Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Moving forward...Creating a plan

I like learning new things. I like "a-ha!" moments. I like figuring out how things work.

My latest "a-ha!" moment started when one of the college students came to me explaining that in order to get back into college, he would have to pay for the entire semester without help from financial aid. I already had the feeling that was going to happen.

After the semester had started this fall, I noticed he was hanging out in Dallas an awful lot. He finally explained to me that he wasn't going to school this semester because he had failed some of his classes and his GPA had dropped below a certain level. He tried to explain to me that the school counselor had told him if he just sat out this semester, his financial aid would be reinstated in the spring. From an experience with another college student, I knew that wasn't right, but he chose not to listen when I explained that he would have to pay the school before he could continue. (Don't kid yourself if you think that our government's money is flowing freely to students! If students don't perform, financial aid does not continue paying for the classes!)

So, he sat out a semester and, sure enough, when he went to enroll for this spring, they told him in order to re-enroll, he had to pay for the entire semester himself. They explained that once he paid his expenses and proved himself by doing well in classes, his financial aid could be reinstated for the fall.

But that's not my a-ha moment.

After visiting with his counselor and finding out that he was going to have to pay for classes all by himself, he called to ask for advice and help in figuring out how to get the money to pay for next semester. I asked him how many hours he planned on taking this coming semester. He said 12 or 13. I suggested he go back to his counselor and create a plan for the rest of his college career. Once he had the plan, I suggested he write a letter of appeal to the scholarship he had received but had to return because he didn't go to school this semester.

When he called after his afternoon meeting with the counselor, he was somewhat shocked and a little disappointed, "It's going to take me two more years to graduate!" In order to graduate in two years, he will need to take 17 hours for a couple of semesters. This information didn't surprise me. Actually, after watching him set out semesters and take classes back and forth at El Centro and Texas A & M-Commerce, I was actually surprised he could get out so soon!

Although he was disappointed, HE HAD CREATED A PLAN!!!! He knew the plan and he knew what it would take to graduate. He could see light at the end of the tunnel. And because he had a written out plan, he recognized what kind of effort it will take to make it there. He wrote his appeal letter to the scholarship fund (this is an excerpt):

I made things a lot harder for myself because I didn't take care of business in the beginning. I know it is imperative I make a budget and stay with it. I plan on getting a job on campus, this way I know for sure my work schedule will not conflict with class and study time. Here is a estimate of what it would cost me to attend Texas A & M University in Commerce...

Tuition 2,068.00
Room & Board 2,870.00
Books 495.00
Total 5,433.00

In case there was a delay with employment opportunities, I have been doing what I can to put funds aside to go towards my education. I will also continue applying for other scholarships. I know that there is no grantee I will get the full amount of the scholarship I'm applying for, but I would be extremely grateful for any amount that is granted to me.

Somehow that led to my a-ha moment. I've been working with these kids to get them into college...and it IS happening. They are getting in. They are going. But I've never really thought about the fact that they don't have a plan on how to get out and what to do when they finish. After talking to Terrance, what I realized is that many are just taking classes. It's almost like we've created a mindset that being in college has become the end goal. It is progress though. When I first came to Central Dallas we were working on moving them from a minset of being in high school to graduating from high school. Now we're moving from the mindset of being in college to graduating from college. I'm encouraged by that. ...but I also recognize that we have to move quickly so we don't lose kids along the way.

Terrance is a great guy. I have seen his frustrations and his determination. I'm sure there will be more frustrations. But he is hanging in there. I know he can get there. Some days it takes more effort and energy than others to convince him of that. However, I am looking forward to a few years from now when I will visit the 45th floor of some office building and have to go through his secretary to see him sitting behind his mohagany desk in his suit and tie making business deals.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

It's the little things...

Traffic was pretty bad on my way to Oklahoma. At 2:00 in the afternoon, I sat in lines of traffic just trying to get out of Dallas. Then, when I got to the Indian Nation Turnpike they only had one lane open that made change. Since the toll was $1.75 the majority of the cars on the freeway didn't have exact change. So, we line....waiting. In addition, there was a lane coming from another highway that fed directly to the toll booth line. More waiting.

