There is a conversation to be had here. One that requires honesty and vulnerability.

By Robert Callahan

I don’t talk seriously about race much because our culture is burned out on it. Somehow we’ve departed from “I have a dream” to “I don’t wanna’ hear it”. So I’m judicious in my discussions of race. I use it sparingly so that when I do, it will count. Now I feel compelled to.

I grew up in a time & place where it was not socially acceptable to be black. If you wanted to see a movie with a black actor, you drove 45 minutes away to the St. Vincent Mall b/c that was the “Black” mall. Pierre Bossier Mall was the “White” mall & only played “white” movies.

Teachers spoke down to me. Students used the N word in front of other students & teachers with impunity. One sweltering Louisiana summer day, I waited outside a friend’s house, drinking from a hose while all my other friends took turns using the bathroom and getting water inside because my friend’s daddy didn’t want N*****s sitting on his toilet. When I was about eight, I recall running out of a restaurant screaming I didn’t want to be Black because my little heart couldn’t take it anymore. It was hell.

Regardless, I was a military brat, so as we moved I learned to adapt. Evolve. Adjust. Blend in. By the time I went to college in the North, I thought racism wouldn’t follow me.

I discovered I was wrong every time I drove through Idaho. One night, Rick Steadman, and others were with me as we left a carnival and I was “asked” to step out of a car by four officers at gun point because I fit the vague description of an escaped convict: black. No lie. I thought I was going to die that night. We all drove home silent. In tears.

Now I am married to a beautiful, white woman. We have beautiful children. When we married, I had to turn my back on my family that didn’t support our interracial marriage because I clung to the hem of my belief in God’s sovereignty more than the opinions of man.

We teach our children the values of truth, righteousness, and justice in a fallen world. One day we will teach them not to frequent certain places at certain times of night. Likewise, we’ll teach them how to interact with law enforcement officers during a traffic stop. That’s our reality.

Even still, what happened in our nation this week was a travesty. We began with a glimmer of hope that we could begin talking about race intelligently. That hope was lost when anger and ignorance took down our protectors.

Anger. Fear. Division. We scoffed in the ’90’s when black artists & leaders warned that the portrayal of African-Americans as “thugs” or “silly” in entertainment media was dangerous. Yet, the Bible tells us that faith comes by hearing. The seeds of division have been planted and matured to fruition. Now we are reaping a harvest grown from the casual glorification of thug culture and the honest fear of onlookers who think that’s really who we are.

Now, it seems that we’re all separated across a racial chasm as deep as our nation’s sordid history on race relations. Reading the Facebook posts of so many, It would seem as though I have to pick a side: “Are you for Police Officers or Black People?” It’s that simple. Just like that, racism is En Vogue again.

The pendulum has swung back to the place where those ignorant brats I grew up with have become community leaders, and have an excuse to openly use the N word with impunity again. I’m afraid of where we are as a nation.

There is a conversation to be had here. One that requires honesty and vulnerability. It means shutting up and TRYING to hear what the other person is trying to say. People are hurting. LISTEN!

We don’t have to be exclusively, blindly, pro-law enforcement or pro-minority to regain our conscience, our moral compass, or our identity as a nation. I refuse to participate in this debate between whose life does and doesn’t matter which is fueled by our outrage, ignorance, biases, and prejudices.

Treat people the way you want to be treated. If you call yourself a Christian, read your Bible. See what God has to say about the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed. Ask how what’s actually coming out of the politician’s mouth squares with what the Bible says about those topics. Don’t rush to judgment until you have all the facts. These are the basics. No one should have to remind us of these fundamental lessons in humanity. Even still, lest we forget:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”


Robert CallahanRobert Callahan is a name partner in the firm of Callahan & King, based in Waco, Texas. He is a graduate of Baylor Law School, who previously served in the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office under John Segrest. As a prosecutor, Robert was an advocate for women and children. In 2016, he was inducted into the National Black Lawyers Top 100 membership. Robert and his wife, Mollie, have been married more than ten years and have three children. They are actively involved in Antioch Community Church where Robert provides voluntary legal support and training for Unbound, a ministry that supports victims of Human Trafficking.

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

 

Ekphrasis – a symphony of words and images!

