Art as Action: Creating Responses to Current Events

by Jenuine Poetess


(photo curtesy: JenuineArtworks. Salerno, Italy :: 100Thousand Artists for Change Global Conference, June 2015)

One of the oldest motivations of creativity is as a response to political circumstances and social justice issues. It is not the only inspiration, by any means, and not all artists engage their discipline in this way. Within the context of the mission and vision of Act Locally Waco the Arts & Culture blog seeks to present artists, events, and organizations which are practicing the intersectionality of creative expression, meaningful message, and local action.

heritage square

(photo courtesy: WacoPoetsSociety; People for Peace Open Mic Vigil, December 4, 2015)

On December 4, 2015, over 65 people showed up to offer poems, prayers, statements, songs, sacred texts, and calls to action. Waco gathered in response to global and domestic terrorism and violence; speaking out against hate, racism, discrimination of every kind, ignorance, and intolerance — with the intention of co-authoring an alternative narrative to our current dire situation.

That evening, our community co-created an exquisite artwork with Hopi prayers and Gospel songs, Athiest Holiday carols and passages of the Qur’an, original poetry and Bible verses, impromptu words from the heart and spoken-words of others not with us. One thing brought us together: the earnest desire to build a better city, a better community, a better world, for one another, in peace, in love, in truth, for justice.

we gather, because there are people rallying for hate, acting in violence, speaking out with ignorance.

we gather, because we must co-author an alternative narrative for our community, our society, our humanity.

we gather, because to remain unmoved, silent, disconnected, is to surrender to everything that threatens our thriving.

we gather, because anything less is a hypocrisy of love.

What an honor it is to hold such a sacred space.

speakerIn times when the world seems swirling and chaotic around us, it helps to know we can gather with others to express the spectrum of emotions that such profound events can elicit.   When words fail us we can turn to paint, music, dance, photography, sculpture, and any other medium that calls to us. We can work out our questions, knowing full well that there are often no answers. But with defiant resilience, we can make beautiful out of broken, and when we share what we have created, we remind ourselves and each other that we are not alone. Poem by poem, song by song, painting by painting we create the change we so deeply long for.

Get Involved:

Shop local and support artists living and creating in Central Texas

create rev

(Artist: Caroline Kelso,; Quote: Elizabeth Gilbert)

Volunteer with an arts organization or collective

Jenuine Poetess August 2014Jenuine Poetess is an artist, visionary, and community organizer. In 2010, she founded In the Words of Womyn (ITWOW)an international, grass-roots, written and spoken-word arts project with chapters throughout Los Angeles, CA; Waco, TX; and Lebanon.  Jenuine is the founder of Waco Poets Society and co-founder of the Central Texas Artist Collective.    She writes, organizes, and creates rooted in the fierce conviction that holding intentional space, access, and opportunity for all people to foster their creative health is a matter of justice and is a vital asset to the sustainable thriving of communities.  She currently lives and poems in Central Texas where she enjoys finding new ways to disrupt the homeostasis of her city.  You can contact her at:

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.


Be part of the Prosper Waco conversation in your neighborhood

By Matthew Polk

Last Tuesday, we had the opportunity to have dinner and conversation with community members in East Waco about how they would achieve the Prosper Waco goals in their community. The Prosper Waco community engagement council and the Northeast Riverside Neighborhood Association partnered to bring the Prosper Waco dialogue to East Waco. Some two dozen local residents came out to chew on ideas developed by the Prosper Waco steering committees for achieving the our community’s goals to improve the education, health, and financial security of Wacoans.

There is much to say about our community, both its strengths and challenges. To focus the conversation, members of the Prosper Waco community engagement council guided the conversation with questions focused on three specific initiative efforts:

  • Preparing all children to be successful in Kindergarten by engaging parents in their child’s early education and connecting them to resources like high-quality childcare
  • Developing a community health worker program to train community members on health issues and empower them to work with their family, friends, and neighbors to better access the healthcare available in our community
  • Making new job training opportunities available, including full-time training courses that last just a few weeks and programs specifically designed for youth (16-24 year olds)

There is no “one size fits all” community program—different neighborhoods, even different families, face different challenges and need different things. Whether the programs listed above will work and how they can work best are things that each neighborhood has to decide for itself.

This Wednesday night (December 9) , the community conversation will move to South Waco (Maranatha Church at 2200 Ross Ave.) at 6:00pm. If you live in South Waco, please be part of this event! You do not need to reserve a spot, just come have dinner and be part of the discussion. And if you live in North Waco, join us on Thursday night (December 10) at 6:00pm at Greater New Light Missionary Baptist Church (925 N. 18th St.). At both events, we’ll be focusing on the three topics listed above, but there will be plenty of opportunity to provide thoughts and ideas on other issues that the Prosper Waco initiative is working on.

