Dallas History


The Shorthorn
Author speaks on Dallas politics
Alumnus speaks to honor society on the history of ‘whiteness’ in Dallas

Posted: Wednesday, February 8, 2006 12:00 am
Alexa Garcia-Ditt

Phi Alpha Theta, the International History Honor Society, will host a guest lecture by alumnus and author Michael Phillips at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in University Hall.

Amanda Pritchard, president of Phi Alpha Theta, said she was excited about Phillips’ lecture.
“Our primary purpose for getting him was that we think he will serve as a link for students’ futures — an example of what they can achieve,” she said.
Phillips received his undergraduate degree in journalism from UTA, where he worked as a reporter at The Shorthorn. He earned a history degree and his doctorate at UT-Austin. Phillips also worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as a reporter. He has recently written and published a historical book titled White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001.
“In the book, I argue how the concept of ‘whiteness’ developed in Dallas politics,” he said. “Furthermore, I argue that race is a fictional concept — the idea is not rooted in reality.”
Phillips touches on various topics throughout his book, including how the concept of “whiteness” changes, how racial groups gain power in politics and how the higher-ups of Dallas maintained power in the midst of the many racial groups.
Phillips attributes his writing success to John Dycus, current Shorthorn writing coach, and insists that what he learned while working for the paper helped shape him into the writer he is today.
“Dycus and what he taught me was really important during my years as a professional journalist,” he said.
Phillips also credits Dycus for how he begins each chapter in his book.
“I start every chapter with an anecdote, a story, and that’s something that I learned from Dycus as well,” he said.
Phillips, who worked as a reporter for a variety of papers, shifted his career toward history after various incidents at the Star-Telegram.
Phillips said he noticed that black on white crimes were getting more coverage than any crime, and the black victims were largely ignored.
“The media plays a role in shaping how whites see other races,” he said. “I was uncomfortable with my role in doing that. I was guilty of the sins of the media, and the only way I could change that was to do something different, to study race and ethnicity in more depth and write about it in more depth.”
In his lecture, Phillips will speak on the historical-text-writing process, including the research involved and how to obtain resources for writing on history, Pritchard said.
“I also will talk about all the concepts in the book, how I got into the subject and about Dallas politics and issues today,” he said.
Pritchard said the history honor society first showed interest in bringing Phillips to speak a couple months ago, and the date was confirmed a few weeks ago.
“The book was just published, so he wanted to come and discuss it,” she said.
Pritchard is enthusiastic about the influence Phillips will have on current UTA students.
“His publishing this book shows that it is possible to publish a major work and be successful with the foundation that UTA gives us,” she said.
Heather Isbell, history senior and the society’s undergraduate vice president, said that, like all Phi Alpha Theta meetings, the lecture is open to anyone interested in the topic and will take place in 013 University Hall.
The society will provide food for guests, and the UTA Bookstore will sell copies of the book after the lecture. Phillips will sign books afterwards and answer any questions.




Frontburner Blog


If you haven’t had a chance or inclination to plow through the DMN from Sunday, have a look at the long piece, “Ghosts of racism,” in the “Points” (is that a horrible name for OpEd section or what?) by Michael Phillips, author of the newish White Metropolis, on the history of race and racism in Dallas. His book, which is getting a lot of buzz, elaborates, of course, but the piece is a good summary and an ought-to-read. Especially now.

Rod Davis · April 10, 2006 01:29 PM




D Magazine

July, 2006

In Your Face
Provocative new book White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001 hits all the hot buttons. Add it to your summer reading list.
by Rod Davis
In his provocative new book White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001, UT Austin instructor and former Star-Telegram reporter Michael Phillips weighs in on the city’s very current debate about all three Big Subjects with pertinent if sobering analysis of the past. Phillips wrote White Metropolis as his doctoral thesis, but after it won several academic awards, UT Press brought it to bookstores. In it, Phillips argues that the city’s white leadership consistently has used race-baiting, violence, and even religion to bend and shape Dallas to its own economic benefit.
This will be gasket-blowing stuff for some; cause for high-fives for others. In any case, given the paucity of serious scholarly analysis of the city, this book should join the slim canon as a must-read for informed citizens.
We caught up with Phillips—who grew up in Garland, graduated from UT Arlington, and now lives in Bastrop—and asked him to explain his ideas.
D Magazine: The main theory in your book is the claim that an ideology or concept called “whiteness” explains how the Anglo-Saxon patriarchy of the city maintained control over African-Americans and Hispanics and even Jews, Italians, Greeks, Irish. How does this work?
Michael Phillips: Race has no meaning scientifically. All human life began in the Horn of East Africa, and humans are more than 99.9 percent genetically identical. The first Europeans had African ancestry and dark skin, until between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago, when a single “letter” of a genetic code of 3.1 billion letters mutated and produced lighter skin.
In spite of this marginal difference, elites began to assign people to random categories like “black,” “white,” “brown,” “red,” and “yellow” in the 1500s, with the notion that whites were superior to all other categories. But these subgroups are impossible to define with any consistency.
The definition of whiteness has varied over time and by location. In 19th-century America, the Irish, Jews, and Italians were widely considered nonwhite. These legal and social definitions had little to do with the reality of racial categories and more to do with wealth and status. Being white meant higher wages, better jobs, access to superior schools, neighborhoods, and health care and, ultimately, a longer life.
D Magazine: You talk about some myths that have shaped the consciousness of the city over the decades. One of them is the Origin Myth. What do you mean?
Phillips: Dallasites are taught that Dallas was a city with no reason for being—no port, navigable river, natural beauty that would draw immigrants there. The city was created solely as an act of will by the business leadership who turned a scrubby wilderness into a financial and cultural capital of the Southwest.
Historically, this is nonsense. Dallas’ early settlers observed that the fertility of the soil and the nearness of Dallas to already-established Anglo settlements in East Texas made the area an ideal spot for a settlement.
The myth survives, however, and teaches Dallasites two ideas. One, that it took racially superior whites to make something of the area. Two, that for the city to continue to succeed, residents must continue to place political power in the hands of traditional business elites. To do otherwise would be to abandon a formula that has always succeeded in the past.
D Magazine: The book contains a detailed look at the history of the city, including some events that tend to be forgotten, such as the fire of 1860, the widespread violence against slaves and freedmen before and after the Civil War, the bombings of the 1950s, and the Ford strike. Was the violence around the Civil War era the most pronounced in the city’s history?
Phillips: Dallas became particularly violent from the period just before the Civil War through Reconstruction in the late 1860s, though violence has been commonplace throughout the city’s past. Much of the city’s downtown burned in a fire in the summer of 1860, the year before the Civil War. When fires broke out, a panic ensued over whether slaves had started these fires as part of a general rebellion against their white masters. Three slaves were blamed for the Dallas fire and hanged in front of the 97 slaves living white masters. Three slaves were blamed for the Dallas fire and hanged in front of the 97 slaves living in Dallas itself. More than 1,000 slaves were whipped in Dallas County as punishment for the fire and for their alleged abortive rebellion.
Such racial violence, unfortunately, didn’t disappear in the 20th century. In 1910, a Dallas mob stormed a courthouse in the city and seized Allen Brooks, an African-American man accused of raping a small white child. The mob tied a rope around his neck, dropped him from the courthouse window, jumped on him until his body turned to pulp, tied him to a car, and dragged him to a telephone pole where his body was left dangling as the crowd tore off clothing and body parts. Someone took a photograph of Brooks’ lynching and sold it as a postcard.
Racial violence remained, with organized bombings of homes bought by blacks in formerly all-white neighborhoods in 1940 to 1941 and 1950 to 1951, and even later with a series of questionable police shootings of African-Americans, including an elderly man and woman, in the 1980s.
D Magazine: Why do you think a comprehensive history of the evolution of racial attitudes in Dallas has been so long coming? Do other large Southern cities, such as Atlanta or Houston, have the same problems?
Phillips: Yes. If cities weren’t front-line battlegrounds during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, they tend to be overlooked. Atlanta is written about more than Dallas and Houston, but the scholarship on that city is still severely underdeveloped.
D Magazine: In more recent times, how did the response of Dallas leaders to civil rights issues affect the rest of the nation? Was the city in any way a preferred model because of the emphasis on what you call manufactured consent?
Phillips: Dallas actually won praise from John Kennedy for the peaceful way it supposedly integrated the public schools. Of course, the white response to Dallas school desegregation was muted, in part, because integration in the district was a sham. The Dallas school district pursued a so-called stair-step plan, which integrated one grade each year. If the courts had not invalidated this plan, even limited integration would have taken 12 years.
As it was, a decade after desegregation supposedly began, most blacks still attended mostly black schools and most whites went to almost entirely white schools. By the time genuine integration was attempted in the 1970s, white parents, along with white-owned businesses, fled to the suburbs, which resegregated Dallas schools and drained an important tax base.
D Magazine: What role did religion or religious figures, such as the Rev. Cyrus Scofield, play in supporting either segregation or racial division in the city?
Phillips: Cyrus Scofield, who headed the First Congregational Church in Dallas [now Scofield Memorial Church], was one of the most important people in the history of American religion. Scofield’s writings fueled the American fascination with “end times prophecy” that you see in the Left Behind books. As part of his teachings, Scofield portrayed Jews as still representing the chosen people, who would play a key role in unfulfilled prophecy regarding Christ’s second coming. He helped turn an unfortunately common Protestant anti-Semitism into a warmer regard for Jews as heroes of the Bible.
W.A. Criswell, of First Baptist Church, was, of course, an enthusiastic supporter of Jim Crow and didn’t have a road-to-Damascus moment concerning race relations until Jim Crow was already dead.
D Magazine: Do you think your book will prompt a new interest in scholarship about Dallas and its central role in U.S. history?
Phillips: I hope so, and there are other scholars, such as Stephanie Cole, Patricia Hill, and Harvey Graff, who have done interesting work on Dallas and continue to do so. Serious scholarship on Dallas is overdue, and I think the city has been overlooked because elites have wanted it that way. The powerful and the wealthy don’t look so good when their actions are closely examined. Intense scrutiny would dissolve much of the hold the Origin Myth still has over Dallas.
D Magazine: How would you say Dallas sits today, in terms of the alliances or conflicts among blacks, browns, and whites, and how has that changed over the years? Are we condemned to repeating history, or is there any progress?
Phillips: Dallasites aren’t told that the city’s past has been defined by violence, conflict, and oppression, so they see the ugly squabbles today between blacks, browns, and whites and think this is without precedent. Actually, I think intense debates over the role of racism in Dallas politics, the corruption at City Hall, over what should be the city’s priorities, and over issues like immigration and environmental racism are healthy and the first step toward creating a more genuinely democratic city.
(Article copyright © 2006, D Magazine.)