By Jenuine Poetess

In 2015 Central Texas Artist Collective (CTAC) brought the community together with an exhibit centered around Birds imagery and themes.  Over 45 artists across diverse mediums entered, some for the first time ever.  This year, CTAC is once again bringing a fresh, dynamic, and collaborative art exhibit to Waco.  Ekphrasis! is a creative adventure pairing visual artists and writers together—selected at random to collaborate—creating art and poetry to be displayed in shop windows along Austin Avenue in Downtown Waco.

ekphrasisNot only are over 50 artists and writers involved in this thrilling project, but over 15 businesses will host artwork and their accompanying poems for the first two weeks of August.  On First Friday, community will have a chance to tour the exhibit and place their votes for Best in Show; Most Inspiring; and Waco/Downtown Spirit awards.  On Saturday August 6th, there will be a reading of all the Ekphrasis poems, live music, a tour of the exhibit, and an awards ceremony.

As far as we know, this kind of endeavor has never been attempted in the history of Waco—bringing so many facets of our city together for the purpose of art, expression, and building community!

I recently had an opportunity to have a virtual dialogue with three of the participants, poet Nicole Metts of Central Texas; fiber artist, Dana Helms of Oklahoma; and poet/spoken-word artist, Audrey Hamlin of Central Texas.  They shared with me a bit about how they came to be involved with this exhibit and their experience being paired with another creator and working as a team to submit their work.

Jenuine Poetess: What inspired you to join this creative adventure?

Nicole Metts: I was inspired by your art/writing combination because I love them both. I have used this technique to give my work much more depth at school.

Dana Helms: I have my great grandmother, Gongie (gone-ghee), to thank for my love of the tactile art in my life. She introduced me to so many artistic abilities when I was young; crochet, painting porcelain, gold leaf, and much much more. She would get frustrated I’m sure but would never let that stop her from teaching me.

Audrey Hamlin: I wanted to expand my horizons as a poet, and Ekphrasis seemed like the perfect way to do it. I find that when I write alone, my writing is inevitably limited to my personal experiences, surroundings, and perceptions.

JP: What are some initial thoughts you had about the process–of a collaborative exhibit, of being randomly partnered with another artist/writer, of creating new work with a new person?

NM: I was the lucky one! My poem came first and Dana Helms (my artist partner) has been showing me her work on a beautiful tapestry as it is coming together. I feel truly blessed to have such an amazing artist turn my poem into a visual piece.

DH: I was a performer at an event in Waco a while back and met some of the nicest artists. They were inviting and interesting. At the time, my husband and I were thinking of moving to Waco. They extended an invitation to me and the whole concept of Ekphrasis was too interesting to pass up.

AH: Honestly, I was initially intimidated by the process of the exhibit. I struggle to consider myself someone worthy of collaborating with, so it was a strange concept to sign up to work with an actual artist when I didn’t consider myself one. However, I decided it would be an act of self-love and courage to do so.

JP: Will you share a bit about your process so far – meeting/connecting with your partner, coming up with an idea, how you conceptualized your respective pieces, etc…?

NM: Besides Dana talking with me about her progress on the tapestry, we have also been coming up with a flyer to define Ekphrasis together. It has been a truly joyful and inspiring experience.

fiber art

Figure 1Detail of Dana Helms Ekphrasis fiber art

DH: My process so far has been totally amazing! I agreed to be part of the show and was paired with Nicole Metts. Next I received her poem and was immediately inundated with ideas in both the Fiber and animation world. Nicole shared some of her likes (i.e. Colors, and steampunk) and I went from there with emailing a sketch then an in progress image. She has been very encouraging and supportive. I am hoping to collaborate more with her on an animation film short to submit to film festivals and multi-media shows in museums.

AH: Christy Town and I met at Tea2Go (as all Waco artists do) a couple weeks ago. We started by discussing our respective work. Christy told me that she was an abstract artist, which excited me because I have always been moved more by abstract art. After seeing some examples of her art and talking about my poetry, we started talking about reoccurring images in my poetry (phoenixes, stained glass windows). From there, we decided that we would continue with the themes of some of my past poetry about interpersonal violence and play with the images of phoenixes and stained glass as images of renewal. Since then, we have been playing with various ideas in both art and poetry. I have developed a near-final draft of the poem that steals some lines and concepts from old poetry, while also exploring some new ideas from Christy’s inspiration. I am currently in the process of playing with some formatting. As I am accustomed to sharing my poetry typically through spoken word, I am excited to find a way to present this piece visually rather than orally.

