Friday, May 31, 2013

KTIS radio and "The Wealth of the Poor"

I enjoyed my early morning interview with Ted and PK on Missouri radio station, KTIS!

I'm finding my book is opening many new doors for discussing CitySquare and the entire subject of poverty in urban America.

Listen in here!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Michael Sorrell and Gerald Britt weigh in on poverty and public education

For almost 10 months, Dallas has been engaged in a very public local battle in the national war to “fix” urban education.
Nationally, and locally, some combatants on both sides of the war — while sincere — employ logic and tactics that insult and belittle the very communities they purport to save. All parties in this war share the goals of higher-performing students, better-equipped schools and the redevelopment of economically depressed neighborhoods.
Yet in Dallas and across the country, communities that presumably have the most to gain from the efforts of the reformers are rebelling against them. To quote Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs: “What’s the matter here?”
To read the entire essay click here

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dangerous Activity

Contemplation is a very dangerous activity.

It not only brings us face to face with God. It brings us, as well, face to face with the world, face to face with the self.

And then, of course, something must be done.

Nothing stays the same once we have found the God within.  

We carry the world in our hearts: the oppression of all peoples, the suffering of our friends, the burdens of our enemies, the raping of the Earth, the hunger of the starving, the joy of every laughing child.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Spirit in Our Life

Have we ever kept quiet, even though we wanted to defend ourselves when we had been unfairly treated?  Have we ever forgiven someone even though we got no thanks? Have we ever been absolutely lonely? Have we ever tried to love God when we are no longer being borne on the crest of the wave of enthusiastic feeling?  Let us search in our life. If we find such experiences, then we have experienced the Spirit.

Karl Rahner

Monday, May 27, 2013

Organizing a community

On Thursday, May 16, the CityWalk@Akard community enjoyed a full-on crime watch organizing event on the 3rd floor patio.

Master of all things BBQue, Edd Eason, provided the foundation for a great meal, and many CitySquare team members pitched in to help with the rest of the meal, serving the meal and making everything inviting and conducive to real progress on safety in the building.

Dallas police officers helped with the meeting.  They left very impressed with the participation, the planning and the program.  The residents of CityWalk are taking responsibility for the viability of their own community.

Way to go to everyone involved, and especially the residents who were so interested and involved!

This is a signal that a healthy community is emerging at 511 N. Akard in Downtown Dallas!

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Rain runs in scurrying rivulets across my tight porch roof,
Reaching the flourishing, carefully selected plant life in the moist bed below,
Bringing relief to thirsty root, stem and blossom;
Dripping wetness refreshes my world and home.

Across my end of town the very same rain falls 
Without mercy on roofless friends huddled under grey, lifeless bridges,
Serving the hurried traffic above with no thought of the life beneath;
Rainy wetness, one more pressing challenge to master.

Grown men and children thrown together into the wetness 
Of this unforgiving, hard, muddy world,
Where what little is owned is now damp, musty;
Working on moldy uselessness and disease.

Same cold rain, falling on two spots, same community,
Nourish blooming flowers and persistent weeds,
Rolling off secure rooftops and stark infrastructure;
Two worlds, seldom connected, sharing the wetness so differently.

Monday, May 20, 2013

3 bucks an hour for clean streets. . .

Last Friday morning as I drove down Elm Street toward Downtown, I noticed my good friend, "Blue" picking up cans as he made this way up the street in my direction.

I pulled up, rolled my window down and said, "What are you doing, man?"

"Pickin' up cans, Mr. James," he replied.

I pulled off the street and parked my Jeep.

We greeted each other with a hug and a handshake.

"How are you, Blue," I inquired.

"I'm blessed, blessed by the best!" somehow his answer beamed.  "I want that job, Mr. James, that's what I want," he reminded me of the focus of several conversations we've had out at "the Corner" across from the Opportunity Center site.

"All I want is the job," he repeated emphatically.

"I hear you, Blue, and I know," I tried to assure him that I had not forgotten.

