Embracing Black History Month in Waco

A Celebration of Heritage and Diversity

by: Debrah Wright

Black History Month serves as an annual tribute to the remarkable achievements of African Americans, highlighting their pivotal role in shaping the nation’s history. In Waco, Texas, we proudly participate in this celebration, fostering a sense of community and understanding through a diverse array of events throughout the month.

Originating from “Negro History Week,” conceived by historian Carter G. Woodson and other influential African Americans, Black History Month gained official recognition in 1976, with every U.S. president designating February as a time to honor the contributions of African Americans.

Waco’s rich history is deeply intertwined with the presence and influence of African Americans, dating back to the mid-nineteenth century when the first black residents, initially brought as slaves, played pivotal roles in the region’s development. Post-Civil War, they actively worked to rebuild their lives as freedmen and freedwomen, contributing significantly to the growth of Waco and McLennan County.

From the historic HBCU Paul Quinn College to the Farmers Improvement Society advocating for equal treatment post-Civil War, Waco’s Black history is filled with inspiring narratives. All Waco residents and visitors alike can celebrate Black History Month by exploring Black-owned businesses and participating in various events and learning opportunities throughout February.

Highlighted events include a Ceremonial Groundbreaking for the Memorial to Enslaved Persons hosted by Baylor University on February 23 at 1:30 P.M. and a Black History Walking Tour led by experts from Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History on Saturday, February 24th.

Join experts from Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History as they lead you through Downtown Waco for its third annual Black History Walk. Gain insights into historic locations during this educated tour, where guides will highlight influential Black figures like Waco’s first Black mayor, the initial Black female mayor, and the late Commissioner Patricia Miller.

Notably, Waco’s Black history once thrived on Bridge Street, but after the 1953 tornado, business owners relocated to Elm Avenue. The walk commences at the McLennan County Courthouse in downtown on Saturday, February 24th, running from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Be part of this enriching journey uncovering the impactful stories woven into Waco’s historical tapestry.

Waco residents and visitors can also embark on a self-guided tour of Black history throughout the city, curated by Baylor’s Institute for Oral Histories and the Texas Collection. This tour, running from February 1 to 29, explores significant landmarks, churches, bridges, and businesses that contribute to Waco’s diverse heritage.

Additional events include “Black History in the Archives” on February 27th at 4 p.m., hosted by the Black Faculty & Staff Association and The Texas Collection at the Carroll Library, and an Afro-LatinX Cultural Heritage Celebration on February 28th, hosted by the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science at Baylor University in the Student Union Building at 5 p.m. There is also the Big XII Conference on Black Student Government, hosted by Iowa State University from February 29 to March 3, promises a series of engaging discussions and activities.

Explore the Mini Black History Museum at the Dewey Community Center before it closes on February 29th. The Dewey team has curated an excellent display, and the exhibit is available during the following hours:

Monday to Thursday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (museum closed from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
Friday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (museum closed after 3 p.m.)
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in this enlightening experience celebrating Black history.

Furthermore, Creative Arts Experiences held throughout the month provide opportunities to delve into the works of influential Black authors, musicians, and theatrical performances.

Experience the enchanting melodies of America’s most original genre, jazz, with Baylor’s Concert Jazz Ensemble on February 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Jones Concert Hall, Glennis McCrary Music Building.

Join us in Waco as we commemorate Black History Month, embracing the past, present, and future of our diverse community.

The Salvation Army, Walmart and HEB Unite to Collect School Supplies

WHO: The Salvation Army Waco Corps, Local Waco Walmart locations, Waco HEB Stores

WHAT: The 2023 back-to-school campaign encourages shoppers to purchase and donate school supplies and other requested items at the Salvation Army collection bins at Walmart on Franklin and in Hewitt from August 4th to August 6th. Additionally, all Waco HEB stores will be collecting Back to School donations for school supplies, which will be purchased for distribution by The Salvation Army. The aim is to provide new school supplies to 300-500 students in the McLennan County community, ensuring they have the necessary materials for the upcoming school year.