Dallas: The White Metropolis
July 1, 2006
I can’t say I make a habit of attending AuthorSpeaks. Tonight, I moseyed to the downtown Dallas Public Library to hear Michael Phillips, author of White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001
This event was sponsored by Howard Dean’s private club, Democracy For America.
One of Phillips’ premises is that, if mankind began with one male and one female, there were no races. He suggests that the concept of “race” was concocted by Europeans in the 1500s, saying that 99% of human genes between Asians, Europeans, Hispanics, Africans are identical.
Phillips clearly has contempt for George F. Will, reading a passage from his 5 June 2006 Newsweek column: White Guilt, Deciphered which freely quotes one of the only black men that Will admires, Shelby Steele (a possible Oreo).
Other discussion ensued:
• Does institutional racism still exist?
• Another author’s work — Jerrold Ladd of the 1970s-era Dallas Morning News — was mentioned: “Out of the Madness: From the Projects to a Life of Hope”
• The 1865-8 Freedmen’s Bureau in Dallas, when the whites sought to permanently enforce a black underclass.

• The correlation between education & prosperity (premise: blue states are liberal, more educated, more prosperous than red/conservative/stupid states).
• Says that, under the Jim Crow education system, textbooks used by blacks couldn’t later be use by whites. Says the 1860s era school year sent blacks for 60 days, and whites for 100 days. Most school was oriented as a vocational effort, teaching the blacks to be servants to the white masters, effectively.
• W.E.B. Du Bois’ history books.
• Texas textbooks 1890-1970, explicit racism throughout.
• Historically altered descriptions of post Civil War Reconstruction.
• Tarzan’s movie lessons (where is this mysterious White Tribe of Africa?).
• Why aren’t Egypt and Morocco considered African, instead of Middle Eastern?
• An assessment of FOX “News” target market: over 70, simpletons.

• The fallacy of Atlanta’s former slogan: “the city too busy to hate”.

• Mentions of TSU (Texas Southern University) – an historically black university near downtown Houston.

• How Dallas white population were “better organized elites” than other cities, hence the huge racial divide present today.

• Houston v Dallas’ labor history.

• Example of the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union.)
• Highland/University Park where the organized white elites live today, virtually Hispanic/African Free.
• Prominent black Dallas leaders, historically: A. Maceo Smith; Juanita Craft
Finally, someone mentioned a Dallas Peace Center series on eliminating racism. And then, adjourned. Whew, a lot of ground covered. Maybe I should attend these Author Things more often?




News for Activists

Dallas Civil Rights History Revealed

July 2006

Dr. Michael Phillips spoke about his new book, White Metropolis, at the Dallas Public Library on July 5. The book reviews the entire history of the Dallas area with special attention to civil rights. The evening was presented free by Democracy for America. When Phillips asked if anybody in the audience had recently worked on political campaigns, almost all of the 70+ participants raised their hand!

Phillips said that the concept of “race” was unknown before the 16th century, when Europeans began invading and occupying the territories of others, especially those in Africa and the Americas. The definitions of race have been very fluid, even up to modern times. As a matter of genetics, race is practically a meaningless term.

Until recently, a “creation myth” was the official history of Dallas. Once people begin to see what really happened, they can also see why those who run Dallas prefer the myth to the realities. “This is a violent, blood-soaked place,” Phillips said, as he listed many of the statistics of lynchings here and around Texas. As for efforts to organize for progress, Phillips said, “There was actually a brutal war waged against unions in Dallas.”

The repression in Dallas had a peculiar and very progressive side effect. Phillips talked about early efforts to educate African American children despite the worse possible conditions. He especially credited the long-time principal of Booker T Washington High School, John Wesley Paton, with developing a highly advanced program of Black Studies. Eventually, Dallas produced the most influential civil rights leaders in the state. Phillips told his audience, “Dallas was the epicenter of the civil rights movement in Texas!”

Unlike many intellectuals who content themselves with describing problems without offering solutions, Phillips said this of racism: “That is a collective sin, and it can only be corrected by collective actions.”





D Magazine
Frontburner Blog

Did anybody else catch Michael Phillips’ lecture at the Hall of State lecture hall last night? Whoa.

He spoke about his book, White Metropolis, which takes on the “origin myth” of Dallas — the idea that a white elite on the Dallas Citizens Council made it what it is through an act of will.

Phillips obviously has an ax or two to grind, and his thesis is controversial. But he probably didn’t anticipate the brilliant onslaught mounted by Dr. LaTrese Adkins, who cheerfully called it a “monolithic and cursory analysis,” largely because she said it treated black people as a single group cast in the role of a victim. An African-American who grew up in South Dallas and attended Lincoln High School, she had a few telling distinctions to make.

“There’s not one black anything,” she said, “and there never has been.” She even said that Phillips did an “antagonistic strip search” on prominent white Dallasites without acknowledging the good things they did, such as having the foresight to assure an ample water supply in times of drought like these. Her deconstruction of the choice of a cover photograph was perhaps the pinnacle of an astonishing performance. I was sorry I had to leave early. Anybody else hear the rest, including the remarks of Dr. Roberto Calderon?

Glenn Arbery · October 25, 2006 10:40 AM



D Magazine
Frontburner Blog
October 31, 2006
Why did LaTrese Adkins attack Michael Phillips’ White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001 last week? He thinks he might know why.

I think I understand where Dr. Adkins is coming from. First of all, we were set up by the event organizers as antagonists and we played our assigned roles. Secondly, academic discourse tends to be pretty aggressive. If you saw all of her remarks, after giving a pretty harsh critique, she called my book “brilliant.” That’s just how scholars go after each other, though I think Dr. Adkins at times veered into the ad hominem.
Third, I think Dr. Adkins and other scholars of color have a legitimate grievance in that white scholars are over-represented in the history field and she might feel that I was yet one more white writer giving short shrift to the black voice. She feels Dallas’ “black history” has not been told and that I failed to provide one. Of course, I did not see that as my particular goal.
Finally, I think that she is concerned that the field of “whiteness” in which my work is grounded — which argues that race is a social convention and a public fiction — represents a threat to black studies. Whiteness studies arose just as the story of African Americans for the first time was being extensively studied. The danger is that if we dismiss race as a scientific concept, we might also cease using it as a tool of historical analysis.
 In other words, if we argue that categories like “white” and “black” are figments of public imagination, the unintended result could be that “black” history disappears. This would be a tragic event given that African Americans history was distorted, buried or simply ignored for so long. That is not my intention, of course. I want political privilege based on skin color to be abolished and think that one way to achieve this is by examining with brutal honesty the central role race and racism have played in American history.
Phillips’ remarks come out of a way of thinking that’s probably unfamiliar to most of us — race as “a social convention and a public fiction,” for example. The problem is obviously the visibility of difference that led to those social conventions. But on the main point — the uselessness of race as a scientific concept — I detect prominent traces of Stephen Jay Gould’s deservedly influential book The Mismeasure of Man in his argument.
Glenn Arbery · October 31, 2006 04:01 PM

D Magazine
FrontBurner Blog

Posted on March 13th, 2007 10:58am by Rod Davis

This just in from author Michael Phillips. Kudos.

I just wanted to let you know that my book, White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001, just won the Texas Historical
Commission’s T.R. Fehrenbach Award for best book on Texas history in 2006.

“In Your Face,” my Q&A with Phillips, appeared in the July 2006 issue of D.




Dallas Observer
White Noise
Phillips examines racism and immigration
By Jennifer Elaine Davis
July 5. 2007
Dr. Michael Phillips’ book White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001 will do things to you. It’s a history book in a lot of ways, but it also makes you take a look around at the half-million-dollar condos springing up all over Dallas and realize who gets to live there and whose labor put them there. It makes it hard to look at our fair city the same way. And now, he’s extrapolated his extensive research about racism in Dallas and beyond in order to draw parallels between the wide-spread, organized racism of the early to mid-1900s and the modern growth of anti-immigration sentiment. It’s heady stuff, to be sure, but his lecture Less Desirable People: Racism and the Politics of Immigration draws out a perspective on things that our friends in Farmers Branch are probably not considering. In previous speeches Phillips started a dialogue about racism by examining the history of racism, talking about the evolution of race as a concept, discussing race and Dallas politics and tying them all into current events. It’s a fascinating point of view for anyone with even a cursory interest in the subject matter. Phillips will present his lecture for free at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas (4015 Normandy Ave.) at 7 p.m. Sunday. Call 214-528-3990 or visit dallasuu.org. 
Sun., July 8, 7 p.m.




http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/dallas/stories/DN-civilrightsforum_13met.ART.West.Edition1.375b2b2.html ]

Dallas Morning News

Activists reflect at civil rights forum
Dallas: Educating, involving young people seen as key challenge

By HOLLY K. HACKER / The Dallas Morning News
January 13, 2008
Black leaders in Dallas fought to integrate public schools in the 1950s and ’60s. Today, many schools are again segregated by race.
They marched and went to jail for the right to vote. Today, many blacks don’t even register.
They endured beatings and ugly name-calling. Just last month, a black couple in Arlington found racial slurs spray-painted on their garage door, and one of them was attacked by a neighbor with a two-by-four.
Veterans of Dallas’ civil rights movement gathered Saturday to reflect on their past successes and continuing challenges. They were joined by preachers, educators and others, black and white, for a half-day symposium at the African American Museum in Fair Park.
“Our struggle for justice is not over,” said the Rev. Peter Johnson, a longtime civil rights activist who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “Just because we changed laws in America does not mean we changed America.”
Speakers shared their experiences about being black in Dallas during the civil rights era. Kathlyn Gilliam, a retired Dallas school board member, said that when she went shopping, some department stores wouldn’t let her try on the clothing. When she wanted to try on a hat, she was told to cover her head with paper.
Eleanor Conrad recalled her husband, Emmett Conrad, running for the Dallas school board in 1967. He and his family received death threats, even a letter with a mock pass for them to take a boat back to Africa, she said.
These veterans also worried whether their lessons and struggles have been lost on the younger generations.
“What’s very troubling to me is that our young people don’t have a clue about what has gone on as it relates to the civil rights struggle in Dallas,” Mrs. Gilliam said.
Michael Phillips, author of White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, said students don’t learn enough about African-American history.
Dr. Phillips, who is white, teaches in the Collin County Community College District.
“My students, particularly the white ones, know nothing about lynching. They know nothing about the [Ku Klux] Klan after Reconstruction. They barely know about Reconstruction,” he said.
One local civil rights leader, the Rev. Ronald Wright, said he wished more young people had attended so his generation could pass the baton.
Casey Thomas, the 35-year-old president of the Dallas NAACP chapter, agreed that young people need to step forward. And he believes they will, in their own way.
“We talk about the future of the civil rights movement. The future of the civil rights movement is MySpace. … It’s Facebook,” he said.
Participants bounced ideas around: Black churches need to reclaim their leadership role. Parents should get involved with state textbook adoptions. And they should teach their children that use of the N-word is never acceptable.
Several speakers also said their stories and struggles must be preserved.
“It’s time someone get our oral history,” Mrs. Conrad said. “You’ve got history sitting all around you.”
The symposium came at the close of a traveling Smithsonian exhibit on the Montgomery bus boycott called “381 Days” – the length of the boycott.





