Books Matter: Francene Haliburton-Francis
March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her. Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project. To read all the blog posts so far, click here.
By Maggie Alexander
After being an educator in Waco Independent School District for 34 years, Francene Haliburton-Francis became an author. Her book, 728 Lenox Avenue Haliburton Home Squared, has been the most impactful book in her life.
728 Lenox Avenue Haliburton Home Squared is a combination of stories and poetic expressions about faith, family and race relations. It allows people a glimpse into the life of Haliburton-Francis, seeing a new perspective.
“I want people in the Waco community to take a peek into an African American perspective of growing up in Waco in the ‘60s, and what the integration process was like on the other side of the river,” Haliburton-Francis said.
Haliburton-Francis found inspiration after reading Barack Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father. In the book Obama writes of his native home land in Nairobi, Kenya.
“He refers to his heritage home as home squared because it is home twice over,” Haliburton-Francis said. “It was so significant to me, I decided to write about my childhood home ‘Haliburton, home squared.’”
728 Lenox Avenue Haliburton Home Squared allowed Haliburton-Francis to reflect on her past and tell her story.
“Whenever you write about your own personal experiences, it gives you a chance to reflect on meaningful events in your life, whether they are negative or positive,” Haliburton-Francis said. “When you think back on your life, you are going to have moments that make you laugh again, cry again and moments that when they happened you were angry, but now you are free.”
Haliburton-Francis brought her love of teaching and writing into one with the book. While teaching in WISD, Francis saw kids who didn’t have a safe home. She often had children in her class who didn’t have somewhere secure to go after school. She was inspired as a teacher to have her classroom be a protected space, physically and emotionally, for all her students.
“The point is how home is a place where we process our experiences in life, whatever emotions we had as children. Home should be a safe place to process those emotions,” Haliburton-Francis said. “There are some children who don’t have a safe place to process what they are experiencing, and they are the ones who need to process it the most.”