Teisha please forward to Dr.Vicknair,I don’t know her email.)

First and foremost I hope this email finds yall well.

As I promised Teisha a couple weeks ago, I’m writing this email to update you on my New England experience. Cambridge, as you know, is not Dallas. There are no tacos stands, no drive-thru beer stores, and no legitimate barber shops. I can do without the drive-thru beer girls, but I can’t do without the barbershops! I have to travel pretty far to get a good fade. I need the T (subway), a bus, and a donkey to get to and from the barbershop. Regardless of the distance, the trips are always worth it!

On my search for my fade I found Jamaica Plains, Boston. This predominantly Latino neighborhood might be old news to you but it was completely new to me. During my first visit not only did I find a barber second to only my Northwest Dallas barber but I also found the JP community center. I have returned to this community center to volunteer on multiple occasions. There is something special about this place (other than the Dominican Women). In case you don’t know, Jamaica Plains is known for its successful community development corporation and the community’s ability to ward off mass gentrification.

I mention JP because in truth it really helps me get to the point of why I am here. It helps me remember what the hallowed yards of Harvard can sometimes make one forget. I am here at the end of the day for the hardworking family that works day in and day out yet still cant get ahead. I am here for that family and those people who despite their own effort can’t seem to get a fair shake. Jamaica Plains reminds me of these people the same way my Bachman Lake does.

I think I can bring some of the ideas I’ve seen in JP home. For that reason alone, the last two months have been worth every minute I’ve been away.

Aside from my long trips to find a legit fade, things are well. Classes are challenging but not impossible. The people make this place what it is. Everyone has a story that is better than the last. My classmates are people who once started orphanages by providing women in West Africa micro-loans! That’s crazy! These are the type of people I get to speak with on a daily basis. It is humbling to say the least.

I cannot thank yall enough for the Food on the Move experience. I am a baby here. Harvard makes all 1st year MPPs take a “Management Course” . In this class, EVERYONE has something to say about the projects they’ve managed. If not for Food on the Move, I don’t know what I would say. My classmates might have managed an aids relief program in the Amazon but they’ve NEVER tried to manage a sweaty LaToya on a hot Texas summer day while 85 kids are waiting on their only meal of the day WHILE wearing a polyester Spiderman costume and trying to look good for the CBS 11 cameras. ..nope. …they’ve never done that.

Aside from class, I sit on the board for the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, I am involved with the community service organization @ the school, and I play flag football for the Graduate School House. The undergrads always beat us. They are just too fast!

What are yall up to now!?

Once again, I hope this email finds yall well. I see the name change, and I like it!! A CitySquare long sleeve t-shirt, (size medium) would sure look nice up here…just sayin. I’ll be home late December through mid January. For as great of a time I am having, I greatly look forward to some home cooking!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Morning spent in a food line. . .ever been there?

Have you ever stood in such a line waiting to receive food for you and your family? 

Recently, I captured these scenes at our Resource Center in inner city East Dallas before 9 a.m.  

We must do better as a community. 

We simply must.  What do you think?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Denying health care to the poor in Texas

Now we're told that leadership in the Texas legislature, in the next session beginning in January, may consider ending Medicaid coverage for poor children, women, the disabled and seniors.

Read the story here.

Just when you thought Texas couldn't get much colder or non-responsive to poor people, our leaders come through to strike an even harsher blow to the weak, the sick and the impoverished.

Don't it make ya proud?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CitySquare: theological reflection

After spending well over a year on the creation of our new "brand identity," I began to reflect on the new name, CitySquare, from a theological/biblical perspective.  Subconsciously I think our new name jumped out at me when I first saw it among a number of other choices that we had before us. 

If you scroll down to my post last Sunday, November 7, 2010, you'll see my thoughts on the struggle of Job and how his entire life seemed wrapped up in the city or public square where the witness of his life worked itself out. 

Today I'm thinking of the time of Nehemiah. 

