(Ahmaud Arbery) I Don’t Want to Know Your Name

By Dr. Peaches Henry

Ahmaud Arbery, I don’t want to know your name,
Because knowing your name means your mother is grieving your unjustifiable death.
Knowing your name means you are an unarmed Black man who died at the hands of a white man—
A white man who thinks that he has the right to police your body
Whether or not he is a cop,
Whether or not, if he is a cop, you have committed a crime,
Whether you were simply living your best life,
Snacking on Skittles and iced tea,
Playing your music loudly while pumping gas,
Sitting on your couch eating ice cream,
Sleeping in your own bed,
Settling into a daily run,
Living while Black.

Ahmaud Arbery, I don’t want to know your name.
Because knowing your name means I must add you to that heartbreaking, breath-stopping, stomach-wrenching, always growing, never-ending catalog of murdered Black men, women, and children.
That did not begin with Emmitt Till nor end with Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner or Michael Brown or Tamir Rice or Freddie Gray or Sandra Bland or Philando Castillo or Alton Sterling or Bootham Jean or Breonna Taylor or George Floyd or countless more.
Yet knowing your name means to honor your life.
To say your name is the first step in the journey toward justice for you.
Knowing your name means to protest anti-Black violence,
To scream “Black Lives Matter” in the futile hope that the loss of your life matters.

Ahmaud Arbery, I don’t want to know your name.
Because knowing your name turns my mind to my own twenty-five-year-old son.
Like you, each day he goes for a jog in a predominately white neighborhood.
His neighborhood.
So Ahmaud Arbery, to know your name terrifies me
And causes me to double over in a silent wail of agony every morning,
And to breathe again only when the door opens to reveal my Black Eagle Scout, dean’s list, not-safe-at-home law student.

Ahmaud Arbery, I don’t want to know your name.
But I will learn your name.
I will memorialize you by ritually reciting your name in perpetuity.
I will remember it, because like Emmitt, Trayvon, Eric, Michael, Tamir, Freddie, Sandra, Philando, Alton, Bootham, Breonna, and George you deserved to live in obscurity unknown to me
Not killed by a white man’s bullet or knee on your neck.
I will stand with your mother, uphold your memory, and fight for justice,
Because my son jogs too.


Peaches Henry is an English professor at McLennan Community College. She is currently teaching online and sheltering in place with her eight-month old black Labrador puppy and her son who has returned home from law school.

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?”

A message from Mayor Kyle Deaver regarding the death of George Floyd

By Mayor Kyle Deaver

The brutal killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day at the hands of Minneapolis police was tragic, despicable, and completely unacceptable to our society. Unfortunately, it is part of a long history of the lack of equity in our nation. Waco has its own sad history of racism, including the lynching of Jesse Washington on May 15, 1916.

We have begun to face this reality in our community, and we must continue to move toward a more racially equitable society. The peaceful protestors and demonstrators who spoke and marched together this past Saturday in Waco were right in their calls for action. We must continue to work toward this future together.

Across the country, peaceful protestors and demonstrators have voiced this same desire. Unfortunately, in many cities, protests have involved looting and vandalism. That’s a terrible situation for many reasons. It is obviously unfair to those whose businesses and property are affected. It puts fellow protesters and police in danger, and it warps the message of the need to end racism in our nation. This jeopardizes that very message that so desperately needs to be heard, and it causes many of the people who need to hear and engage on this important message to, instead, become fearful and angry.

I want to thank the organizers and all who participated in last Saturday’s protests and demonstrations for their thoughtful, genuine approach to the problem of racial inequity and violence by some police officers. It is certainly not all, but it’s also not just “a few bad apples.” I also want to thank the leaders in our communities of color for their wise approach to these difficult times. And I want to thank them for relationships they have built with our police force.

I respect and admire every member of Waco’s Police Department that I have had the opportunity to get to know. I believe that each of them are every bit as sickened by what transpired in Minneapolis as I am. Police brutality anywhere in our nation strains the relationship between our citizens and the police who are doing their important and often dangerous work as they try to protect all of us.

Let’s continue to work together toward healing and racial equity. That will require difficult conversations about next steps. Those conversations have to occur.

Kyle Deaver was elected mayor in 2016 and was unopposed in 2018. He previously served four years on the Waco City Council as the representative for District V. Kyle is an attorney and businessman who is active in the Waco community. Deaver is currently on the board of the Waco Foundation. He has served on the boards of the Cameron Park Zoological Society, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Vanguard College Preparatory School, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School. He served six years on the Waco Plan Commission.