As I got closer to the toll booth, a little Honda truck came up from that other highway. I held back so he could merge in. As I pulled up to the toll booth the guy taking the money paused, smiled and said, "The guy in front of you said you let him in! He paid your toll!" I think it pleased the guy at the booth as much as it pleased me. What a nice gesture!

I smiled. I started thinking, "Wow. I wonder what kind of nice gesture I could do for someone else to make them feel that unexpected kindness." It's amazing how an unexpected gesture of kindness can change one's mood so quickly.

I have so much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Taking time to listen to parents

The following opinion column was brought to my attention recently:
We have to tackle education's urban crisis

Here is my commentary to Ms. Creighton's opinion:
Contrary to Ms. Creighton’s belief, at the Turner Courts housing development in South Dallas, it became clear to me that parents cared about their children as nine out of the twenty-one families (including two fathers) of our After-School Academy filed in for the monthly parent meeting. (One parent who usually attends was at the emergency room with her son; another, who is pregnant, is on doctor-ordered bed rest. Four others had never missed a meeting before this evening and continue to be in constant contact with us as they utilize our computer lab during the day, pick up their children, attend a job skills program we are offering, or simply speak when we see each other in the neighborhood.)

During the meeting, the After-School Academy coordinator Wyshina Harris, a parent and a former resident of Turner Courts, started the meeting off with reminders, then moved on to discuss an experience she had at her daughter’s middle school where her daughter was sent home for wearing brown knee socks and brown plaid shoes with her khaki pants and white shirt uniform. Her 11-year old daughter was accused of dressing like she was “going to the club” by one of her teachers. Wyshina explained that she had used the internet, available at the After-School Academy, to figure out how the official dress code (which does not mention the color of socks or shoes a child must wear) and then register a complaint against the school for being more concerned about her child’s socks and shoes than her education and against the teacher for making an inappropriate comment to her child.

Wyshina went on to explain hers and Sylvia’s frustration with the local elementary school when they tried to visit. She explained that the school has called both of them several times for discipline issues related to their boys, but when they went to visit unexpectedly in hopes of checking in on their children, they were told they needed an appointment. Wyshina used the internet, once again, to go online and fill out a volunteer application. Since the school would not allow her in as a parent, she decided volunteer so that they have to let her in. For the parents who don’t work during the day or work in a flexible job like she does, she encouraged other parents to do the same.

Sylvia shared another experience she has been having, explaining that last year she visited the school to get her son tested so that she could know how to help him. After visiting the school weekly for two months, they finally did test him, diagnosing him with ADHD. She took him to the school health services building to see a counselor two times a week until the summer when the counselor’s schedule did not work with her own. She then found out that the counselor had moved to a different center. She believes she must now go through another referral process to get him back in. However, her frustration also lies in the fact that despite his behavior issues, his teacher assured Sylvia performance was not a concern. However, after receiving his Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) in October of this year, at which he scored “below average” in every subject, she is now being asked by his current teacher why she didn’t hold him back a year.

These testimonies prompted other similar stories—positive and negative. All nodded when a parent started talking about her fear and concern about living in the “projects.” Parents began describing how they had made the best of the situation by keeping their children indoors until they found ways to get involved in a way that was safe for their family. One lady coaches cheerleading in the community and has a high school son preparing for college. Another parent explained how she wanted the best for her kids as well and asked for information about how to enroll in GED so that she can eventually go into the field of nursing. One parent took Sylvia up on her offer to enroll in a job skills class that will be offered in the community. Resources were offered and connections were made.

The meeting that was scheduled for one hour went 15 minutes over.

What’s the difference between Turner Courts, Flower Mound, and Shelby’s freshman biology class? After talking to a number of parents who live in the inner city (those who attend the meetings and those who don’t), the problem I find is that their voice is often disregarded. When they do make attempts to be involved, they must jump through hoops and often must miss hourly-wage work. Getting their child the help s/he needs is exhausting and, despite their attempts, often futile. A learned helplessness often results.

We need to celebrate the ambition of these parents who continue to do what they can to get their child the help they need, despite the disparaging remarks of people who have never taken the time to get to know the families, their situations, and the obstacles they have to overcome on a daily basis.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Same truth, different perspectives


For those of us who are in the mainstream culture, I've noticed that we assume our perspective is no different than anyone else's. We assume and proclaim that "facts are facts" no matter who presents the story.

