Fighting Against Racism: Becoming Anti-Racist Wacoans

by Jaja Chen

On January 17, 2019 at Baylor University, we had the opportunity to hear Jemar Tisby (see news report) speak on fighting racism in our communities, cities, and congregations.

We can see through Waco history the impacts racism had on our city through the lynching of Jesse Washington in May 1916. Regardless of what one may think regarding Washington’s case, the fact that there was a lynching in downtown Waco with thousands of spectators should be enough to reveal the deep, pervasive, and horrific impacts that racism can have on people and our town.

While this blogpost is too limited of a space to expand on what Tisby shared regarding the history of racism and present realities of racism in the United States, I encourage you to follow-up with his newly released book The Color of Compromise and/or podcast series Pass the Mic to learn more.  

Some practical application points that Tisby challenged us with include the A.R.C. response in the fight against racism. Awareness, Relationships, and Commitment (A.R.C) framed the latter part of his lecture and is a response to racism in our nation. Tisby defined racism as a “narrative of racial difference” – meaning the ongoing story and narrative in our culture and communities in which people are seen or treated differently as a result of the color of their skin. And in order to be anti-racist, Tisby called for intentionality amongst peoples to go against racist thought, responses, behaviors, and/or complacency.

Seeking to be anti-racist means having Awareness of the issues – learning about what racism is, how it impacts individuals and systems around us, and the impacts racial trauma has on people. Reading books can help you to learn more about racism and increase your perspective on the history of racial issues in America. Some books I often recommend include: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown, Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chan Rah, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Documentaries like 13th on Netflix can also be informative.

Building Relationships with people requires us to step outside of our own spheres and to get to know people from backgrounds different than our own.

As you think of the friendships and relationships in your life, how diverse are they? Do you know and spend time with people from different racial/ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds?

Seeking to build bridges takes time and requires us to get out of our comfort zones. This can be a challenge for us as individuals and for organizations and businesses. At Waco Cha, we have strived to intentionally network and build relationships amongst individuals, businesses, and organizations with cultural backgrounds different than our own. Our lives are enriched when we have friends and community that value each other for who we are, the culture we are a part of, and the gifts and talents that we each bring to our Wacotown.

When it comes to engagement with people different from your culture, our local Community Race Relations Coalition hosts events and community gatherings throughout the year for members of the Greater Waco community. Visiting restaurants, stores, or churches different from your own racial or ethnic background can also help introduce you to new cultures. For business owners – consider joining the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce and Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to build bridges and community amongst people of color whom you may not otherwise have connected with.

And lastly C for Commitment. This is often where we get stuck. We may be informed about racism and have friends of different cultures; however, in the end, if we do not seek to fight again social injustice in our own midst, the effects go only so far.

We need to have a commitment to fighting against injustices in our community. Engagement can include giving of our time or resources to supporting local non-profit and advocacy organizations. Advocacy organizations such as Waco Immigrants Alliance strive to advocate on behalf of immigrants, families, and those impacted by detention and mass incarceration in our community. Non-profits such as Greater Waco Legal Services and American Gateways strive to provide affordable legal services for individuals and families in our midst. And organizations such as Grassroots Community Development, formerly Waco Community Development, strive to cultivate healthy and diverse neighborhoods in Waco.

These are just a few of the many non-profit and advocacy organizations doing the work of justice daily in our town.

As I have challenged you all before – what is your response in being part of the change in our city? Is it to increase your awareness of racial issues? To begin or continue to build relationships with those whom are different from yourself? Or to commit to further or increased engagement against social injustices in our town?

May we each strive to be anti-racist Wacoans and to recognize that the fight against racism did not just begin or end with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the many courageous civil rights advocates that came before us. We each have a responsibility in building a better Waco.


Jaja Chen, LCSW, CDWF is a private practice therapist through Enrichment Training & Counseling Solutions specializing in PTSD, trauma, maternal mental health, and compassion fatigue. As an EMDR Trained Therapist, Jaja loves providing holistic trauma recovery to the Greater Waco community. Alongside her trauma therapy work, Jaja and her husband also run Waco Cha, an organic bubble milk tea stand, at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market. Jaja can be contacted via email at Jaja@enrichmenttcs.com or via webpage at http://enrichmenttcs.com/meet-jaja-chen/.