We know that Wacoans (and especially Act Locally Waco readers!) care about Waco. Even if you can’t attend community meetings, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to stay informed on the Prosper Waco initiative and be part of the conversation about how our community is doing on the most important issues: education, health, and financial security for all members of our community. If you have ideas about what it takes to improve education, health, and financial security in your community, don’t hesitate to reach out. In fact, you can use our new community engagement email address:!

Send an email to us at this address and you’ll get a reply either from a Prosper Waco staffer or a member of the Prosper Waco community engagement council—a community member who lives in your neck of the woods. Either way, every comment and idea is important and helps guide where this community initiative goes!

matthew polkThis Act Locally Waco Blog post was written by Matthew Polk. Matthew is Executive Director of Prosper Waco. Prior to that, he served as Superintendent of Rapoport Academy Public School. He and his wife attended Baylor, and after spending a few years in the northeast, they returned to Waco to raise their family. They have four children, ages 8 to 3 months. You can contact him at

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.


Part 1: Developing the Right Solutions to the Problem of Payday Lending

By Dillon Meek

There has been a lot of talk lately (at least in my world) about payday and auto title loans and how our community should respond to the presence of this industry in our community (assuming there should be a response at all). This is the first post, in a series of posts, to address the topic of payday lending in Waco, Texas.

Other posts that will follow this one will include discussions on alternatives to payday lending that are available to borrowers, laws regulating payday lending (including the option for a local ordinance), and personal stories from people in our community who have been effected by payday lending.

But first, let’s look at what payday lending is, why it’s a problem and why we as a community need to respond.

Let’s Start at the Beginning: What is a Payday Loan?

Payday and auto title loans are high cost, small-dollar loans. They are offered with little-to-no consideration for a borrower’s ability to repay. Payday loans require proof of employment and access to a bank account via a post-dated check or electronic ACH authorization. The initial term is typically two weeks – until after the next paycheck. Auto title loans are secured by a car title; the amount loaned is based on the value of the car and they have terms of thirty days. They are both marketed on the basis of speed and convenience to people.

So What’s the Problem with Payday Loans?

Most payday loans are predatory. While there are no legal definitions in the United States for predatory lending, an audit report on predatory lending from the office of inspector general of the FDIC broadly defines predatory lending as “imposing unfair and abusive loan terms on borrowers.” Here are some signs that a payday loan is predatory:

  • Triple digit interest rate. Payday loans carry very low risk of loss, but payday lenders here in Waco typically charge fees equal to 400% – 500% APR.
  • Unlike when a bank issues a loan, predatory lenders do not consider a borrower’s ability to repay. Payday lenders allow (and often encourage) consumers to borrow the maximum allowed, regardless of their credit history, wages, or ability to repay. If the borrower can’t repay the loan, the lender collects multiple renewal fees and makes more money. In other words, the more unsuccessful the borrower is, the more successful the lender is.
  • Loan flipping (extensions, rollovers or back to back transactions). Payday lenders earn most of their profits by making multiple loans to cash-strapped borrowers. 90% of the payday industry’s revenue growth comes from making more and larger loans to the same customers. Often times this leads to a cycle of debt.

How is Waco Affected?

  • $10.5 million is drained from the Waco economy annually as a result of these institutions.
  • There are 36 storefronts in Waco, Texas. None are locally owned.
  • On average, 12 cars are repossessed each week by auto title lenders.
  • 3 out of 5 payday loans in Waco are to borrowers who pay more in interest than they do in principal.

Source: Texas Appleseed analysis of Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner 2012 and 2013 Credit Access Business Quarterly and Annual Data Reports. Store location data is based on the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner CAB licensing data for August 2014.

How Do We Respond?

A local Waco group, Citizens for Responsible Lending, is advocating and working hard for (1) the community to develop alternatives to payday loans, (2) education and awareness in the community regarding this issue, and (3) the city council to pass an ordinance regulating payday lending in Waco if the state and federal legislatures will not. Because Texas law does not prohibit predatory lending practices, 26 cities in Texas have passed a uniform ordinance. The other posts in this series will address each of these responses in more detail.

What I know is this: predatory lending is happening in Waco, Texas, and in order for our community to become financially secure, we need to engage a discussion about how we are going to prohibit our citizens from being exploited by this industry.   You can participate in this discussion this Tuesday, December 8, at 6 pm at the City of Waco Operations Center at 1415 N 4th St.

Dillon Meek-2Dillon Meek serves on the Waco City and is general counsel for a local investment company.  Prior to that he served as an associate attorney at Haley Olson, PC, where he represented local governments, financial institutions, and energy companies.  He is engaged to Lindsey Myers, a Waco ISD school teacher.  You can contact him at

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.