New York Daily News

The new Cesar Chavez crusade? A Dallas street name

Paul Weber


Monday, October 20th 2008, 11:55 AM

DALLAS — If a dull strip lined with liquor stores and bail bond offices won’t be renamed for Cesar Chavez, Hispanic leaders want another street where half a million marched in 2006 for immigration reform.

But they might get neither.

And that troubles some Latinos in the nation’s ninth-largest city, who are suspicious of why efforts for a “Cesar Chavez Avenue” in Dallas have stumbled — particularly on one faded downtown street that has become a key piece of a planned $2 billion urban makeover.

In a city survey over what to call Industrial Boulevard, Chavez turned up the overwhelming favorite. It won handily over names such as “Riverfront” and “Trinity Lakes,” but Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said the survey wasn’t binding.

Cesar Chavez Task Force leader Alberto Ruiz believes the city would have accepted the choice had it been someone other than the late labor leader and civil rights activist.

“If the results would have come back for Stevie Ray Vaughan, it would have gone through,” Ruiz said of the white Texas guitar legend, whose name was not on the survey.

Some question whether Chavez, who rallied fieldhands over low wages and exploitation, is relevant to Dallas history. Others say his name doesn’t fit the marketing plan behind the Trinity River sector revitalization.

Developers envision Industrial, a gritty three-mile strip, becoming a destination of condominiums and upscale shopping.

“We were trying to create a marketing scheme for that entire street given its location to the Trinity,” Leppert said. “That still makes sense.”
Leppert said he wants to find another street to honor Chavez. Latino leaders say they won’t compromise.

Ruiz and his supporters accuse Dallas leaders of brushing off the results of the survey, which cost the city $20,000 and came back with Chavez as the 2-to-1 favorite. A key city planning commission vote on the renaming is expected in mid-November.

Ruiz, who calls the Chavez campaign a symbolic community battle in a city that is 43 percent Hispanic, now has his group going door-to-door on Industrial trying to shore up support ahead of the vote.

Ruiz said the resistance to Chavez for Industrial and another prominent Dallas street, Ross Avenue, has “a bit of a sentiment that it does have to do with race.” Opponents say it’s simply about finding the appropriate road.

Leppert, a first-term mayor and former CEO of construction giant Turner Corp., said the city will find a street to honor Chavez. Just not Industrial, where the top destinations now are mostly auto scrap yards and the county criminal courthouse.

Industrial’s rough reputation is supposed to soften under the Trinity River Corridor Project, the largest public works project in Dallas history.

Areas of blight and neglect are planned to become lush parks and urban trails, and the street — whatever its name — will be a key gateway.
Leppert said the survey was intended only as one piece of input to help the city brainstorm street names.

Michael Phillips, a professor who wrote about the city’s racial roots in “White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001” agrees that Dallas has been home to more locally influential Latinos. He cited Pancho Medrano, a union leader pivotal in building Hispanic influence in Dallas before his death in 2002.

But Phillips said the renaming fight is important to minorities in a city where a busy downtown freeway is named after R.L. Thornton, a former Dallas mayor and Klansman.

“That’s just like a thumb in the eyes of blacks and Latinos if they’re getting turned down with the proposal to name a major thoroughfare after Cesar Chavez,” Phillips said.

Chavez backers may not exactly be going into a city council vote with momentum. A push in Portland, Ore., to name a street after Chavez fell apart last year after being met with fierce community opposition.

That defeat could have passed for foreshadowing last month in Dallas, when business owners on Ross Avenue helped quiet an alternate plan to rename Ross for Chavez.

Ruiz said Ross would have made perfect sense: It’s where nearly a half-million marched in 2006 in support of citizenship for illegal immigrants, and the street faces a school that’s already named for Chavez.

At Fuel City on Industrial, where a herd of longhorns graze in shadow of the Dallas skyline, owner John Benda doesn’t want to see Industrial renamed for Chavez, or anyone for that matter.

“It’s a lifetime situation, the name,” Benda said. “It’s bigger than any one person.”





Everyday Citizen

What’s In A Name? Plenty Actually!
Larry James
November 17, 2008
Dallas can be a downright confusing place in which to live. In some ways, it’s even worse when you’ve been here most all of your life.

Take the Cesar Chavez naming controversy that’s been in the news since last summer.

Here’s a summary. With the Trinity River project going forward, the City decided to have a contest to rename Industrial Boulevard. Given all the new development, the anticipated park land and the rebirth of the Trinity River and its corridor, a new name seemed appropriate. You know, something like “Riverside Drive” or “Park Lake Lane.”

Right? Well no, wrong.

The name that won, and won overwhelmingly, was Cesar Chavez, the iconic Latino labor and civil rights leader of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s era and value-vision. In the Hispanic community Chavez holds the place of Dr. King, as should both for the entire nation in terms of how their lives affected needed change, progress and the further realization of justice in the nation as a whole.

Not hard to see how the name of Mr. Chavez won out in the contest, what with the growing Hispanic population in our community and the dearth of Latino street names to celebrate the various achievements of folks who shared this ethnic heritage.

But, our city leaders see it differently. Last week they voted to go with the name “Riverfront.” In addition, they turned back the suggestion that Ross Avenue be renamed after the civil rights leader. The argument being that changing historic designations like the use of a family name of a prominent figure in the history of Dallas would be inappropriate. Needless to say, the Hispanic members of the City Council — Dr. Elba Garcia, Pauline Medrano, and Steve Salazar — were not pleased.

Alternative suggestions are now floating about, including the idea to rename the Dallas Farmers Market after Chavez, possibly a fitting tribute to a leader who did so much to ease the burden for so many farm workers.

Even The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board expressed concern over the snub to Hispanic Dallasites. You can read their opinion here.

But, back to being from Dallas.

There are lots of street names here, mostly Anglo, though we do have our M. L. King Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard. Even our freeways hold out lots of prominent Anglo names: George H. W. Bush, Lyndon B. Johnson, Woodall Rogers, John Stemmons, John Carpenter, R. L. Thornton.

Hmmm. That last one is interesting.

R. L. Thornton

Robert L. Thornton, to be exact.

I grew up hearing my dad speak fondly of “Uncle Bob” Thornton. Thornton served as Dallas Mayor from 1953 to 1961. He was president of the Dallas County State Bank and a prominent business and civic figure in the city.

What’s really interesting is the fact that, like most Dallas leaders of the era, Thornton was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Thornton’s firm proudly advertised in local media that the bank he led was a “KKK business firm 100%” (see Michael Phillips, White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion In Dallas, 1841-2001, University of Texas Press, page 96).

I’m sure “Uncle Bob” did a lot of good back in the day for folks who looked about like me. But I suspect that African American, Mexican American, Catholic and Jewish folks didn’t get along quite as well under his leadership.

I don’t know, but a little digging into these Anglo street and freeway names might not be such a bad idea. Maybe brushing up on the history of our city might take the luster off of some of the old names we seem so bound and determined to hang on to.

Of course, I don’t see why we can’t rename Main, Elm, Commerce or Pacific after Cesar Chavez. It’s not like we don’t have lots of options. In my view, it would be a really good thing to have the memory of Cesar Chavez running right through the middle of Downtown Dallas. What do you think?





Dallas Morning News

Oral history project would collect civil rights pioneers’ stories

By LAURA ISENSEE / The Dallas Morning News lisensee@dallasnews.com

WASHINGTON – At age 17, Eva Partee McMillan started walking the blocks of Freedman’s Town to encourage her neighbors to vote. On Election Day, she collected poll taxes from black voters – $1.75 each.
A proposed national oral history project would celebrate the accomplishments of civil rights pioneers such as Eva Partee McMillan, at her home in Richardson. She got involved when her son, who organized protests, was sent to prison.
Then, in the 1960s, “Mama Mac” got deeply involved in the civil rights movement when her son Ernie, who organized student protests, was harassed by local authorities and eventually sent to prison.
“At first, I told him to be careful. I bailed him out, but it kept going on,” said McMillan, now 87 and living in Richardson.
Soon, people from around the country were calling her, asking about Dallas and seeking her advice.
Stories like McMillan’s may soon be recorded and preserved through a proposed national oral history project of the civil rights movement.
The five-year project, quickly approved by Congress and awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature, would focus not on iconic figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but on ordinary people who struggled for equality for black Americans in the 1950s and ’60s.
“I like to call it the unseen making the seen possible, like you can’t see the wind but you know it’s there,” said Donald Payton, a historian of Dallas’ black community. “The civil rights movement had people like that,”
The project would collect first-hand testimony, on audio or video, and make it available to the public through the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The program is set to start in October, and it will cost about $500,000 the first year.
Peggy Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, said the process will begin with a survey of existing oral history projects.
“Many of the collections have focused on people who are still living in the Deep South, whereas the civil rights movement was going on all around the country. It was in New York, Texas, even California,” Bulger said.
“We want to fill in those gaps, and that’s exactly the exciting thing about it,” she said. “There is this huge unknown history about how many people and how many places were involved in the civil rights struggle.”
While professional historians would seek testimony from key leaders not interviewed yet, people who want to participate would be able to send in their stories, similar to an ongoing veterans history project.
And time is of the essence, as important participants are advancing in age.
“The movement involved hundreds and thousands of people. Dallas played a big part in that story. That part has been largely ignored, and to get these people’s stories while they’re still alive is absolutely vital,” said Michael Phillips, who wrote White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas.
Phillips, who teaches in the Collin County Community College District, pointed to local lawyers who pushed for the integration of the law school at University of Texas at Austin and sit-ins at the drugstore near Southern Methodist University.
Taking down stories in spoken word is important, said Payton, the local historian. The art of oral histories has been handed down through generations, and the spoken word captures emphasis and meaning lost on the printed page, he said.
Among those whose stories might be of interest are members of the NAACP Youth Council who helped integrate the State Fair in 1955 under the guidance of advocate Juanita J. Craft.
“We would go in and sit in and they wouldn’t serve us, but we were still there,” recalled Earley B. Teal.
On a day that white high-schoolers were let out of class to attend the fair, Teal and other students went to the fairgrounds, too. And on the single day blacks were allowed to attend, the students picketed, starting as early as 6 in the morning.
Teal, now 71 and living in San Antonio, remembers a grueling day but also a collaborative spirit.
“When the kids got tired, some adults picked up the signs,” he said.




