Waco is now home for Ke’Sha Lopez

By Gracie Ozburn

Ke’Sha Lopez, a KWTX News 10 anchor, has been an active member of the Waco community for over 10 years. In an interview, Lopez talks about how she stays involved in the “Heart of Texas.”

Ke’Sha Lopez

Lopez said she was first influenced to go into journalism by her cousin who had joined his college news team while growing up in Arkansas. This then inspired her to major in radio and television at Arkansas State University, and she started working on the college’s news station.

 “There were two black anchors at home, and it never registered that I could do television,” Lopez said. “It wasn’t until my cousin came home … and popped in the VHS of him doing a newscast that I was like, ‘I can do that.’”

She had many internships and jobs at stations in Midwest and Southern states, including her first on-air job as a reporter for WKAG-TV in Clarksville, Tenn. Later, she found work in Dallas, which then led to finding a job in Waco. 

Something that she discovered instantly when coming to Texas was the love for the state from the community. “The Texas pride is something I’ve never seen before,” Lopez said. “It’s strong here.”

Lopez has been in the business for almost 20 years. When not reporting, Lopez is working at McLennan Community College teaching a reading and writing course. She started as a substitute teacher because her mom was a teacher and encouraged her to apply. She has since stuck with the teaching path and now teaches a virtual class. It keeps her feeling connected with what is going on in the area and world.

“I feel like I have a different impact on people living here,” Lopez said. “Helping my students learn something that will help them move onto the next level, … that’s rewarding.”

Other ways she stays active is by staying involved in her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. It hosts events and had one recently during the election to rally people and get them excited about voting. Pre-pandemic, her work schedule with the morning news show was always eventful, and she was always doing something with her posting about events and talking to groups of people.

“We were so busy,” Lopez said. “We were always out doing something.”

During her freetime, Lopez loves exploring the outdoors and discovering Waco. She especially enjoys walking the trails in Cameron Park. Another spot she finds herself at often is Lula Jane’s, a coffee and bakery shop on Elm Street.

“I love to just go in and see how people are doing,” Lopez said. “There are days where I will just pop in to see what’s going on just to still be in touch with the community around here.”

Lopez said she has also enjoyed watching Waco grow throughout her 10 years of being here. Even though there is construction taking place in many parts of Waco, she enjoys seeing the end result of the projects. 

“It has been really interesting seeing it grow and develop,” Lopez said. “Waco has become my home.”

Gracie Ozburn is from a suburb of Chicago and is a sophomore at Baylor University, majoring in journalism.

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].

Burns loves Waco, a community that ‘comes together for the greater good’

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Nicole Arentsen 

Because of the pandemic, one mother and teacher used her passion to create a solution to a concern in the community. Charra Burns noticed that parents had worries for their child’s academic success with remote learning and wanted to help support them in any way. Her love for Waco has only grown more since she has become more involved in the city. 

Charra Burns

“I love how the community comes together for the greater good to make it an even greater place,” Burns said. “I love all the community initiatives, community events, the family functions, and just the creativity on how organizations have tried to adapt to COVID-19.” 

Burns has been a teacher in Waco for a few years now. She created a program called READ, where she collected books for different students in the community and was able to assist in reading skills one-on-one. 

But recently with the pandemic when schools in the community decided to teach remotely, an idea popped in her head to create sensory boxes for children. This idea led to her opening her new business called, Think Learn Play, where she creates custom, hands-on lesson plans for parents to complete with their children at home. 

Burns had noticed the concern of parents with younger students who have been at home since spring and worried their students are falling behind. 

“I also am able to support the parents because they were working or did not know how to teach certain subjects,” Burns said. “I think what makes the box unique is it really teaches the parent how to teach their kid and then also gives them ideas on what to do with their kids outside of the box.” 

Her most popular audience is children under 8 years old but has custom boxes for younger toddlers and older students as well. 

“I did not expect the community to respond to it the way they did, but I think COVID-19 had a really big play in it,” Burns said. “I have just been able to take part in a lot of families’ lives unexpectedly with these boxes.” 

The small yet tight knit community of Waco offers numerous activities around town to stay connected and busy. The Act Locally Waco blog encourages people to explore all parts of the city and find areas to help out that sparks their passions. The blog also reminds people to have a grateful heart and to “take advantage of all the things we are still able to do,” Burns said. 