WHY: The collaboration between The Salvation Army and local communities, along with supporters like HEB and Walmart, helps meet the needs of people and serves over 23 million Americans annually through social services, aiding communities in overcoming poverty and economic hardships. This joint effort ensures children in Waco and surrounding cities have the school supplies they need for academic success.

WHEN: School supply collections at Walmart will take place on August 4th, 5th, and 6th, 2023, from 10 am to 6 pm. The HEB Back to School Event will be ongoing throughout August, including curbside purchases.

WHERE: Live event at Walmart on Sun Valley in Hewitt, scheduled for August 5, 2023, from 10 am to 6 pm. Interviews and photo opportunities can be arranged upon request before the event.

MCC hosts Small Business Networking Forum

McLennan Community College’s (MCC) Small Business Development Center, in partnership with Dallas College’s Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, will host an engaging Small Business Networking Forum on July 25 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the MCC Conference Center, located at 4601 North 19th Street, Waco, Texas.

This forum offers small business owners a valuable opportunity to connect with resources dedicated to fostering success in their ventures. Participants will gain access to crucial information about the McLennan Community Investment Fund, Start-Up Waco, MCC’s Small Business Development Center, local Chamber of Commerce organizations, and various other small business advocacy groups. 

A highlight of the forum will be a presentation from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, an investment program to support the growth and job creation of small businesses by offering education, capital, and business support services. Over 12,800 business owners from all 50 states including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have graduated from this program to date. 

The Forum will conclude with networking and one-on-one meetings with small business resources and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses representatives.

            Registration for this free event is at https://qrco.de/be7eIt. For more information, contact Dr. Frank Graves, Dean of Workforce & Public Service at MCC, at 254-299-8126 or[email protected].

Surgeon General’s Advisory on Social Media Effect on Youth Mental Health, PANS Syndrome & Mental Health Support for SchoolsPart of June 15th Teen Suicide Prevention Symposium 

Education Service Center Region 12 staff, educators, mental health advocates and care providers will join forces for the 18th Annual Teen Suicide Prevention Symposium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, June 15 at 2101 W. Loop 340 in Waco.

ESC Region 12 and Partners Cedar Crest Residential Treatment Center and Daybreak Health want to gather educators, mental health providers and community members to learn and take action to help save the lives of challenged youth. The event will encourage awareness, intervention and prevention of teen suicide, regarded as the ‘preventable epidemic’ among Texas youth. 

“This year’s event focuses on issues and trends impacting youth in many ways that educators, parents and care providers are seeing in our schools. From speakers on Pediatric Acute Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (or PANS), to discussions about the US Surgeon General’s Advisory on Social Media and its Effect on Youth Mental Health, we are presenting cutting-edge topics that have a direct impact on our teens and their mental health,” said Jenipher Janek, a counseling services coordinator and lead for the Region 12 School Crisis Response Team.  


The ESC Region 12 School Crisis Response Team includes ESC counselors and communication staff, school counselors and mental health advisors from the Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network. The group coordinates grief response and provides logistical and communications support, and crisis recovery at no cost to area schools. In the last year, the team has responded to 18 calls to support educators and students affected by the loss of a student, employee or other crisis incident impacting school operations, including loss of life to suicide. Part of this work includes connecting schools to mental health providers and creating awareness about TCHATT, the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine, which provides telemedicine or telehealth programs to school districts to help identify and assess the behavioral health needs of students and provide access to mental health services. 

Event partners, expecting 80 attendees, hope to bring in even more educators, mental health providers, police officers, counselors and emergency services personnel. Advance registration ($45) is requested at: txr12.escworks.net/catalog/session.aspx?session_id=297715. Schools in the Counseling Services Membership may send staff at no additional fee. For more on ESC Region 12 Counseling Services and School Support, visit bit.ly/2023ESC12
Additional event supporters include the Central Texas Regional Advisory Council, Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network, Heart of Texas Regional Advisory Council, Heart of Texas Suicide Prevention Coalition and VOICE.