Being Purple: the Justice Revival comes to Dallas


Being Purple: the Justice Revival comes to Dallas

Posted on October 13, 2009 by Alan Bean

Can a three-day preaching event bring Dallas together?

Two years ago I would have been skeptical. Friends of Justice was toying with a “Can we talk about race?” project designed to spark serious conversation across racial lines. No one seemed interested. Black and white pastors had the same reaction: “We tried that once and it didn’t work out.”

Dallas is a seriously divided city. Relations between whites, blacks and Latinos are characterized by tension and mutual suspicion. Wealthy North Dallas exists in splendid isolation from the poor folk in South Dallas. The “white flight” phenomenon left a legacy of resentment in its wake. Blacks vote Blue, whites vote Red and Latinos split the difference. Even the Dallas Cowboys now play twenty miles to the west, in Arlington.

The city’s relational dysfunction has elicited little interest from scholars. Michael Phillips’ White Metropolis notes that “Dallas does not merit a single mention in Taylor Branch’s 1,064-page study of the civil rights movement, Parting the Waters . . . Robert Weisbrot, in his 1990 monograph Freedom Bound, A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement, tells the Dallas story in a paragraph . . . A photo of the famous Dallas Skyline graces the cover of John Boles’ 569-page The South through Time: A History of an American Region, but the city appears nowhere in the index.”

Phillips suggests that the virtual invisibility of Dallas “represents amnesia by design . . . Rather than dealing with the messiness of the past, many opinion makers in Dallas chose to pretend the city had no history.” Apart from the tragedy of November 22, 1963, Dallas has been virtually invisible. And there is nothing as powerful as a historical legacy no one talks about.

Which explains why attempts to reach across racial, ethnic, political and ideological lines have rarely succeeded in Dallas, Texas.

And then Jim Wallis and Sojourners selected “The White Metropolis” as the site of the second “Justice Revival.”

A few years back, Lydia Bean (pictured above) came up with the idea of an old timey revival meeting centered on God’s call to social righteousness. A Harvard grad student in the sociology of religion, Lydia was doing a comparative study of Canadian and American evangelicals. The two groups shared a common theology but parted company on the issue of social justice. Canadian evangelicals generally believed that governments have a responsibility to build a just society and that churches should build on this work. By contrast, most American evangelicals were suspicious of any attempt to make the world a better place that wasn’t nurtured in a conservative reading of the Christian Bible. Conservative Protestants south of the border weren’t opposed to social righteousness; they just didn’t believe secular governments could deliver the goods unless born again politicians were at the helm.

While Lydia ruminated, Jim Wallis was doing an intensive study of the Second Great Awakening and its primary architect, Charles Grandison Finney. While the great evangelist called men and women to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he resisted neat lines between the natural and the supernatural. “There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature,” he once said. “It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else. When mankind becomes truly religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth. They only exert powers which they had before, in a different way, and use them for the glory of God.”

“Back then,” Jim Wallis recently told an interviewer, Charles Finney, Lucy Stone, the Grimke sisters, Jonathan Blanchard — these preachers, revivalists were also abolitionists. They led the antislavery campaign. They fought for women’s suffrage. They fought for economic justice. In fact, Charles Finney, who was the evangelist, the Billy Graham of to his day, really pioneered the altar call. And the reason he did was he wanted to sign his converts up for the antislavery campaign. So faith got directed right to justice.”

Wallis has been one of the few American evangelicals who believed that government and the religious community had complimentary roles to play in the common task of making justice roll down like the waters.” I have been reading “Sojourners” (the magazine) ever since 1976 when Glen Stassen, then an ethics professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, held up a copy in class and told us to subscribe.

For decades, Wallis and his band of radical Christian zealots in Washington D.C. were an interesting anomaly. Then a badly wounded politician named George W. Bush eked out a surprising electoral victory in 2004. Everybody credited a resurgent Religious Right for the president’s political survival which elicited an obvious question: “If there is a Religious Right why isn’t there a Religious Left?”

It turned out there was. Nobody in the mainstream media was much interested in the usual suspects in liberal religion because (how do I say this gently?) while they had plenty of ideas about making the world a better place they didn’t have much to say about the intentions of a personal God. Or, to put it another way, religious liberals are enamored of religious dialogue and reporters like to write about conflict.

Then somebody said, “What about this Wallis fellow? He’s a progressive evangelical.”

Disgruntled Democrats pricked up their ears and Jim Wallis suddenly had more big-time speaking invitations than he could handle.

But Wallis wasn’t interested in being a shill for Blue America (the mirror image of the Religious Right); he wanted to introduce America to a God who, while neither a Red nor Blue, had big plans for the world and would work with everyone (preachers, politicians and pole vaulters) who believed in justice.

The Blue Team wasn’t hard to sell on this plan (what alternatives did they have?) The Reds took a little more convincing. Which explains Wallis’ description of Charles Finney as “the Billy Graham of his day.” The founder of Sojourners was challenging mainstream American evangelicalism to stretch back behind the culture war to the roots of their movement. “What about Wilberforce in England?” he asked, “didn’t he use his role as a Christian politician to outlaw the British slave trade? And what about Finney? Didn’t he call people to Jesus with one hand and sign them up for the prohibition movement with the other?”

As Wallis was reflecting on these things, he remembered meeting a Harvard graduate student the year before, who had earnestly pressed a “think-piece” into his hand. Lydia Bean had cornered him during his year at Harvard, and handed him her five-page summary of what the “Religious Left” didn’t understand. In short, they weren’t recognizably Christian, they were just dressing up progressive talking-points in flowery, religious language. Wallis re-read this document, and called Bean up. They discovered that both of them were thinking along the same lines: what America needed was not a “Christian Left,” but genuine revival. Wallis asked her, “I want to read more–can you write me another think-piece?” Bean wrote another think-piece called “New Wine in New Wineskins,” that laid out what it would mean to integrate justice into evangelism. It was over fifty pages long. Impressed, Wallis used this document to chart out the first Justice Revival, a pilot project held in Columbus, Ohio. Bean flew out to observe and give some critical feedback. “Talk more about the cross,” she told Wallis. “This is for the church, we don’t have to be apologize for being explicitly Christian!” The vision of “justice revival” was evolving.

I’m not sure why Sojourners selected Dallas for the second Justice Revival. Maybe it’s because whether you’re white, black or Latino, evangelical religion rules this town. We have plenty of Roman Catholics and a respectable sprinkling of Presbyterians and Episcopalians, of course, but the sheer size of the evangelical camp dwarfs the religious competition. The revivalistic tradition with its fiery preaching and dramatic altar calls has shaped the religious culture of the community. I have heard black preachers like Freddy Haynes at Friendship West Baptist Church issue a come-t0-Jesus invitation in one breath and a call to hop on the bus to Jena, Louisiana in the next.

A Justice Revival works in Dallas because it evokes a religious sensibility everyone is familiar with. Even the liberals grew up evangelical.

Thus far, it appears to be working. Jim Wallis and staffers like the indefatigable Aaron Graham were in town last week for a civic leaders luncheon (where the picture above was taken) and you could feel a distinct buzz in the room. Leaders from every corner of the religious landscape were saying the same thing, “we’ve never come together like this before!”

Naturally, Wallis is conducting a delicate tight wire act in which a millimeter to the right or the left could spell disaster. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News he laid out the game plan: “The idea is simple: Churches ought to get together around what Jesus said about ‘the least of these.’ We may disagree about abortion, church polity, all that. On this, we’re clear.”

Issues on which there is little consensus (like abortion, gay rights and the death penalty) have been pushed to the back burner so we can talk about housing and educating the poor. This has injected a measure of imprecision into the process but participants seem to be adjusting. The key thing is to bring people together and we’re willing to sacrifice to make it happen. Thus far, folks disinclined to cooperate are keeping their opinions to themselves.

Sojourners is used to living in the shell-scarred no-mans-land created by the culture war. Last week Ryan Roderick Beiler, editor of Sojourners’ God’s Politics blog, got tired of biting his tongue:

Every now and then someone to our right or left posts an article excoriating Sojourners or Jim Wallis for not being _____ enough, infuriated that we still claim to be _____ even though we’re really just _____. You may want to play along with this Mad Libs game at home. The comments on this blog often do, filling in those blanks with terms like “conservative,” “liberal,” “evangelical,” “progressive,” “pro-life,” “pro-abortion,” “anti-abortion,” “pro-gay,” “anti-gay,” “radical socialist,” “closet conservative,” “Obama shill,” and “White House hijacker” respectively, depending on whether it’s the right or left wing that’s doing the flapping.

While we don’t shy away from honest debate, we generally prefer not to respond to attacks that are unfair, inaccurate, or ad hominem. However, I’ve always had a tremendous desire to introduce our critics on the left to our critics on the right. I would love to be a fly on the wall as they debate which one of them is wrong about our position on hot button issues, of which abortion is the easiest example: “He’s anti-choice!” “He’s certainly not pro-life!”