JP: How has this project challenged you—pushed you beyond the bounds of your routine creative process?

NM: The flyer has been a challenge. It was difficult to come up with a truly unique perspective; but I love a challenge and am thankful for the experience.

DH: I am usually a face to face kind of person. I like to get a sense of who the writer is and where they come from. So this has completely thrown me outside of my comfort zone. Which is a very good thing for anyone to do frequently! I feel very mentally expanded right now. It’s very riveting!!!

AH: This project has challenged me by allowing me for the first time to acknowledge myself in a significant way as a writer and poet. It has also challenged me in the way that collaboration always does: it is an adventure to see something as dear to me as my writing through the eyes of another artist who I respect.

JP: How has/is this project shaped/shaping you as an artist/writer?

NM: This project has helped me grow and build skills as a writer and has also introduced me to some amazing inspiring people.

JP: What value does this kind of project /exhibit have for artists & for our city? 

NM: Waco and the arts community should be truly proud of this project. This partnership between artist and writer will bring its audience a truly unique and memorable experience. 

DH: Putting writers and visual artists together will allow for a more inclusive community. To open a dialogue between word smiths and visuals is to grow a collaborative that will do the unimaginable. I would have never thought of this piece or the animation without reading Nicole’s work

AH: I think this exhibit will open the eyes of locals and visitors to the amazing community of artists in the Waco area. Waco is, like any city, often defined by a handful of people and events that don’t capture the entirety of its diversity. I think it is so easy for all of us to see Waco and think of Baylor or Fixer Upper, both of which just scratch the very surface of what Waco is. Waco is a sum of all of its parts, and that includes the artistic expression that it inspires.

JP: What would you like Waco to know about this exhibit and /or arts & community in general? 

NM: This type of project truly brings people together with a common bond to bring culture to Waco and is an ingenuous event that should not be missed.

AH: I would like Waco to recognize the beauty that comes from a group of people coming together to bring their respective talents together to make art. In a world full of so much hate and violence, I think collaborations like this, artistic or not, are exactly what community is about. I hope that this exhibit inspires the people of Waco to collaborate with one another. Something truly magical happens when diverse groups of people get together and share their stories, their talents, and their unique perspectives. This exhibit is just one manifestation of that.

JP: Would you do something like this again?

NM: I would absolutely do something like this again and I have enjoyed every moment of it! I also hope Dana Helm and I will be doing other projects together in the future.

DH: I would definitely love to do something like this again!! I’m IN!!!  I am bringing some of my husband’s colleagues with me to the show. They can’t stop talking about it with him at work. It’s a great idea!!

AH: Absolutely!

Get Involved:

  • First Friday :: August 5, 2016 :: Stroll along Austin Avenue and cast your votes for :

o   BEST IN SHOW

o   MOST INSPIRING

o   WACO/DOWNTOWN SPIRIT


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: jenuinepoetess@gmail.com.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persistence and Community paying off at West Elementary

by Alexis Christensen

West Avenue2I have the privilege to work with three elementary schools within Waco ISD. They each have their unique strengths and challenges. Today though, I’m highlighting one campus in particular, West Avenue Elementary, located in the heart of North Waco on 15th Street.

Waco Community Development began partnering with West Avenue in 2007. We started simply by asking people questions about their dreams and visions for their neighborhood and actively listened to their responses. Out of those conversations, our Family Engagement Program began. Today, when I ask people to describe what North Waco and West Avenue were like back then, I get responses like, “tore up” and “lots of prostitution and drug dealers” and “couldn’t see the good because of the bad.” When you looked at the neighborhood by the numbers during that time, it’s easy to see why people described their neighborhood like that. In 2009, there were 22 vacant retail/business spaces, 190 vacant residential lots, a poverty rate of 43%, and only 35% of residents were homeowners (NRS, 2009 & Census Bureau, 2000).

