Dr Pepper Museum marks first year of civil rights exhibit; new Bottling Room exhibit coming

By Mary Beth Farrell

November marks the one-year anniversary of the opening of the “Sit Down to Take a Stand” Waco lunch counter exhibit at the Dr Pepper Museum. The lessons learned in the process of creating this exhibit and living with its impact have shaped the staff and board in ways we could not have anticipated.

At last year’s ribbon cutting (l-r): Dr. Stephen Sloan, director of the Institute of Oral History at Baylor University; Autumn Outlaw, 2021 Dr Pepper Museum board chair; Rachel Pate, VP of economic development with Center-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce; Joy Summar-Smith, associate director of the museum; Gary Myles, museum board; Cherry Boggess, featured in “Sit Down to Take a Stand”; Daisy Joe, widow of Arthur Fred Joe Sr., featured in “Sit Down to Take a Stand”; Dexter Hall, museum board, Anthony Betters Sr., 2022 museum board chair; Chris Dyer, president and CEO of the museum; Blaine McCormick, 2021 museum board.

Thank you to our exhibit committee members – Dexter Hall, Anthony Betters Sr., Gary Myles, Dr. Stephen Sloan, and Joy Summar-Smith – for leading us to a better understanding of the influence our Soda Fountain could have on visitors.

Over 2.7 million visitors have come to the museum since we opened in 1991, and the Soda Fountain – the original home of the Dr Pepper float – has been a favorite part of the experience for so many. However, before the civil rights movement, people of color were denied service at locations throughout Waco, including local soda fountains.

In the reexamination of our exhibits and the stories they tell, we realized the nostalgia surrounding soda fountains that people found in our space was not substantive enough to carry us through the next 31 years. The result of this reflection is “Sit Down to Take a Stand,” a recreated lunch counter that features audio from local sit-in participants, video from sit-ins in Houston, and photographs from across the South creating a moving, immersive experience for museum visitors.

The exhibit is in the Soda Fountain so all visitors can access it without paying admission. The Soda
Fountain was also redesigned with a 1960s theme to reflect a time when all patrons were welcome while keeping the vintage feel visitors expect.

“Sit Down to Take a Stand” is only the beginning. In February 2023, the most iconic space in the Museum – the historic Bottling Room – will reopen to the public featuring the stories of the workers who operated the bottling plant. Unfortunately, this exhibit hasn’t been updated since the museum opened in 1991 and currently tells the story of nostalgia from the perspective of those running the company, largely leaving out the contributions of everyday workers.

If you have never visited the museum or it’s been a while since you’ve stopped by, now is the time! In addition to telling the stories of Dr Pepper and the soft drink industry in a way we have never done before, the experiences the museum has to offer are one-of-a-kind. Make-A-Soda, Taste-A-Soda, the Extreme Pepper Experience, and the Paranormal Experience take your visit to the next level.

To support the historic Bottling Room renovation, visit our website and donate to our annual Challenge Grant. Our Challenge Grant goes to the preservation of our historic buildings and our collection. With every dollar donated, Keurig Dr Pepper will match the donations up to $100,000.

Mary Beth Farrell is director of development & communications for the Dr Pepper Museum.

Education prof Lakia Scott named ‘Champion of Change’

By Baylor School of Education

Baylor University has named Lakia Scott the school’s “Champion of Change” this year. Dr. Scott is an associate professor in Baylor’s School of Education.

Dr. Lakia Scott

Baylor launched “Champions of Change” awards to recognize and acknowledge the accomplishments of faculty, staff, and alumni (one of each annually) who have demonstrated efforts to “foster greater appreciation and advancement of diversity, inclusiveness, and equity for communities of color at Baylor and in Waco.” A diverse and representative volunteer advisory committee sought nominations and made the final selections for the inaugural honorees.

Scott’s efforts in equity enhancement have included promoting the recruitment and retention of first-generation college students and students of color through advising student organizations; establishing a reputation for being empathetic and supportive of students from traditionally marginalized backgrounds; and focusing her research on multicultural awareness, diversity practices, and urban education and literacy.