The result was predictable. Folks on the right criticized Beiler for being too liberal while the liberals critiqued his unthinking conservatism.

God may not be Red or Blue but we humans like to pick sides.

It isn’t easy being purple.





Dallas Morning News

Oral history project would collect civil rights pioneers’ stories

By LAURA ISENSEE / The Dallas Morning News lisensee@dallasnews.com

WASHINGTON – At age 17, Eva Partee McMillan started walking the blocks of Freedman’s Town to encourage her neighbors to vote. On Election Day, she collected poll taxes from black voters – $1.75 each.
A proposed national oral history project would celebrate the accomplishments of civil rights pioneers such as Eva Partee McMillan, at her home in Richardson. She got involved when her son, who organized protests, was sent to prison.
Then, in the 1960s, “Mama Mac” got deeply involved in the civil rights movement when her son Ernie, who organized student protests, was harassed by local authorities and eventually sent to prison.
“At first, I told him to be careful. I bailed him out, but it kept going on,” said McMillan, now 87 and living in Richardson.
Soon, people from around the country were calling her, asking about Dallas and seeking her advice.
Stories like McMillan’s may soon be recorded and preserved through a proposed national oral history project of the civil rights movement.
The five-year project, quickly approved by Congress and awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature, would focus not on iconic figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but on ordinary people who struggled for equality for black Americans in the 1950s and ’60s.
“I like to call it the unseen making the seen possible, like you can’t see the wind but you know it’s there,” said Donald Payton, a historian of Dallas’ black community. “The civil rights movement had people like that,”
The project would collect first-hand testimony, on audio or video, and make it available to the public through the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The program is set to start in October, and it will cost about $500,000 the first year.
Peggy Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, said the process will begin with a survey of existing oral history projects.
“Many of the collections have focused on people who are still living in the Deep South, whereas the civil rights movement was going on all around the country. It was in New York, Texas, even California,” Bulger said.
“We want to fill in those gaps, and that’s exactly the exciting thing about it,” she said. “There is this huge unknown history about how many people and how many places were involved in the civil rights struggle.”
While professional historians would seek testimony from key leaders not interviewed yet, people who want to participate would be able to send in their stories, similar to an ongoing veterans history project.
And time is of the essence, as important participants are advancing in age.
“The movement involved hundreds and thousands of people. Dallas played a big part in that story. That part has been largely ignored, and to get these people’s stories while they’re still alive is absolutely vital,” said Michael Phillips, who wrote White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas.
Phillips, who teaches in the Collin County Community College District, pointed to local lawyers who pushed for the integration of the law school at University of Texas at Austin and sit-ins at the drugstore near Southern Methodist University.
Taking down stories in spoken word is important, said Payton, the local historian. The art of oral histories has been handed down through generations, and the spoken word captures emphasis and meaning lost on the printed page, he said.
Among those whose stories might be of interest are members of the NAACP Youth Council who helped integrate the State Fair in 1955 under the guidance of advocate Juanita J. Craft.
“We would go in and sit in and they wouldn’t serve us, but we were still there,” recalled Earley B. Teal.
On a day that white high-schoolers were let out of class to attend the fair, Teal and other students went to the fairgrounds, too. And on the single day blacks were allowed to attend, the students picketed, starting as early as 6 in the morning.
Teal, now 71 and living in San Antonio, remembers a grueling day but also a collaborative spirit.
“When the kids got tired, some adults picked up the signs,” he said.





Dallas Morning News

TEXAS FAITH: What are you reading this summer? And why?

By Bill McKenzie / Editorial Columnist
11:40 am on June 20, 2012

Let’s take a break from the world of religious surveys, topical headlines and public policy and do something different this week. And that is share with Texas Faith followers what you are reading this summer and why you are reading it.
For a number of reasons, summer is known as a time of reading. That could be because of so many summer books coming out. It could be that we all have more time to read on vacation. Or it could be that summer is less stressful.
Whatever the reason, here is the question for this week:
What are you reading this summer? And why?
Your answers will help inform our readers about your cast of mind — and the topics that you consider important.