East Waco Voices: Cultivating Produce and Culture, Channeling Multiple Passions into One

By Khristian Howard

Inspiring hope in the black community is a passion for Kay Bell. She takes this passion into her work as a school teacher and friend, but nowhere else does it play out more practically than with her own nonprofits. Founder of Global Revive, president of the Waco Chapter of National Women in Agriculture Association, and recent playwright, Mrs. Bell is known for ambition. Her ability to combine her passions for healthy living and the arts have created a concrete example for the community of what it means to cling to your dream and to bring positive light to those that may be overlooked in the community.

A New Home

Kay Bell’s life in Waco began eleven years ago, when she and husband, Virgil, bought a house on Taylor Street. Next to this house was an overgrown, vacant lot that Kay would soon transform into a neighborhood attraction. After a call to the appraisal district, and a transaction with the lot’s owner, Kay bought the plot of land and prepared it for a garden. “We cleared off the whole spot, and my brother broke it up. We planted squash, zucchini, and tomatoes that first summer,” Kay remembers. Due to the minerals and nutrients that had composted on that lot over the years, Kay’s first crop was surprisingly hefty – in quantity and size. “I literally had people slowing down in front of my house looking at my garden because of the huge zucchini vines, squash vines, and tomato vines…my squash and zucchini bushes grew about that tall,” Kay stated, holding her hand about five and a half feet in the air.

The surplus she had from her crops that summer led Kay to turn her first profit from the garden. After giving away some of the crop to people in need, she responded to an ad in the paper for the Heart of Texas Farmer’s Market and paid ten dollars to be a vendor. “I went out there with a card table, and all of my squash and zucchini, and I sold out in about thirty minutes…I made $75 dollars in thirty minutes off of what I grew. So, from there I was really inspired to grow gardens more,” Kay shared. The speedy profit was not the only reason Kay continued to garden, she also began learning about the health benefits of eating fresh, local produce. “I began to grow food for financial reasons, as well as health reasons. And that made me feel like, I want everybody else to catch hold to this feeling I have that we should all be growing gardens and eating from [them] as much as possible,” she stated.

A New Organization

Kay’s knack for gardening and promoting healthy living have led her to lead various organizations that build on these initiatives within the community. One of these organizations is Global Revive, a multifaceted non-profit that seeks to promote gardening, the arts, and economic development. Kay says that she started Global Revive to “revive people back to growing gardens, eating natural, and to tap into their creativity and gifts that have gone dormant… So that’s where the art part of Global Revive comes from.”

Blending creativity and the arts into community work is an important part of Kay’s community involvement.  For example, poetry has been a part of the work.  “I’ve put my creativity into poetry,” Kay stated, “I think poetry is a way to express your opinions [that] you can’t say in church, or you may not be able to say in a big public meeting.” She has been able to use her love of poetry to connect with other people sharing a similar interest. She believes that, “When you have a group of people with the same mind, you can get more accomplished vs. one person by themselves.” The art committee of Global Revive has been responsible for creating a new quarterly open mic night for poets in Waco to bring more poets of color together.

A New Venture

That’s not all this committee has been responsible for. Kay and her team recently wrote, directed, and starred in their first sold out play, Born 2 Win, at Jubilee Theater. When asked about her inspiration for the play, Kay recounted the events that sparked the idea. The title, Born 2 Win, was inspired by a book that one of the Global Revive members wrote. After deciding to use the title to pay homage to the 90-year-old writer and Global Revive member, Kay began planning the content. She shared that her husband had been homeless for seventeen years and had provided stories and details that would make up the play. “He often tells me stories of how he lived as a homeless person, and what they had to go through – freezing in the winter, burning up in the summer, in line to eat. So, the play is about homeless people who want to come out of homelessness and be successful,” Kay told us. The characters in the play combine their talents and efforts to form a cooperative that eventually helps them out of homelessness – depicting more of Kay’s zeal for black-owned businesses.

The main takeaway from the play? Everyone can win. Kay sums up her play’s message by saying, “If you’ve been to the bottom, I mean the bottom. There is something inside of you that you have that you can use [to win]. It may not be speaking, it may not be singing, it may not be passing a test. But there is something in you that makes you a winner, because you were born to win.”  For Kay, presenting these messages to the community with a play that casts actors that look like the community was imperative. She shared, “You look at TV and it’s not a whole lot – even in 2019 – of us [African-Americans]. I just feel there are other people out there who should have a great representation.” She wanted people of color to have a positive representation in media, but also in her own surroundings.