“I am humbled by this recognition, and I do not take this honor lightly,” Scott said. “This notion of being a champion of change truly challenges us to continue in our efforts to call into question and/or critique the structural and systemic barriers that limit human flourishing. While I am grateful that my efforts have been noticed, there is still so much to do, especially in thinking about equitable education as a right, not a privilege, for all students in our country. I am thankful to do my part in Waco — the strides made here can provide a national model for evoking true change in education.”

For three years, Scott served as the Chair of the Campus Diversity Committee and currently serves on the President’s Diversity Council. Scott also won Baylor’s Diversity Enhancement Award in 2018 and this year is the recipient of Baylor’s Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award (tenure-track) She is the founding director of Baylor’s Freedom Schools, a summer literacy enrichment program for elementary and middle school youth which focuses on culturally relevant teaching practices and the utilization of multicultural literature in order to bridge summer learning loss.

Teaching in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and serving as the department’s graduate program director, Scott is a recognized scholar in the field of Urban Education. Her credits include a host of research publications, co-authored and co-edited books, book chapters, and educational evaluation reports.

When the awards were presented at the end of the spring semester, Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone said, “The impact of this year’s Champions of Change echoes far beyond the halls of Baylor University, reverberating well into the greater Waco community. Each of these amazing leaders embodies the character and commitment to equity we seek in reflecting Baylor’s Christian mission.”

The impact of Scott’s work has indeed reverberated beyond campus, as she also received recognition from the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, receiving their “Waco Under 40” Award honoring “dynamic young leaders under the age of 40” who are making an impact in the greater Waco community.

Scott said, “I believe strongly that through service, love, and intentionality, we can transform our community spaces in ways that translate to human flourishing. I am honored to be among my esteemed peers and colleagues who also consider themselves servants of the greater Waco community.”

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Time to pull some levers for economic security

By Dexter Hall

There are many different approaches or levers that must be pulled to ensure an inclusive economy for all Wacoans.

The question, of course, is which levers will we pull to provide the financial economic security for all of our citizens or will we adopt a “throw spaghetti against the wall” approach and see what sticks.

Varying organizations and institutions across the nation compile numerous reports to show what is and what is not working. We know the lessons of the past and the intentional levers that were pulled to create an unequal economy leaving our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) communities to suffer in poverty.

The National Urban League’s “2020 State of Black America: Unmasked” report, shows a Black-Equality Index of 73.8 indicating Black Americans are missing 26% of the pie. The same index shows Hispanic Americans at 78.8 indicating they are missing 21% of the pie.

The overall Equality Index is made up of the five areas with each being weighted based upon urgent need and importance. The chart below shows where Black Americans ended in 2020. The 59.2% index in economics shows Black Americans are missing almost half of the economic pie in comparison to White Americans.

On May 26 this year, Prosper Waco hosted “Addressing Financial Empowerment: Waco Prospers when All Wacoans Prosper.” I had the awesome opportunity to share with our mayor and other community leaders the levers that Prosper Waco would be pulling to move toward ensuring the economic and financial security for all Wacoans.

Through the work of the City of Waco’s Financial Empowerment Blueprint, we shared intentional strategies in the areas of Asset Building, Banking Access, Consumer Financial Protection, Financial Education, and Small Business Development and Financing.

In each area we shared a plan of work that we would be initiating or that was being done through partner organizations in our community that addressed the needs of our low-to-moderate income (LMI) community and small business owners.

We are grateful to work with individuals and organizations in developing specific intentional work to address the needs of all Wacoans and ensure an inclusive economy in our area.

Instead of throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something sticks, we are partnering and working together to address immediate needs as well as short- and long-term needs of our community through intentional drivers that led to the 73.8 score in the National Urban League’s Black-White Equality Index.

Working together we can build the right spaghetti and meatballs for all Wacoans to prosper equally and equitably.

And, by the way, who likes spaghetti without meatballs?

Join us in the work for financial and economic security for all Wacoans by adding your sauce to this intentional spaghetti.

How can you help?

Volunteer your skill or experience in financial or legal services.

Donate to support the various initiatives in each area of focus.

Sponsor Financial Education Workshops for your groups, employees, associations, clubs, sororities, and fraternities.

If you would like to help or invest in supporting the financial and economic security for all Wacoans please contact me at [email protected].