Yet, since the 2007-2008 school year, West Avenue has been rated by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as Recognized, Academically Acceptable and Met Standard. And more recently, an assessment conducted by Waco ISD monitoring children’s Pre-Kindergarten readiness showed that West Avenue students were among the most ready to learn among their peers (CLI Engage Assessment). I believe it is worthwhile to take a deeper look at a few factors that helped lay the foundation for West Avenue’s success.

  1. In its fourteen year history, West Avenue has had 2 principals.

Andreia Foster was the first principal when the campus opened in 2002. Her “open door policy” allowed Waco Community Development and other organizations to work with students and families. Ms. Foster remained principal until 2014. Her twelve year tenure at a single campus created stability not only for families, but for the teaching staff as well.

Sheree Goodman, who taught at West Avenue for 10 years, agrees: “Low turnover [among staff] is connected to academic success, but we were more than co-workers, we became a family… a network was established. The staff was family-oriented and all stakeholders were included in every process. We always tried to do what was best for the kids; we truly believed in the students,” she said.

This legacy lives on through West Avenue’s “new” principal, Joseph Alexander, who just finished his second school year. Mr. Alexander’s motto is “No child is left behind at West Avenue.” This is demonstrated through his vigor and big dreams for his campus. He stated, “I want West Avenue to be a Blue Ribbon campus, a model for the State of Texas. Our students are the best in the state. We will do what other people say we can’t do with children from poverty. We believe that children can learn and will learn if given opportunity to be successful.”

These beliefs and core values both inspire and motivate students and teachers to be the best.

  1. Residents and community organizations are committed for the long haul.

Neighborhood DrawingNorth Waco residents are not shy about their love for their neighborhood.  An abundance of committed and trusted organizations and people live, work, worship and play in the neighborhood on a consistent basis. I would be remiss to try and name them all here; however, I’ve observed two main characteristics which distinguish these groups from others: their sustained commitment to learning from varying experiences and perspectives, and their deep held belief that trust is not a right due to them because of good intentions, but trust is a privilege to be earned. These practices are not cultivated overnight but develop with time.

  1. Homeownership is growing in North Waco.

thumbnail_Waco CDC HomeHomeownership is a major factor in creating neighborhood stability. A growing body of research points out that homeownership has the potential to positively impact educational goals.

“Affordable and sustainable forms of homeownership can also help families achieve long-term stability. Research on the connection between homeownership and children’s education has found that homeowners tend to move less frequently than renters and that this may account for part of the difference in educational outcomes between children of homeowners and children of renters” (Holupka, C. Scott and Sandra J. Newman. 2010).

Waco Community Development was created with the lofty and ever galvanizing mission to inspire and cultivate healthy neighborhoods. In 2001, we joined the ranks of housing entities like Waco Habitat for Humanity and NeighborWorks who strived to create a culture of homeownership. For us, working within a geographically defined area proved to be a successful model. Today, the homeownership rate in Census Tract 12 (North Waco area) is 42%, an increase of approximately 7 percentage points from the 2009 sample data (Census 2014). We have seen vested homeowners become PTA officers, volunteers and mentors for students at West Avenue. One such Waco Community Development homeowner not only became the PTA Treasurer, but her son was valedictorian of his 5th grade class last May.

The complexity of factors influencing neighborhood development can make it difficult to understand what particular cause created a particular effect. There are schools of thought that believe this to be a negative thing, but I see a positive in the midst of the murkiness: It allows people and organizations to be interdependent when tackling difficult issues within our communities. It doesn’t excuse us from critically evaluating our work or from pursuing excellence; it simply means we have the opportunity to reach out to partners all around us to create even greater positive impact.

West Avenue has learned to lean on and be leaned upon and I think that’s a piece of why it’s experiencing such great success.  Former teacher Ms. Goodman said it best, “The school is still a pillar. People know they can go there for anything they need and the partners have become resources for both the community and the school.”


AlexisAlexis Christensen is a Community Organizer at Waco Community Development Corporation (Waco CDC)  where she focuses on community building, leadership development and building collaborations.

 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A snapshot of white privilege: a day in the life of a “nice white lady” in Texas

by Angela Ceccato

1) While mowing a friend’s lawn, I noticed that there were some small overhanging limbs. There was a yard crew next door. I boldly approached two gentlemen of color and asked to borrow their loppers. They agreed and apologized that the loppers were dull. Would either of them have felt comfortable approaching me, if the situation were reversed?

