Monday, June 30, 2008

Uniting for Change

Obama's suggestion to host a Unite for Change event triggered my community organizing imagination. Though I'm not big on hosting an event like that for a bunch of people who are already sold on Obama, I am interested in encouraging more people to register and actually vote. I decided I would host the event for the young adults I know...many of whom will be first-time voters this election. I called on one of the college students who said she'd be interested to learn more about the process to help me organize.

To prepare for the event, I began looking up statistics.

As in many inner city communities across the nation, our wealthier and whiter northern part of the city votes at a higher percentage than our lower-income, highly minority southern sector. This is what I found:



  • In northern Dallas, 31.61% (166,848) of all eligible voters show up to vote at the last presidential election

  • In southern Dallas, only 18.77% (63,816) of all eligible voters showed up


What was even more sobering...and disturbing...was to find that my neighborhood, 75223, the turnout was much lower...only 8.51%. (source: www.analyzedallas.com)

So, instead of creating a Unite for Change--Obama event, I contacted the Dallas County Elections Department to see if they would agree to educate and deputize everyone. Possibly because of our former partnerships with them, they agreed to come out on a Saturday evening.

Tiffany and I began spreading the word.

Deputization party and bar-b-que...my house!

She sent out facebook messages; I sent out emails and text messages. Several said they would come or at least try. I also decided to invite some of my friends who are active and engaged voters who truly believe in the political process in hopes of stimulating conversation.

Saturday evening, 18 people showed up. It was a wonderful mix of age, ethnicity, activism, and neighborhoods.

Most who came had voted at least once; however, a few were now convicted felons who are "on papers" and are not eligible to vote until they are off parole, but can help encourage others to register. Everyone came with the desire of gaining more information and understanding how they could help get out the vote amongst the people they connect with on a daily basis.

You never know what information someone will pick up and pass along. I like to call it the "ripple effect."

(Thanks to Dave Herman for some of the featured photos)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Getting by "on the cheap"


As I drove through my neighborhood, the planted flowers immediately caught my eye.

I continued driving up the street...but the more I thought about it, I had to turn around and go back.

Flowers outside of a business in my neighborhood...spending extra time and money on making their place aesthetically pleasing...is pretty much unheard of. It amazed me how much of a difference this little row of flowers made!

As I drive through South Dallas and look at the stores with broken windows taped or plastered over with old signs, faded and/or peeling paint, poorly hand-painted signs, old structures, trash laying around, and rusted buildings and poles, it's depressing.


The business owners (most of whom don't live in our neighborhood) don't seem to take any pride in their business or in our neighborhood. I guess they feel like it's ok to get by "on the cheap." It's ok to let things look old, dilapidated, and run-down because 1) it's not their neighborhood, and 2) the people in the neighborhood don't have other options and will have to shop there anyway.

So, I want to commend the radiator business for taking pride in our community and planting the flowers. Even looking at that picture (especially compared to the others) changes my mood. Looking at it seems to make me sigh and relax. It sounds crazy that a few little flowers can do that. But when you look at things, like the other four pictures I posted, day in and day out, it's amazing how a little burst of color...a little grooming...can make a big difference.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rochester Park Crime Watch

Back in the 1940s and 50s, White Dallas residents and politicians purchased land and created laws that relegated Black Dallas residents to Rochester Park. Unknowingly to the Black residents at the time, Rochester Park was a flood plain, as were many other parts of Dallas. The Dallas politicians purchased land (some of which is now the downtown area), created laws that provided them economic benefit, and redeveloped their land, causing even more flood waters to be channeled to the Rochester Park area. (for more information, see Jim Schutze, The Accomodation.)

(fyi...This area is also known as Bon Ton, though in this blog, I most often refer to the housing development in Rochester Park called Turner Courts.)

Six months ago we started our very first Town Hall meeting in Turner Courts. Deputy Mayor Pro Tem, Dwaine Caraway, came with many different city staff and committed to us that he would not allow Rochester Park to be neglected anymore. For the next six months, he agreed to attend our meetings. With the exception of one meeting, he has been there and fulfilled his promise...and even when he's not there, he makes sure city staff people are. His assistant, Stephanie Pegues, has helped us tremendously and has always arranged for whatever city staff we asked for to attend the meeting. Mike Davis, has been an amazing advocate with us and for us--often, I'm sure, when we don't even know it.