Dexter Hall is chief of staff and senior content specialist for financial security with Prosper Waco. For more information on financial security contact Hall at [email protected].

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

On July 4, we celebrate the beginning of our freedom work

By Ferrell Foster

Independence Day is always special, but this year it is even more treasured. On July 4, 1776, the founders of this nation laid down some principles that would shape this people for generations. Now that we have added Juneteenth as a federal holiday, we can see more clearly that bringing those first principles to fruition is a process.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (U.S. Declaration of Independence).

Let’s put those words in chronological context:

1776 – The authors didn’t really mean “all men” and, of course, not women. Slaveholders were among the signers.

1861 – That disconnect eventually led to a Civil War, the most deadly war for Americans in their history.

1862 – President Lincoln started broadening freedom with the Emancipation Proclamation.

1865 – Slaves in Galveston learned of their freedom — Juneteenth.

That’s 89 years from the signing of the Declaration to Juneteenth. Countless people suffered and died to make that progress.

But any student of history knows that only chattel slavery (humans as owned property) ended in 1865; a new type of slavery emerged eventually grouped under the term of Jim Crow laws — varied rules that sought to keep African Americans in a subservient position.

1954 – The U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ruled that state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. 

1955 – Rosa Parks says “no” to sitting at the back of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., and local pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., emerges as the bus boycott’s voice and eventually the nation’s.

1964 – In the wake of the assassination of President John Kennedy, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

1965 – Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.

That’s 100 years between the first Juneteenth and the Voting Rights Act. 

The words of the Declaration of Independence did not free slaves; those words laid the philosophical and national foundations by which people could work to wrest their freedom from the power of oppressors.

On July 4 we do not celebrate freedom achieved; we celebrate freedom made possible. And in doing so we remember the long years of struggle from Independence Day to Juneteenth and then to the Voting Rights Act.

And this freedom is not a liberty to do whatever an individual wants; it is a freedom to enjoy the God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And, since all people are of equal value, we pursue those three things in consideration of the same pursuit by others.

All people (Black, Hispanic, Asian, White … any gender … from any nation) . . .

. . . are created equal (no group is superior) . . . 

. . . they are endowed by their Creator (this isn’t something a few people just made up) . . .

. . . with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We celebrate 1776 and 1865 and 1965, but we know there is still more to be done, and that includes right here in Waco.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and is senior content specialist for care and communition with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Equity in action

By Rachel E. Pate

“In a racially equitable society, the distribution of society’s benefits and burdens would not be skewed by race.”The Aspen Institute

Brief Rewind

Around this time last year, the City of Waco, our mayor and city council held a retreat addressing racial inequity within our community. J.B. Smith, Waco Tribune-Herald reporter, covered the story in “Waco council takes aim at racial disparities, gentrification” (May 23, 2019).  Some of the staggering statistics gathered and presented by the city were highlighted in J.B.’s article, revealing that:

  • Whites account for 43% of Waco’s population but hold 80% of the jobs paying more than $40,000 as of 2015.
  • Among white households, 13.5% make less than $25,000 a year, compared with 25.3% among Hispanics and 51.1% among blacks.
  • Nearly 29% of white households make more than $100,000 a year, compared with 3.3% for blacks and 8.7% for Hispanics.
  • African Americans in 2017 had a 31% mortgage denial rate, compared with 20.9% for Hispanics and 11.7% for whites.

In the news article Councilman Dillion Meek stated: “I’ve always put a high value on grit and self-determination, but if the goal is to improve the economy, we have to look at systems from 100 or 150 years ago to now,” Meek said. “The outcomes from the data speak for themselves and are a direct result of the history of this community.”

Assistant City Manager Deidra Emerson was also quoted saying: “The end goal is to ensure that everyone in Waco thrives, including people of color. … The starting point for the next generation is the ending point of the last generation. If we don’t start to change those outcomes now, we’ll keep repeating the same things.“

Pandemic Proportions

Positioned against the backdrop of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, we all witnessed our nation’s institutions, systems, businesses and, most importantly, people brace for a great unknown together. As the virus spread, we were forced to mourn more and differently than before, all while swallowing disproportionate effects happening in communities of color. The Pandemic drastically changed so much of what we thought we once knew and added to the boiling pot of health disparities, income disparities, racial disparities and inequity in the fabric of America.  

