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4th Annual Erma C. Johnson Hadley Awards Banquet

I am deeply grateful to be named an Honoree at the 4th Annual Erma C. Johnson Hadley Awards banquet on November 5th, 2021. Ms. Hadley was the first woman and first African American to serve as Chancellor for Tarrant County College. She was instrumental in helping TCC grow and become one of the finest community colleges in the country during her 47 years there. She was an incredible educator and trailblazer.

I am honored to be recognized with my fellow honorees, Commissioner Devan Allen, former Fort Worth City Councilperson and Aids Outreach Center Executive Director, Kelly Allen Gray, and one of my favorite people, Rev. Ryon Price from Broadway Baptist Church. Please join us at the banquet.

Consequences, Grief, History, News, Spiritual Deserts, Thoughts From the Porch

The Same Old Same Old

I don’t watch the news as much as I used to. That’s a big step for a news junkie. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand, mind you. It’s just watching history repeat itself over and over again gets old. COVID restrictions ease and ICU beds fill once again. A black man is murdered by the police and the streets fill with protesters. Everyone says they’ll reform the police and studies are done (anther way of saying nothing happens). Then another black man is murdered by police. The cycle starts again…

The last few days it’s been the news out of Afghanistan. Two pictures keep coming to mind. One was taken when I was in High School in 1975. The other taken last weekend. The buildings have changed, the helicopters may be different, but they remain the same picture. One is the fall of Saigon. The other is the fall of Kabul. Both represent fear, wasted lives, and wars that never end…

My heart is sad. I lost friends and family some fifty years ago in Vietnam. I lost friends in Afghanistan. Both were wasted under the guise of patriotism and “America’s interests”. I’m not sure what either means. Nothing has changed. It’s back to business as usual. I wonder if we’ll ever learn. It’s just the same old, same old…

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When is Enough, Enough?

My friend Tquan called me yesterday afternoon just to check on how I was feeling after the events of the past week – the murder of Daunte Wright in Minnesota and the NBC 5 story about virtual “slave trading’ by ninth graders in neighboring Aledo ISD – https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/carter-in-the-classroom/students-of-color-slave-traded-by-other-students-in-online-game-at-aledo-school/2603399/.

I’m so grateful for Tquan and the other members of the Be the Bridge group I’m a part of. Be the Bridge is an opportunity to address issues of racial reconciliation with other folks seeking the same end. I’m grateful that my church has begun to speak openly and more frequently about race and racism, and more importantly, to listen and value the diversity of God’s kids. The relationships that have begun to form are a blessing.

Feelings are still difficult for me to figure out – at least on the spur of the moment. All I could tell Tquan is that neither incident surprised me but left me feeling a deep sadness and perhaps a bit numb – so much so that I’d taken a break from the news for the last two days. However, I hadn’t yesterday…

I hung up the phone and the NPR story came on about Daunte Wright. His mother and his grandmother were speaking. “You took him away from us.” Their words of unspeakable loss and cries of anguish broke my heart and feelings erupted like the explosion of a long dormant volcano. I began to sob uncontrollably as I barreled down I-30 toward home.

I know what it is to lose a child. The pain is indescribable. It cuts so deep that words cannot convey it, nor can the real damage be visible. It slices to the very core of your being. The thought of one’s grandkids without their father, of the coming Christmases, Thanksgivings, and birthdays steals all joy and hope. It leaves you permanently scarred and broken. A piece of your life has been taken away forever.

Still, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to lose a son to murder – especially murder at the hands of those who claim to serve and protect. They call may try to call it an accident, but it is murder plain and simple. The traffic stop itself was an intentional act. The racial profiling and treatment of People of Color by the police was, and is, an intentional act.

News reports have differed on the reasons why Daunte was pulled over. Many are saying it was because of an air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror. The ACLU reported last night that the stop was made because of expired registration. It doesn’t matter. The real reason, the one unsaid, is far more insidious – being pulled over for driving while black…

An air freshener hangs on the mirrors of many of the vehicles I pass every day. I’ve never been pulled over for it. I have been pulled over twice for expired registration. I had simply forgot about it. I was told to go get it taken care of and let go without a ticket. Then again, I’m white…

If Tquan called today to see how I was feeling it wouldn’t be difficult to name the feelings – outrage, anger, and furious. When is enough, enough?

I’ve already begun to hear the excuses made by many of my white acquaintances. “He should’ve just cooperated”. They wouldn’t have pulled him over without good reason”. “He shouldn’t have resisted”. Such responses are expected. Systemic racism runs deep. White privilege can’t possibly understand what systemic racism inflicts on People of Color.