However, despite what we want to believe, perspective and life experience affect our views. We each look at things from a different angle...and oftentimes these "angles" depend on our skin color, the neighborhood where we grew up, and the socioeconomic structure of our family.

As I watched a short documentary on the Jena 6 done by a Black filmmaker, I was reminded of this all over again.

Let me confess, I didn't rally behind the "Jena 6." I was horrified that students would hang nooses from a tree and that, in 2007, there is still a place that is designated for "Whites only"...I was disgusted when the news came out that Black students were arrested for a scuffle with White students and the White students were just slapped on the hand for hanging nooses from a tree... But I also heard the "fact" that there is not any legal way to punish the hanging of a noose and the "fact" that there is legal punishment for someone who beats a person nearly unconscious (which was why I heard Mychal Bell was not being released).

Though I understood the larger point to be made (i.e. justice), I was troubled by the way it seemed people were getting together from all over to defend and demand the release of Bell, who has committed "battery" crimes in the past. I continued to hear of other "facts" that I couldn't reconcile as "right." I heard the district attorney's comment, "I'll take your life away with the stroke of a pen," but I also read that the D.A. wasn't talking just to the Black kids, but to an entire school assembly. There always seemed to be reports that "legitimately" justified the actions of the White students, the White D.A., and others. Though I didn't believe it because they were White, I know unconsciously that's probably at least part of the reasons the justifications seemed to make sense.

On the other hand, the momentum for the Jena 6 rally that grew primarily out of the Black community, but also from many others as well, seemed to be presented in more of an emotional way, without a lot of "facts." Was that because there were no facts or was that more about the way it was presented in the media??

And therein lies the problem.

The person who crafts the messages gets to decide how the story is presented and that message is rarely presented by the people who are directly and intimately involved.

It is true that facts do not change. However, what does change is which facts are chosen and how they are presented.

The questions change...

the people chosen to be questioned change...

the images presented to the public change...

and, therefore, the message changes.

The message from the media or well-intentioned people looking in could be trying to present the "facts" as accurately as they know how, but the voice of the people speaks much more truth and eloquence when the message is crafted by those who are directly affected.

Unfortunately, a message spoken by the people is often challenging to find. And to immerse ourselves in something that doesn't directly affect us or our family is often seen as time consuming and takes us out of our comfort zone.

However, I believe we need to make that effort. Perhaps if we made more efforts to do things like that, we would begin to know people and understand how hanging nooses are just as violent a crime as kicking someone when they're down.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Moving forward

What an amazing group of women! For the last four days, 13 women from Turner Courts attended a job readiness program (see more at Sylvia's blog:

Each day, the women talked. They talked about ways to approach job interviews, appropriate attire, things to say. But they also bonded with each other. Despite the fact that all of the women live in Turner Courts, many of them didn't know each other. They bonded as they talked about personal issues and discovered things about each other.

As I inquired about their experience, one of my friends explained that it really helped them get to know each other. She spoke of one lady (I'll call her Scheree) who she had seen around at the After-School Academy. She explained to me that, at the beginning of the class, Scheree was very quiet and said very little. By Thursday, however, she was completely different. She had a sparkle in her eye, a smile on her face, and she made comments during class.

Though I didn't see Scheree in the class, I talked to her after class yesterday. Her eyes lit up as she told me about the class. She explained that the classes were really helpful because, at 30, she's never had a job before and never knew about things like how to dress, what to say, and how to interview.

Today was their last day. When I walked in around 1:00, I immediately inquired about the cake sitting on the table, hoping someone had brought it for snacks. Sylvia excitedly explained that I should've been there an hour earlier. All 13 participants had gotten together to bring a spread of food that looked like Thanksgiving! ...broccoli-rice casserole, catfish, fried chicken, cornbread, salad, peach cobbler, and much more. (I was very happy to find out there was still some left so I could get a plate! :) )

As I watch what is going on at the After-School Academy and the Educational Outreach Center, I see a strong community just breaking out of it's shell. We still have a ways to go, but the energy and excitement is palpable.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Don't be impressed

Last week, Beverly DeBase, a reporter with the Dallas Morning News, called to say she had stumbled upon our After-School Academy (ASA) blog ( She was impressed that our elementary-aged children were blogging and had some pretty interesting entries. She wanted to write a story about blogging and the up-and-coming potential that blogging creates in our children.