As the wave of concern swept through our nation, our local leaders were called to immediate attention and action; elected officials, health officials, business experts and volunteer task forces were all on one accord. 

The Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce (CTAACC), along with others, was right in the thick of early and ongoing discussions about community health and our local economy. Our staff immediately pivoted from pre-set work to intentionally and strategically supporting the needs of our community’s small and minority-owned businesses. 

We partnered with the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to support immediate small business initiatives like our StarBridge Bingo and Buy Local Waco online marketing campaigns. We worked together to collect grassroots data from businesses, employees and people of color. 

CTAACC was firmly seated at the table with the city and other community partners breaking down information, providing frequent updates and contributing solutions. 

Collective Voices

While weeks of the shelter-in-place orders and social distancing continued, CTAACC assembled an informal advisory group to work alongside our staff and help create solutions for business equity. Community business members and leaders included Wannika Muhammad, Rev. Marlon Jones and Cuevas Peacock, who each added diversity, passion and perspective to the dialogue. Our group later became known as the CommUnity Voices team. United in tackling the tasks before us, we put our heads together and strategically planned our moves ahead.  

Within our virtual, weekly think-tank sessions, each member shared our concerns about equity, community and business. Each contributed wisdom and insight from our collective backgrounds in business and community development, religion and higher education and lived experiences. We examined and digested everything around us and studied the historical pre-sets of inequity. 

As we saw increased unemployment rates for workers, struggling small businesses and government relief that could only do so much, the group determined that solid, perpetual initiatives were mandatory to rightfully shore up vulnerable, small, minority-owned businesses. In those conversations, our vision for equity was honed.

Forward March

The Chamber’s Center for Business Excellence (CBE) has long been an engine for small business development, offering free business tools, technology resources and meeting space. Utilizing this existing program, CTAACC established the Cen-Tex Minority Business (CTMB) Equity Fund in May 2020 to provide business relief to businesses of color through grant funding and micro-loans.  (Donate Here.)

The CTMB Equity Fund is the first local fund in our community that will assist small minority-owned businesses facing income loss or rising expenses due to circumstances caused by natural disasters, illness, global pandemics, or any situation that disrupts their economic and social well-being. 

The fund will also provide increased access to social capital and business training/education for entrepreneurs. Our kick-start campaign goal of $100,000 provides individuals, organizations and businesses with the opportunity to not only talk about equity but invest in it also.  I could say more, but for now I’ll digress and take a breath. There’s still more action to be done tomorrow.

The Center of Business Excellence (CBE) is a private sector 501(c)(3) charity affiliated with the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce. The CBE actively helps McLennan County small businesses thrive by providing operational, social, and financial resources needed to sustain business development. The CBE manages the Cen-Tex Minority Business Equity Funda program created by the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce and a Business Advisory Committee comprised of community business members and leaders.  

The purpose of the fund program is to provide short-term, immediate aid/relief to small, local minority-owned businesses facing income loss or rising expenses due to circumstances caused by natural disasters, illness, global pandemics, or any situation that disrupts their economic and social well-being. 

Any McLennan County-based, minority-owned, small business with 10 employees or less is eligible to apply for assistance. Grants/loans may be awarded up to $2,500 dependent on resources. I could go on, but for now I guess I’ll digress and take a breather. There’s action to be done tomorrow.

Editor’s Note: Investments in the CTMB Equity Fund are currently being accepted online at www.centexchamber.com. The online application portal for business funding is expected to open later this month. CTAACC can be reached at (254) 235-3204.

Rachel E. Pate is vice president of economic development at Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce (CTAACC) in Waco. Rachel is a native Wacoan and graduate of University High School. Since 2016, Rachel has served in various roles at the chamber and championed the causes of small entrepreneurs, women, and minorities. She is also a LeadershipPlenty Institute graduate, Rapoport Academy Public School Board member and Start-Up Waco Board member.