DANIEL KANTER, Senior Minister, First Unitarian Church of Dallas
First and foremost as a church we are reading Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong this summer. Every Sunday this summer will be focused on a chapter of this book and each Wednesday we are studying it together.
Other books I will read include, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This book is about luck, or more precisely, how we perceive and deal with luck in life and business.
I will also read Diane Butler Bass’ book, Christianity After Religion: The End of the Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening , which explores what is behind the sea change in American religion. As an avid hiker and outdoorsman I am intrigued by the book, Wild, by Cheryl Strayed which is her account of a life changing 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.
GEORGE MASON, Senior Pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas
I am reading Re-Thinking Christianity by Keith Ward. Ward is a British theologian whose premise is that the New Testament itself gives evidence of development in how it conceived of the faith in the resurrected Jesus. That perpetual re-thinking of the faith is not a drifting away from the pure early testimony to Christ but rather the very nature of Christian faith that it continually re-thinks itself in light of culture.
Today’s attempts to re-think Christianity in light of science, for instance, is consistent with a faith that is based on a God who is known in human experience as evidenced by the Incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus of Nazareth.
KATIE SHERROD, Progressive Episcopalian activist and independent writer/producer, Fort Worth
Because I believe that communication is a ministry directly linked to evangelism, I am reading Tweet if You Heart Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation by Elizabeth Drescher.
She links ancient Christianity into the ongoing discussion about the changing media landscape that confronts churches as they try to reach out to new generations and to older generations in various digital media. At time when people under 25 no longer use email and rarely visit a website except via Facebook or Twitter on their smart phones, churches have to adapt, just as they did when the printing press was invented.
I have also just begun Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your LIfe by Byron Katie. It came highly recommended by a friend I trust, and although I am dubious about books that claim to change one’s life, I’m willing to take a look. Katie writes about what she calls “The Work,” a step by step way to engage a new way of thinking about problems facing you.
And in a lighter vein, I am re-reading Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. He makes me laugh out loud. I know of no better way to hit the “reset” button on a bad day than by reading a portion of this book.
JOE CLIFFORD, Head of Staff and Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas
My reading is usually a blend between church-related things, history, and novels. This summer I’m reading To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, by University of Virginia Religion Professor James Davison Hunter. It is an analysis of what defines culture, and how culture changes. Hunter argues the church has understood culture too individually and too idealistically to have a meaningful impact in the world.
In the realm of history, I’m reading Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald. Given our congregation’s efforts to restore 508 Park Ave., and the connections to Robert Johnson’s amazing legacy this property embodies, I wanted to increase my understanding of Johnson’s impact on America’s most significant music genre.
I’m also reading White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas 1841-2001, by Michael Phillips, who works at the Center for American History at the University of Texas. As someone relatively new to Dallas, I continue to be intrigued by the complexities of race and religion in our community and how these forces shaped modern Dallas. What could Dallas accomplish if we could overcome our racial divides?
For a novel, I’m re-reading Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. It’s a wonderful parable illustrating the power of story to define meaning. It is my son’s summer reading for his freshmen year in high school. I want to be able to engage him regarding the significant undercurrents of this fascinating novel.
JIM DENISON, Theologian-in-Residence, Texas Baptist Convention and President, Denison Forum on Truth and Culture
Responding to this week’s question calls to mind a plaque in my library given to me by a
friend: “So many books, so little time.”
I’m halfway through Colin Duriez’s fascinating biography of Francis Schaeffer,
subtitled An Authentic Life. Schaeffer was arguably the most influential evangelical thinker of the latter half of the 20th century; his life story and worldview continue to attract and mold thinkers today. I disagree with significant dimensions of his theological approach, but find his intellectual honesty to be engaging.
I’ve also started Sylvia Longmire’s Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars. I’ve already read enough to be very concerned.
Next on my list is George Friedman’s The Next Decade: Empire and Republic in a
Changing World. I read everything Friedman writes and consider him one of the most significant geopolitical thinkers of our day.
After Friedman, I’m planning to read Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. In a culture more polarized by politics and morality than any in memory, Haidt’s anthropological/psychological approach promises to shed new light.
I’ll then turn to Aaron L. Friedberg’s A Contest For Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia. The title explains the urgency of the issues addressed by this Princeton professor.
Along the way, I’ll also read anything David Baldacci, Lee Child, Vince Flynn, Daniel
Silva or Clive Cussler happen to publish. I have no excuse except that they’re a good
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
Abraham Lincoln’s autobiography is one of the books I will be reading this summer. His statement, “with malice towards none” has been one of my anchors since my college interfaith discussions. I have given many forms to it in my writings, including with prejudice towards none.
I am committed to read about America and Americans as a guide in making, Americans Together, Building a cohesive America. When complete, the documentary will reflect most aspects of Americans, and their trials and tribulations, hopes and aspirations and their persistent pursuit of happiness. Whether you are a Native American, immigrant or a great grand immigrant, you would be able to relate to it.
Our Constitution amazes me, and I literally worship its wisdom about human rights and the rights of individuals. I want to read and learn about the inspiration behind the debates, revisions and the process behind finalization of these words: “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.”
As a pluralist Muslim, I take a quiz at Beliefnet every year, and have consistently found that I am 100% Unitarian Universalist, 97% Quaker, 88% Buddhist, 85% Reformed Jew, 85% Neo Pagan, 79% Baha’i, 80% Muslim, 68% Hindu and 28% Catholic among others. My low score about the Catholic faith bothers me, and I am committed to read books on Catholicism. I want to improve my understanding to at least 50%. All recommendations are welcome.
LARRY BETHUNE, Senior Pastor, University Baptist Church, Austin
Bertrand Russell said, “There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” I would add a third: to have something new, true, and helpful to say when I preach. Since you ask, here are the books I can boast have been helpful in my task:
Faced with finding new ways to be church to changing generations I enjoyed Imagine by Jonah Lehrer on the contextual dynamics of creativity. The Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell’s study of Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop and Baptist forbear Roger Williams was as historically informative and hilarious as her other works, The Unfamiliar Fishes and Assassination Vacation.
I am halfway through Quiet, by Susan Cain, on the power of introverts in an extrovert’s world (helpful to me, since I am an introvert who feels little power). A congregant recommended The Science of Trust by John Gottmann about “emotional attunement for couples,” one of the best books on relationship I’ve ever read because it is based on data from scientific research rather than the sentimental intuition so many such books reflect.
Since it is so popular with our youth, I read The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, each a page turner, and even if a bit overwrought by adolescent narcissistic self-consciousness, a fascinating picture of the abuse of power and power of the abused both the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement would like.
And because of my interest in European art I have just started Andrew Graham-Dixon’s biography Caravaggio whose paintings are among my favorites because, as the author suggests: “Looking at his pictures is like looking at the world by flashes of lightning.” Wish I could preach like he could paint!
AMY MARTIN, Executive Director, Earth Rhythms and writer/editor, Moonlady Media, Dallas
I’m in the throes of building a website to house my online alternative news service, so the only books I’m reading this summer are manuals for WordPress. Since everything and everybody seems to require a website, content management platforms like WordPress have developed to enable the user (rather than webmaster) to control and adapt the page contents. But wow, what a learning curve!
Since my reading time is limited, and I drive a fair amount, I turn to podcasts for brain stimulation. Best of them all is Radiolab: http://www.radiolab.org/. “Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” Another great one is Studio 360: http://www.studio360.org/. It calls itself “a surprising guide to what’s happening in pop culture and the arts,” but it’s really a lot deeper than that sounds.
When I need to delve deeply into spirituality, there is no better podcast than On Being with Krista Tippet: http://www.onbeing.org/. Great blog, too. Consciousness, ethics, emotional intelligence, the span is breathtaking and truly reflects the new ways that spirituality is being defined. I always come away from an On Being session feeling better about humanity without being naïve about it.
I do indulge in some reading for fun. Funny Times monthly tabloid of cartoons and comic writings keeps me sane. Through humor I gain a perspective on topical events that news just can’t provide. Best bathroom reading ever.
For escapism, I peruse the high quality travel publications from Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Dept. of Highways. (I’ll get to the Caverns of Sonora someday!) While it’s not always fun, I do read The Dallas Morning News (three cheers for comic strips!) and The New York Times every day and in old-fashioned paper form on the weekends.
MATTHEW WILSON, Associate Professor of Political Science, Southern Methodist University
One is tempted, in response to a question like this, to mention some erudite tome offering a novel and provocative theory about the nature of man and society, or a spiritual reflection meant to build character and virtue and deepen our understanding of The Divine.
I do, of course, often read books like this (Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth, which I have mentioned on this blog before, is one that I would especially recommend), but the question asks what we are reading right now, this summer, so I will answer with complete candor.
I am just now finishing George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons, the fifth volume of the series on which the popular HBO show Game of Thrones is based, and am enjoying it enormously.
Before I explain what I like so much about this series, a few caveats are in order. Prospective readers should know that the books are full of brutal violence, and are liberally laced with profanity and sex (though not as much so as the TV version — HBO seems to have intentionally exaggerated these elements to satisfy the audience’s prurient interest).
The take on religion offered in the books is pretty cynical, as has become the cliched norm in modern fiction — all clergy are either venal sots or dangerous fanatics, and few interesting, sympathetic characters are deeply pious. I do not read or recommend the books because I wholly agree with Martin’s worldview, at least as it is revealed in the pages of his fiction. What the books offer, though, is an exceptionally well told, engaging story with fascinating, complex characters set in a richly imagined world.
They also raise really provocative questions about the roots of legitimate kingship, the proper scope and function of government, and the interplay of the scientific and the supernatural. Without giving away any of the plot, I can say that this is the rare fantasy series where it’s not even clear what it would mean for “good” to prevail. It’s good summer reading for those who want some food for thought along with a great, entertaining story.
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, Minister, ISKCON Kalachandji’s Hare Krishna Temple Dallas
This summer I will be reading the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. This book is very significant as it deals not only with how great God is, but it also goes into volumes of detail about how sweet God is. The personal character of God, the attributes of God, the various forms and body of God, and even the activities of God are elaborated in this ancient manuscript.
How can someone love another person about whom they have no knowledge? One can have gratitude for an unknown benefactor but real personal love requires attachment to personal details.
“Wait a minute! Are you saying that God is a real person?” “Yes! For would it be logical to conclude that the sun is cold after experiencing the heat of its rays? So similarly would it be logical to conclude that our source lacks form and personality?”
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam reveals the sweetness of God, Krishna, only after extensively dealing with the subject of how God and His energies interact with this material realm. These details are so extensive that scientists become baffled. It is pure in its purpose, for you will not find the goals of material benefits or even salvation put forward in this sacred literature. The goal in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is simply to reawaken our natural dormant love and mood of service towards God. The goal is not to gain wealth or to secure a position in Heaven or to gain anything from God, but rather to be in the mood of giving to God, the mood of love.
CYNTHIA RIGBY, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Right now I am reading two theological books: The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James Cone, and The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, by Peter Gomes. Both are outstanding.
I am reading Cone’s book because I have a strong interest in broadening my understanding of what the cross has to do with the salvation of the world. The unique and challenging contribution of Cone is to map theological understandings of the cross over the United States history of lynching African American men. Cone’s book has provoked me to plan to go back and re-read novels by Richard Wright, including Black Boy and Native Son. These are novels I read long ago, but want to read again with Cone’s provocative ideas in mind.
I am reading Peter Gomes’ book – which I purchased years ago but had not made the time to read – because I have always been a fan of the theological idea that how God acts, particularly by “emptying Godself” (Phil. 2) in the person of Jesus Christ, is “scandalous.”
God’s self-giving acts are so far from what we would have expected that sometimes we are even put off or offended, according to theologians including Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, and Elizabeth A. Johnson. Gomes focuses not only on the scandal of the “Word made flesh,” but on the challenge of Jesus’ teachings. As it turns out, Gomes reminds us, Jesus wants us to change. He wants those who are rich, for example, to share with those who are poor. See what I mean about the risk of offense?
In non-theological non-fiction, I am reading Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was A Child I Read Books. I love Marilynne Robinson (author of Gilead and The Death of Adam) and read everything by her I can get my hands on.
In fiction, I just finished The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, which I read because it is so popular and is currently a kind of cultural meta-narrative I want to understand and engage in my teaching and conversation. I was impressed by the attention Collins gave to what theologians would identify as “systemic” (as opposed to “personal”) sin.
I am also just starting How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu. Why? Because a good friend of mine recommended it. For me (as much as I am a google-er!), the best way to find good fiction books is still by word of mouth.
Happy summer reading to us all!
WILLIAM LAWRENCE, Dean and Professor of American Church History, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
I am currently reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Initially, I chose the book because I was eager to learn more about his visionary leadership in creating Apple. I also wanted to understand how a person with such an enormous impact could have succeeded in so many ways while failing so remarkably in others.
What I am discovering through the book is that his professional success and his personal flaws were a lot more stunning than I had ever imagined. While he managed to sustain some decent relationship with his adoptive parents, his behavior with most people was atrocious. He was mostly uninterested in his oldest child. He manipulated and verbally abused many of the people who worked with him or for him. He ran his businesses on instinct rather than respect for people or procedures.
As I move toward the latter chapters of the book, I am fascinated to discover whether his confrontation with a terminal illness had any impact on his personality, his priorities, or his professional practices. And I am trying to discern whether the idiosyncrasies of his approach were what made him both a creative genius and a dreadful boor.
Along the way, I am perplexed about a matter of religious faith and practice. I wonder if Steve Jobs was a dabbler in Buddhism who failed to find the peace that he sought because he never took it seriously enough. And I wonder if his story illustrates that practitioners of any religious tradition have to surrender themselves to its values if they hope to find refuge from their personal demons.
GEOFFREY DENNIS, Rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound; faculty member, University of North Texas Jewish Studies Program
Books, I think, are angels in material form. These are the awesome and eccentric angels I’m surrounding myself with this summer:
Eternally Eve: Images of Eve in the Hebrew Bible, Midrash, and Modern Jewish Poetry by Anne Lapidus Lerner and Profane Scriptures: Reflections on the Dialogue with the Bible and Modern Hebrew Poetry by Ruth Kartun-Blum,
As I work on multiple entries for the new multi-volume Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, I am finding that these two books on the interaction of sacred writ and secular poetry are proving to be lynchpin resources for my research.
Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky. This is reported to be an amazing account of how one graduate student found himself an accidental archivist and the custodian of over a million books produced by four centuries of vibrant Yiddish culture.
Our Religious Brains: What Cognitive Science Reveals about Belief, Morality, Community and Our Relationship with God, by Rabbi Ralph D. Mecklenburger. A popular introduction to the rapidly expanding field of religion in neuro-science, this looks like the kind of book everyone interested in religion in human society should be reading.
The Great War in Modern Memory. I’m re-reading with enduring appreciation this classic study on war and literature following the recent death of its author, Paul Fussell.
The Little Everyman: Stature and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century English Literature by Deborah Armintor. This unlikely study of 18th century English obsession with small male bodies, real and imagined, is proving a breath-taking cultural travelogue, addressing topics as diverse as Gulliver’s Travels, pocket microscopes, and sex toys. Every chapter has been an eye-opening surprise.
The New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird. Edited by Paula Guran. Just finishing up the last stories in this ripping good anthology of horror tales based on H.P. Lovecraft’s most monstrous creation – Cthulhu, the alien god that sleeps, awaiting his deranged followers’ summons to return with other elder gods and reign over an cursed earth.