"Where were you Wednesday night during the storm?" I asked him.

"Outside, under Billy's canopy at the gas station," he informed me.

"I was thinking about you as the sirens sounded and the rain poured down," I told him, small comfort, really no comfort in that report, but I wanted him to at least know that he had not been forgotten, though I did nothing to relieve his situation.

Golden Rule failure, big time there.

"What do you get for the cans, Blue?" I asked changing the subject.

"Fifty cents a pound," he told me.

"How many pounds you got? I asked.

"About 5 or 6, I'd guess," he said.

"How long that take you to pick up?" I probed.

"'Bout an hour," he said.

So, I figured in my head, "Blue" scourers the streets of inner city Dallas, in my neighborhood, for discarded cans and earns no more than $3 an hour.


"I need that job, Mr. James, I need that job," he pressed.

"I know, Blue, I know.  And, you need a place to live off these streets," I reminded him of the obvious.  "Nothing really changes until we find you a home," I repeated, more for myself than for him.

"That's right.  But, Mr. James, I'm okay.  Really I am," he noted in a thinly veiled effort to take care of me, patting his chest with his open hand.

"I'm blessed, Mr. James, I'm blessed.  Just don't forget that job!" he stated one more time.

"I won't," I told him.  "I won't."

As I drove away, I faced his simple request, and I wondered if we could connect the dots with my friend.

I pray we can.

But, frankly, I'm not sure.  I'm just not sure.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

From Dr. King's last speech. . .looking for Amos

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared the following comments in a sermon delivered in Memphis, Tennessee the evening prior to his death:

"We need all of you. . . and you know what's beautiful to me, is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel.  It's a marvelous picture.  Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher?  Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and say, 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.' . . .

"It's alright to talk about 'long white robes over yonder,' in all its symbolism.  But ultimately, people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here.  It's alright to talk about 'streets flowing with milk and honey,' but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and [the] children who can't eat three square meals a day.  It's alright to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God' preacher must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee.  That is what we have to do. . . .

"We aren't going to let any mace stop us.  We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don't know what to do.  I've seen them so often.  I remember in Birmingham. . .when we were in the majestic struggle there [and] we would move out. . .by the hundreds. . . . And Bull Conner would tell them to send the dogs forth and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing.  Bull Connor next would say, 'Turn the fire hoses on.'  And, as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn't know history.  He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn't relate to the transphysics that we knew about.  And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

“True integration,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “will be achieved by true neighbors who are willingly obedient to unenforceable obligations.”

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Several weeks ago I met Charles on "the porch" where I sit on Thursday afternoons.

He impressed me then as a very smart, self-aware man.

"Today, Larry, I have a peaceful spirit.  That has not always been the case, back when I tried to 'act like God,' I was very, very different" he informed me in that first meeting.  Funny how deep folks seem to go immediately out there on the street.  No time for wasted words or small talk.  Tough reality only, please.

Last week when I saw him, he had a real problem.  His bike, the only source of transportation that he had, had two flat tires.  Charles picks up work wherever he can.  He stays in a night shelter or under a bridge, rides his bike to work where he cleans things up and catches out on odd jobs. Or, at least he did until recently.

It was an easy thing to help him get his tires fixed.

During that process, I asked him what he did for work.

"I do anything I can find to do," he said. "But, it's gotten lots harder.  Over in Deep Ellum they are telling us 'We can't hire people like you anymore.'  I told them, I don't know what you mean.  My name is Charles and I'm just here to work."  

It seems the Deep Ellum Association doesn't want homeless persons in their area, even if they are there to work.

Just one more example of why housing is so important.

Lots of people think shelters provide "housing."

Funny though, business owners and employers don't consider shelters "housing."  If they did, some of my homeless friends like Charles would be hired.

We've got to do better.

We've got to get people like my friend Charles into homes.

He has transportation.

Now he needs an address.

"If I had a home, Larry, I could get my little granddaughter out of foster care," he told me.