Beverly came to visit last Friday, which was a scheduled "Service Day" for the kids. As the kids walked around Turner Courts cleaning up, she walked alongside them and talked to those who had started blogging this summer.

When they came back, Beverly sat down with me and asked, "So did they write those blog entries?!" She explained that the children she walked with didn't seem extremely focused and were very nonchalant as they talked to her about blogging. I confirmed that all of the entries were either typed or dicated by the students. Each child involved this summer and each child in our ASA's current technology class knows how to sign on to the blog. If they are too young to type or struggle with their spelling, we ask them if they would rather "dictate." Many of them say yes. Others want to do it on their own. (Look at the blog. You can tell the difference. :) ). If the child is dictating, we may ask questions to spur their memory, but every word typed is verbatim what the child said.

What Beverly seemed somewhat surprised about, and what I hadn't thought about before, is that, to them, talking about blogging is like talking about the football game they watched on TV. It's just another conversation. The kids really don't look at it as some skill that is unusual. It's perfectly normal to them.

I love that our kids are blogging...and taking pictures...and using digital voice recorders...and doing podcasting/audio blogging...and learning to document. I love all of that. But you shouldn't be impressed. Other kids in more resourced parts of our nation are accessing technology regularly in their homes and classrooms and, as a result, are doing amazing things at a young age. Our kids in Turner Courts are no different as far as talent goes. It's just that now they are getting to learn what's out there and actually use it. Where they are right now is not impressive. It is just normal for the world we currently live in. However, keep your eye on them. I have no doubts that what they are learning now is going to lead to great things on down the line!

See Beverly DeBase's article here:
For South Dallas school's children, blogging is elementary

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Finding the gaps and figuring out how to fill them

Today I filled in for Sylvia at the Educational Outreach Center for a couple of hours. During those two hours I got "nothing" done...nothing in the sense that I didn't get to check a single thing off of my list and actually ended up adding to my to-do list.

But getting "nothing" done is actually the crux of my work. It's very hard to explain this to funders.

While I was getting "nothing" done, I met a lady who came in to use the computers. She had signed up for the job skills class Sylvia is recruiting for. As we started talking, she explained that she is 25 years old. She has two boys. She hung out with the wrong people in high school and ended up with a criminal record (a misdemeanor) that has something to do with money. Though she was 17 when it happened, it still affects her ability to get jobs. She is looking for clerical work (because of her current abilities) but has thought about nursing. The more we talked, however, she admitted to me that her real dream and desire is to work in early childhood education and own her own childcare center. We discussed Eastfield (Dallas Community College), which has a great childhood education program that ultimately feeds into Texas A&M-Commerce. I really believe she will move forward with her desires.

Talking to her reinforced my thought that we need someone who works specifically with people (young teens, seniors, and adults alike) to encourage, provide information, guide, and support the people wanting to further their education. Some people aren't sure how to go about it, don't have correct information, or just fear failure.

As I continued to do "nothing," another lady came in. I would guess she is in her 50s or 60s. She was trying to find someplace that can teach her to read. She explained that she has "graduated" from LIFT (an adult literacy program at the public library) and is now reading at something like a 3rd grade level. She moved on to the Lincoln Instructional Center...only to find out this year that Lincoln wanted/needed the classrooms and, thus, cancelled the program. We started calling around...Dallas Reads...closed, Mary Crowley Academy...closed. Other programs claimed to offer reading and writing, but they were GED programs. This lady said she is not ready for GED yet.

Where are the programs that can help people learn to read??? I am going to continue to look for adult literacy programs but it seems like they are pretty much non-existent. How can someone improve their situation if there aren't places that can help them???

This is a gap that needs to be filled. She is not the only person I know who cannot read. She is not the only person who has the desire to learn. I hope we can find a way to fill that gap. Our friends deserve that.

While we continue to look for programs and explore opening a program ourselves, I am hoping to find some software that we can install on our computers so that my new friend can continue to move forward. (If you know of any quality adult literacy software, please feel free to offer suggestions!) But while computer software is a good band-aid, people need personal connections.