2) I made exasperated (NOT profane) gestures at an inconsiderate driver (a man of color), while driving in a predominantly “black” part of town. Would he have done that in my neighborhood regardless of how my driving affected him?

3) I had the joy of reading to children at Oscar DuConge Park without their parents’ explicit permission. Could a group of black women show up with books at Hewitt Park and read to children without parental consent?

4) I MAY or MAY NOT have “run” an orange light on Hewitt Drive. I lost count of the number of “Driving While Black” pullovers I’ve seen on Hewitt Drive.

If you are mentally making excuses to discount race in these instances, you are privileged as well. It is OUR responsibility to address the racial disparity that exists in our community. I never had to teach my boys how to behave, when approached by police. That is a luxury many in our community do not share. With privilege comes responsibility.


Angela CecattoAngela Ceccato was moved to Waco, when she was twelve and chose to raise three beautiful brilliant children in the Greater Waco area.  She’s a social worker for Waco ISD and is passionate about all children growing into their full potential.  She and her spouse are adjusting to the empty nest and enjoy exploring Downtown Waco, hiking, reading, and occasional Netflix binges.

How Different our World Might Be…

by Ashley Bean Thornton

“I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the mob – somebody who maybe would help.  I looked into the face of an old woman, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.”

— Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine

In September of 1957, nine African American high school students enrolled in formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Arkansas Governor, Orval Faubus, welcomed the students, saying: “We have done some terrible things in this country – we enslaved people, we oppressed people, we killed people – based on nothing more than skin color.  We can never erase these things, and we must never forget them, but we can and do repent of them. We are humbled, today, to be on the front lines of righting a great injustice. We look forward to beginning a process of racial integration that will benefit all our citizens, Black and White! For too long our schools have been segregated.  For too long the Black students in our state have had to make do with inferior facilities and materials.  For too long our communities have missed out on the full benefit of nurturing and feeding and growing and celebrating the minds and hearts and spirits of these beautiful young people. I am here today to throw open these doors in welcome,  to usher in these nine exceptional students, and to usher in along with them a new era of freedom, justice and prosperity for the great state of Arkansas and, indeed for our whole nation.”

Oh, White America! How different our world might be if this were the story we could tell!

It is not.

Instead of giving these nine young people the heroes’ welcome they deserved, we met them with angry mobs and screaming.  Instead of welcoming them, we threatened them and spat on them. We closed down the school district for a year rather than integrate it.  When that didn’t work, we abandoned it.  We ran away.

I’m not just talking about Little Rock any more, I’m talking about cities across the South, throughout the country…We moved out of the city.  We created White suburbs and we put in place deed restrictions and loan restrictions at the bank so that the Black children could not follow us.

Now, almost sixty years later, we no longer have to scream and spit.  Now instead of saying we moved out of town to “get away from the Blacks” we can say we moved out because “we want our kids to go to a good school.” Who can blame us for that?  Never mind that our schools are “good” because rather than lean toward fairness and equality, rather than work for schools that could have benefited all children, we chose to gather up our resources (earned, certainly, but earned on a playing field that was anything but fair) and move to a place where Black children could not follow.

Now, a generation or so into our re-segregated lives, we feel perfectly justified in saying, “I’m not prejudiced or anything, but why should my hard earned tax dollars go to support a school system where my kids don’t even go?”

And so the struggling school districts keep struggling.

And so, the richer folks, who just happen to generally also be the Whiter folks, get better schools. And, the people who get better educations, as we know, get better jobs…and so on, and so on…

And what about the ones who were left behind?  The ones without the good schools…the ones who are getting worse and worse educations, and worse and worse jobs?  The ones who just happen to generally also be Blacker? It’s actually pretty easy not to see them.

And then someone…a young black man…gets killed.  And another. And another.  And another. And then five police officers are killed. And then we are wondering, what’s happening?  No place feels safe anymore.  What’s going on?

What’s going on, White America, is that we did a bad thing, many bad things. We enslaved people, we oppressed people, we killed people — based on nothing more than skin color.  We treated our fellow human beings as less than human. We believed ourselves to be better than them. And when the time came to repent, to turn around, to acknowledge our wrongs and to sincerely devote ourselves to doing right, we did not.  We still have not.