With her mother being a Sunday School teacher and evangelist, Rachel began serving the community at a very early age. She was active on her church’s usher board and youth ministry. Some of her fondest memories of growing up in Waco are being surrounded by her large, extended family for reunions and Juneteenth gatherings; her mother is one of 11 siblings who all hail from Waco. Her father, R.E. Pate Jr. (deceased), and mother met at Paul Quinn College in the early 1970s — the same campus where CTAACC resides today.

Rachel is also a proud mom of one, a lifelong member of Toliver Chapel Church, a lover of the great outdoors, an avid basketball fan, and a dedicated wearer of Converse’s Chuck Taylor shoes. Rachel’s favorite scripture is Romans 8:31- “…If God be for us, then who can stand against us?”

The Story As Told By Silence

by Liz Ligawa

I was sitting in my doctor’s office as I awaited my time to be seen. The “things to do” from our last visit scrolled through my head, ready to spill out as soon as she walked in: Decrease sodium intake. Increase physical activity. Limit processed foods. Take time to rest. These were not unkind recommendations. In fact, this wise counsel was offered to me by one of the most generous souls in medicine I know. But I still had not done it. So, I decided to keep quiet about the list- silently hoping she would not notice.   Though she kindly observed my silence, she allowed her instruments to reveal the truth.

Over the last six months or so, I have been listening for, and to our community concerning the safety of Americans of African descent in relation to police. The dialogue and inquiry which has pulsed through communities across our country seems to have found censure in Waco. Is there something different about Waco that would make these conversations unnecessary? Is Waco a unique community which is immune to the ills suffered by Ferguson, MO or New York? Why is Waco so silent?

Before I continue, let me be honest. This subject is quite difficult for me. It is not what I originally intended to write about. I even struggled with feelings of inadequacy to engage this topic. However, even as I strongly embraced the urge to keep a safe distance from this truth, I realized that although it does not appeal to my comforts, I must acknowledge its appeal to my conscience. There is much to be heard in silence.

Waco has a history about which she keeps silent. It reminds me of the invisible boundaries we all adhere to in our families. Only a couple of months ago, many of us participated in these waltzes as we navigated the hushed topics of family members during the holidays. We will not discuss David’s drinking even as we grow nervous with each subsequent glass. We do not check in on Miriam and Max’s marriage even as resignation fills their eyes. And it sure would not be polite to mention the miscarriage suffered by Destiny and Deleon; they still have little Suzy anyway…right? Silence protects our secrets.

Jesse Washington is one of Waco’s secrets. Its own history with Americans of African descent is the reason Waco remains silent.

I was listening to a brief TED talk by an educator named Clint Smith. In his discussion about silence, he takes courageous steps of vulnerability and discloses motives which took their turn in rendering him silent. Smith shared that though he had focused his passion to liberate his students, charging them to not abscond with their truth, he found himself in need of being reminded of the truth: “We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t: Silence is the residue of fear.”

I wonder how you are dealing with my silence in this article. There are many things I have left unsaid. Up until now, if you did not already know the story about Jesse Washington, there is not much more you know from reading what I have written. Up until now I have not mentioned that he was an African-American farm hand. Up until now, I have not mentioned he was held responsible for the death of an Anglo wife of a cotton farmer in 1916. Up until now, I have not mentioned our McLennan County courthouse…the hanging tree…or what was made of the charred remains of a man not valued by society; not valued by his Waco community. Our silence tells a story.

In the doctor’s office that day, my silence told a story. If Dr. Duchamp would have only attended to my smile, I would have seemed alright. If she would have only paid attention to my put-together presentation, she would have had no concern. If Dr. Duchamp received my silence as an indicator of all things well, my needs would have remained unaddressed and on course for unfortunate events. I am grateful she practiced well when the truth was hard for me to tell.

In the silence I hear in our community, I am trying to decipher what it means. There are steps which have been made with regard to this part of our history, but there are silences still needing to be attended: the silence of apology in the resolution; the silence of Mr. Washington’s name.

Yes, silence tells a story on its own. What story are you telling with yours?

Liz ligawaThis post was written by Liz Ligawa. Liz is a graduate student of Baylor University where she has found the perfect expression of her community-centered heart in the MDiv/MSW degree program. With a concentration on Community Practice, she is also the adoring mother of one son, Elijah, who prefers to be regarded in public as Spider-Man. She may be reached at [email protected].

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.