Today I was able to connect with people. The people I connected with helped me understand and discover some things that I hadn't realized before. Listening to their wants and needs will, hopefully, lead us to developing relevant programs for the community.

Nothing got checked off of my to-do list today. But, in my opinion, things got done.

The National Adult Literacy Survey found that 21 percent of American adults had Level 1 literacy skills, and 27 percent of American adults had Level 2 literacy skills. While there are no exact grade equivalents, Level 1 literacy is generally defined as less than fifth-grade reading and comprehension skills, and Level 2 is generally defined as fifth through seventh grades reading and comprehension skills. Although many Level 1 adults could perform tasks involving simple texts and documents, all adults scoring at Level 1 displayed difficulty using certain reading, writing, and computational skills considered necessary for functioning in everyday life. Almost all Level 1 adults could read a little, but not well enough to fill out an application, read a food label, or read a simple story to a child. While most of these adults are not considered "illiterate," they do not have the full range of economic, social, and personal options that are open to Americans with higher levels of literacy skills.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Changing the definition of "normal"

I love having the top-floor, corner office with a window and a view.

Ok...if you must know the truth, my "office" is actually a re-done bedroom in an apartment, complete with used, mis-matched office furniture. I'm just happy I have a window.

My window looks out over Turner Courts, a housing development in South Dallas.

Today I looked up to see a police car drive through...with a second one following him. Two police cars usually mean something's happened. I watched them stop and park in the middle of the street, behind a row of parked cars. It was only then that I noticed the third police car that was pulled into a parking spot and a police officer handcuffing a guy. Seconds later, a fourth police car came around the corner to offer assistance. Nothing big or dramatic happened as far as I could see. After he was handcuffed, they frisked the man. I can only assume they put him in the car and took him away. I don't know. I stopped watching after that.

Although there were a few people who came out of the woodwork to see what was happening, most people continued walking to their destination with no more than a glance his direction.

While sitting in this office, I have witnessed drug raids, car chases, seen arrests, watched people fight, and heard gun shots. It doesn't happen every day, but it happens enough that it doesn't surprise me or seem abnormal. Like the other people, most of the time I just continue walking.

Who deserves for that to be their "normal?"

As I gazed out my window, I wondered what goes through kids' minds when they grow up seeing young and old men arrested. What do they think as they look around at the run-down buildings? What goes through their mind when they see the guys hanging out on the corner? I wondered what kinds of things they know about and deal with consciously and sub-consciously.

I wonder how what children see and hear impacts what they believe about themselves and their community. I wonder how it impacts their definitions of "normal."

I also wonder what we, as a society, are doing to make "normal" any different for the kids and families in places like Turner Courts. There are things we can do. Like ...calling our Congress members to pass the SCHIP bill, encourage them to increase funding to 21st Century learning programs, voice your support for drug rehabilitation and treatment for drug offenders in prison...consider hiring for increased funding (and dare I say *equitable* funding) for low-income schools. Each of these provide little effort on our part, but make a big difference in the lives of people in low-income neighborhoods.

Help us change the definition of "normal."

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Food for thought

Food for thought this Sunday morning from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller:

"We started reading through Matthew, and I thought it was all very interesting, you know. And I found Jesus very disturbing, very straightforward. He wasn’t diplomatic, and yet I felt like if I met Him, He would really like me. Don, I can’t explain how freeing that was, to realize that if I met Jesus, He would like me. I never felt like that about some of the Christians on the radio. I always thought if I met those people they would yell at me. But it wasn’t like that with Jesus. There were people He loved and people He got really mad at, and I kept identifying with the people He loved, which was really good, because they were all the broken people, you know, the kind of people who are tired of life and want to be done with it, or they are desperate people, people who are outcasts or pagans. There were others, regular people, but He didn’t play favorites at all, which is miraculous in itself." Pg. 47

(Talking about watching a woman receiving food stamps):
"I realized that it was not the woman who should be pitied, it was me. Somehow I had come to believe that because a person is in need, they are candidates for sympathy, not just charity. It was not that I wanted to buy her groceries, the government was already doing that. I wanted to buy her dignity. And yet, by judging her, I was the one taking her dignity away.
I wonder what it would be like to use food stamps for a month. I wonder how that would feel, standing in line at the grocery store, pulling from my wallet the bright currency of poverty, feeling the probing eyes of the customers as they studied my clothes and the items in my cart: frozen pizza, name-brand milk, coffee. I would want to explain to them that I have a good job and make good money.

