2017 Greatest Hits #1: A letter to my DACAmented friends in Waco

(During December we will be reprising some of  “2017’s greatest hits” from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: 2017 Greatest Hits.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Eloisa Haynes

What a hard week this has been for you and everyone who loves you. I am grieved at the uncertainty that you and your family face now that President Trump has decided to terminate the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We all knew that DACA was the equivalent of receiving a band-aid for a shotgun wound—but we rejoiced over the band-aid. It opened the opportunity for you and many others to obtain a driver’s license and enter the workforce. It allowed you to come out of the shadows and not be afraid for the first time. It opened the door to achieve the American dream. It gave us all hope.

As a formerly undocumented immigrant, who remains in this country by the sheer will and grace of God, I know what it is to live in fear and isolation. I feel compelled to acknowledge and validate your pain. Those who know little about the brokenness of our immigration system will likely downplay the severity of your situation in hopes to cheer you up. Those of us who have been entangled in the immigration system know better and are keenly aware that you and your loved ones are in a perilous situation.

It is right and proper to cry, to feel despair, to experience anger and hopelessness – but only briefly. You and I do not have the privilege to curl into a ball and hide, or to roll over and die. Our parents sacrificed everything that makes life worth living to give us a chance for a better life. We cannot fail them. Being undocumented puts individuals like us in a vulnerable position. We carry around the stigma of illegality. We isolate ourselves and at times keep our neighbors at arm’s length in order to protect ourselves. To conceal our immigration situation, we allow the media and politicians to drive the narrative about who we are. But we cannot afford to live that way any longer.

Let me remind you that DACA did not come about because President Obama was a kind-hearted, compassionate politician. No – it happened because brave young men and women like you shared their stories and demonstrated that our hearts beat for America. Others who have come before you stuck out their necks and risked everything. If there is any compassion for Dreamers in the current political climate, it is because Dreamers like you have fought the good fight for the right to belong in this great nation.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that “there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” I believe this is the time to speak. What do you have to lose? You have been stripped of everything – except for the love you have for Waco and the United States. This is the time to reach out to your neighbors, co-workers, teachers, professors and friends. Come out and tell them your story. Let your story shed light. Let your story stand as a contrast to the narrative our neighbors and friends hear from the media day in and day out. Let your pastor and your coach meet a Dreamer – come out and claim your place in our great community. They already love you and care about you. If their political views say otherwise, it is only because you and I have failed to bring our humanity into this political conversation. We are not pawns. We are productive members of our community – we are nurses, students, business owners, parents, church leaders… It is time to speak.

If you are a Dreamer and would like a community of friends in these difficult times, reach out to the Waco Immigrants Alliance. In this political climate where it feels like the rain keeps coming and it is up to our necks, our goal is to ensure no immigrant in our community treads the water alone. But we will not just tread beside you – we will sing. We will raise our voices together, to sing the songs that tell our collective story for all the world to hear. Our story is our battle cry. It is our greatest weapon of peaceful revolution. Jesus Christ taught the greatest lessons in parables, revealing the power that a story holds in our heart. So together, we will sing and share and cry and rejoice, until all our lives no longer exist “in the shadows,” and our national policies respect the God-given dignity and worth of all immigrant lives. And with each victory, big or small, we will give thanks with una danza alegre. (Ps. 30:11-12).


Eloisa Haynes is a wife and mother of U.S. citizens, yet she is still entangled in the broken immigration system. To her, Waco is a special community – the place where she first met Jesus, started a family and found friends who have supported and encouraged her. She is proud to call Waco her home and believes that everything she has accomplished, the Lord has done for her (Isaiah 26:12). She works in higher education and volunteers as a community organizer.

2017 Greatest Hits #3: Prejudice then and now…

(During December we will be reprising some of  “2017’s greatest hits” from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: 2017 Greatest Hits.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

by Ashley Bean Thornton

I have a cloudy memory from when I was very young, six or seven years old at the oldest, maybe even as young as four or five. I was born in 1961, so this would have been sometime between 1966 and 1968, I guess.