In Celebration of the Public Library

By: Dr. Peaches Henry

I am relieved that the Llano County (Texas) commissioners kept their library system open and returned banned books to the library shelves.  Yet, I am dismayed that Missouri’s House voted to cut all funding for libraries in its version of the state’s annual budget, because the American Civil Liberties Union, the Missouri Association of School Librarians, and the Missouri Library Association are suing the state over the censorship of some books from school libraries across the state.  I do not intend to litigate the practice of banning books here.  [To get my view on that, see my 1992 essay “The Struggle for Tolerance: Race and Censorship in Huckleberry Finn.”]  Instead, during National Library Week (April 23-29), I want to celebrate the Waco McLennan County Library for the profound way it touches the lives of Wacoans.  

Our library provides essential services to children, families, individuals, and the community at large.  A truly remarkable place, the public library provides safe, accessible, one hundred percent free educational resources to everyone.  It pools local resources like educational offerings, job training, and computer or internet access and puts them all in one place for use by the whole community.  Whether you are a family looking for a fun story time, an immigrant looking for language help, a student working on a History Fair project, a person needing help on their taxes, or a homeless person looking for a place to cool off, you can find them all at the library—a place that has undergone transformation that makes it an altogether different place from the one previous generations enjoyed. 

Indeed, the modern public library that serves Waco McLennan County is not your grandparents’ library.  These days, there is more to the story when it comes to the library which provides services far beyond the traditional task of checking books in and out.  Even that has been transformed.  Patrons can access ebooks, emagazines, and audiobooks in the CloudLibrary and read them anywhere.  They can also check out a mind-boggling range of “Special Items” which include blood pressure kits, sensory backpacks for specials needs children, disc golf kits, discovery boxes, and puppet kits.  Special Items educational kits include flash cards, literacy kits for preschoolers, and STEAM kits for upper-elementary children.  Among the most prized of the special items are the free family passes to local museums and sites including the Mayborn Museum, Cameron Park Zoo, and the Dr. Pepper Museum to name a few.  The library’s Special Items collections offer free access to materials that many families cannot afford to purchase.  

The library also boasts numerous, varied children’s programs aimed all ages.  Everything from themed storytimes (money smart, STEAM, or super hero) to painting to a Minecraft and Roblox club to a look behind-the-scenes tour of the library to summer reading programs is available to children.  As a member of the Library Commission, I was delighted to judge the library’s inaugural Edible Book Festival on April Fool’s Day.

In addition to catering to children, the library also offers essential support to adult Wacoans.  It maintains partnerships with local entities which deliver needed services.  The Heart of Texas Goodwill, for instance, holds computer skills and financial literary classes at the library.  The Heart of Texas Workforce Solutions gives free one-on-one job skills training.  The library hosts books clubs such as Books & Brew or the Mystery Book Club.  It sponsors adult programs such as healthy crock pot cooking, an adult anime and manga club, and free tax preparation not to mention the work of the Genealogy Center.  

The modern Waco McLennan County Library is a completely different place from the old Palestine Carnegie Library that I used to walk to as a child.  Yet, in the most meaningful way, it  remains the same iconic institution that I grew up with.  The library is still the community hub that connects people to information, offers essential services and resources, brings people together, encourages lifelong learning, provides safe havens for children and adults, helps build healthy communities, and transports individuals around the world and to other worlds.  Like libraries around the state and nation, our local library is an important public institution that we must support and protect now more than ever.

Dr. Peaches Henry is a member of the Waco McLennan County Library Advisory Commission.

HB 2827

This proposed bill will drastically weaken regulations that have protected the North Bosque Watershed, Lake Waco and, in effect, the Waco Water Supply from pollution caused by dairy farms.


Background:

Prior to 2001, the Waco Water Supply was polluted as a result of dairy farmers spreading cow manure that would run off into the North Bosque River, and then into Lake Waco.  This caused the growth of algae that can kill fish and made our water smell and taste bad. In 2001, the City of Waco successfully advocated for the passage of state legislation that would mandate stricter permits for dairies on the North Bosque watershed, along with waste management regulations.  If you’ve been in Waco since that time, you will likely recall how poorly Waco water smelled and tasted during that time.