Dallas Morning News
Dallas’ parks for blacks served as ‘safety valve’ that helped preserve city’s racial divide
Staff Writer
Published: 23 February 2013 10:43 PM

A walk in the park returned Ada Williams to her childhood. “I remember playing hide-and-go-seek behind this tree,” she said of the mighty specimen leafing toward another spring.
Approaching the tennis court, she talked of picnics, ballgames and climbing the nearby Trinity River levee some 70 years ago. Looking at a patch of grassy land, she recalled the long-gone swimming pool.
She was surprised to learn that her romping ground was groundbreaking, a first for the city, known for years as the Oak Cliff Negro Park.
“I never heard that,” she said. “We always just called it the play park.”
And there it is, still a place to play — one that would help keep Dallas the way it was. As would Griggs Park, Moore Park and others to come.
A century ago, civic leaders were embracing the progressive ideas of city planning and beautification. Public improvements and the refining value of public space were prime topics.
In 1910, the city hired landscape architect George Kessler to craft a development plan for the still rough-around-the-edges town. His ambitious vision included ideas that would eventually materialize, such as levees along the Trinity River. Others, such as a ring of boulevards, were shelved.
But his call for more parks and playgrounds caught on. Voters in 1913 approved a $500,000 bond issue, and the city promptly bought land for seven parks, including two for black residents.
“They are the first public parks ever acquired for negroes in Dallas,” a city report informed in 1915. “It is intended to make them attractive and inviting for the colored people.”
That year, 4-plus acres were purchased for the Oak Cliff Negro Park near Sabine and Cliff streets, where Williams would later play. North of downtown, 2-plus acres became the Hall Street Negro Park.
The Oak Cliff park now bears the name of Eloise Lundy, a longtime park department employee. The Hall Street site was renamed for the Rev. Allen R. Griggs, a leading black educator and minister.
The parks have been resized and revised through the years, with more changes coming. Griggs Park will soon undergo a major makeover. A connection to Trinity River corridor trails is planned for Eloise Lundy Park.
Looking back, the first parks designated for blacks, and others that followed, helped avert a deeper change by preserving the city’s racial divide.
“They were a way to forestall integration,” said Michael Phillips, author of White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001. “They were a safety valve.”
Better than nothing
The city never officially made public spaces off-limits to anyone. It didn’t have to, said Phillips, a history professor at Collin College in Plano. Segregation was understood, he said. “People understood the consequences” of crossing the line.
Blacks may well have wanted access to all parks, said Phillips, drawing on interviews, oral histories and other research. But their public spaces provided a social center and a safe family place. With other issues of fairness and equality to pursue, he said, “they accepted segregated parks as preferable to no parks at all.”
The city leased land near downtown for what was called a Mexican Park during the 1920s before Pike Park became a Hispanic social center. In 1920, a site in South Dallas became a third Negro play area, today’s Wheatley Park.
For years, black residents had used city parks, including Fair Park. The park board changed that as the Ku Klux Klan gained clout in the city, according to a history of the Dallas park system that concluded Klan prejudice “directly affected park policies and development.”
The board first “politely suggested” that black residents move their special events from Fair Park to the Negro parks, according to the history by Texas Tech University researchers. By 1922, they were no longer allowed to play baseball at Fair Park.
In turn, baseball diamonds were built at the Negro parks, plus a swimming pool and bathhouse at what would soon be renamed Griggs Park.
“With such facilities provided,” a member of the research team wrote, “the board eliminated the ‘need’ for Negro use of white parks.”
The Eighth Street Negro Park in Oak Cliff opened in 1940 and was later renamed for black pioneer Will Moore. Wahoo Park, redesignated a Negro park in 1935, now bears the name of local civil rights leader Juanita Craft.
By the early 1940s, the parks for black residents were not only separate, but deemed clearly unequal to those for whites.
“Oh yeah, no doubt about it,” said William E. Blair, who saw the differences playing baseball in the 1940s and ’50s.
And “it didn’t matter,” he said recently. “There was nothing you could do about it.”
Separate and unequal
In 1944, the Dallas Biracial Committee called for more and improved minority parks, noting the city provided 60 acres for its 60,000 black residents and 5,000 acres for its 320,000 whites.
The Dallas Morning News weighed in editorially: “Negroes here are not objecting to segregation in the parks, but this segregation can be justified only by giving the colored people their fair share of park space and park equipment.”
The park board approved wide-ranging improvements. It added North Hampton Park in West Dallas, where the Mattie Nash/Myrtle Davis Recreation Center now stands. It opened Rochester Park in South Dallas, which now bears Blair’s name. It leased parkland and built a nine-hole course for black golfers near Love Field that were closed for airport runway expansion.
In 1953, Exline Park in South Dallas was redesignated a Negro park. By then, the push for integration was well under way across the South, as was the push back — realities not lost on the park board.
In May 1950, a petition with more than 400 signatures urged the board to remove play equipment that black children had begun using in Exall Park east of downtown and replace it with a flower garden.
Letter writers weighed in. One suggested fencing off a portion of the park to give black children “a place of their own. They are entitled to it.” Another offered that “if the old people would just get out of their selfish prejudiced ways, the children would solve this race problem themselves.”
In reply to one writer, board president Ray Hubbard looked beyond Exall Park: “We are still working on a solution for this question, not only in this park, but all of our parks, and we are going to try to hold segregation as long as we can.”
The U.S. Supreme Court followed its landmark school desegregation decision with rulings in 1955 prohibiting racial segregation at public parks, playgrounds and golf courses.
The orders would have no effect on Dallas, park director L.B. Houston told The News, because the city didn’t officially segregate its parks, dealt with issues as they arose and had opened its three golf courses to all residents after closing the black course in 1954.
With racial clashes intensifying elsewhere, seven members of the business elite’s Dallas Citizens Council and seven black community leaders formed what was called the Committee of 14 to seek nonviolent approaches to integration.
The group drew praise for its behind-the-scenes start toward the desegregation of the Dallas school district and venues such as theaters, restaurants and parks.
“City Parks Integrated In Dallas,” read the headline on a front-page story in The News on June 16, 1963, reporting the announcement by the committee’s black members.
Half a century later, Griggs Park serves a mostly white, densely populated Uptown neighborhood. The upcoming redo will include walkways, lawns and a monument celebrating Griggs and the park’s historic role.
With its outdoor play space and basketball gym, computers and meeting rooms, Eloise Lundy Park serves mostly black residents in and far beyond its Oak Cliff neighborhood of churches, aging homes and vacant lots. No marker tells of its place in history.
Darlene Session, director of the park’s recreation center, looks forward to the new trailhead and the people it will attract.
“That’s what we’re counting on,” she said. “This is going to put us back on the map.”
Follow Roy Appleton on Twitter at @rappleton and




D Magazine

Dallas’ Gritty History: A Discussion on Race

By Krista Nightengale
April 27, 2015

The future Rev. Peter Johnson was bloody. He had tear gas in his eyes. And he was fed up. He had made a decision: the police chief of his hometown didn’t need to see the next morning. “I was going to send him on wherever he was going,” Johnson says. “I was on my way to kill the chief.”
The then 17-year-old was stopped by two mentors, who wrestled the gun out of his hands. One of the men who took the gun turned to Johnson and said, “Think about this, Peter, you have to buy your bullets from the white man you want to shoot back at. That ain’t gonna work.”

Johnson realized violence wasn’t the way. This was in the early ’60s. Johnson took his lesson from that evening and applied it to his work fighting alongside Martin Luther King Jr. for the next few years, practicing peace while spreading the civil rights movement.

After MLK’s assassination, a group produced a movie about his life. It was to premiere in 800 cities around the world. It was Johnson’s task to ensure that Dallas was one of those cities. “Seven hundred and ninety-nine cities around the world welcomed the movie on Martin King’s life. There was only one city in the world that rejected the movie on Dr. King’s life,” he told a group at Gilley’s Dallas last week. “You live in that city. Only city in the world.”

Decades later, Johnson still remembers how that made him feel. He didn’t want to come to Dallas, and he certainly didn’t plan on living here. “I came to Texas in 1969 and found Mississippi 50 years ago. That’s what Dallas was,” he says. But after failing to get the city to show the premiere of the MLK film, he decided to stay. “I was so angry with Dallas and so literally pissed off with the lack of leadership in the black community that I decided to stay,” he said.

In 1984, a columnist at the Dallas Times Herald listened to an invocation by W.A. Criswell at First Baptist Dallas. “The message was that Dallas had kept the boot on the neck, and hadn’t put up with that stuff, and also that black people here liked it.” A man at Taylor Publishing, who grew up in Birmingham, talked to the columnist after saying no one in his hometown would say something like that out loud. He told the columnist he needed to meet Peter Johnson. “He’s somebody who has this whole story in his heart and in his head,” the man said. “I think he can explain to you why this city is so different and what didn’t happen here.”

The columnist, Jim Schutze, met with Johnson. The result was The Accommodation — which the May issue of D Magazine calls the “most dangerous book in Dallas.”

A few years later, another reporter, Michael Phillips, told his friends he wanted to write about Dallas’ history with race. He read Schutze’s book and did his own research. “I knew there was a willful amnesia about the Dallas past,” he says. “It struck me as a willful act of suppressing history for white Dallas. African-Americans had to live it. So they didn’t forget it. I think white Dallas allowed themselves to.”

The resulting work was White Metropolis.

On Tuesday evening, as part of Big D Reads, the three men, along with Miguel Solis, Dallas ISD board president and executive director of the Latino Center for Leadership Development, gathered at Gilley’s to talk about their work. The crowd, 200 strong, was black, white, brown, and everything between. It was old and young, hailing from the suburbs and the city’s core. There were those who had fought alongside friends during the civil rights movement and those who had marched on the highway after the Ferguson shootings. Some were there because they had received a black-market PDF copy of The Accommodation from a friend and then there were those who were hearing about White Metropolis for the first time. For 80 minutes, people from all kinds of backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses gathered to talk about race with those who had studied it, fought it, and lived it.
When the D Academy fellows and I left that evening, we were on a high. It was, by all accounts, a successful event. The interest was so great that we had to change venues at the last minute (thanks to Wild Detectives for working with us and to Matthews Southwest and Gilley’s for accommodating us).

We stood in the gravel parking lot and debriefed. One person in our group mentioned that Schutze had asked how we got so many people there. “We’re hungry for this,” she told him.

Yes—and no.

Yes, there were 200 people there. Three hundred had RSVP’d. Across town, there was another event discussing police brutality. So at least 400 people were discussing race in Dallas that night. And, yes, there is a rising group that wants to change Dallas, wants to right the wrongs, and believes in equity. They’re young. They have energy. And they’re looking for knowledge from those who have studied and fought for so long. Tuesday night proved that people are willing to share that knowledge.

But you could also look at what happened last Tuesday night and note that only about 400 people were discussing race. There are many unwilling to have the conversation. And those who were there were like-minded to begin with, thus taking the conversation nowhere.

I left fearing that it may be too easy to think that we had done something that evening. It’s too easy for the 200 people who were there to walk away feeling like their city is moving forward. It is too easy to believe that with a few conversations, we’ll get where we need to be — that Dallas is on its way.
In too many ways, Dallas is still just peaceful, accommodating Dallas. If we want to change, we have to make it change. The question is: how do we do that?
In a few days, we’ll have the entire video of that evening’s conversation up for everyone to see and hear. I encourage you to watch it. Take a moment to learn about your city, because, as Solis said, “We have to learn our history and take the lessons we learn to chart a new course for our city.”




Dallas Observer

A Few Funerals Away: The Worse Race Relations Look, The Better They Get

By Jim Schutze

April 30-May 6, 2015

These are weird times, racially.

Weird, good, weird bad? I willing to bet five bucks it’s good, but five bucks is my limit.

As my old friend the Reverend Peter Johnson said last week, at an event we did together, the single biggest new factor on the horizon is the smart-phone video camera. I call cell phone cameras “Little Brother” (as opposed to Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984.)

I think where we go from here probably depends on what else Little Brother had in store for us.

In case anybody thinks bad police shootings caught on video are problems for other cities, not us, I have to remind that Dallas has gone viral too, for its own police shooting videos. An example that leaps to mind is the shooting a year ago of Jason Harrison, a black schizophrenic, who was holding a screwdriver when police shot and killed him.

Johnson is a veteran of the civil rights movement who still suffers from internal injuries incurred at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma (the scene in the recent movie) and in beatings he took elsewhere across the South during the movement years. You don’t get beaten within an inch of hour life and forget about it.

At the event where we spoke, he said that cell phone videos are one of the greatest things ever in the fight against racism, because they penetrate the wall of white denial. There it is. We white folks have to look at it. Can’t deny it. We have to watch while the white officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, pumps round after round into the back of a black man running away form him. We have to think about that and ask ourselves why. Why?

Yet when the moderator last week asked us what we thought lay ahead, I found myself speaking more optimistically than the other panelists – a role I neither relish nor find myself comfortable in. But I was looking out into a large crowd – way bigger than I am used to for race talks – and that crowd included many young faces, which for me means anybody under 40.

Cell phone videos or not, the simple truth is that young people are better, way better, than old people on racial issues, no matter how many SAEs you can pile onto a bus. And, hey, by the way, how do we know about the SAE frat boys’ racist chanting on the bud, anyway Thank you, once again, Little Brother. Where would we be without you?

Johnson and I have talked about race for 29 years, on stages and rooms all over Dallas, north, south, east, and west, ever since my book, The Accommodation came out in 1986. The book was a history of race relations in Dallas, and Johnson was a principle source and inspiration. Right after it came out, we drew some fair-sized crowds. We developed a kind of roadshow together.

But after a couple of years, the crowds shrank. And shrank. People would call. They were earnest. We couldn’t always get out of it. We had to drag our roadshow across a long, bleak desert of near-empty houses. I have a fuzzy memory of one evening when there was no audience at all, not even the host. Maybe we got the date wrong. I hope that was it.

On another occasion, when I thought we had a pretty good house – we were appearing before a large Park Cities ladies book club – it turned out they had misread the title and thought the book was about hotels. When they found out it was about race they all drank more wine and went to sleep on us.

I would say we were wandering in the desert of very small audiences from about 1990 until approximately – let me check here on my calendar – until approximately last week! A literacy advocacy group called Big D Reads, affiliated with D Magazine, attracted such a large crowd for our panel that the event had to be moved at the last moment from The Wild Detectives bookstore in North Oak Cliff to the Southside Music Hall at Gilley’s. In the interest of total candor, I should mention that the size of the crowd may have been considerably augmented by the inclusion on the panel of Michael Phillips, the author of White Metropolis, a more scholarly and authoritative book than my own on Dallas’ racial history, and also an appearance by Dallas School Board president and political heartthrob Miguel Solis, who acted as moderator.

There were between two hundred and three hundred people. That’s amazing. Johnson and I were inspired to tell our most harrowing true tales of the city and region’s racial past, which is really historically and provably worse than the history of Old Dixie, from slavery to within a couple of decades of today.

Phillips and Johnson both spoke forcefully about the absolute necessity of owning that past, looking it full in the face in order to achieve a South African-style racial reconciliation that still eludes older people, white and black, in Dallas.

I just kept gazing at that audience. This, by the way, was the second experience I have enjoyed in the last few months with large, well-organized, relatively new civic organizations devoted to promoting literacy among public school students. Big D Reads is based on a delightfully crazy idea –- using movies, festivals, and free books to get the whole city to read the same book at the same time, along with all the public school’s ninth graders.

The earlier event I attended was a spelling bee fundraiser last March for Reading Partners, which trains volunteer reading coaches to work with public school kids who are six months or more behind grade-level in reading. I wrote last week about a major body of research showing that this kind of one-on-one mentoring , insofar as it conveys social skills and values along with reading ability, can seriously turn around the lives of poor kids from tough circumstances. It’s not just feel-good for Lady Bountiful, This stuff really does save lives.

So anyway, I was sitting on the stage, looking at the crowd. Beforehand, I schmoozed around with people like Matt Houston, the youthful and bright chairman of the board of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce and a young black couple whose names I didn’t get, products of the suburbs who are moving into South Dallas full of conviction to make a difference.

I also chatted with Joshua Kumler, impresario of a thing called “Bar Politics,” devoted to using small theatrical productions in bars to explore urban politics. I told him my own faint memories of youth made me think he’s found a brilliant way to politically engage young people, particularly if he’s able to combine political involvement with even the remote chance of getting laid.

As I listened that night to three people for whom I have great respect and admiration – Johnson, Phillips, and Solis – I didn’t just hear what they were saying about the need for some kind of truth and reconciliation in Dallas. I believe the same things ardently myself. But I recalled the words of a friend who had been hired by a small East Texas community to attract new businesses to town. What she discovered was that the town wanted new businesses, but not any that would be involved in the same kinds of business that its old businesses were doing. In other words, not any really.

She told me she asked the banker what he thought would change the town. She said he thought about it, and finally said, “A few funerals.”

Yeah. Funerals. Look, I’m not advocating elbowing anybody into the grave or anything. That would be against the law. But I also don’t see any big kumbayas ahead involving the drowsy Park Cities book club ladies and the current elected leadership of South Dallas. They would involve a very long wait.

As a matter of simple biology, we’re probably going to have to get to the funerals before the kumbayas. And the good news is that we have a crowd of Matt Houstons, and Joshua Kumlers out there, all of them ready, willing and able to elbow their ways up to the table as soon as the funerals clear out a few good spots.

I promised myself this morning- a solemn vow in the mirror with the toothbrush held high – that I would not get into school reforms or the Trinity River toll road in writing this column. And I meant it. I am not going to discuss or even mention the new activism around public school literacy or the fundamental shift of the ground on the toll road issue, which I believe is the product of an entire new urban culture that has blossomed in the city since the arrival in the marketplace of Gen X and younger people. So that’s off limits. My lips are zipped.

I’ll just say this. I looked out through the footlights last week, and I saw the unmistakable glow of a better dawn seeping over the horizon. Race relations can’t go anywhere but the right direction. Maybe that’s with some truth and reconciliation. Certainly it will involve more videos from Little Brother. Probably it will take a few funerals. All of the above, and that’s O.K. Even a little bit better is way better.





Dallas Morning News

Kamilah Collins: ‘Let love cover this place’

By Kamilah Collins

Published: 15 June 2015 12:10 AM
Updated: 15 June 2015 12:17 AM

As a group of pastors prayed for McKinney, a gentleman said, “Let love cover this place.”

As I watched people of different races, genders and beliefs join hands in prayer, I felt a trace of hope. In the face of outrage and division, there were leaders of faith standing in solidarity for their city.

I live in Dallas, where there are long-standing historical complexities and controversy surrounding local politics, race and religion. If you want examples, start by reading The Accommodation by Jim Schutze or White Metropolis by Michael Phillips. That historical basis and the events in McKinney led me to wonder: Is race still the unspoken divide in area churches and other communities of faith?
Nationally, more than eight in 10 congregations are composed of one predominant racial group. And yet, two-thirds of American churchgoers in a national survey say their church has done enough to become ethnically diverse. Less than half of people say their church needs to do more.
With the increase in attention to issues of race, it is worth asking, what role do organizations of faith play today? I believe they can and should play a central role in fostering understanding and building global community relationships, particularly in Texas, where almost half of the state’s population attends church weekly.

As a consultant working on Dallas Faces Race, I have had numerous conversations about the challenges that can arise when mixing race and faith. Many leaders see it as an unspoken taboo. They fear alienation or loss of their congregation. If they talk about it, they might be accused of being political or subversive. If they do nothing, they risk being accused of apathy or complacency.

I’ve facilitated discussions about race. They can be emotionally intense, yet deeply enlightening and hopeful. The process of eliminating racial disparities is challenging but not impossible. Isn’t that when our faith should appear most? Faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

I am happy to say I have seen a shift in Dallas. More faith-based organizations are bringing race to the table for discussion. In mid-May, for instance, Central Congregational Church hosted a diversity workshop, the first in a series of them that will continue this summer. In March, there was a Palm Sunday pastor swap between Concord Church and Park Cities Baptist Church to promote racial unity; the Jewish Community Relations Council held an interfaith seder. Churches Uniting in Christ presented “Truth to Power: Eradicating Racism.”
In January, we had Movement Day Greater Dallas, with over 2,500 area leaders representing a constituency of Christian leaders from business, education, health care, nonprofits, government and the church.

Of course, these aren’t the only examples. There are many churches, temples, mosques and individuals who have been doing this work in cities across the country.

Why are these endeavors gaining momentum? With race making headline news, more people are acknowledging the need to talk about it, including in places of worship. Many recognize the value of our religious spaces as safe places to receive guidance.

Regardless of our religious affiliations and differences, we hold shared values: compassion, leadership and commitment to serve and lift our communities. A verse comes to mind from Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”
What can you do?

Try attending a place of worship where you might be the racial minority. Invite people of other races to attend your religious activities. Attend community discussions on race.

In July, Faith in Texas (faithintx.org) is holding a free workshop. In August, Dallas will host MegaFest (mega-fest.org), the nation’s largest inspirational family festival, which is expected to attract 75,000 people. These could be the perfect opportunities for people of faith to develop new connections and share experiences.

Ultimately, we need to remember that wherever we gather, we can collaborate across religions around race and come together by sharing common objectives, organizing expertise and moving forward to enrich the lives of others.

Kamilah Collins is president of Collins Collaborations. Reach her at kc@collinscollaborations.com.