Town Hall Meeting on Race & Culture

It’s October 2017, and all is not well in Fort Worth. Sure, the city looks divine if you stick to downtown where a private security fleet sweeps away the socially undesirable. And it glitters with appeal if you stay within the glossy-pages of the magazines pitching high-end products and services to the affluent in our city who can afford private jet services and the like.

But, that doesn’t accurately reflect Fort Worth.

In fact, large swaths of Fort Worth struggle to identify with the symbols, culture, events, and places used to promote “us” as Fort Worth. But, you already know that, right? You know that not everyone is represented well. You know that not everyone is really listened to. And you likely know that issues such as SB4 for Latinos and the police harassment of Jacqueline Craig along with the murder of Xavier Olesko for the African American community are some of the most recent grievances stoking a seething discontent over the status of race relations in Fort Worth.

And as you know, Fort Worth has largely escaped the social unrest that has erupted in Dallas, Ferguson, or Charlotte, but if something doesn’t give, then we are likely to experience greater unrest right here in Fort Worth. Don’t believe that? Then read the words of one of last night’s speakers, Demerrick Ross, as he pressed the Task Force with the seriousness of their mission:

If you won’t take that initiative, if you won’t take that flag, if you won’t bear that cross, then there will rise up a group of young militant black folks who will resurrect ourselves from this white nationalist violent global whiteness.

He wasn’t alone in voicing the potential for some neighborhoods to take matters into their own hands.

So, what should be done to help reduce the tensions over race and culture in Fort Worth??

Enter the Task Force on Race and Culture (a.k.a., One Fort Worth). This 23-member group, appointed by the City Council in August, held its first Town Hall at the First Presbyterian Church on Monday evening, October 2. The mission of the group is to “listen, learn, build, and bridge in order to create an inclusive Fort Worth for all residents.” And their vision: “Fort Worth will become a city that is inclusive, equitable, respectful, communal, and compassionate.”

After a call to order by Rosa Navajar, the task force’s Presiding Co-Chair, the bulk of the meeting featured a series of 2-minute long citizen presentations answering the following question:

What is the most important issue that you would like for the Task Force on Race and Culture to address?

Below are a couple of the voices from the meeting.

Demerrick Ross

One thing that is interesting to point out at this meeting is that it takes place at a predominately white church [First Presbyterian] instead of a neutral place for both black and non-church goers. Second, it is important leadership policy and systems fail as it has done for Jacqueline Craig and for Xavier Olesko, murdered by 3 white teens, it should be the job of this task force to be on the front lines that affirms, protects, and supports the same black lives this city, state, nation, and world oppresses day in and day out. Finally, it would be morally irresponsible for this task force to talk about or attempt to address crime as it relates to race and culture without addressing the white supremacy, economic, slavery, capitalism, and the impoverished unnatural positions black and brown people all over this world find themselves in. This force must also understand what it means to create a safe space. You cannot call this space safe if at the same time you say “do not criticize ideas, individuals, avoid blame, speculation, etc.”—rules that disproportionately affect black and brown people who have always been unapologetic in their tone and in their language—this on the backhand of Betsy Price saying that one of our forums is a ‘bitching fest.” I will say this, and I think I’m done. In the words of Dr. Freddy Haynes, ‘You ought to not be more concerned about me saying “damn” than you are about the damnable conditions black people find themselves in, because that’s a damn shame.” If you won’t take that initiative, if you won’t take that flag, if you won’t bear that cross, then there will rise up a group of young militant black folks who will resurrect ourselves from this white nationalist violent global whiteness.

The City of Fort Worth recorded the meeting in case you couldn't make it.

Tiffany Whitaker

I would like to say that I am a native of Fort Worth with the exception of 10 years and have been able to experience living in other places, and I have to say that when I hear people say, “Yeah, I’m from Fort Worth, and I just LOVE Fort Worth”…well, I have to be honest with you and say that I don’t feel that way because Fort Worth is a city that is not very welcoming of everybody. The word that keeps popping in my mind is mobilization, mobilization. I have to ask a question: What does mobilization look like to you? Because mobilization may be relative. Mobilization to me looks like a group of people from different cultures, from different backgrounds, from different races—all moving toward a common goal. Well, here in Fort Worth, it just appears that there is only one group of people that is moving forward. Now, let’s not get our pants in a wad. I’m not throwing darts. I’m just trying to paint a picture of what I see on a daily basis. Maybe it’s because…I don’t know the reason…there is a dragon in the city—everyone knows it. I take advantage of the 7th Street area quite a bit, but I don’t see a lot of people that look like me. Maybe it’s because you hear a lot of country music down there, but you got people who like hip-hop, reggae, and other things. So, I think there needs to be a discussion of how we can get rid of this underlying dragon. This city has the ability to become a real cosmopolitan city, but it seems that we want to be stuck in a “Little House on the Prairie” stage where you got a stagecoach and Indians and Cowboys—What is that??—Nobody cares about that hardly anymore.

Jim Delong

I’ve lived in Fort Worth since 1993. I love this city. I love our mayor. I love what the city stands for. The concerns I have are reconciliation or retribution, and are we going to continue to be a nation of laws or a lawless nation? We’ve seen in the act of Las Vegas last night the effects of someone taking the law into their own hands, and it was devastating. And we have that choice in our city. We are at a fork in the road. We can come together, all races, putting away our differences and striving to help one another to live the dream. Martin Luther King had a dream, and his dream was where people of all races could live in harmony. My hope is that we all share that dream. A few of his quotes: He said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.” “The time is always right to do the right thing.” And I believe that those of you on this board are doing the right thing. He also said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act—it is a constant attitude.” And he also said, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” And again, that’s what we saw last night. Someone drank from that cup. 50 people were murdered. 406 people were injured. So, do we want to live the dream…or in the dream, or do we want to live in a nightmare?

Want to add your voice?

You can email your comments to:

Dr. Anthony Mosley

Anthony is the founder of the Fort Worth Portrait Project (FWPP). He holds a Ph.D. in Public Affairs & Issues Management from Purdue University. After teaching for 16 years as a university faculty member at both Purdue and Indiana University, Anthony moved to Fort Worth and founded the FWPP in 2014.

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