There are many opportunities for someone in Waco to find something they enjoy and like-minded friends to make the town feel like home. 

“Getting involved also means, for me, teaching my kids about the important initiatives, teaching them about all the positive things in our community and finding them a way to be involved as well,” Burns said. 

This passionate woman was able to create a safe and unique solution for a need in the community from her own home. Things might be more difficult at times, but open your mind and think creatively because the options are endless to help the community. 

“I hope that more families will learn about Think Learn Play, try out the sensory boxes, and tell a friend,” Burns said. “The feedback and responses that I have gotten have been huge. I have been expanding to even out of state and the larger community which is really important to me because I just want to do something special in our community here in Waco.”

Nicole Arentsen is a Baylor University journalism major from Orange, Calif.

he 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].

Peacock building bridges between Baylor & community

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Belle Ebner 

Waco is a small city that can make a big impact, according to Cuevas Peacock, who works in Baylor University’s Office of External Affairs. It’s a place that is persistently growing and continues to make strides toward improvement. 

Cuevas Peacock

For much too long, people would say Waco is just a pit stop on a road trip to somewhere more interesting, Peacock said. But through his time working with Grassroots Community Development and at Baylor, Peacock has seen the city transform. 

“By being involved in these various things, I am able to see first-hand just what can happen in Waco, and it’s exciting,” he said. 

Peacock said he was a community organizer at Grassroots and was responsible for identifying opportunities for growth in the community. He was pleasantly surprised at the community’s willingness to participate in the city’s success and their receptiveness to new ideas. 

In Waco, there is a strong sense of connectivity one can’t get in bigger cities, according to Peacock. People in Waco wish to find long-term solutions to issues in their community as well as working together to advance equity. Peacock said he is good friends with prominent citizens of Waco, including the mayor.

“Wow,” Peacock said. “Could you have these types of relationships in bigger cities? I don’t think you can.”

Waco is a community built on educational opportunities, Peacock said. If someone wants to gain a skill or knowledge, they have the opportunity at Baylor University, McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, and various other educational organizations. 

Baylor University is a large part of the city’s identity, and Peacock said his job includes “bursting the bubble” that surrounds the university and integrating it more into the Waco community. By bridging the two, Peacock believes Waco can become even more culturally vibrant and progressive. 

Organizations such as the Grassroots ensure that solutions are resident-driven and that the people have power, according to Peacock. By making sure the public has the resources to create change themselves, Waco has become a uniquely proactive community.

“If they have an idea, if they have a vision, if they have a thought, if they have a belief, I would encourage them to act on it,” he said. 

There’s a certain Waco attitude that encourages being receptive to new ideas and supporting the idea that change is beneficial, Peacock said. Even if one is tentative to call for change or make a suggestion, there are people in the community who will help them make the necessary steps. 

The connectivity and willingness to support one’s neighbors is what cultivates such a strong community in Waco. The more involved one becomes in providing solutions and improving the city, the more one becomes hopeful for Waco’s future, according to Peacock. 

“I know what’s to come. I see the vision,” he said. Peacock has a vision for an ever-evolving city with a passion for change.

Belle Ebner is from Colorado and is majoring in journalism and public relations at Baylor University. 

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].

Rachel Pate supports economic development through small businesses

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Aston Crosbie

Waco is filled with small businesses trying to stay afloat or expand. Some are family owned and some are simply entrepreneurial endeavors. No matter the case, there are people in the community working to help them increase business and revenue.

Rachel Pate of Center-Texas African American Chamber of Commerce

Rachel E. Pate is one of those people. She is vice president of economic development at Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce. Pate attained this position four years ago and saw it as an opportunity to cement a legacy for her and her newborn child. She has been a long-time resident in Waco and has seen the town transition from a quiet little town to a tourist destination.

She focuses on the economic development of small businesses in Greater Waco. She assists in business expansion and growth. Pate hints at the fact that as businesses grow so does Waco. 

“We’ve been waiting for, as residents who have never lived anywhere else, to see our city become vibrant. We want to be a part of that growth and see all the things we have envisioned,” Pate said.  