Some adult in my life, a woman, sat me down and explained to me why, according to the Bible, black people were meant to be subservient to white people.  I don’t remember who gave me this lesson.  I think it was at my grandmother’s house, but I don’t think it was my grandmother.  It might have been an aunt or maybe just one of my grandmother’s friends.  It doesn’t really matter. Plenty of people would have told me the same story.

The explanation had to do with Noah after the flood.  Noah had gotten drunk and was lying naked in his tent.  One of his sons, Ham, saw his father in this sorry state and reported it to his brothers.  When Noah found out about this, he cursed Ham saying that Ham’s offspring should always be slaves to his brother’s children. So, Ham’s children became black people and the brothers’ children became white people and that is why black people were always meant to be subservient to white people.

Nowadays I’m sure every white person I know would cringe at hearing this story.  I imagine most of my friends find it downright offensive.  I hope they do.  It’s a terrible story. I’m ashamed to even tell it.

The reason I am telling it is because I have thought of it often these last few years as I have watched gay people gain more and more rights and have observed the strong resistance to that progress.  I thought of it this morning as I read that two years after the Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, gay people still cannot get a courthouse wedding in Waco.

You may be thinking that the woman who sat me down and told me the story of Noah and Ham and black people must have been some kind of mean, ignorant, “white trash,” low-class person.  Even though I can’t remember exactly who she was, I can tell you that was not the case.  Any adult woman I would have met at my grandmother’s house would have been cut from basically the same cloth as my grandmother: hardworking, educated, church-going, white women who had all endured some hard times, and who, despite that, liked to laugh, tell stories, watch Laurence Welk and talk behind each other’s backs about who had the best pound cake recipe.

In other words, I imagine the woman who tried to pass her racial prejudice on to me was a good person by most every measure.   I believe she took the time to make sure a small girl understood the lesson about Noah and Ham because she believed the story was true and that it was right and important to pass it on to me.

In the same way, I think that many people who oppose gay marriage and other gay rights believe very deeply that they are correct in their opposition. They believe God’s word is clear. They believe it viscerally. They feel all the way down to their bones that they are right.

This story from my own childhood reminds me that at one time, not so long ago, many otherwise decent people felt the same way about racial segregation and opposing the civil rights of black people.  You can see it in the angry faces of the white people in the pictures of the mob scenes when schools were being integrated or black people were marching for their rights.  I have heard it in angry words coming out of the mouths of my own family members. These white people who opposed civil rights for black people believed they were right.  Being told they were wrong caused a kind of outrage on two fronts.  On one front, they were outraged because black people were demanding to “rise above their rank” and were “disrupting the natural order of things.”  On the other front, they were outraged because other people, black and white, were judging them for standing up for what they believed was right.

They felt viscerally, to their bones, that they were right.

But, they were wrong.

Thanks to legislated integration, my grandmother, by the time she retired, had taught many African-American second graders and worked with at least a handful of African-American teachers. She realized, at least partly, that she had been wrong about black people. Her attitude changed.  Not as much as it should have, perhaps, but it changed some.  My mother’s attitude has changed even more.  Mine has changed even more.   We’ve changed enough that I feel ashamed of a story that at one time was accepted and defended among my kin as “what the Bible says.”

I believe a generation from now we straight people will feel just as ashamed at having tried to deny gay people the right to marry as we white people feel now at having tried to deny black people the right to vote and to be treated equally and fairly.

I’m not sure what I would have done if I had been born in my grandmother’s generation or my mother’s generation instead of my own.  I don’t know if I would have recognized the way black people were treated as being wrong, or if I would have gone along with the prevailing beliefs of most white people in the South at the time.  But, living here and now, and having learned from that example, I will say that I would be proud for gay people to be able to get married in our courthouse in Waco.  I am sorry that we have not reached that point already. I hope we get there soon.


This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she has lived in Waco almost 20 years now.  Far longer than she ever lived anywhere else.  She likes to walk. If you see her out walking, honk and wave and say “hi!” 