Instead of throwing the doors open wide, we called in soldiers to keep the door shut. When that didn’t work, instead of staying and building schools and communities where we could all live and thrive together, we grabbed our stuff and ran away. We figured out a way to build a society that has allowed us to continue to accrue the benefits of being White without having to admit to the unpleasantness of racism.  At every step we have done the least we could do, and fought like Hell not to do that.

And now we White people realize something that Black people have known for a long time. The situation is dangerous.  We are worried and afraid.  We made this situation, White people, and it is going to be hard to fix it.  And we will never fix it unless we take responsibility for it.  If guilt is what it takes for us to take responsibility, then we need to admit our guilt.  If self-interest is what it takes to take responsibility, then we need to realize that we will all be better off when our Black Brothers and Sisters are better off.  If religious conviction is what it takes for us to take responsibility, then we need to pray to God to give us a hunger for righteousness.  We need to take the responsibility. We need to shine a light on the disparities that still exist between the races, and we need to get to work doing our part to fix them.


Ashley Thornton 3This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she works at Baylor, helps out with Act locally Waco, and facilitates the Waco Foundational Employment Network which is a part of Prosper Waco.  She likes to walk and doesn’t mind at all if you honk and wave when you see her.

 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entrepreneurs of Waco: Co-Town Crepes

(Note: This post is part of a series called “Entrepreneurs of Waco.”  The series is collaboration between the McLennan Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the Professional Writing program at Baylor University, and Act Locally Waco.  The McLennan Small Business Development Center offers technical assistance, business mentoring, training, and resources for all stages of small business. For more information, visit their website: www.mccsbdc.com.   To see all the posts in this series, click here: Entrepreneurs of Waco.  – ABT)

by Chae Canale

For Courtney Rogers, the owner of Co-Town Crepes, venturing to Waco from Dallas was supposed to be temporary. Little did she know that it would become so much more than just a short pit stop, it would become a life changing decision.

After attending a discipleship training school at Antioch Church, Courtney enrolled at MCC and picked up a part-time job at the local restaurant, Sironia. There, she met Juanita, one of the chefs who encouraged Courtney’s passion for flavorful food. Even though Courtney was on the wait staff, she would slip into the kitchen to pick Juanita’s brain about food combinations. A year later, Juanita and Courtney ended up working together at The Epicurean, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant.

salad crepeThis experience resurrected an interest in nutrition that Courtney’s mother planted when Courtney was just a child. This history would later impact the menu choices for her business. While owning her own business was not part of her Waco plan, the aptitude for entrepreneurship stemmed from her childhood as well. Her father Cyrus Cozart said, “We taught the kids that money is earned, so the kids started selling bread at a very young age to earn their own money.” Courtney and her brother and sisters would sell bread to church members and the neighbors.  This helped them make enough money to pay for their clothes and other things they wanted. So it is no surprise that her parents’ values set the guidelines for her future. Through these values and the passion for the Waco community, Courtney wanted to use her love of food to touch those around her.

folded crepe“I have always loved crepes. Everywhere I would travel, I would get a crepe. So I got a recipe from a friend and I just started tweaking it and playing around with different ingredient combinations.” Courtney would spend hours in the kitchen experimenting. A friend mentioned that a Downtown Farmers’ Market was starting so Courtney started thinking about how she could be a part. “My husband and I actually started at the Farmers’ Market just out of a love for Waco back in 2011. We wanted to make it a fun place to live and really give people a fun food experience.” Courtney also wanted people to watch the crepes being made. “I see crepes as a very nostalgic food, tied to sweet memories.” Courtney’s mother believes her daughter’s passion for community outreach came from her youth pastors in Dallas. “They had a huge impact on Courtney’s life. They always had someone living with them, and they modeled the idea of community living—living for those around them,” explains Diane Cozart.

The Farmers’ Market also served as a learning experience for Courtney and her husband Kyle. It taught them how to run a business and how to manage different finances. During this period, the business grew by word-of-mouth. Periodically, they would evaluate the future of Co-Town Crepes. The name “Co-Town” was inspired by the kids in the youth group of Antioch, who jokingly referred to “wa-CO” as Co-Town.