Encouragement for Other Dreamers

When asked what advice she would give others who seek to pursue different passions and make positive change in East Waco, Kay’s message was simple and direct. “Don’t quit!” she laughed, “Don’t give up. Keep persisting. Your dream can happen…There’s somebody else out there who sees the same thing you see. You may not find them then and there, you may not get a big crowd, but keep holding on to that dream that you want. Just don’t give up.” Kay Bell has certainly proven herself to be an inspiration for leaders and entrepreneurs who will not fit into a single box. Her commitment to cultivate gardens and art without compromising one for the other shows that it is possible to connect interests that seem difficult to merge…as long as you work together.


Khristian Howard is an Atlanta native and a recent graduate of Georgia State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She has a passion for empowering communities through service, and seeks to connect advocacy to creativity. Currently, she is serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Texas Hunger Initiative Waco, where her work focuses on fostering collective impact to improve health and eating habits in East Waco. When she is not working, you may find her sharpening her culinary skills or exploring new poetic and artistic pathways.  

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

But Some of Us are Brave: Shamethia Webb

(This post is one in a series on race titled “But Some of Us Are Brave.” The series includes posts from a diverse group of writers from our community. It takes a considerable amount of transparency and vulnerability for the contributors to this series to pen these posts and voice their experiences. We appreciate their courage, and we hope their willingness to be brave will spark some authentic community conversation on this sensitive and important topic. We hope you will read these posts thoughtfully and join the conversation by responding honestly and respectfully, and by sharing them with your friends and acquaintances. — ABT )

A Bad Day – By Shamethia Webb

She was having a bad day.

And what exacerbated it was the fact that it wasn’t unusual.

She awoke on time (which meant early for her). Showered. Brushed her teeth. Scowled at herself in the mirror. And went to work.

All of her co-workers were talking about the black boy who was murdered while walking from a convenience store. They’d been talking about it for days. Talking about it and doing nothing. The same words again and again as if the incessant movement of their mouths negated a seventeen year old corpse.

She hated them.

During her break she washed and rewashed her hands in the restroom. She abhorred being in the ladies room for longer than a few minutes. It smelled like women. Which meant it smelled like pain and fatigue.

She wrenched a paper towel out of the dispenser and cast a frown at the vacant stalls that seemed to mock her loneliness.

She was tired.

She didn’t speak during staff meeting. Didn’t see the point in disturbing her tongue. They always smiled over her suggestions. Or tasted her words with their mouths before spitting them out. It infuriated her. Mostly it hollowed her. Cleaved into her like a perforated knife and emptied her out.

She’d spilled so much of herself over these hallways during her tenure here. Specks of herself all over the walls. Now a permanent grimace clung to her face like love.

The smell of coffee hung in the air. Stale. A room full of spit and disdain. She inhaled. Yes, disdain. She could smell it on them like second skin.

They were talking about him again. Her boss didn’t use the word murder. But defense. And mistake. And misunderstanding.

She hated him.

Her co-worker, the one with a frown for a smile, giggled at her boss’s comment that the black boy should have ducked the bullets.

I thought black boys were fast, he joked. A room full of laughter.

She died a little bit.

But not enough. She still had to clock out. And smile at the receptionist who always mispronounced her name. She still had to leave the building—and them, and them—with as much of herself intact as possible.

She stumbled to her car, trembling in her black woman fury.

She was tired.

In the checkout line at the supermarket, she watched as her few items moved lazily up the conveyor belt. The cashier chatted animatedly with the customer in front of her.

Don’t let this cashier cut her eyes at me, she thought to herself. Not today.

Don’t let her reach for my money with two fingers as if she’s afraid of skin contact. Don’t let her suddenly become mute and unresponsive to my presence, to my human being-ness. Don’t let her. Not today.

She realized with some panic that it wasn’t anger that fueled her thoughts but despair. She recognized that if the cashier did de-humanize her today she wouldn’t respond with fury but with resignation.

The passivity worried her.

I’m dying too fast, she thought.

She tensed as her items moved closer to the cashier, and she couldn’t help but notice that the murdered boy’s eyes stared back from every magazine in the aisle.

The repetition overwhelmed her. She shook.

Pieces of herself broke off. Landed dully on the laminate floor.