She expressed her pride in her roots in Waco, especially on her mother’s side. Pate explained how good it feels to watch your hometown grow and flourish. The chamber had visions of what Waco could become, and it is slowly beginning to happen. 

Pate encourages young people to get involved through volunteering. It is a great way to get networked within your community. If you don’t know where to start, she said you can simply show up to the office at the African American Chamber. They will help you get started and find events for you to help with.

Also, the African American Chamber has a committee called the Chamber Ambassadors. It is open for anyone to join and includes members of the chamber who want to widen the outreach. They also help new members get acquainted with the community and the opportunities available. 

“It has reinforced my need to be self-reliant and that would be the same for our organization. . . .  You must be dependable for yourself before you can help anybody,” Pate said. 

With Covid-19 taking over the world, Pate expressed the need for everyone to become independent. There will now be more individual responsibility compared to the days of the past. There are new restrictions and guidelines for their organization and surrounding ones. This makes it harder to operate and do the usual things necessary to run smoothly. The African American Chamber is actively trying to develop a program to help people through these strange times. 

The African American Chamber collaborates with other organizations in Waco, including the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. These two organizations come together to form an alliance called the Star Bridge. They collaborate on economic development activities, fundraisers, and community events. 

Getting involved as much as possible can show you a side of your community that you never knew, Pate said. It can open doors for you in the workplace and in life. Pate encourages people of all ages to get up and learn about their community and get involved.

“Everything depends on you being present in your community,” Pate said.

Education, values, and well-being will benefit from you getting involved in your community, she said. Once you get plugged in, you see the bigger picture. It helps you find your niche and your way to insight change. 

Aston Crosbie is from Jupiter, Fla., and a junior at Baylor University. 

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].

Price helps residents connect with city & sees ‘best’ future

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Caitlin Babcock

At the heart of what Galen Price, Waco interim assistant city manager, does every day is listening to the people of Waco. He listens to citizens and to business owners, to praises and to complaints. This listening then shapes his priorities. 

Galen Price, Waco Interim Assistant City Manager

Price sees his role as serving the needs of the community. Because of this, he views it as very important that citizens speak up about their needs. Listening to the community allows him and his team to enforce the policies that are working well and to know where the city is falling short. 

“Just being involved so you can hear what’s going on, that gives you an opportunity to have a voice in what’s being considered and provide feedback on how it’s being viewed by you as a citizen in a community,” Price says. 

According to Price, there are numerous ways for citizens of Waco to make their voices heard. He suggests that residents attend city council meetings, which are currently held online due to the pandemic. Price also suggests citizens attend neighborhood association meetings or start their own association if their neighborhood doesn’t have one. 

Price became interim assistant city manager in August, after Deidra Emerson, who previously held that role, was promoted to deputy city manager, according to a 2019 article in the Waco Tribune-Herald. “It was an opportunity that you dream of and just couldn’t pass up,” Price said. 

Price has spent 21 years in municipal government work, since he graduated from the University of North Texas in Fort Worth.  He has been in Waco since 2017. Before coming to Waco, he worked on  housing projects in Irving. Previous to becoming interim city manager, Price worked as the city’s director of housing and community development. While in this position, he worked with Waco’s Family Abuse Center and Mission Waco, a Christian organization that addresses systemic issues with poverty.

Price says Waco is making significant investments into its infrastructure, economy, and housing. He says that even before home designers Chip and Joanna Gaines brought Waco into the national spotlight, good things were going on in the city. 

“I can one day envision Waco being one of the places that’s considered one of the best places to live in the nation,” Price says. 

Price said he loves Waco because although it is developing, it still has a small-town feel. That feel is something that differs from his large hometown of Fort Worth. 

“Relocating here from the metroplex, I enjoy the camaraderie and the way people make you feel at home here,” Price says. “As we continue to grow, let’s do our best to try to keep that feel.” 

Caitlin Babcock is a sophomore at Baylor University from Colorado. She is majoring in international studies and double minoring in Spanish and journalism. She hopes to find a career in international journalism. 

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].

KCEN’s Caldwell is involved in & exploring Waco

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Katelyn Wilmoth

During her time reporting the news, KCEN reporter and former news anchor Jasmin Caldwell has found many reasons to love Waco. 