To date, while there has been significant improvement in the taste and smell of Waco water, the North Bosque River is still polluted and classified as impaired by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and as recently as 2022, TCEQ said more work needs to be done on this watershed. 

Proposed Legislation

HB 2827 would revert back to a permitting system that was allowed when the pollution into the watershed was at its peak. Further, it would reduce pollution prevention, testing and reporting, thus likely increasing pollution in the North Bosque River (and thus the Waco Water Supply). 

Of note, the bill’s author argues that the current law is an over-regulation. Also of note, there are nearly the same number of milk cows in the counties that touch the North Bosque watershed now as there were when the 2001 legislation was passed, and the trend indicates the number of milk cows are likely to increase.  However, with of the regulations in place, Waco’s water quality has improved.

Actions the City of Waco has taken to advocate for Waco’s Water Supply:

  • Communicated directly with the bill’s author, Waco’s elected State representatives, as well as the House Environmental Regulations Committee, in opposition to the bill.
  • Collaborated with local stakeholders like the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and Baylor University.
  • Engaged and informed families who own property along the North Bosque River to ensure they able to advocate appropriately.
  • Sent information the Bosque River Coalition membership.
  • Sent information to the Brazos River Authority. 
  • Engaged the EPA and TCEQ.
  • Engaged with other current and former local leaders and requesting advocacy for the Texas Legislature to oppose the passage of HB2827, or ensure there are drastic amendments made that protect the Waco Water Supply from harmful dairy farm pollution.  

Citizens with opposition to or concerns about HB 2827 can contact Rep. Anderson and Sen. Birdwell:  

About the City of Waco and Lake Waco

Lake Waco is a man-made reservoir located on the west side of Waco, in McLennan County, Texas. The City of Waco maintains the water rights to Lake Waco, which serves as the primary water source Waco as well as other cities including Bellmead,Hewitt, Robinson, Woodway and others. The City of Waco owns and operates water treatment facilities and is responsible for treating the water from the lake to make it safe for drinking and other uses.

Region 12 honors school, district counselors

Education Service Center Region 12 honored Counselors of the Year and others Feb. 12 during its 10th Annual School Counselor Appreciation Luncheon.

Left to right: Amanda Wilson, Elementary Counselor of the Year in Lorena ISD; Becky Lane, “Lone Ranger” School Counselor of the Year in Gholson ISD; Tara Podjenski, Secondary Counselor of the Year in Rice ISD.

This year, the Elementary Counselor of the Year is Amanda Wilson of Lorena Elementary in Lorena ISD, and the Secondary Counselor of the Year is Tara Podjenski of Rice High School in Rice  ISD. There was also a special category to recognize a school counselor who serves an entire district, K-12. This year’s 2023 ESC Region 12 “Lone Ranger” School Counselor of the Year is Becky Lane of Gholson ISD.

“From academic achievement strategies to mental health support, celebrating the essential contributions of those who serve in school counseling is important,” said Jeni Janek, Region 12 education specialist. “ESC Region 12’s annual luncheon is a way to show well-deserved appreciation and honor the Counselors of the Year. It is always a fun and special time.”

Canine and handler school crisis responders

This year Region 12 recognized the positive impact of “canine and handler school crisis responders,” a news release said. “Their contributions and impact on area students and educators have steadily increased over the past few years and bring balance to the counseling process. This year’s inaugural recipients were from Bella’s Buddies and Go Team Therapy.

The event, which started at Region 12, one of 20 centers in Texas, has now grown across the state as other regions honor school counselors in much the same way. Partners McLennan Community College and Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network helped to recognize the work and dedication of the school counselors.

Recognitions included retiring counselors, members of the Regional Crisis Response Team, ESC Region 12 New Counselor Academy members, and Elite School Counselors. ESC Region 12 joined the National School Counselor Association in celebrating National School Counseling Week Feb. 6-10. The week honors and celebrates school counselors’ contributions and highlights their tremendous impact on helping students achieve success.