Consider the following account of the reading of the Torah to the captives now returned to their city, Jerusalem: 

All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.

So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.  They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law (Nehemiah 8:1-8).

Note the key phrase as to the location of this event:  "in the square before the Water Gate." 

A city square is a place for values clarification, for law and for the understanding of custom, rules, justice and public policy.  Part of our work will always involve this matter of pouring our values and our standards into the mind of the larger community. 

CitySquare--it's a name that contains much meaning and it's working for us.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lincoln 1862

Annual Message to Congress -- Concluding Remarks
Washington, D.C.
December 1, 1862

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Brand "stunt"

We retained The Richards Group to help us with our new brand development.  Frankly, we had a blast working wtih these professionals for well over a year to craft a new name and brand identity. 

The result:  CitySquare!

Following the advice of our counselors at The Richards Group, we organized a PR "stunt" on Monday, October 25, the day of our public "roll out" for the new brand.  The exercise involved over 100 of our team gathering in Downtown Dallas before 7:00 a.m.  We then spread out with large square stencils and sidewalk chalk in hand to about 100 locations plotted in the central business district. 

We drew large squares on the sidewalks at strategic corners so that all of the people walking to work would see our message.  Inside the squares we recorded a "poverty fact" about Dallas, Texas and/or the USA. 

Our action created quite a stir!  And, since they had been tipped off, lots of press showed up to take photos and to capture video for TV news coverage.  And, just for the record, we had cleared our plans with the police department's Downtown unit! 

Here are a few images from the morning.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fear Not!!!!

Watch beyond the divisive details to capture the spirit of this very important message.

Fear kills community.

To obey the command, "Fear Not!" is to begin a journey toward wholeness, healing and hope in community.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Children. . .all children. . .are amazing--we can't afford to lose even one

Portfolio at the bottom. . .

Almost thirty years ago I realized that, if I bought into an IRA, I could save about $1,200 in tax liability for that one year. 

At the time I served a church in Richardson as its Senior Pastor.  I had no financial advisor.  So, following my usual "best practices," I opened the Yellow Pages and thrust my forefinger into the book where it landed on a broker named Scot Smith.  Best choice I ever made!  I have very little money, but Scot has stuck with me through it all and he has managed my funds very well.  Whatever retirement income I end up with will be in large part due to Scot's hard work on my behalf. 

So, I've been wondering.  If I have the benefit of a financial counselor near the top of the economy, why shouldn't folks nearer the bottom enjoy the same guidance benefit? 

My options orbit around a good job, 401K investments and a little inheritance income.  

Those at the bottom have the prospects of an entire range of public benefits designed to lift people into self-sufficiency.  Part of the problem though has to do with connecting eligible persons to the options and opportunities that they could enjoy.   

Take our entry level employees at CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries).  These are hard working individuals.  Our minimum wage at CitySquare is $10 an hour.  That translates to an annual wage of under $21,000, a pay scale that equals poverty status according to current federal poverty standards. 

What if we offered financial benefit counsel to these employees and to others who come to  us seeking assistance?  What if we trained and offered the services of "financial counselors" for the bottom of the economy? 

My question is necessary for a number of reasons. 

First, most people don't know what benefits are available for putting together a plan for a better life.  Overcoming a lack of basic skills is a major challenge for low-income wage-earners.  During that time of crucial learning, either in a classroom or on the job, people need assistance and support.  Connecting people to the resources can mean the difference between success and failure, as in continuing life at the bottom.

Second, obtaining the available benefits is not easy.  In fact, the longer I work in this sector the more I believe the system is set up to block eligible individuals and families from obtaining the benefits needed to be successful.  In short, it is hard to be certified for most of the assistance and human lift programs that are available.  For example, in 2008, Dallas County left over $500,000,000 of SNAP benefits (food stamps) on the table by not enrolling all qualified residents in the nutrition program that benefits individuals, families and retail grocers!  A competent counselor makes all the difference in the world to the process and to success. 