Jasmin Caldwell of KCEN 6 News

As a reporter, Caldwell said it is important to “stay on top” on everything that goes on in the Waco community. She said it is her job to cover everything from politics to the happier stories which makes the job more interesting. Caldwell said one of her favorite things about being a reporter is meeting people from “all walks of life” throughout the community. 

“It’s one of those jobs that keeps you on your toes and you will never get bored with being a news reporter,” Caldwell said.

In the three years Caldwell has lived in Waco, she has been able to host several events for the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce in Waco. Caldwell said the chamber helps small local businesses in the Waco area, and she is a huge supporter of the organization. 

Caldwell said she also enjoys exploring new places to shop. With the Waco community growing at such a fast rate, Caldwell said there is always something new to look for. One of her favorite things to do in Waco is get a group of friends together and spend the day taking pictures around town, especially at Magnolia.

“I love getting dressed up to go down to the Silos to take pictures because it is the best, most perfect place to take them,” Caldwell said.

Before moving to Waco, Caldwell worked for a news station in Charlottesville, Va., where she worked on a story that made national news. Caldwell said the Robert E. Lee statue had been an ongoing issue of racism in Charlottesville for a long time, and she was happy to be a part of the team that brought the issue nationwide. She discovered from the beginning of her career that “working on local issues means a lot to the community.”

“I am happy that the story went national, so the world could see what was going on in such a small town,” Caldwell said. 

Caldwell is also a part of the National Association of Black Journalists. The organization was created to help reporters and journalists stay connected to help find jobs and network with journalists worldwide.

“It is such a cool opportunity to see other journalists who are doing the same thing as me,” Caldwell said.

Katelyn Wilmoth is a first-year student at Baylor University. She is studying journalism to one day become a professional reporter while covering everything from education to entertainment. 

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].

Fire chief gets out & about in Waco

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Tim Longoria

Due to the recent worldwide pandemic and businesses shutting down because of it, it has become more difficult to enjoy all that Waco has to offer. Luckily, Waco’s new Fire Chief Gregory Summers said there are still plenty of activities that Waco residents can take part in when they have free time.

Fire Chief Gregory Summers

Coming from Little Rock, Ark., Summers started at Station No. 5 in early April, and he said each month he gets more and more accustomed to Waco. Summers likes to spend a lot of time outside with his wife, Jeanette.

“If we go to a restaurant, my wife and I, we are looking to go to a patio,” Summers said.

Restaurants like Magnolia Table, George’s, and Jake’s Texas Tea House, all of which are some of Summers’ favorite places to eat in Waco, have outdoor seating with 4 1/2 star ratings out of five, according to tripadvisor.com.

As it has been colder, Summers said he will start ordering more food to his house if he and Jeanette happen to get caught in the cold. And if going out to eat doesn’t seem like a popular idea to the Summers family on any particular day, outdoor activities seem to be a fine alternative.

“I can tell you, Cameron Park is an awesome park,” said Summers. “We just love riding down … looking at the statues.”

Cameron Park is a 416-acre park that includes the Waco Sculpture Zoo along the side of the Brazos River. There are 28 different styles of sculptures designed by people all over the United States, displayed across the river for a mile featuring animals that are common in the Waco area or found in the Cameron Park Zoo.

Summers and his wife have lived in Waco for almost a full year and, like everyone else, haven’t been able to experience the city in its entirety for some time. Once more businesses start opening, Summers said that he and Jeanette would feel more comfortable spending more time in public.

While it didn’t take long for Summers to adjust to a Texan lifestyle, he gave credit to his firefighters for “adapting very well to the COVID-19 disease.” In 35 years in fire service, Summers has been in a leadership position for almost the entire time. Before he became a fire chief in 2009, Summers had previous experience as an assistant fire chief and an interim fire chief.

Summers said he can’t wait to be “heavily involved in the community once this pandemic is in the rear-view mirror,” like he was in Little Rock during the majority of his fire service. 

Staying close to his wife and firefighters at the station for the time being, Summers hopes to be able to return to normal life and the regular feeling of being a leader in Waco.