Hill appointed to vacant MCC trustee position

The McLennan Community College Board of Trustees has appointed Jonathan Hill as their next board member, filling the District 1 position that was vacated when board member Doug McDurham moved out of the district.

Jonathan Hill

Hill is senior brand strategy specialist at Baylor University. He graduated from MCC in 2013 with an associate’s degree in general academics and from Tarleton State University-Waco in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He continued his education and graduated in 2018 with a master’s in educational leadership from Baylor University.

Hill has served on a variety of local and statewide boards, including the City of Waco Transit Advisory Board, Bosqueville Excellence in Education Foundation Board, the City of Waco Animal Welfare Advisory Board, Baylor Sport Management Association, and the Texas Junior College Student Government Association.

“As an alum of both MCC and the University Center, I am thrilled for this opportunity to serve the college’s faculty, staff, students, and the community as a trustee,” Hill said. “MCC never shut the door on me and offered me patience and grace as a student when I needed it the most. I hope to give back even a fraction of the gift that the college has been to me and my family.” 

District 1 includes precincts 1, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17, 38, 39, 41 (partial), 42, 45, 46, 47, 48, 54 (partial), 88 and 89. It encompasses the area around the MCC campus on 19th Street and College Drive, as well as parts of North and East Waco. Hill will take the oath of office at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 during the regular board meeting at Northwood House at MCC. 

Hill is married to Erin, a licensed social worker at Baylor University. They have one son, Jameson, and live in the Cedar Ridge neighborhood in Waco.

Read more about Hill on the MCC website.

“The Addams Family” to be featured at Feb. 23 Hearts in the Arts Theatre Gala

Reservations are open for the 21st Annual Hearts in the Arts Gala sponsored by the McLennan Community College Foundation. This year’s gala on Feb. 23 features a McLennan Theatre performance of “The Addams Family-A New Musical” at the MCC Ball Performing Arts Center. 

Tickets are $100 each and include drinks and dining at 6 p.m. and the performance at 7:30 p.m. Dessert will be served at intermission. Tables for eight are $800 and include preferred dinner seating.

Guests will be transported to the Addams’ ethereal Central Park mansion for an evening hosted by the most macabre family in the neighborhood. Wednesday Addams, daughter to the delightfully spooky Gomez and Morticia, has invited her new boyfriend, Lucas, and his parents over for dinner. There is only one catch: Lucas is a well-mannered suitor from Ohio who does not have a ghoulish bone in his body. Musical comedy carnage ensues as Gomez and Morticia try to persuade the family to act “normal” for Wednesday’s sake. Also appearing are familiar Uncle Fester, devious brother Pugsley, stoic butler Lurch, and the ever-helpful Thing. 

The McLennan production will be directed by Kelly Parker and choreographed by Joe Taylor and will feature elaborate costuming and sets to immerse the audience in the Addams Family vibe. Honorary Hearts in the Arts Chair Nell Hawkins will host the evening as the elegant Morticia Addams.

Hearts in the Arts is an affinity group of the MCC Foundation that supports the arts at McLennan. All proceeds from the gala benefit McLennan scholarships and special projects benefitting visual and performing arts students and faculty.

Gala reservations are due by Feb. 16. For more information, visit www.mclennan.edu/foundation/hearts. To make reservations, contact the McLennan Community College Foundation at 254-299-8604 or [email protected]

MCC unveils new logo through rebranding project

McLennan Community College has unveiled a new logo as part of its ongoing project to unify its brand and create an identity that portrays the value of an MCC education and the focus on student success, a news release said. 

The College partnered with World Design Marketing, “a firm with extensive higher education experience,” the release said. “WDM researched the college and held numerous workshops with students, employees, the Board of Trustees, and community leaders to gain understanding of the college.”

The new logo combines features that reflect MCC’s history, location, and values. “The outer ‘M’ represents the Bosque River, where the campus is nestled along the banks, and the greater Waco family. The inner ‘M’ signifies the culture of the college as the MCC Family. The chevron heart ties back to the McLennan Family Crest and represents the students and their families.”