But, then, that's another story altogether. A story that breaks this granddad's heart.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Frustrated student. . .what do you think?

By now lots of people have seen this video that went viral from Duncanville High School here in the Dallas area.

 Excuse a couple of the words, but I'd like to know what you think of this young man's commentary/reaction to his his teacher.

 Few things are more important than getting public education back on track.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Immigration Reform in Committee

The U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee leads the current discussion regarding immigration reform.  To see a listing of the committee members click here.

The 18 members of this committee are considering possible amendments to the bipartisan “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” that was introduced a few weeks ago.  

The amendment process is incredibly important: it provides the opportunity to make improvements to the bill before it goes to a vote, but it also provides an opportunity to introduce elements to a carefully negotiated compromise bill that could cause bipartisan support to be limited going forward.

If one of your senators is a member of this committee, I urge you to contact him/her and express your support for comprehensive immigration reform, and ask that it be wrapped up this coming summer for the sake of the millions of people who are adversely affected by current policies.  

So many of our neighbors need the relief that strong reform would provide.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Gerald Britt, VP with CitySquare speaks up. . .

To hear Rev. Gerald Britt, CitySquare VP of Public Policy and Workforce Development, respond to calls for the firing of Dallas Independent School District Superintendent, Mike Miles click here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Worlds Apart!

Last Sunday, I spoke to the folks at The Hills church in North Richland Hills, Texas.  It was really good being with the church led by my friend, Rick Atchley.

My sermon, "Worlds Apart" can be seen below:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Little Hen

To a proud granddad, this is pure genius and delight!

 Henry loves to sing!

 I love to hear him.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Bottom Line Banner on Dallas Morning News front page yesterday!

CitySquare will host singing sensation, Diana Ross on Friday, September 13, 2013 as a part of our 25th Anniversary in working with neighbors to overcome poverty in the Metroplex.

 Mark you calendar today! 

  Sponsorship options are available!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Welcome to the Opportunity Center, neighbor!!!

This week on Tuesday morning, volunteers from Pepsi, Albertsons, and Feed the Children joined CitySquare to distribute several tons of nutritious food products to several hundred families.

The effort's two-fold mission was to assist working families with their food needs and to introduce our neighbors to the location of our new Opportunity Center on Malcolm X Boulevard.

The effort was a huge success!

At the busiest time of the morning, cars stretched from our front gate all the way down Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard!

It was a great morning among friends!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

CitySquare Work Paths "Build 4 Success" graduation. . .a crude snippet!

The video captures, in a very unprofessional manner, just a snippet of the most encouraging graduation exercises for CitySquare's most recent Build 4 Success class, a 14-week, 310 hour course in hard skills construction training.

This spring's class was a truly great one.

These graduates will be stepping up into living wage jobs thanks to the high-level training they received and of which they took full advantage!

What a great group!

And, again, forgive my crude video.  I just had to give you a glimpse.

As we move forward, employment training will occupy more and more of our time and resources.

Monday, May 06, 2013

AmeriCorps and learning service


We have many goals for our AmeriCorps programs: help 3,000 children do better in school, provide 20,000 children with meals during the summer, provide food for 5,000 families through our food pantry, and recruit 500 volunteers to help expand impact. 

We have one unmeasured goal that in many ways we view as our most important accomplishment: instill in AmeriCorps members an ethic of service that extends beyond their short term with us. Member surveys and comments to us suggest we do a pretty good job at this goal.  However, every now and then we are presented with broader proof that we are reaching our goals.

Today a former member dropped by to let us know that she was tasked with a class project in her “Psychology of Poverty” course.  She had the option to do research and write a paper or she could do an action project.  She choose an action project.  

Drawing upon her tenure as a summer AmeriCorps member, she decided that she wanted to do two things: raise funds and recreational equipment to support the summer enrichment activities of our Food on the Move program and also raise awareness of poverty and childhood hunger. 