Tim Longoria is a freshman journalism major at Baylor University hoping to get a job as a sports broadcaster.

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].

‘Tree of Life’ mural marks East Waco past & future

By Ferrell Foster

Waco celebrated its Black heritage & future, the arts, and the return of banking to East Waco in a Monday evening gathering. The new Tree of Life mural extends along one wall of TFNB’s new East Waco bank. TFNB “Your Bank for Life” is at 715 Elm Ave. The mural reflects the commitment of TFNB, Creative Waco, Waco ISD student artists, and the broader Black community of East Waco.

Vincent Thomas and Cade Kegerreis were lead designers for the mural project, while Kristen Thompson and Tashita Bibles served as artist mentors. A film also captured the work, it Andreas Zaloumis served as film mentor.

An information card at the celebration said:

“The Tree of Life mural represents the unity that is rooted in community, wisdom, and understanding. Individuals grow from their ancestors, passing along knowledge of how they came to be. The many stories are often intertwined when focusing on a specific place, such as historically rich East Waco. This mural is designed to highlight the flourishing community rooted in Elm Street.

“Generations of families in East Waco have grown and thrived through hardships and represent a vibrant culture that has often been overlooked and under appreciated. Co-designers Vincent Thomas and Cade Kegerreis considered this project an opportunity to reflect these rich stories and respect the history of this neighborhood while looking to its future and aspirations.”

Prosper Waco has posted short videos of some of the comments made during the celebration — Andrea Barefield, Linda Lewis, and Fiona Bond.

The mural served as completion of ARTPrenticeship 2020, with the following apprentices participating in the project:

Jonathan Campos

Vanesa Carvajal

Lina Denson

Rafael Flores

Fate King

Zander Lim

Angelina Monroy

Jasmin Nunez

Lillian Olvera

Larissa Rodriguez

Niala Speedwell

Maria Duarte Tavera

Tahlia Tran

Ja’Nasia Whitfield

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

Surviving COVID-19 and the Holidays

By Dr. Peaches Henry

As predicted by infectious disease experts in the summer, coronavirus infections are now surging across the nation during the winter and holiday period.  COVID-19 hospitalizations in McLennan County hit a record on Monday, November 24, and local health officials said that warnings about Thanksgiving gatherings must be taken seriously.  If not, the McLennan County’s medical capacity could be strained in the weeks afterwards.  The scientists of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are pleading with Americans to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving and to celebrate only with members of our immediate households.  Put starkly, spend Thanksgiving with family; spend Christmas in the ICU. 

Facing these dire consequences, many of us have decided to forego our traditional holiday celebrations to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.  My own family, stretched across several Texas cities and involved in various conditions of employment including completely working from home, working hybridly, and working face-to-face all dealing with students, has decided to forego a face-to-face Thanksgiving this year.

Though I am disappointed not to be with my family, I wanted to reach out to others to offer some ways that we are trying to get through this time.  Let’s face it.  We might have to spend Christmas separated as well.  We might as well prepare for the entire holiday season—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, all of them. These are safe activities that are good for our emotional and mental health that abide by the recommendations of the CDC and local doctors.

Be grateful.

  1. If you are reading this blog, be thankful.  Though 2020 has been unprecedented in so many ways, we still have much to be thankful for.  Count your blessings.  Since it is 2020, count up to twenty blessings.  Go ahead and count twenty more, because it’s 2020.

Reach out to others.

Though apart, we are in this season together. Some people suffer from depression during this season even when we are not in a worldwide pandemic, so you can imagine how down they are feeling now.  We know that giving to others helps build resilience and diminishes some of the isolation many are suffering.  Therefore, it is important to be purposeful about reaching out to people and making them feel part of the community.

  1. How about that new neighbor who just moved in?  Write a note of welcome with your phone number for emergencies. Or that family whose children have been learning remotely for weeks?  Leave a puzzle or a card game on the front porch. 
  2. Give poinsettias to several of your neighbors. 
  3. Deliver a meal to someone you know will be alone for the holidays.  Bake cookies and let your children deliver them to neighbors (remember, contact free!).  This is one of the CDC recommended substitute activities.

Find new ways to observe your family’s traditions. 

