The Foundation for Community Empowerment was born 15 years ago to support the valiant people and organizations that labor to lift up South Dallas and make Dallas a whole city. It was never our intention to create a permanent institution driven by the universal institutional imperative to persist and grow. Instead, our goals were:
- To change the conversation about the disparities that damage our community and our citizens;
- To recognize and enhance the work of others that is effective in erasing those disparities;
- To challenge and remedy systemic injustice;
- To build relationships between the people who know poverty intimately - and therefore are best equipped to find solutions - and those with the power to implement those solutions.
You, as a friend of FCE, are probably familiar with the many paths we have ventured down in fulfilling that mission. As our understanding of the dynamics of poverty grew, so did the nature and scope of our work. Yet, the idea at the core of our approach never wavered: that FCE's role was to illuminate, to enhance, to support, but not to own either the problem or the solution.
We always understood that, at some point, whether the issue was affordable housing, quality public education, or any other factor in the poverty equation, we would necessarily hand off the solutions we helped create to others better able to oversee their long-term implementation.
Thus, in 2006 we created Frazier Revitalization Inc. to spearhead the physical and social rebirth of that historic neighborhood near Fair Park. In 2008 we donated the J. McDonald Williams Institute to the University of Texas at Dallas, where it was rechristened the Institute for Urban Policy Research.
This year, the process continues. We're pleased to announce the following changes:
- The Dallas Education Foundation will assume continuing oversight of the Dallas Achieves school transformation initiative which FCE helped launch three years ago. This unprecedented effort has produced substantial gains in academic achievement across Dallas ISD. When we launched Dallas Achieves to help Dr. Michael Hinojosa turn the district around, Dallas was tied for 5th with San Antonio among the 6 urban school districts in Texas. It is now tied with Houston for 1st. The percentage of 9th graders who go on to graduate has risen from 58% to 67%. The work of transformation continues, and the Dallas Education Foundation will maintain the external oversight needed to ensure that progress does not flag.
- Frazier Revitalization Inc., under the leadership of Jon Edmonds, will take on FCE's community engagement role, which is a natural complement to FRI's work on the physical, bricks-and-mortar side. To accomplish its expanded mission, FRI has hired three members of the FCE staff: Hank Lawson, Victoria Hicks and Tabatha Smith. After several years of painstaking land assembly, FRI expects to break ground in 2010 on the first Transit Oriented Development in southern Dallas in partnership with the nation's premier urban developer, McCormack Baron Salazar. On the community building front, 2010 will see the launch of an exciting new crime fighting initiative and expanded efforts by the Unify South Dallas coalition to help residents become an educated force for resident-driven, resident-centered revitalization.
I will remain on the FRI board, but it will be chaired by Richard Knight. Richard will ably chair the board and help Jon steer the organization to new and greater heights.
As for FCE, it will continue to administer several important grants designed to improve early childhood education and to engage other community issues. Marcia Page has completed her tenure as a loaned executive from Texas Instruments; Dorothy Hopkins will serve as CEO and will be supported by FCE's longtime office manager, Maggie Diaz.
As we mark this latest transition, I want especially to recognize Marcia for her superb work on behalf of FCE and, particularly, Dallas Achieves. She did an absolutely splendid job, one of the most difficult and yet well accomplished performances I've ever seen.
For myself, using FCE as a base, I will continue to pursue a variety of special projects that are close to my heart, such as community gardens and the future of Fair Park. Since I started this journey more than 15 years ago, I have met the most remarkable people in South Dallas, doing the most remarkable things, usually at great personal sacrifice. It's been a humbling privilege for me to get to know and count them as friends.
I ask you to join me in supporting the Dallas Education Foundation and Frazier Revitalization Inc. as they take the baton and run the next leg of this relay. I remain convinced, as always, that the economic, social and moral health of our city and our region hang in the balance.