She enlisted the help of a few classmates and the management of SportsAuthority.  She set up a table at a local Sports Authority, who supported the project by donating 20% off coupons to be given out.  Her only visuals were a few 8 1/2 by 11 pieces of paper taped to the table and a homemade 3 sided cardboard sign – like the kind kids use for science projects.

Her team welcomed everyone as they entered the store and for those that stopped, they talked about not just the need in Dallas, but also about the solution.  And she asked them to help with the solution by donating funds or sports items like balls and jump ropes.  Over the course of two, four hour days this AmeriCorps Alum raised $900 in cash and received another $100 in sports equipment.

We have a need for both in our summer program; and we will put the funds to their intended use: buying more balls and jump ropes and sidewalk chalk…and hula hoops. But our greatest need was met by her actions – the need to have more citizens committed to a lifetime of service and attachment to their community.

Dr. Keven Vicknair
CitySquare's AmeriCorps team

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Sunday assignment

Step one:  read Revelation 18

Step two:  ponder each word and phrase, underlining the most interesting words and phrases

Step three:  summarize the chapter in one sentence


1)  What dominates the reason for the great agony and mourning in these words?

2)  What is the place/position of great wealth in this part of the story?

3)  Is economic power a problem here?

4)  In what way do various actors "commit fornication" in the story line?

5)  Is the focus of this chapter sex or economics?

6)  What role does wealth and economic power play in this story of failure and defeat?

7)  What does the chapter seem to reveal about God's attitude toward wealth and its power?

8)  Where are "the poor" in this vision of the community in question?

Finally:  what is the "takeaway" for you?

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Public sold out!

National leaders need to listen to the public about simple, common sense gun control.

 Whatever the intention of the framers of the Second Amendment, I believe we can agree it did not include the right of mentally ill persons, violent criminals or people listed on a terrorist watch list to bear arms.

 Why, none of those people could even join a "well-regulated militia"!

 In keeping with that spirit, here's how the dollar bounces in the U. S. Senate.

Let me tell you, this behavior doesn't play well in the inner city where I live.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Nice job, President Bush!

The Daily Beast reports some good news about national progress in ending homelessness for those trapped in the most extreme poverty.  Very encouraging report that highlights the vital nature of permanent housing.

Fewer Homeless, a Bush Legacy

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
My CNN column focuses on a major domestic policy achievement by George W. Bush: combating homelessness.
Have you noticed that homelessness isn't worse? Here we are, living through the most protracted joblessness crisis since the Great Depression -- and surprisingly, fewer people are living on the street.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that the number of the chronically homeless declined by 30% between 2005 and 2007. You might have expected the numbers to spike again when the financial crisis hit but no. Since 2007, the number of chronic homeless has dropped another 19%.
A broader measure of the number of homeless counts the number of people living out of doors on one randomly chosen night. That broader measure has also improved through the economic crisis. Between January 2011 and January 2012, homelessness among veterans dropped by 7%.
To what or whom do we owe this good news?
In very large part, we owe it to the president whose library opened in Dallas last week: George W. Bush.
For three decades, we have debated what causes homelessness and how to deal with it. Is homelessness a mental health problem? A substance abuse problem? A problem caused by gentrification and urban redevelopment? Or something else again?
The Bush administration substituted a much simpler idea -- an idea that happened to work. Whatever the cause of homelessness, the solution is ... a home.
Read the entire report here

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Solutions and Self-Interest

So, what if everyone in the nation enrolled in Medicare?  How would that work?

Typically, when someone asks a question like that, immediately naysayers begin to push back, calling the idea absurd and/or cost prohibitive.  Or, people laugh and walk away.  Data flies around.  Conversations turn tense.

Today, I'm wondering why.

The nation faces a health care crisis both in terms of cost and public health outcomes.

Growing numbers of people believe the solution is not that complex to imagine.

The problem revolves around the existing self-interests of powerful groups.  This reality produced the compromise response that is the unwieldy Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obama Care."

But, honestly, there is a better way.  A way to further curb expenses, as well as a way toward much improved public health results.

Read on!