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.orgfor more information.

Could you provide a crucial work relationship for a young person?

By Jeremiah Banks

Matt, Marci, Trista, Donna, Kevin, Kayla – these are the names of people who came into my life and helped me learn about work. They pushed me to grow when I least expected it and needed it the most. As I stumbled (or more personally for me – overthought) my way through each job I’ve had, from bagging groceries at Albertson’s, to interning with my Youth Pastor, to working with neighborhood youth, and now as a school social worker here in Waco at Communities in Schools (CIS) of the Heart of Texas, these people walked alongside me and helped me in my journey into the sometimes weird and confusing world of work.

Here at the Workforce Development Program at CIS of the Heart of Texas, we talk a lot about the world of work. We serve young people from 16-24 years old. We meet them in school and out in the community looking for jobs, trying to get into college, going back to get a GED, and exploring careers. Our job through the Temporary Work Experience Program is to walk alongside them in their journey into the world of work.

Work plays a central role in each and every one of our lives. You can’t escape it. Think about it. What’s one of the first questions you ask someone new when you meet them? If you’re like most, “What do you do?” is one of the first questions off of your lips.

Yet, if I can be honest for a second, who hasn’t had a moment in life when that question caused anxiety – a point of transition in your life, a switch to a new job, or a time when you didn’t know what you were “doing?” It can make you feel a bit lost.

This is where we meet nearly every one of the young people in our Workforce Development Program — in transition. Imagine a young mother, balancing GED classes and a part-time job that is just enough to pay the bills, or a young man looking for a job while living with family after graduating high school.  Each young person we meet is in transition, trying to “take that next step” or “get back on their feet.” They are not quite sure which way to turn, meanwhile the world continues to spin around them. In the midst of the uncertainty and the spinning, the one thing each and every one of them unflinchingly knows is that they need to find work.  But there a plenty of things they don’t know: What do I want to do?  What CAN I do? How do I find work?  How do I keep at it even when I run into roadblocks?  How do I succeed and move up and build a career?  How do I even get started?

Relationships

I have found that in times of transition — where these young people find themselves — relationships make all the difference.

At CIS, we believe in the power of relationships. Through our Temporary Work Experience Program, CIS partners with local businesses/organizations to provide internships for young people.  The interns work for up to 20 hours per week for 6-8 weeks. I am convinced that the internships that make the biggest difference are the ones where the young interns make a key relationship.  They find their own “Matt” or “Donna,” a person who helps them develop good work habits and basic work skills, and beyond that, invests in them personally. In my own personal experiences and in my work with the Temporary Work Experience Program, I have learned that relationships help us grow in ways we never expected.  They can help us understand ourselves. They can help us gain crucial insights into our skills, character, and interests.   We gain opportunities to grow through the relationships we build. Relationships help us grow personally, help us overcome barriers, and help us enjoy our place in life while moving toward whatever is next.

The Temporary Work Experience program at Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas is an opportunity for young adults ages 16-24 who are interested in increasing their job readiness skills. Participants work at a part-time internship with a local business or organization for up to 20 hours per week for 6-8 weeks.  Participants are also matched with a Career Coach at Communities In Schools who will support them with through counseling about financial literacy, resume development, job search assistance, and more.  

Are you interested in hosting an intern at your business or organization?  The interns are paid through the work experience program, so the only cost to you is your investment of time and interest in the young participant.  Who are the Matt’s and Marci’s in your life? Would you be willing to be a Trista or Kayla for a young person in transition? 


Potential candidates for the internship program or local businesses/organizations who are interested in hosting an intern (for free!) are encouraged to contact Jeremiah Banks at jbanks@cis-hot.org or by phone at 254-753-2006, ext. 2024 for more information on eligibility. The Workforce Development program at CIS is made possible through a partnership with the Heart of Texas Workforce Development Board.


Jeremiah Banks is a Workforce Coordinator at Communities in Schools of the Heart of Texas where he works alongside local business/organizations to build internships for In-School & Out-of-School Youth to help students explore careers, build job skills, and foster key relationships that will help them succeed in work and achieve in life. If you are interested in learning more about how to host an intern through the CIS Temporary Work Experience Program, you can contact Jeremiah at jbanks@cis-hot.org or 254-753-6002 ext. 2024.

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.