Third, an effective financial counselor often becomes a friend.  Most of us higher up the economic scale tend to forget the importance of supportive friendship.  Scot is my friend.  I trust him.  He gives me sound advice and clear direction.   Why would we expect things to be different among low-income persons?  And, this raises an important issue.  I believe that there may be a need to shift away from a classic social work/case management approach to this work.  What's needed will involve an approach more nearly like a financial advisor whose goal is to see a customer achieve maximum return on investment of time and effort. 

While the financial opportunities for low-income workers vary rather dramatically from state to state (with Texas ranking near the bottom on most public benefits), there are numerous resources available designed to advance people out of the underclass.  Included in this "portfolio of benefits" are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, Supplement Security and Disability Income, utility assistance, Women, Infant and Children program (WIC), Head Start, Free and Reduced School Food Program and various housing assistance programs. 

By weaving together a plan or linking up with applicable public benefits, a person with the assistance of a thoughtful financial advisor can begin to move forward.  At the same time, each of these possible investments in the lives of low-income individuals and families puts additional dollars into the economy where they are utilized. 

There is hope to be found here.  The question or the rate-limiter for impact relates to public will, as well as a willingness to view the various resources from a fresh, new perspective and without shame or reservation.  After all, lifting people in our economy is the purpose behind each fund opportunity.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


People ask me, "What's up with the new name?"

Maybe this will help!

Let me hear your reactions after you've watched.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Help the Homeless in Dallas on Saturday, November 13


Saturday, November 13, 2010

City Hall Plaza in Downtown Dallas

Take steps to end homelessness and be a part of the Help the Homeless Walkathon & 5K in Downtown Dallas. Whether you walk as an individual, a corporate team, or a group, you CAN make a difference!

Proceeds from this year's WalkAThon & 5K will be used to support the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA), operators of The Bridge: Dallas' Way Back Home. People experiencing homelessness access opportunities at The Bridge, the area's only centralized multi-service campus for care and housing.

Be a part of the movement — Take steps to end chronic homelessness in Dallas by 2014. Everyone deserves the safety, security and pride of having a place to call home.

Click here for more information and to register or to become a sponsor now!

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Job's defense. . .in the city square

As Job made his case against God and the suffering he endured, he painted a picture of himself in the city square.  He noted the reactions and opinions of his neighbors and fellow community members.  Clearly, Job recognized that the city square offered opportunities for action, evaluation and heightened stature. 

However, it is interesting to note the criteria for positive judgment exercised by citizens in the city square

Here's what Job says about his experience in the city square:

“When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square, the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet; the chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands; 10 the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.

Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because

I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them.

The one who was dying blessed me; I made the widow’s heart sing.

I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.

I was eyes to the blind

and feet to the lame.

I was a father to the needy;

I took up the case of the stranger.

I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.

The city square can become an important place for values clarification.  We believe our new name, CitySquare will offer us such opportunities on a daily basis. 

Please join us at the CitySquare.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Justice and Judaism

"Sightings" appears on the website of The Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School.  I remember in my seminary days I read everything that Martin Marty wrote, both his books and his columns in The Christian Century

What follows is David Gottlieb's interesting assessment/summary of the work of Rabbi Jill Jacobs presented in her book, There Shall Be No Needy:  Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law & Traidtion

As always, I'm looking for your reactions.

November 4, 2010

Tikkun Olam: Jewish Sacred Repair, Secular Action or both?
— David Gottlieb

In an attempt to address the well-documented and growing gulf between the economic fortunes of the rich and poor--and almost in tandem with the onset of the recession and the collapse of the housing market--Rabbi Jill Jacobs published a book on the Jewish imperative to practice tikkun olam, or repairing the world, as seen through both rabbinic and contemporary activist perspectives. The book, There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law & Tradition, affords an intimate look at what Rabbi Jacobs calls “a de facto pillar of progressive Judaism.” In this book and other writings, by unfolding some of the phrase’s shades of meaning, Rabbi Jacobs works to reveal how tikkun olam refers not only to our relationship to the physical world but also to establishing an unceasing commitment to spiritual sensitivity and religiously-based moral and ethical development. Although it may be too late to rescue the term tikkun olam from overuse, it is still valuable to begin to understand its many and nuanced meanings.