We worked toward making changes by stopping the sale of single cigarettes, building friendships, and getting DART buses reinstated to run through the neighborhood. As a result of Wyshina's suggestion when we began the meetings, 15 of us in the neighborhood are now deputized to register people to vote.

Six months after we started, we are now taking the next step.

Though we started within our sphere of influence within Turner Courts, our efforts have now spread to the greater Rochester Park neighborhood. Last night, 13 of those residents came together to begin the process of creating an official Neighborhood Association/Crime Watch group. Sergeant Shelia Zimmerman came to present and brought two other police officers with her (it was truly encouraging to me to see the police cars parked outside and the two officers and one sergeant inside, knowing they were there to work with us!).

After presenting the information and helping residents understand the difference between a Neighborhood Association and a Crimewatch and the requirements of each, residents decided that they would become the Rochester Park Crime Watch.

I credit Sylvia Baylor for working hard to challenge people to come out. Because she no longer lives in Turner Courts, she is not eligible to be an officer. However, Sylvia remains a source of encouragement. She continues to work hard and remains dedicated to helping her friends and neighbors to keep the process moving. Below is Sylvia's email reminder to everyone about their upcoming meetings:


Mark your calendar!!! We will be having our next Roundtable Meeting to elect officers for The Rochester Park Crime Watch. It will be on July 7, 2008, from 6:00pm-7:30pm. The location for the meeting will be held at the After school Academy in Turner Courts, 6601 Bexar St. Dallas Tx, 75215. If you are interested in holding one of the offices you need to be present for this meeting. If you don't want to hold an office, we still want you to come.

Another note to mark on the calendar is July 12,2008, which is the Town Hall Meeting. It will be held at The Lord's Missionary Baptist Church at 6722 Bexar St, Dallas, Tx 75215, from 10am-11:30am. We will be talking about the Rochester Park Crime watch and any other issues that need to be addressed. Encourage some one to bring some one. As many of us know it is greatly need in our community.

Please email me or call and let me know if you are coming.
The growing response we are seeing reinforces my belief that people care about their neighborhood. Unfortunately, so much intentional neglect has soured them on the process. It takes time to move past the distrust and cynicism, but it is happening in Rochester Park.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Life lessons from Tim Russert

I believe everyone deserves to find something they're good at.

Tim Russert was someone I watched every Sunday morning. Though I find politics very interesting, some political discussions are dry. Not Tim Russert. He was interesting--He brought together important people...He challenged...He laughed.

As I watched Meet the Press after Tim Russert passed, the heartfelt comments moved me.

Evidently, Russert had some other options that could have launched his career into a more prestigious and visible political role. But Russert said he had found his calling. Instead of thinking of his Meet the Press role as "less than," his passion and drive shone through and launched him into a prestigious light that he probably never anticipated.

Tim Russert found what he was good at.

Sometimes other people have ideas of what would make us great. Sometimes we buy into their visions for us and think those visions are more important than what we currently enjoy. What matters is what makes us truly happy.

When we are doing something we enjoy, we become great...regardless of what the world thinks.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Campaign financing and Barack's decision

I admit, I was disappointed when I received the email from the Obama campaign that said Barack Obama had decided to opt out of the public funding. I suppose I don't want to hear that Barack is just like any other politician. I want him to be different. Yet, this felt very much like a political move.

Not too long ago, Obama advocated for a fair and equal system of funding and agreed to sit down with and work on equal terms with McCain. His email video, in my opinion, was a lame attempt to explain to his supporters that the system is broken and he is working to rise above it. Instead, it seemed like a typical politician's message to try to pull the wool over our eyes once he realized and had confidence that he could raise much more money using his own supporters and funding base.