 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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

2017 Greatest Hits #2: What does teen dating violence look like?

(During December we will be reprising some of  “2017’s greatest hits” from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: 2017 Greatest Hits.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Berkeley Anderson

I was involved in every possible extracurricular from mock trial to tennis. I had high grades and graduated in the top of my class. My parents demonstrated respectful and kind relationship behaviors. Despite those things, I experienced dating abuse in different forms.

Dating violence is a pattern of harmful behavior in which one partner attempts to exert power and control over the other partner. Most people immediately think of physical and sexual abuse, but dating violence also includes less visible forms of damaging behavior including verbal/emotional abuse, digital abuse, and stalking. At its most extreme dating violence may look like the death of an all-star college lacrosse player, but in others forms it can be even harder to recognize, especially for teens who are new to dating.

Complicating matters further, relationship behaviors exist along a spectrum. Healthy partners have open, respectful communication about conflicts, respect for each other and respect for boundaries. Unhealthy behaviors signal that the relationship has problems—ranging from lack of communication to incompatibility. Some examples of unhealthy behavior include texting or calling more than the other person is comfortable with, getting jealous when the other person spends time with friends or alone, and dishonest or non-existent communication.

Most relationships exhibit unhealthy behaviors at some point. They may stem from one partner’s insecurities or poor communication. Additionally, some behaviors indicate that the relationship is heading toward being abusive or is already abusive. Physical violence, for example, is never okay. But where do we draw a line with insults, teasing, or manipulation?

My relationships didn’t have all of the signs you might see on a list of warnings about abusive relationships. There was extreme jealousy—but I believed that it was partially my fault when my ex pushed a male friend after he hugged me. There was also yelling when he was angry, but again I thought that some of this was a normal response to being angry. Then there were the times that he got so upset that he harmed himself—and I thought, well, it wasn’t me, this is scary but not violence toward me. What I didn’t know at the time is that these behaviors are about power and control. They scared me, and in the long run made me averse to conflict.

Then he pushed me.

Not hard enough to really hurt me, but enough that I was scared. It was so long ago that I can remember the emotions, but not the context.  All I can remember is that when I told my parents, they said he needs to seek therapy or you need to break up. When I told him, he said I’d broken his trust.

So you might ask, why didn’t other people know? Why didn’t my parents say something sooner?

The fact of the matter is that I never felt like I needed to tell someone even though it was an emotionally damaging relationship. I didn’t tell my parents because I wanted to stay with him. I only talked about the good things most of the time. And there were many good things. By the time there were more than enough unhealthy behaviors, I had redefined what a normal relationship looked like.

Which behaviors were problematic?

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Yelling when upset/getting angry over small things
  • Self-harm
  • Physical violence
  • Accusing a partner of “breaking confidence” about unhealthy behaviors

Many of the things on this list —and this list is not comprehensive—were not what I thought of as abusive at the time. I didn’t completely understand what I was going through. By the time there were more than enough unhealthy behaviors to define the relationship as abusive, I had redefined what a normal relationship looked like. And I was wrong.  Teen dating abuse is neither healthy nor “normal.”

So why talk about this now?

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. It’s a time when parents, schools, and organizations across the country learn how to talk about and prevent teen dating violence. Dating violence affects 1 out of 3 teens on average.  If you haven’t experienced teen dating violence, you probably know someone who has.

How can you prevent this from happening to yourself or to teens you are close with?

  • Educate yourself and others on what teen dating violence looks like.
  • Learn to have those uncomfortable conversations about healthy and unhealthy relationships.
  • Define your boundaries and how you want to be treated. In a healthy relationship, your partner should respect your boundaries and should respect how you want to be treated.
  • If you think a friend or family member is experiencing abuse, do not judge them for staying with their partner, instead provide them with resources and options.

If you suspect your relationship is becoming abusive, trust your instincts. If you don’t want to talk to your parents or a friend you can text “Love” to 22522 or call 1-866-331-9474 to get advice from a counselor at Love Is Respect.

For more information on how to talk to teens about dating violence you can read this handout from Break the Cycle.


Berkeley Anderson has a Master’s degree in public service and degrees in physics and history.  She loves slam poetry, hot sauce, and any dog she meets. She is the Teen Dating Violence Project Manager at the Family Abuse Center.