By Ruth Ferguson, NDG Editor
A celebration of the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. earlier this week opened with a soul-stirring sermon but ended with a call for Dallas elected officials to breath new life in Dr. King’s dream for the citizens of Dallas.
The occasion was a wreath-laying ceremony at Dallas City Hall honoring Dr. King on Jan. 9. Following opening remarks by Dallas City Councilman Casey Thomas, the large crowd in attendance was excited by reflections offered Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, Senior Pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church. Haynes message challenged the city if it is prepared to move beyond wonderful words such as their stated theme Reconciliation: Moving the Dream Forward to liberate the city from chaos and move the citizens closer to becoming a united community reflected in the ideals of Dr. King’s legacy.
“For real, for real Dallas wants to deal with reconciliation?” Dr. Haynes questioned. He contends too often the history of the city has reflected more of Dr. King’s nightmare instead of his well-known Dream. “Dallas likes to call itself a first-class city, but sadly there are those living in third-world conditions.”
As Dr. Haynes sermon ended, members of the Black clergy interrupted the event by stepping forward one by one and presented scriptural support for each request outlined in their five-point plan, the Black Clergy Agenda for Safety, Equity and Justice. The members of this coalition include:
- Rev. Dr. Michael Greene
- Rev. Kamilah Hall Sharp
- Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes III
- Rev. Dr. Kwesi Kamau
- Rev. Dr. Marcus King
- Rev. Phea Kennedy
- Rev. Dr. Jaime Kowlessar
- Rev. Edwin Robinson
- Rev. Dr. Irie Session
- Rev. Dr. Michael Waters
A renewed call for Civil Rights in Dallas
The plan outlined by the ministers call for the following:
- Confederate Monuments – “We demand that our city grant the requests of North Texans for Historical Justice, In Solidarity, Faith Forward Dallas and Faith in Texas to remove any and all monuments, plaques, and the like celebrating the confederacy and our country’s war on the freedom and equality of people of color, and Black people particularly, from public view on all public property excluding inside museums documenting the real and honest history of our city, state and country.”
- Police Review Board – “We are demanding complete and proper funding and resources for the civilian police review board as proposed by community organizations Mothers Against Police Brutality, Next Generation Action Network, the ACLU of Texas and Faith Forward Dallas. This action will not just ensure that we have a true civilian-led police oversight committee in word, but they will have the resources to do the work for which they are commissioned in deed.”
- Affordable Housing – “We demand that our city support the work of Bianca and Derek Avery and Faith in Texas through instituting form-based code as the zoning policy for the entire city. This will relax the zoning policies and allow developers to build affordable housing units for Dallas. Further, we request a public-private community partnership for oversight, strengthening the checks and balances responsibilities of the city’s planning and zoning office. This will put the land back into the hands of the local community in a quicker, more responsible way. See Rowlett Ordinance 009-17 (PDF)”
- Paid Sick Leave – “We demand that all private and public employees have access to earned paid sick leave as laid out in the Working Texans for Paid Sick Leave platform and advanced by Workers Defense Project, Texas Organizing Project, Faith in Texas and the AFL- CIO.”
- Livable Wage – “We are demanding the minimum wage rise significantly to be equivalent to the necessary living wage for all of our citizens using the MIT Dallas County – Living Wage Calculator. Paying full-time workers a wage that keeps them mired in poverty is wrong and should not be the Dallas way. When low-wage workers get a boost, the extra money flows to their communities in short order. Businesses benefit when more working people can afford their products and services.”
You can read the full outline here.
Ministers seek a commitment from elected officials
Rev. Edwin Robinson invited other ministers in the audience to stand with them if they are in support of the outlined plan with several coming forward. The Black ministers stated they are tired of being used as props to placate the rich and keep the poor pacified in Dallas.
“If we pass these policies, the City of Dallas will be a city on a hill,” Robinson proclaimed. “We will be a beacon of hope. The resolution you all passed today, will mean something.”
Following their presentation, the ministers indicated their next steps were to request each member of the Dallas City Council to commit to meet with them before Feb. 1. Their second demand is a pledge to include each of these five issues on the council’s open Feb. 28 agenda with a vote on each request. At this point, at the urging of members of the audience, each city council member present was asked if they would agree to meet with the ministers and commit to putting the issues on the upcoming agenda.
Mayor Pro Tem. Casey Thomas (District 3) and Tennell Adkins (District 8) agreed to the request, however, when Carolyn King Arnold (District 4), and Kevin Felder (District 7) declined to immediately confirm their agreement to put the issues on the agenda, tensions rose. Rickey D. Callahan (District 5) was reportedly in attendance but left the room earlier.
“If it’s right, I am with it,” Councilmember Felder stated when it was pointed out this was not a yes or no he responded, “it’s my answer.” While he is willing to consider it, Felder stated, “I am not going to blindly agree to something I have not read.”
Robinson responded, “No worries, we enjoyed your claps while we were reading it, but now it’s blind. Got it, thanks.”
T.C. Broadnax, City Manager for Dallas agreed to meet with the clergy and if the council members agree he will put it on the agenda. The city manager finalizes the agenda for the city council meetings.
At this point, the microphone was turned off as some of the organizers felt the ministers’ interruption was out of order. On some of the videoes circulating on Facebook, voices can be heard suggesting security be called.
“The time has ceased to honor Dr. King, but not stand for what Dr. King stood for,” Robinson declared. “You cannot celebrate Dr. King and think we are going to stand for business as usual. We are demanding a new day for Dallas.”
The audience led calls to “put it on the agenda” after Robinson stated that is all they are seeking.
“You vote how you vote.”
To view the video please visit here.