Rabbi Jacobs is rabbi-in-residence at Jewish Funds for Justice (JFJ), a progressive organization dedicated to “build[ing] a resurgent movement for justice with a significant Jewish presence at its center.” JFJ is part of a broad movement in contemporary American Judaism, in which tikkun olam takes on the practical tasks and commitments of social action. The Jewish social justice movement, of which JFJ is at the vanguard, sees the pursuit of economic justice as a contemporary articulation of the rabbinic imperative to go beyond the letter of Choshen Mishpat, or Jewish civil law, in working in partnership with God to repair Creation. Jacobs believes that “Jews should openly bring Jewish text and experience into public policy discussions.” Doing so is a means of upholding a central covenantal commitment while expressing Jewish identity in a modern manner.

The term tikkun olam was used by the rabbis who compiled the Mishnah (the comprehensive compendium of rabbinic teaching compiled circa 200 C.E. and comprising a major portion of the Talmud). It refers to laws designed to afford extra protection to the disadvantaged. The term took on a different meaning in the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah: the followers of the sixteenth-century Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria saw tikkun olam as a kind of cosmic repair of God’s fractured creation. In Lurianic Kabbalah, to which Rabbi Jacobs refers, the shards from shattered vessels of creation have trapped divine energy, and human souls, which must be restored to their divine Source through prescribed mystical and contemplative acts.

In its contemporary context, tikkun olam is often used as an umbrella term for any form of Jewish social action. The Kabbalistic imperative to address mystical imbalance is either folded into the work that seeks to address social imbalance, or elided altogether. This has led to a kind of "tikkun olam fatigue," tempting many Jews to retire the term from both the activist and mystical lexicons.

In an article on the history of the term, Rabbi Jacobs notes its ubiquity and its concomitant devaluation: “I have come across puzzling references to the ‘prophetic value of tikkun olam’ or ‘the commandment of tikkun olam.’ As a post-biblical term, tikkun olam neither appears in a prophetic book nor constitutes one of the mitzvot. However, as this concept has come to be equated both with a general call to justice, and with specific philanthropic and volunteer activities, the definition of tikkun olam has been merged with those of tzedakah (financial support of the poor), g’milut hasadim (acts of loving kindness), and tzedek (justice).”

Rather than advocating tikkun olam’s retirement, Rabbi Jacobs promotes a diverse and sustainable four-fold definition: “the anticipation of the divine kingdom in the Aleynu prayer; the midrashic (homiletic or interpretive) call to preserve the physical world; the rabbinic desire to sustain the social order; and the Lurianic belief in our power to restore divine perfection.” Such a definition would inform the Jewish social justice movement with both social and spiritual goals, encouraging the practice of world-healing in as inclusive and just a manner as possible.

Jill Jacobs, There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law & Tradition (Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Press, 2009).

“The History of ‘Tikkun Olam’,” Zeek, June 2007.
David Gottlieb is a PhD student in the History of Judaism at the Divinity School. He is also co-founder and executive director of Full Circle Communities, Inc., a philanthropic nonprofit developer of affordable housing and provider of supportive services.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Ending childhood hunger

Growing numbers of children experience hunger in Dallas.

Growing numbers of children and families come to CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries) every day seeking assistance with food needs.

The video below provides information on a national campaign to end childhood hunger.

The need is real and growing right here in Dallas.

Consider the pledge and then commit your financial support to our efforts here in inner city Dallas.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Detroit: Model for urban redesign?