Trailer - Lower qualityCourtney and Kyle loved the business, but they weren’t sure about expanding; the timing didn’t seem right. That’s until the beginning of 2015 when Courtney felt God directing her to expand her business and to utilize her passion for the community through her love of food even more. After much thought, Courtney took this leap of faith. She gave up her full time teaching job and purchased her first food truck. The food trailer, purchased off of Craig’s List, was made in China, it didn’t have standard electrical outlets, and all the writing was in Mandarin. She admits that trying to register it was an adventure. “And I had a lot of help converting it into what it is today,” she says.

Between catering and the two locations, a site at the Magnolia Silos that operates six days a week and the popular booth at the Waco Downtown Farmers’ Market on the weekends, the expansion of “Co-Town” has surpassed each goal Courtney has set forth.  Moreover, she has used her business to offer jobs to some people who just needed a second chance.  In other words, Courtney isn’t content running a business; she wants her business to change lives. While it is about crepes, it’s so much more than crepes. Through her passion and love for the city of Waco, flavorful food, and community living, Courtney pours grace into the city one crepe at a time.


courtney RogersThe entrepreneur…after graduating from Tarleton State University through the University Center at MCC, Courtney Rogers taught Family and Consumer Sciences at Axtell High School. In the summer of 2015, she began working full time, expanding Co-Town Crepes. She met her husband Kyle after moving to Waco in 2007. Kyle is a graphic designer, Co-Town’s longest standing employee and the kindest man you’ve ever met. She is passionate about investing in people and being a part of Jesus changing their lives.

Co-Town Crepes’ Locations:
Food truck park @ Magnolia Silos (Monday-Saturday)
Waco Downtown Farmers Market (Saturdays from 9am-1pm)
Contact Courtney at cotowncrepes@gmail.com or get more information and pictures of this yummyness at www.cotowncrepes.com 

Amanda CanaleThe writer…Chae Canale is a senior at Baylor University currently pursuing a degree in Child and Family Studies. At the age of 32, she decided to follow her dreams and go back to school in order to pursue her passion. Chae lives in Ft Worth and enjoys spending time with her 12-year- old daughter when she is not attending school.  Her purpose in life is to inspire those around her to reach for their dreams!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection on a vigil

By Craig Nash

Early Thursday a friend posted that the Black Poet’s Society of Waco was hosting a Black Lives Matter vigil Friday in downtown Waco, and I decided to go. In these moments I often don’t know what to do or say, but I’m pretty good at showing up. Then right before going to bed Thursday, the news from Dallas came out and I wondered, “Should I go? Is it safe?” I felt fear, because aside from Waco and Brownsboro/Chandler/Tyler, there’s not a city on the planet that I know and love more than Dallas. Of course it wouldn’t happen in Waco, I thought, but before yesterday I would have said the same thing about Dallas.

As I reflected on my anxiety yesterday, it helped me understand my White Privilege more than anything else has. It’s also made me appreciate cops more. Because that fear and anxiety I felt was just a small slice of what cops feel every day when they put on the uniform, and it is a fraction of what black men and women feel every time they walk down the street, and every time they are pulled over for things that I get away with all the time because of the color of my skin.

It’s an interesting thing that cops and black people have this in common– They are targets because of the uniforms they put on, and because of the skin they can’t take off.

I went to the vigil last night, and it was peaceful. And meaningful. And I heard from the speakers, mostly African American, anger, sadness and lament, not just for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, but for the law enforcement officers who lost their lives, and for the white and Hispanic men who were shot by cops in the past couple of days that the media has chosen not to cover.

And mostly, I heard this– Our black brothers and sisters are exhausted. This was my first vigil or rally to remember senseless killings. For many of them it is an occurrence that happens multiple times a year. And all they want is for their sons to live, something that should be taken for granted. And my prayer is that it will be so.


craig nashCraig Nash has lived in Waco since 2000. Since then he has worked at Baylor, been a seminary student, managed a hotel restaurant, been the “Barnes and Noble guy,” pastored a church and once again works for Baylor through the Texas Hunger Initiative. He lives with his dog Jane, religiously re-watches the same 4 series on Netflix over and over again, and considers himself an amateur country music historian.

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.