  1. One of the activities I miss most is cooking and chatting with family the night before the big day, especially with my mom (now gone to heaven) “suggesting” that I add more of this or that ingredient. This year I’m cooking and chatting with my sister via Zoom.
  2. Among my family’s time-honored traditions is playing board games.  From Connect Four to Monopoly to Bible Trivial Pursuit to Trouble to Uno to Jenga to Sorry to Scrabble, we play them all.  To say that we play games is a milquetoast description of what my family has done over the years.  We play ferocious, competitive, winner-take-all games.  We game out which games we are going to play weeks ahead.  We pick our teams with winning in mind—my late mom, the Sunday School superintendent, for Bible Trivial Pursuit; my son, the strategizing law student, for Monopoly; my brother, the sports fanatic and movie enthusiast, for Trivial Pursuit; and me, the English professor, for Scrabble.  Good sportsmanship is a must:  winners and losers must shake hands and smile at the end of the game.  My sister and I still crack up remembering the grimaces that passed for smiles when we were children.  Then we gloat all year till the next holiday (really for years).  The family still gives me grief for not remembering Robert Ludlum as the author of the Bourne Identity which would have won the game for the girls in 2006! Argh!  So how will my family replace this tradition when we will not be together?  We are still going to play games.  We are going to harness the power of technology—Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts, etc.  One game we are going to play is the #Hashtag.  This will advantage millennials and GenXers, but I plan to get one on my team.  Whatever your family’s tradition is, find a new way to celebrate it.
  3. Enjoy watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while you prepare dinner?  The full 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on YouTube.
  4. Watch your favorite holiday specials together on Zoom.  “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will air free on PBS on December 13.  One, two, three, click!
  5. Put “the game” on at everyone’s house and watch it “together.”
  6. Sing Christmas carols together via Zoom.

Bring back old traditions. 

  1. A Christmas card arriving via the USPS in a mailbox would lift the spirits of someone who is spending the holiday alone and away from family.  Writing the cards together as a family over cookies and milk or tea could create some great family moments.  The benefits of a paper card is that it can be hung up in a barracks, stuck to a refrigerator, or placed on a desk.

Create new traditions. 

  1. Plug your charger into your phones and have a conversation with a group of friends or family members.  This can easily be done via Zoom, but if folks are tired of Zoom, everyone can kick back on couches and chat.  We play a conversation game called “Favorite” at dinner parties that is easily transferable to a phone conversation.  It works for all ages and leads to great conversations and reveals surprising tidbits about players.  Sample topics:  What is your favorite childhood television show?  Dark Shadows, anyone?  What is your favorite book?  Favorite mystery? Favorite car?  Favorite animal?
  2. Have a drive-by parade for sick-n-shut-ins at your church.

Put on your favorite soundtrack.

  1. A good soundtrack can make any situation bearable.  Put yours on and dance the night away.  Take your pick of music streaming platforms:  Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music.
  2. Go a step further and dance.  Use YouTube videos to learn the steps to line dances.  The Electric Slide (old school favorite), the Wobble, the Cupid Shuffle, the Cotton Eyed Joe.  Dancing is a much more enjoyable way of getting those endorphins going than running.

Breathe, relax, release.

  1. Embrace the fact that you don’t have to cook a twelve-course meal for twenty family members plus that family of six who will show up without notice.
  2. Be happy that Uncle Blank won’t be at the table to ask uncomfortable questions.  Do give him a call though.
  3. Go to bed early the night before Thanksgiving Day.  Better, get up late on Thanksgiving Day.
  4. Put your holiday decorations up early.  My neighbors seem to already have decided to do this.  Lights lift the spirits.  My family usually waits till Christmas Eve to go see the lights.  This year, I’m going early.

Bonus:  Have hope and faith!

  1. Know that we will get through this time.  History is our witness.  The world got through the 1918 flu pandemic.  We will get through the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

Peaches Henry is the president of the Waco NAACP and an English professor at McLennan Community College.  She will be spending Thanksgiving with her best friend and black Lab Samson and Christmas with her son Corey and Samson.

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.

Honoring our veterans: a different perspective

By Robert J. Rush, Sr.

Robert J. Rush, Sr.