The work that urban designer Toni Griffin engages in these days is very interesting, challenging and nothing short of huge and amazing!  Thinking, working and organizing at this level is what it will take to renew the urban core of most American cities today.  After you've read the interview, let me know your reactions.  In my view, this is fascinating stuff.

Can This Planner Save Detroit?

Toni L. Griffin has just accepted a unique—and daunting—job: the reshaping of Detroit. She talks to ARCHITECT about population decline, urban ag, downtown’s revival, and more.
By: Fred A. Bernstein

Time magazine called Toni L. Griffin a “star urban planner,” which doesn’t have quite the same ring as “starchitect,” but properly describes the 46-year-old. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, where she still teaches, Griffin began her career in the private sector, working first for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in her native Chicago. While at SOM, she helped turn the Renaissance Center, John Portman’s office and hotel complex in downtown Detroit, into General Motors Co.’s world headquarters.

From SOM, she went to work for the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation, focusing on planning and heritage tourism initiatives, and then to the Washington, D.C., planning office, where she oversaw redevelopment projects. From Washington, she moved to Newark, N.J., where, within three years, the planning office she rebuilt was winning awards—among them, an award from the New Jersey chapter of the American Planning Association for its work on sustainable infill housing guidelines.

This spring, Griffin signed on for what may be America’s toughest urban planning challenge: helping to remake Detroit, a city that has seen its population decline by half over 60 years. In September, Griffin helped Mayor Dave Bing’s administration launch the Detroit Works Project, a 12- to 18-month effort to map the city’s future. It began with a series of widely attended public forums.

A Manhattan resident, Griffin spends most of the week in an office in Detroit City Hall. In an arrangement that reflects the strong interest of philanthropists in Detroit’s future, her salary is paid by the Kresge Foundation (which has an endowment of over $3 billion). Rip Rapson, Kresge’s president and son of architect Ralph Rapson, is also giving the city funds for Griffin to hire a team of local, national, and international consultants, from the private sector and four Michigan universities. Several other foundations are expected to provide funding to support both the technical and civic engagement components of the project.

Author Fred A. Bernstein first met Griffin in 2004, when they were both participants in the Mayors’ Institute on City Design in Charleston, S.C. She spoke to him on a recent weekend from her apartment in Harlem.

How did the Detroit job come about?

When Mayor Bing began his first full term in January, leaders of the private sector were determined to help him tackle the extraordinary challenges facing Detroit. At the same time, Kresge and other foundations wanted to make sure their investments aligned with the city’s needs, both programmatically and spatially.

This leadership saw now as the opportunity create a shared vision for the city, across sectors and inclusive of broad civic engagement. I was asked to join the mayor’s team to assemble and manage a team to create this vision with members of his staff.

To read the entire interview click here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Don't fail us today...

The transfer of power, the continual "adjustment" of leadership and approach, even philosophy across the American political landscape amazes me every election day. How privileged we are to possess the right, the obligation to express our views by ballot.

The sometimes brutal, often unfair and inaccurate claims and counter-claims of election campaigns have always been a part of the political process in the United States. While in graduate school, I read scores of newspapers from across the nation dated in the 1830s. The hatred, the tactics, the tone all combined to make for bitter races from state houses to the White House! Like it or not, this combative spirit has been a part of the process from the beginning.

The tone, tactics or tiresome tools of political races must not deter us.

Today is election day!

Today we have the final say, at least until the next time we're asked to vote!

Don't take this amazing right for granted. Unless you've voted early, don't neglect the gift of your freedom.

Don't walk away from the obligation of liberty!

Monday, November 01, 2010


Last night we had over 500 children, and a few adults, come to our door on Halloween! Biggest crowd ever!


I'm tired.

No complaint.

Just a fact.

I'll post tomorrow, if there is something to say or share.

Or, maybe not.

The battle is long.

The battle hard.