Personally, I don't mind if people come to new understandings and "flip-flop." I actually applaud that because it tells me they are listening and learning instead of remaining unmoveable in their thoughts and ideas. However, what I don't like is when people agree with something until they find it's more politically/financially beneficial to believe something else. And that's what I felt like Obama did.

But allow me to challenge my own beliefs in a way that might be somewhat politically incorrect.

As I watched Bill Moyers preview an upcoming P.O.V. segment, Traces of the Trade, I was reminded of how much our country has benefited throughout the years, without remorse or apology, from our slave system. That wheel continues to turn and we continue to benefit even without the slave system currently in place.

Of course the wealth that accumulated over the years allowed people much clout. As we can still see today, wealthy people still run for office, sometimes funding their own campaign. And, let's be honest, few people of color have had the deep pockets and bottomless pit of economic resources to make their campaign viable.

Perhaps I am making concessions for a man who I really think would make a good president. Don't get me wrong. I'm still irritated that Barack seems to be going back on some of the things he was so adamant about. I'm also a little irritated that his campaign speakers are trying to convince us that *all* of his donors are small donors. I would much rather them tell the truth and say that 50% are small donors, but there are some big donors as well. I would like to think we can handle the truth...and I would like to think they would treat us as if we could.

On the other hand, I recognize that Barack Obama has a huge battle and long road ahead of him. His battle is fraught with race issues as well as so many of the other, usual issues a presidential candidate faces. So, I have to say if Barack, has the money and the following to do it, he should go ahead. A Black man with enough political clout, personality, and economic resources is unprecented. I can't fault him for wanting to use every resource he has earned along the way.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Can DISD help us become a more progressive society?

Not too long ago, Dallas Independent School District (DISD) passed a bond package to build 15 new schools. I attended the DISD Bond Election Townhall meeting in my neighborhood to find out more about the bond package. I was always in favor of the bond simply because I think anything the schools can do to improve education for the students in DISD is a good thing. While at the meeting, however, I questioned the efficiency of the way they were planning to spend the money.

Just a year or so ago, they spent a huge amount of time and money on O.M. Roberts Elementary school (my neighborhood school) to install elevators in order to be ADA approved. I completely agree with that move...except that I think it should have been done long ago. What bothers me is not that they spent the money to meet ADA standards...nor is it that the new bond package will mean tearing down O.M. Roberts and rebuilding the school. What bothers me is that there doesn't seem to be foresight as we look to the future of our schools and our children. As a result, it seems to me that we are wasting money that could have been prevented had we looked ahead and spent the money rebuilding the school the first time.

This seems to be a problem in our broader society as well.

As the economy goes south and the United States struggles to catch up to the rest of the world (i.e. foreign cars who have long been smaller and more fuel efficient...foreign countries who are WAY ahead of us in cell phone technology), we react.

What if we, instead, worked toward becoming a proactive and progressive nation? (side contemplation: Are we reactive because we don't have the capability to think ahead?...Could this be due to our focus on lower level skills thinking related to standardized testing that doesn't encourage critical thinking skills and, thus, innovation???)

As an educator, a college professor, an inner-city resident, a few things are obvious to me.

1) Many (most???) of our schools (especially our urban schools) are working off an old, agrigarian society model that hasn't changed...despite the fact that our society, the way we learn, and the technologies available, have.

2) New teachers and college students are being educated by people who grew up without any of these new technologies and who still have a difficult time adjusting and adapting to the current culture...and many choose to remain in the dark and teach as they have always taught.

3) Teachers, community members, and even students, could probably offer us a wealth of suggestions in ways to improve the school's physical environment and ways of educating our children based on their experiences, knowledge of their community, and things they know or want to know.

Here's my thought as it relates to our DISD schools...

What if, as DISD began building these 15 new schools, they held community meetings in the community where the school will be built? What if they asked (and genuinely listened) to the students, teachers, and parents about what they want and need in their schools? What if they were willing to build a school that might be different architecturally (inside and/or outside)? What if they were willing to hear parents who talk about how badly they want their children prepared for college and structured programming around that? What if they took into account a economic efficiency and neighborhood concerns and made schools into community centers that were open late into the evenings (instead of having separately funded and run buildings and organizations for this same thing)?