My brother, Frank, recently sent me a link to an article about a history making event at the navy.  The article is entitled “A Military 1st: A Supercarrier Is Named After An African American Sailor.” He correctly thought I would particularly be interested as a retired sailor.  He was more than correct.

The article goes on to explain that the event was particularly amazing because super carriers are normally named after U. S. presidents, not enlisted sailors, and especially not enlisted ‘Black’ sailors.  Well, you should be proud to know that according to the article, a supercarrier now on the drawing boards will be christened the USS Doris Miller, after our own Doris Miller from Waco, Texas.  That is an awesome honor.  

After reading the article, I thanked Frank and decided to expound on the story some, providing a brief historical update on Blacks in the navy since the days of the heroic actions of Doris Miller.  I would like to share that with you.

As covered in the article, the heroic actions of Doris Miller in the heat of battle demonstrated to many that Blacks could do more in service to our country that just be messmen or stewards, who took care of naval officers by laying out their clothes, shining their shoes and serving their meals.  That’s almost all we were allowed to do at the time in 1941.  Even touching the guns and firing them as Doris Miller did was against the regulations at that time.  However, his actions caused many senior military and non-military leaders to rethink how Blacks were being used in the navy.  The impact of what he had done started the navy to training Black sailors for other rates/jobs such as gunner’s mate, radioman and radar operator.   It even started them to think about the idea of having a Black naval officer.

Projecting the story a little forward in history, the navy decided to give the idea of making Black officers a try.  First the navy experimented in 1944 by selecting 16 enlisted Blacks to be secluded and trained to become naval officers.  This ultimately led to the “Golden 13,” the first group of Black naval officers (12 commissioned officers and 1 Warrant Officer).  Seems the navy just arbitrarily chose 13 of the 16 though all of them excelled and passed all of the tests.  One claim was that by doing so, it kept the commissioning percentage in line with the other commissioning sources.

Later, in 1945, the esteemed Naval Academy admitted six Blacks into its halls as midshipmen, including Wesley Brown.  The five men who came before Brown as Midshipmen were chased out of the academy altogether.  (No reason was given in the source articles).  So, Brown was the first to make it to graduation/commissioning in 1949.  From there he forged a successful 25-year naval career, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander (O-4).

Fast forward again and the navy tried another experiment.  They experimented with commissioning Black officers into the navy through a traditional Historically Black College or University (HBCU).  They tried this in 1968, choosing Prairie View A&M as that HBCU, out of three HBCUs that were being considered.  That’s how PV got it’s NROTC unit, of which I (from Waco, TX) became an original member in 1968, my freshman year there.  

To complete the unit, in addition to our freshman class, they allowed some upper-class army ROTC students to switch over to the NROTC.  The first class of the PV NROTC graduated and received their commission in 1970.  There were 13 of them.  They chose to revive the moniker, the Golden 13.  That class set records for performance during their time in service, yielding 6 or 7 O-6 and above officers (i.e., naval Captains and Admirals) out of that class.  This was and remains today to be an unprecedented percentage for the whole navy’s commissioning sources, including the Naval Academy.

My class graduated in 1972 as the first, full 4-year class from the historic unit.  After 20 years of active service, I retired in 1992 as a Lieutenant Commander (O-4).  We all celebrated the unit’s history back in 2018 at the 50th Anniversary ceremony of the PV NROTC unit.  Johnitha and Rashaad supported me by attending the event with me.  They got the opportunity to see and hear about the proud history of our unit.  They also got to meet my best friend from my active days in the navy, CWO4 Dean Johnson, who has since gone to be with our Lord and Maker.  As an aside, some others of you may remember meeting Dean.  He and his wife Karen came to Waco to support me at Mary’s funeral.  

How about that for fitting the Doris Miller story into an even larger story with even more personal and Waco relevance?  Coincidental to us, especially considering I never planned to have anything to do with the military.  Not coincidental to God, who has blessed me all along the way and continues to do so each and every day.

This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue of The Anchor NewsThe Anchor News is a free, monthly publication of Crawford Publishing.  The Anchor News is dedicated to serving the community and surrounding area, focusing on positive news and accomplishments of minorities.  For more information about The Anchor News including how to subscribe or where to pick up a copy, please visit The Anchor News website.