I love to give charity, but I don’t want to be charity." Pg. 84

"One night Rick showed up sort of beaten-looking. He had been to some sort of pastors reception where a guy spoke about how the church has lost touch with people who didn’t know about Jesus. Rick said he was really convicted about this and asked us if we thought we needed to repent and start loving people who were very different from us. We all told him yes, we did, but I don’t think any of us knew what that meant. Rick said he thought it meant we should live missional lives, that we should intentionally befriend people who are different from us. I didn’t like the sound of that, to be honest. I didn’t want to befriend somebody just to trick them into going to my church. Rick said that was not what he was talking about. He said he was talking about loving people just because they exist—homeless people and Gothic people and gays and fruit nuts. And then I liked the sound of it. I liked the idea of loving people just to love them, not to get them to come to church." Pg. 135

Friday, November 02, 2007

DREAM on, my friends!

This week, the DREAM Act didn't quite make it past the Senate floor. It was close, but wasn't enough.

I'm not quite sure I understand the fear and repercussions of allowing immigrants drivers licenses and legal stays here. And I REALLY don't understand preventing children who didn't choose to be here from getting an education and working. I think it has something to do with, "If we allow it for the people here now, people will continue bringing their kids over here illegally knowing that we'll give in eventually." I don't know if that is the rationale or not. But I would like to dispel some myths.

Immigrants don't pay taxes. Immigrants pay taxes just like we do...on income, property, sales tax at the store, and anywhere else we all pay taxes. Even undocumented immigrants pay income taxes, as evidenced by the Social Security Administration's "suspense file" (taxes that can't be mathced to workers' names and social security numbers), which grew $20 billion between 1990 and 1998. (National Academy of Sciences, Cato Institute, Urban Institute, Soc. Sec. Administration)

Immigrants send all their money back to their home countries. In addition to the consumer spending of immigrant households, immigrants and their businesses contribute $162 billion in tax revenue to U.S., federal, state, and local governments. (Cato Institute, Inter-American Development Bank)

Immigrants take jobs and opportunities away from Americans. The largest wave of immigration to the U.S. since the early 1900s coincided with our lowest national unemployment rate and fastest economic growth. Immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs for U.S. and foreign workers. (Brookings Institution)

Immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy. During the 1990s, half of all new workers were foreign-born, filling gaps left by native-born workers in both the high- and low-skill ends of the spectrum. Immigrants fill jobs in key sectors, start their own businesses, and contribute to a thriving economy. The net benefit of immigration to the U.S. is nearly $10 billion annually. As Alan Greenspan points out, 70% of immigrants arrive in prime working age. that means we haven't spent a penny on their education, yet they are transplanted into our workforce and will contribute $500 billion toward our social security system over the next 20 years. (National Academy of Sciences, Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, Federal Reserve)

Immigrants don't want to learn English. Within 10 years of arrival, more than 75% of immigrants speak English well; moreover, demand for English classes at the adult level far exceeds supply.

Today's immigrants are different than those of 100 years ago. Today's foreign-born population stands at 11.5%. In the early 20th century it was approximately 15%. Today's immigrants face the same challenges and discrimination as back then. Every new wave of immigrants has been met with suspicion and doubt yet, ultimately, every past wave of immigrants has been vindicated and saluted. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Most immigrants cross the border illegally. Around 75% have legal permanent (immigrant) visas; of the 25% that are undocumented, 40% overstayed temporary (non-immigrant) visas. (INS Statistical Yearbook)

The DREAM Act would provide an opportunity for U.S.-raised students to earn U.S. citizenship. The DREAM Act would allow certain immigrant students to adjust their status to that of a legal permanent resident on a conditional basis for six years based on the following requirements:
  • Age. Immigrant students must have entered the U.S. before age 16.
  • Academic requirement. Students must have been accepted for admission into a two or four-year institution of higher education or have earned a high school diploma or a GED at the time of application for relief or served in the U.S. armed forces for at least 2 years.
  • Long-term U.S. residence. Students must reside in the U.S. when the law is enacted. In addition, those eligible must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years preceding the date of enactment of the Act.
  • Good moral character. Immigrant students must demonstrate good moral character, a defined term in immigration law. In general, students must have no criminal record.