I don't know what parents or students would say. I don't know what the teachers would say. But aren't they the experts? Don't you think someone who lives in a neighborhood might have better suggestions on how to make the school a bigger, more important, and more relevant part of the community than someone who only spends a 7:00-3:30 day there? Don't you think someone who teaches in a school day in and day out might have a suggestion or two of what could help him or her meet the needs of the children in that neighborhood--socially, academically, physically, and otherwise?

I can hear the naysayers now...It's too expensive...We're under time constraints...We build our schools based on good practices over the years.

I tend to think that if we actually went in to listen to what the community had to say (and followed through on their suggestions), we just might create an environment that would benefit the community in a way we can't comprehend.

Perhaps this could start the progressive, forward-thinking that the United States seems to need right now before we become like England in the 1900s.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sleeping like Grandpa

I just came back from a family reunion in San Antonio. Lots of fun. The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to (re)connect with family. It was great being with cousins I rarely see...even though some of them live in the Dallas area. We enjoyed homemade Mexican pastries... the Schlitterbahn...
the River Walk... assisting the one waiter serve our group of 50+ people... and just hanging out talking.

But, I do believe one of the best moments was watching my 3-year old nephew imitate my dad sleeping...


video

...and his laugh is so contagious!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Honesty in politics--or are those two mutually exclusive??

I was talking to a Muslim friend of mine who is very much a Barack supporter. He was explaining to me that he has recently become disappointed in Barack because of his pandering to the Israeli/Jewish vote. He feels this approach is alienating many Muslims.

That disappointed me. I have been very impressed with the high road Barack has taken so far. I hope he doesn't digress now.

It made me think of a recent documentary I saw on PBS's Independent Lens. The documentary followed the first year of Libera's first female president.

At one point President Johnson Sirleaf addressed a crowd of upset citizens. When she spoke to the cameras about the event, she explained that the people are used to politicians telling them lies and feeding them what they want to hear. The citizens then go away happy, but nothing changes and nothing gets done. President Johnson Sirleaf explained her approach...to be honest with the people.

Good for her! With all of the corruptness that we hear about in Africa, it is nice to hear that someone is willing to take the step of faith to be honest with the people, earn their trust, and prove to them that an honest approach can help the country progress. Honesty may not always be what people want to hear, but it gives the real picture and allows us to work from there.

As I watched her speak, I thought...But what about the United States?? Could we handle honest politicians? Could we handle the truth?

If we had a politician who walked up to the podium and was completely honest, how would we respond?

Unfortunately, I think Liberia is a step ahead of us on this issue.

Why do I say this?

If a politican were able to be honest and real with people, Barack and his people would say, "So what?!" when politicians try to insinuate that he might be Muslim.

If a politician were able to be honest, they wouldn't have to talk around the issue of "Why do you think low-income, uneducated White people don't like Barack?" Instead, they would hear the interviews out of West Virginia...and listen to the comments from people who blatantly will not vote for a Black man...and they would say out loud that racism exists and needs to be dealt with in our own country in order for us to move forward as a nation.

A politician with the desire to be honest would notice the underhanded tactics companies created in order to capitalize on the sub-prime mortgage scandals. The honest politician would challenge (or, perhaps, chastise) those companies who have reaped the benefits while leaving large numbers of people without homes.

I recognize that these are only a few of the issues that cause politicians to carefully construct their words (it would take quite a long blog to address all of the issues we "spin" and side-step as a nation). Politicians look at their certain groups/voting blocks in order to craft a message that will draw in and not alienate certain groups of people. Listening to President Johnson Sirleaf, though, her commitment to being honest with the people is so refreshing.

I hope that as we move forward, Obama and McCain will proceed with an honest dialogue in their debates as well as their conversations with the public...without the fear-mongering...without the below-the-belt insinuations...without the pandering.

Is the United States ready for that? Can we handle it?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Crossing over...one step closer to the future


Last Tuesday night I attended Vanessa's "crossing over" ceremony as she completed middle school and got ready to attend Skyline High School.