She tried to remember her breath. And forget her boss and the restroom stalls and the hundreds of cashiers who’d humiliated her and the tiptoeing gunman and the black corpse and the black corpses theblackcorpsestheblackcorpsestheblackcorpsetheblacktheblacktheblackblackblack

She tried to catch herself but her hands were already gone. Dead.

. . .

I hate soap operas.

A voice behind her.

She opened her eyes. When had she closed them?

A white man behind her scowled at a TV guide featuring frozen celebrities. He turned a full smile on her. The white of his teeth blinding for a moment.

Don’t you just hate soap operas?

She managed a nod.

She did hate them. This aisle was full of things she hated. This city. This world. Full of things she hated. Or perhaps just full of things (No. People, she amended. She liked being correct). Full of people who hated her.

I’d rather read the back of a cereal box than watch TV, the man said.

He picked up one of his boxes of cereal and waved it at her.

This isn’t food but entertainment.

She smiled. Not a full one (she was incapable of that at this point) but a slash of the mouth that surprised her with its suddenness.

. . .

And there was a pocket of time when he wasn’t who he was or had to be and she wasn’t who she was or had to be. They just were.

And there was a glimmer inside of her. Something not quite dead, that stirred.

The cashier was aloof but polite. And that was enough.

She walked to her car without the usual trembling.

The white man (No, man, she corrected) was parked beside her. They chatted as they loaded their items into their cars.

Well, he chatted. She managed to listen without the usual weariness and rage.

Perhaps she would sleep in tomorrow.

Yes.

Perhaps she would grow again.

And as she slid into her driver’s seat, a murmur of a smile across her face, the man waved a crumbled bill in her face and propositioned her for sex.


shamethia webb Shamethia Webb (on the right in the picture) is the Regional Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative Waco Regional Office. She grew up in Waco and spends her free time writing, dreaming, and trying to protect her reign as Connect Four Champion from her nephews. Hip hop music, sour candy, and Toni Morrison novels are a few of her favorite things.

 

But Some of Us are Brave: DeShauna Hollie

(This post is one in a series on race titled “But Some of Us Are Brave.” The series includes posts from a diverse group of writers from our community. It takes a considerable amount of transparency and vulnerability for the contributors to this series to pen these posts and voice their experiences. We appreciate their courage, and we hope their willingness to be brave will spark some authentic community conversation on this sensitive and important topic. We hope you will read these posts thoughtfully and join the conversation by responding honestly and respectfully, and by sharing them with your friends and acquaintances. — ABT )

By DeShauna Hollie

As I sat down to write about this theme of “But Some of Us Are Brave”, I thought of my favorite “super hero” Septima Poinsette Clark. Septima lived from 1898 to 1987. She was born in Charleston, South Carolina and lived much of her life there. Although Septima lived until she was 89, and is considered by many as the grandmother of the civil rights movement, her story isn’t as widely known as those of other civil rights leaders.

As a teacher and avid civil rights activist, Septima helped pioneer some important aspects of the civil rights movement. She helped to create Citizenship Schools that addressed the barriers and unjust laws that African Americans faced when it came to registering to vote in the South. These laws varied by county and state, but many required African-American voters to be able to pass a literacy test in order to vote unless their grandfather had voted in a previous election. This disqualified most Blacks in the South, because their grandfathers had been slaves and barred from voting. Activists like Septima found ways to address these laws while at the same time protesting them.

(Clark, pg 33)

(Clark, pg 33)

Septima also worked with Myles Horton of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, TN to train other civil rights leaders and activists in non-violent civil disobedience. Rosa Parks attended one of those trainings and gatherings. Rosa went on to help lead the Montgomery bus boycott a few months later.

Septima used her training and passion as an educator to fight against systemic racism in the South. She consistently spoke up for the rights of marginalized people and continued to speak out even when her life was threatened, even when she was fired from her job as teacher for being a member of the NAACP, even when she was thrown in jail for holding integrated meetings with Whites and Blacks, and even when she was ostracized by many members in her community for using her voice to help others. She is indeed a super hero. In her later years, when asked about her work and contribution to the civil rights movement, she replied, “I don’t expect to see a utopia. No, I think there will always be something that you’re going to work on always. That’s why when we have chaos and people say, ‘I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m concerned,’ I say, ‘Out of that will come something good.’ It will too. They can be afraid of what is going to happen. Things will happen and things will change. The only thing that is really worthwhile is change. It’s coming.” (Clark, pg126)

charron pg 359

(Charron, pg 359)

Septima chose to continue working towards change her entire life, despite the consequences. Another quote of hers that I love goes: “It’s not that you grow old, but it is how you have grown old. I feel that I have grown old with dreams that I want to come true, and that I have grown old believing there is always a beautiful lining to that cloud that overshadows things. I have great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking. I consider chaos a gift, and this has come during my old age.” (Clark pg124)

Septima Clark is an inspiration to me and what I want my life to be like. I want to work for what I believe in my entire life. I want to work towards a more accepting society, a society that acknowledges that we are not a utopia. We have come pretty far since the days of slavery and segregation but the journey continues.

There is an elephant in the room that we are so afraid to mention. We are afraid and concerned that we may say something offensive, that we may hurt each other. The protests sparked by the shooting of Michael Brown on August 9th in Ferguson, MO, prompted questions in my mind about what I could do to stand in solidarity with that community and with others in my own community of Waco, TX, as we all grieved over the loss of a life. I’m not sure why this particular event spoke to me in a way that other shootings had not, but it made me want to take to the streets and scream “Black Lives Matter” and “Enough is Enough” along with other protesters. I love a good protest. They are invigorating and a great way to let off steam so that I can get down to the business of figuring out how to bring about the change that I am screaming about. Septima’s model of continual work and non-violence remind me that there is always a positive way to go about change.

The anger is real. The despair is real. The hurt is real. I believe it is time we made the conversation real. Although we are not Ferguson, MO,and are in Waco, TX, we have our own history of racism, prejudice and discrimination that is very real. I want Waco to prosper and I want to continue to work towards positive change in Waco. Will you join me in the conversation?

I know that conversations about change, about injustice, about past hurts and about how we move forward can sometimes be scary and hard. But dialogue with each other is the first action that we can take in being allies to each other.


DeShauna HollieThis Act Locally Waco blog post was written by DeShauna Hollie. Deshauna grew up in Waco and is infant/toddler teacher at The Talitha Koum Institute Therapeutic Nursery. 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.

 

Resources:

Charon, Katherine Mellen. Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel 2009.

Clark, Septima Poinsette and Cynthia Stokes Brown. Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement. Wild Trees Press, Navarro, California:1986.

 

A White person reflects on Black History Month

By Ashley Bean Thornton

Like many White, middle-class Americans, I grew up understanding life as a competition, a footrace. The ones who run the fastest, and by that I mean work the hardest, win the prizes. I knew good, hardworking people – my parents for example – who were winning, and I expected to be a good, hardworking person who would also win. In fact, that is exactly how it has played out so far.

Of course… to feel good about winning, you have to believe the race is fair.

I don’t remember having “Black History Month” when I was in school, but we definitely studied slavery and the Civil War. We saw slides of the Little Rock Nine being escorted to class by the National Guard, and of White people turning dogs and fire hoses on Black people. We learned about Rosa Parks taking her seat on the bus in Montgomery, and we learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the “I have a Dream” speech.

Without even thinking about it, I interpreted all of this through my footrace metaphor, like so: (1) Slavery was an unthinkably horrible sin. (2) Even after slavery ended, the race was not fair. White people cheated – a lot. (3) Thanks to Dr. King, and the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, Black people were able to use the legal system to make the race fair. Conclusion: Things were terrible before, but they are OK now; we can quit worrying so much about the Black/White thing, and just concentrate on running as fast as we can.

I was fairly comfortable with this conclusion for a long time.

Recently I came across a 2013 Pew Research Center Report partially titled “King’s Dream Remains an Elusive Goal.” According to this report, Black Americans are nearly three times as likely as White Americans to have incomes below the poverty guideline. The median net worth (wealth) for White households is more than ten times that of Black households, and Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as White men. With these facts in mind, I have to ask myself an uncomfortable question: if the race is fair, why do we continue to see such huge disparities?

It seems blindingly obvious now, but it took me a long time to realize that if I wanted to begin to untangle the knot of reasons behind these differences I needed to tweak my footrace metaphor. In my mind the race for success had always been an individual event. If I win it is because of my hard work; if I lose it’s because I should have worked harder. If you lose…well … you get the picture. I still believe this is the truth; it’s just not the whole truth. Hard work matters, but it’s also important to realize that the race is not, and never has been, an individual event.  It’s a relay.

levittownpicLet’s say, for example, my White grandparents saved their money and bought a house in the suburbs back in the 40’s. That house increased in value and became part of the nest egg my parents used to get an even nicer house in an even better neighborhood. That meant I got to go to a really good high school, and from there to a good university, and from there to a good job. Meanwhile Black grandparents in the 40’s didn’t get to buy that house in the suburbs because of prejudicial deed restrictions (not to mention inhospitable neighbors). To make matters worse, no (White owned) bank would loan them the money to build a nice house in a Black neighborhood because it was “too high risk.” That meant no nest egg, no nicer house for their kids, and a not so great high school in a declining neighborhood for their grandkids – my peers. Multiply this scenario by thousands of Black and White grandparents and you begin to see one reason why there is such a huge disparity in wealth between Black and White households today.