The bottom line is a gun never should have been drawn in the first place. Had Daunte been white it would not have. There couldn’t have been an “accident”. Besides, if a twenty-six-year veteran police officer cannot tell the difference from a 9mm handgun and a taser, they have no business serving as a police officer.

There are no excuses. Enough is enough. Call it what it is – murder. Daunte died less than a year and only a few miles away from where George Floyd was brutally murdered by Derek Chauvin. There have already been over 230 people killed by the police since January 1st, 2021. How much longer, Lord?

Photo by Jakob Rosen on Unsplash

Yes, Tquan, I’m mad as hell. That’s how I feel today. Somewhere, buried deep in my spirit is hope that maybe we’ll realize enough is enough. Groups like Be the Bridge are moving in the right direction but there’s much to be done. Ms. Opal Lee, my mentor and friend, reminds us “that if hate can be taught, a person can be taught to love”. I hope and pray that the feelings of anger I have are felt by many others. I hope they’re channeled into positive action that teaches all of us how to love God’s kids better. I hope and pray I don’t hear the anguished cries of mother, grandmothers, and families because another child was taken by police violence.

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” – Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train (1994)

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Fighting Hunger One Meal at a Time

We are incredibly grateful for Noelle Walker at NBC 5 DFW for her series on “Fighting Hunger” and for the segment on our work at Opal’s Farm. The story aired yesterday on NBC 5: First at Four. The link to the story is at https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/fighting-hunger-urban-farming-in-fort-worths-food-desert/2292808/

I love the opportunity to tell a wider audience about Opal’s Farm. The farm is my personal passion. Ending food insecurity is my reason for getting up in the morning. I know what it’s like to be hungry. No one, especially a child, should have to go to bed hungry.

While I’m well aware of the statistics: one in seven children in Tarrant County face food insecurity. There are over forty food deserts in Tarrant County. Neighborhoods that rely on dollar stores or convenience marts for their groceries often face higher rates of obesity, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a myriad of other health problems. I know those statistics, but I learned a new one from Ms. Walker’s news story today: Tarrant County is one of the top ten most food insecure counties in America.

Let that sink in for a moment…

Tarrant Country is in the top ten most food insecure counties in the country. Not in the state, not in the region. In the country!

I’m angry about that. Fort Worth is my home. I grew up here and fell in love with the history and the culture of Cowtown. Whether it’s the 136th edition of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo or an art exhibit at the Kimball my hometown has something to offer to everyone. Well, almost everyone…

I’m angry because, quite frankly, we’re better than that. I’m upset and maybe you are, too…

Since the NBC 5 story ran I’ve received dozens of emails and social media messages from people who believe in the mission of Opal’s Farm; who believe that an urban farm is just what is needed today. I’ve heard from older folks who remember the old “Greek” farm that was where Opal’s Farm is today. I’ve heard from young folks that want to be a part of a food “revolution” right here in Cowtown.

Opal’s Farm is a hands on way to address the needs of our neighbors. Not only those who struggle with poverty but those families that often work multiple jobs and still face hunger. That’s the reality many of our neighbors live with.

This first year has been tremendously exciting and, to be honest, a little scary. I remember the first time I walked around the levee after the Tarrant Regional Water District had disked and cleared the entire acreage for us. I couldn’t help but feel like I was wa-a-a-y in over my head. It was so big; much bigger than the community gardens I’d built before. What had I committed to?

According to the ancient Taoist proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”, so that’s just what we did. We took it one step at a time. There were many missteps along the way. The learning curve was steep and the work overwhelming at times. Still, step by step, bed by bed, seed by seed, Opal’s Farm began to take shape and seeds turned into a harvest that surprised all of us. Talk about starting on a wing and a prayer…

Our second year promises an even more bountiful harvest than our first. We will feed more people than last year, but we need your help. Opal’s Farm is in desperate need of donations to fund the coming year. We are expanding into our second acre. This will allow us to offer a wider variety of produce to the neighborhoods we serve.

The thing I love the most about Fort Worth is the people. We’re a big city (16th largest in the country!) but we haven’t lost that “small town” feel. We’re neighbors here. Neighbors help each other out. Help us help your neighbors with a donation to Opal’s Farm today.

Go to www.unityunlimited.org right now! Click on Opal’s Farm and you’ll find a “donate now” button to make your safe and secure donation to Opal’s Farm. You’ll also find a “Sign Up” button if you’d like to be a farmer right along beside us. We love working beside our volunteers!

Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one”. Your donation today will ensure that one person, one child goes to be with a full tummy because your dollar went to the produce we grew and brought to their neighborhood. That’s not just neighborly, it’s the right thing to do.