As I watched her walk across the stage, I had to lean over to her mom and ask, "Is she really going into 9th grade??!!"

I love sitting back and watching Vanessa. She loves to read...she always makes sure her school work is done...she always follows through what what she says she will. I know I can count on Vanessa.

Vanessa is motivated by an internal drive. As we drove to church the other day, I noticed she was thumbing through a booklet. When I asked what she was looking at, she casually explained that it was the book DISD gives out so that she can know how to prepare for college. (I never knew DISD gave out booklets like that!) Vanessa was busy checking off lists and filling out answers to questions, ensuring she was on the right track.

Vanessa will be entering Skyline's magnet program (once again, something Vanessa took the initiative to pursue). She currently wants to be a fashion designer (at least that's today's ambition...it may change tomorrow, her mother explained). She will enter the cluster for home interior design in the fall (fashion design was full).

Vanessa, like so many other kids I know, has so much to offer us. I am so impressed with her (and so many others') tenacity and perseverance. I can't wait to see where her dreams and ambitions lead her.



(pictures from top to bottom: Janet and Vanessa; Vanessa with her mom, brother, and cousin; Vanessa with her principal)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Americans who tell the truth

I came across this book and loved what it said, who it talked about, and the art work in it:

Americans Who Tell the Truth

I chose a few of my favorites that reminded me of the current election:

"Back of the problem of race and color lies a greater problem and that is the fact that so many civilized person's are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen, [and] that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous." ~W.E.B. DuBois







“Women, we might as well be dogs baying the moon as petitioners without the right to vote!” ~Susan B. Anthony










”Sometimes it seem like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I'll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I'm not backing off." ~Fannie Lou Hamer










“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt












“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe” (Speech on the 24th anniversary of Emancipation, Washington, D.C.). ~Frederick Douglass




“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.” ~Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Friday, June 06, 2008

Juneteenth--Still working toward freedom


If you don't live in Texas, you may not know what Juneteenth is. Actually, even if you do live in Texas, you may not know.

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom. On September 22, 1862 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves. The proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1983. For slaves in Texas, however, the news of this proclamation did not reach them until June 19, 1865...nearly 3 years later!!

Though it was a momentous occasion and cause for celebration, the “General Order No. 3” that was passed down read like this:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

Not exactly complete and total freedom...the "Order" still bespeaks injustice.

However, people celebrated their new "freedom" (Juneteenth) that day and every year after that with a "Juneteenth" celebration. Despite the order of "freedom," though, 100 years later freedom in the true sense of the word was not a reality for African Americans. In the '60s, the Civil Rights Movement challenged the definition of that freedom.

And now, 40 years after that, I still question whether people are completely free. As I listen to my friends and neighbors in Rochester Park talk about apartments that are falling apart and moldy, jobs that make their feet swell and create carpal tunnel yet their employer offers no insurance, lack of grocery stores with quality fresh produce, lack of businesses in the community, limited safe places for their kids to play, high obesity rates...how is that freedom??

On Juneteenth (June 19, 2008), we are going to continue working toward gaining freedom in our community.

At 9:00 a.m., we will meet at 6601 Bexar St. to debrief on the guidelines for registering people to vote. We will split people into groups, ensuring that at least one person in the group is deputized, and go door to door in the Rochester Park neighborhood to register people to vote. It is a small area and we hope to be done within a few hours.

However, with your help, we can be done in a much shorter time span...and if we have a large group of people, we will split up into several other neighborhoods as well.

We would LOVE for you to help us! If you would like to be deputized to register people to vote before you come help us, you can go to the Dallas County Elections Department at 2377 N. Stemmons Freewy, Suite 820. It only takes a few minutes. However, you can help even if you are not deputized. We will simply pair you up with someone who is.

Help us celebrate Juneteenth by registering people to vote and enabling a strong voice from South Dallas to be heard!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In order to win, you must first learn how to lose

I don't like to lose; I never have.

I want to know that I can win.

However, after losing a game to a friend and then rationalizing out loud that I would win the next time, my friend informed me, "You've got to learn to lose first."