Even if the leg of the relay I’m running now is reasonably fair (or at least fair-er), the previous legs of the race were seriously rigged in favor of White people. I was way, way ahead before I ever started to run.

I do not know exactly what we should do to even out the disparities that have come about as a result of the inequities of the past. Should we invest more in public schools? In rebuilding high poverty neighborhoods? Should we provide more support to Black-owned businesses? Should we take a hard look at our legal system? Maybe we should do all of these things; maybe none of them; maybe there are other creative solutions I can’t even imagine. I don’t know. I just know that there is a limit to how much time even a great athlete can make up in the last lap of a relay. If we care about reducing the Black/White disparities described above any time soon, we are going to have to do something more than just telling people to “run as fast as you can.”

ABT in FrameThis week’s Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, the Manager of the www.www.actlocallywaco.org website and the editor of the Friday Update newsletter.  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.

For every White person in Waco: Five Things to Do

By Ashley Bean Thornton

After attending two Juneteenth celebrations and the terrific mural celebration party at the East Waco Library, I have seen far more Black people in the last month than I have seen in the 24 months before that combined.

Does that last sentence make you cringe a little? It made me cringe a little to write it. Do I sound like I’m bragging about being the cool White person who hangs out with Black people? Am I supposed to say “Black” or should I say “African-American?” Was I intruding? Would the Black people have liked it better if no White People had come? Should I write a post that focuses only on Black/White racial relationships? How will that make people of other races and ethnicities feel?IMG_1317

When it comes to race, I second guess myself coming and going. That’s OK though. If Waco is going to be a great place to live for every person of every level of income, more of us have got to wade into the sometimes fun, sometimes fascinating, often uncomfortable waters of learning more about other races and ethnic groups. I think Maya Angelou’s advice applies here, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” With that in mind here are five things I’ve done in the last few years that I feel like have helped me “know better.” I recommend them to you, my fellow White people.

1. Shop for kids’ books – Go to Barnes & Noble and try to find a baby book or a kids’ book with an other-than-white person on the cover. I did, and it was shocking to me how few choices I had. Once this opened my eyes I started noticing Black/White differences in all kinds of advertising, especially local advertising. Books and advertising influence our thinking, especially if we don’t notice that they are slanted.

2. Read Some of my Best Friends are Black  by Tanner Colby and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – The Colby book is an easy read by a white man who grew up in the South. It’s a very accessible, somewhat irreverent, look at some of our foundational institutions – education, housing, church – and how they have contributed to our current race relations (or lack thereof). The New Jim Crow is a challenging read. I didn’t agree with every word of it, but it broke open my thinking about crime and race. Everyone should read this book.

3. Watch “Race the Power of an Illusion – This is a 3-Part documentary about race in society, science and history. It’s a little hard to find, but they have it at the Baylor library. (The Waco-McLennan County Libraries have ordered a copy.  It should arrive sometime July 2013.)  The information on the science of race and the section on housing were the most interesting to me. It shares a historical perspective that I bet most White people don’t know, but should.

4. Attend a Community Race Relations Coalition (CRRC)  meeting – Waco is lucky to have a thriving group of people who care about promoting good conversations about race. I recommend their regular “Dinner and a Movie” meetings as a good way to ease into the conversation. Last Valentine’s Day, for example, they had a full house to watch “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Steve and Kathy Reid, of Truett Seminary and the Family Abuse Center respectively, led an honest, thought-provoking conversation about bi-racial marriage.

5. Attend a Black church…more than once — A few years ago the CRRC organized a “Church Swap.” Black people went to White churches and White people went to Black churches for three months. Attending a Black church for several Sundays gave us time to get past the initial shock-factor of a completely different worship style, to meet a few people, to learn some of the songs and to get to the point where we were actually worshipping instead of just observing. That experience did more to make me comfortable with being “the only white person in the room” than anything else I have ever done. I highly recommend it.

That’s my list of five?  What are yours?