One of my friends, an 18-year old, goes to court on Monday. He was brought here by his parents when he was a young boy. He did not make the choice himself. He knows the United States as his home.

He is facing deportation. a country of which he is unfamiliar.

Although we have hope that the DREAM Act will continue to move forward and, with all of our efforts, eventually pass, I am not sure if it will be in enough time to keep Jose from being deported.

I am anxious for Monday morning and knowing that whatever happens Monday will likely be the same fate of my other friend, Monica, later this month.

Please pray for justice.

Monica has said she will accept whatever happens because she knows that her fight now, no matter what the outcome, will help others behind her.

Sounds like Martin Luther King, Jr. to me.

Much love, Monica and Jose. I'm behind you all the way!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Food...for "needy" people only

Let me preface this blog by saying that I'm not criticizing Central Market for their Feast of Sharing. The flyer I receive simply provoked a thought that I needed to process and I thought might be worth sharing.

I received this email this morning:
Central Market's Feast of Sharing!
This FREE event promises to be a wonderful evening for those in our community in need of a hot meal, fellowship, information and fun.

Feast of Sharing will be held NEXT Wednesday, November 7th from 4:00pm - 8:00pm at Fair Park – Centennial Building.

Our mobile kitchen will pull into town on Monday and cooking will commence. Over one thousand volunteers have registered to help on the night of the dinner. We are preparing to serve 10,000 meals to those in need. Everything is falling into place – the only thing left is make sure folks know about the Feast of Sharing and are encouraged to attend!

Please continue to share information about the dinner with everyone you know who would benefit from this opportunity. Anyone in need of food and friendship should be encouraged to attend. Parking is free at Fair Park and free transportation is being provided from 8 locations around the city – see the attached flyer for details.

In addition to the sit-down turkey dinner, there will be live entertainment, including gospel choirs, a jazz ensemble, vocalists and a band. The children’s activity area will feature arts & crafts, games and a bounce house. A shower/laundry facility will be on site for our guests to utilize. Many social service agencies will also be on hand to provide information about various resources available throughout the community.

We look forward to this year’s Feast of Sharing being a successful start to a yearly tradition. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, or if you need additional flyers, posters or information. We appreciate your support.

First of all, let me encourage everyone to attend...and pass the word along to others you know. It looks like a great event!

Here's my question.

As you read about the Feast of Sharing, did you immediately plan to attend? ...or did you think more about how you could volunteer to help the "people in need?" ...or did you just think about what great things people in Dallas are doing for those "less fortunate" in the community?

As I read about the event, I wanted to be a part of it. But I read that it was a "free" event for those "in need." Because it is "free" to people "in need," I knew I probably wasn't the person they were targeting. I wondered what kind of looks I would get from those serving if I went a recipient.

I thought of our Central Dallas Pumpkin Festival last weekend that was such a great community event for matter your status in life. It was an event for our ENTIRE, poor, single, married, kids, families, old, come together and enjoy each other. There were no ulterior motives of doing anything for the "poor people" around us. It was just a fun event to bring people from all walks of life together. If you walked over to the Pumpkin Festival, I'm guessing you would have had no idea who was poor, rich, or anything in between.

Does it strike anyone that when we say an event is for those "in need," it promotes an us-verses-them mindset...and an expectation that all of the people "with" stand on one side (the serving end) while all of those "without" stand on the other side (the receiving end)?

I forwarded the email to some of my friends who are more "in need" (financially speaking) than I am so they could either choose to go or pass it on. I received an email back saying, "Are you going to this? I think I am."

When I got the email, I thought about how crazy and patronizing it would sound for me to email back and say, "No, I'm not going. This event is for people in need."

So, I decided. I'm going. I'm going to sit at a table with my friends and enjoy the festivities.

Whether you are "in need" or not, I would encourage you all to attend. Let me know if you plan on going and I'll look for you. I'm sure we will have a great time.