Though I knew it had some truth to it, I laughed it off.

As I've watched Hillary this week, I understand what my friend meant.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Tuesday night, Barack Obama clinched the nomination. He won fair and square using the democratic process. He may have won the smaller states...and his strong voting base may be from urban centers...but it doesn't matter. Each person's vote counts!

Barack Obama has more popular and superdelegate votes than Hillary Clinton because we, the people, cast our vote and it came out in favor of Obama. That is democracy.

Unfortunately, Hillary still wants everyone to "know" that she is the stronger candidate. Despite the fact that Obama had gone over the threshold of needed delegates, Hillary is still fighting/struggling to win. I suppose she has to prove a point that she is worthy of the position.

Several years ago I respected Hillary. I was excited to see a strong woman was doing great things in our high political offices. I remember reading her book, It Takes a Village, and saying something like, "Hillary for president!" (I remember the raised eyebrows I received.)

But this presidential primary she has lost my respect.

Her tactics (and her husband's) were put in place to seek the "win." Even at this moment...more than 24 hours after Barack clinched the nomination with the stated number of delegates needed, Hillary has still not conceded.

At this point, the only way she can "win" is by tragedy or by seeking out the loopholes to put her in office by default.

Hillary could have gracefully exited. She could have done just like we do after softball games where each team lines up and congratulates the other team by giving each other high fives and say, "Good game." ...But she has chosen not to do that.

If Hillary would have gracefully exited...and told Barack, "Good game!" I might have regained some of the respect I lost for her during the primaries because of her tactics. By showing good sportsmanship and the ability to lose gracefully, she could have won. But to date, she has not chosen that route...and, frankly, that window of opportunity is gone.

Barack has gracefully extended his had to her, even though she has not chosen to have any conversations with him to this point.

The way he has conducted his campaign, Barack seems like the type of guy who would also know how to lose. He deserves the win.

CONGRATULATIONS, Barack Obama!!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Whirlwind Trip

At 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning 150+ 10-16 year old kids from neighborhoods throughout Dallas (17 with our group) boarded five Dallas County Schools buses to depart for our whirlwind trip to Houston and Galveston arranged by Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway and many other city staff.

Around 10:30 a.m. we arrived at our first stop, the NASA Space Center Houston. Each child was given a disposable camera to capture their memories. With no time to spare, we headed straight to the tram to make the 11:00 tour. After touring the grounds where the astronauts train, seeing a real live control center, and observing the gravity simulation center, we made our way back to the food court.

Though we had a few organization glitches, the 22 kids on our bus were absolutely wonderful and patient. After eating a great lunch in the food court, we boarded the buses again and headed on to Galveston.

Stop #2 was Moody Gardens in Galveston. The kids thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sharks, sting rays, seals, and so much more! They were fascinated by touching starfish and watching the penguins swim at lightning speed through the water, popping every once in a while to show off their skills.

After making our way through the aquarium, we crossed to the next building to walk through the simulated rain forest where we saw birds overhead, posed for pictures in front of the flamingoes, and took pictures of the tree frogs.

Without any time to spare, we were directed back to the buses so we could get back to Houston.

Unfortunately, the over-ambitious plans of taking college tours of the University of Houston and Texas Southern University turned into viewing the colleges from the windows of the bus. I must admit I was happy to hear 13-year old DaQwalon express disappointment that he was missing out on a college tour. I ensured him we would make some more college trips.

We picked up chicken from the TSU hangout, Frenchie's, took a very needed bathroom break, and were on our way back to Dallas.

At 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning we were pulling back into City Hall. After waiting for parents, dropping off kids, and taking a few home with me, 24 hours from the time I started, I was back at home.

A BIG, HUGE thanks to Mike and Venita Davis, Shonda, and Sylvia for such an amazing job sticking with the kids, ensuring we all got bathroom breaks when needed, and keeping the kids engaged during down time. Of course, thanks to Dwaine Caraway, Stephanie Pegues, and the numerous city staff who spent many hours planning and organizing the trip.

Below, have a look at Vanessa's compilation of our 24-hour trip: