Equity in action

By Rachel E. Pate

“In a racially equitable society, the distribution of society’s benefits and burdens would not be skewed by race.”The Aspen Institute

Brief Rewind

Around this time last year, the City of Waco, our mayor and city council held a retreat addressing racial inequity within our community. J.B. Smith, Waco Tribune-Herald reporter, covered the story in “Waco council takes aim at racial disparities, gentrification” (May 23, 2019).  Some of the staggering statistics gathered and presented by the city were highlighted in J.B.’s article, revealing that:

  • Whites account for 43% of Waco’s population but hold 80% of the jobs paying more than $40,000 as of 2015.
  • Among white households, 13.5% make less than $25,000 a year, compared with 25.3% among Hispanics and 51.1% among blacks.
  • Nearly 29% of white households make more than $100,000 a year, compared with 3.3% for blacks and 8.7% for Hispanics.
  • African Americans in 2017 had a 31% mortgage denial rate, compared with 20.9% for Hispanics and 11.7% for whites.

In the news article Councilman Dillion Meek stated: “I’ve always put a high value on grit and self-determination, but if the goal is to improve the economy, we have to look at systems from 100 or 150 years ago to now,” Meek said. “The outcomes from the data speak for themselves and are a direct result of the history of this community.”

Assistant City Manager Deidra Emerson was also quoted saying: “The end goal is to ensure that everyone in Waco thrives, including people of color. … The starting point for the next generation is the ending point of the last generation. If we don’t start to change those outcomes now, we’ll keep repeating the same things.“

Pandemic Proportions

Positioned against the backdrop of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, we all witnessed our nation’s institutions, systems, businesses and, most importantly, people brace for a great unknown together. As the virus spread, we were forced to mourn more and differently than before, all while swallowing disproportionate effects happening in communities of color. The Pandemic drastically changed so much of what we thought we once knew and added to the boiling pot of health disparities, income disparities, racial disparities and inequity in the fabric of America.  

As the wave of concern swept through our nation, our local leaders were called to immediate attention and action; elected officials, health officials, business experts and volunteer task forces were all on one accord. 

The Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce (CTAACC), along with others, was right in the thick of early and ongoing discussions about community health and our local economy. Our staff immediately pivoted from pre-set work to intentionally and strategically supporting the needs of our community’s small and minority-owned businesses. 

We partnered with the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to support immediate small business initiatives like our StarBridge Bingo and Buy Local Waco online marketing campaigns. We worked together to collect grassroots data from businesses, employees and people of color. 

CTAACC was firmly seated at the table with the city and other community partners breaking down information, providing frequent updates and contributing solutions. 

Collective Voices

While weeks of the shelter-in-place orders and social distancing continued, CTAACC assembled an informal advisory group to work alongside our staff and help create solutions for business equity. Community business members and leaders included Wannika Muhammad, Rev. Marlon Jones and Cuevas Peacock, who each added diversity, passion and perspective to the dialogue. Our group later became known as the CommUnity Voices team. United in tackling the tasks before us, we put our heads together and strategically planned our moves ahead.  

Within our virtual, weekly think-tank sessions, each member shared our concerns about equity, community and business. Each contributed wisdom and insight from our collective backgrounds in business and community development, religion and higher education and lived experiences. We examined and digested everything around us and studied the historical pre-sets of inequity. 

As we saw increased unemployment rates for workers, struggling small businesses and government relief that could only do so much, the group determined that solid, perpetual initiatives were mandatory to rightfully shore up vulnerable, small, minority-owned businesses. In those conversations, our vision for equity was honed.

Forward March

The Chamber’s Center for Business Excellence (CBE) has long been an engine for small business development, offering free business tools, technology resources and meeting space. Utilizing this existing program, CTAACC established the Cen-Tex Minority Business (CTMB) Equity Fund in May 2020 to provide business relief to businesses of color through grant funding and micro-loans.  (Donate Here.)

The CTMB Equity Fund is the first local fund in our community that will assist small minority-owned businesses facing income loss or rising expenses due to circumstances caused by natural disasters, illness, global pandemics, or any situation that disrupts their economic and social well-being. 

The fund will also provide increased access to social capital and business training/education for entrepreneurs. Our kick-start campaign goal of $100,000 provides individuals, organizations and businesses with the opportunity to not only talk about equity but invest in it also.  I could say more, but for now I’ll digress and take a breath. There’s still more action to be done tomorrow.

The Center of Business Excellence (CBE) is a private sector 501(c)(3) charity affiliated with the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce. The CBE actively helps McLennan County small businesses thrive by providing operational, social, and financial resources needed to sustain business development. The CBE manages the Cen-Tex Minority Business Equity Funda program created by the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce and a Business Advisory Committee comprised of community business members and leaders.  

The purpose of the fund program is to provide short-term, immediate aid/relief to small, local minority-owned businesses facing income loss or rising expenses due to circumstances caused by natural disasters, illness, global pandemics, or any situation that disrupts their economic and social well-being. 

Any McLennan County-based, minority-owned, small business with 10 employees or less is eligible to apply for assistance. Grants/loans may be awarded up to $2,500 dependent on resources. I could go on, but for now I guess I’ll digress and take a breather. There’s action to be done tomorrow.

Editor’s Note: Investments in the CTMB Equity Fund are currently being accepted online at www.centexchamber.com. The online application portal for business funding is expected to open later this month. CTAACC can be reached at (254) 235-3204.

Rachel E. Pate is vice president of economic development at Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce (CTAACC) in Waco. Rachel is a native Wacoan and graduate of University High School. Since 2016, Rachel has served in various roles at the chamber and championed the causes of small entrepreneurs, women, and minorities. She is also a LeadershipPlenty Institute graduate, Rapoport Academy Public School Board member and Start-Up Waco Board member.

With her mother being a Sunday School teacher and evangelist, Rachel began serving the community at a very early age. She was active on her church’s usher board and youth ministry. Some of her fondest memories of growing up in Waco are being surrounded by her large, extended family for reunions and Juneteenth gatherings; her mother is one of 11 siblings who all hail from Waco. Her father, R.E. Pate Jr. (deceased), and mother met at Paul Quinn College in the early 1970s — the same campus where CTAACC resides today.

Rachel is also a proud mom of one, a lifelong member of Toliver Chapel Church, a lover of the great outdoors, an avid basketball fan, and a dedicated wearer of Converse’s Chuck Taylor shoes. Rachel’s favorite scripture is Romans 8:31- “…If God be for us, then who can stand against us?”

A message from Mayor Kyle Deaver regarding the death of George Floyd

By Mayor Kyle Deaver

The brutal killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day at the hands of Minneapolis police was tragic, despicable, and completely unacceptable to our society. Unfortunately, it is part of a long history of the lack of equity in our nation. Waco has its own sad history of racism, including the lynching of Jesse Washington on May 15, 1916.

We have begun to face this reality in our community, and we must continue to move toward a more racially equitable society. The peaceful protestors and demonstrators who spoke and marched together this past Saturday in Waco were right in their calls for action. We must continue to work toward this future together.

Across the country, peaceful protestors and demonstrators have voiced this same desire. Unfortunately, in many cities, protests have involved looting and vandalism. That’s a terrible situation for many reasons. It is obviously unfair to those whose businesses and property are affected. It puts fellow protesters and police in danger, and it warps the message of the need to end racism in our nation. This jeopardizes that very message that so desperately needs to be heard, and it causes many of the people who need to hear and engage on this important message to, instead, become fearful and angry.

I want to thank the organizers and all who participated in last Saturday’s protests and demonstrations for their thoughtful, genuine approach to the problem of racial inequity and violence by some police officers. It is certainly not all, but it’s also not just “a few bad apples.” I also want to thank the leaders in our communities of color for their wise approach to these difficult times. And I want to thank them for relationships they have built with our police force.

I respect and admire every member of Waco’s Police Department that I have had the opportunity to get to know. I believe that each of them are every bit as sickened by what transpired in Minneapolis as I am. Police brutality anywhere in our nation strains the relationship between our citizens and the police who are doing their important and often dangerous work as they try to protect all of us.

Let’s continue to work together toward healing and racial equity. That will require difficult conversations about next steps. Those conversations have to occur.

Kyle Deaver was elected mayor in 2016 and was unopposed in 2018. He previously served four years on the Waco City Council as the representative for District V. Kyle is an attorney and businessman who is active in the Waco community. Deaver is currently on the board of the Waco Foundation. He has served on the boards of the Cameron Park Zoological Society, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Vanguard College Preparatory School, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School. He served six years on the Waco Plan Commission.

Why MCC should be an option for education this fall

By Phillip Ericksen

The future looks uncertain for many amid the pandemic – especially the high school graduates of 2020. Questions remain about course formats, housing situations, and the campus life that makes all colleges educational and social hubs. 

Fortunately, community colleges are uniquely suited for these times. In a recent column for the website Community College Daily, the president of Rockland Community College, in Suffern, N.Y., said community colleges are “the best strategic choice for fall enrollment.”

“Community colleges not only offer a quality, affordable education close to home, they will actually be the best strategic option in the fall for many families — and not just those with limited resources as a result of the current economic conditions,” Dr. Michael A. Baston writes. 

Many of these reasons are applicable to McLennan Community College, right here in Waco. 

  1. A quality education is guaranteed at MCC this fall. Faculty and staff plan on safely accommodating students on campus and online while maintaining educational standards: faculty members who are experts in their fields, courses that prepare students for the workforce or to transfer to four-year colleges, and organizations where students can learn and meet with their peers. 
  2. MCC is proud of affordable tuition rates that will keep student debt to a minimum. The many benefits students enjoy at MCC include free access to the campus counseling center, fitness center, tutoring services, and much more. 
  3. Staying close to home is a benefit for those looking to be near their jobs and families. Advisors direct students to the best course options, which include online courses, 8-week courses, and more. 

Find out how MCC can be a great fit for you or someone in your family. Fill out a Request for Information form, or if you’d like to have a virtual Zoom meeting with a recruiter, email the Highlander Central office at highlandercentral@mclennan.edu.

Phillip Ericksen is marketing and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. For about four years, he was a journalist at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering higher education and local government. He enjoys following the news, reading books and drinking coffee. As a San Antonio native, he is an avid fan of Mexican food and the Spurs basketball team. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.  He can be reached at pericksen@mclennan.edu.

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.

Lessons from a pineapple: Warmth & friendship (AND tasty!)

By Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez

In this time of increased stress and uncertainty I found it fitting to highlight a fruit that not only tastes great but also symbolizes the qualities of hospitality, which include being welcoming and friendly! You may see this fruit incorporated into home décor, in fact, I had a family member that decorated an entire house with this fruit. It is tasty, sweet, and symbolizes a great reminder for all, and the fruit we are talking about is pineapple!  

On the outside a pineapple looks like a giant spiky pine cone, however, once you cut into the inside it is bright yellow, juicy, and sweet-smelling. Tips for selecting the best pineapple include: 

  • Look for fresh looking and green leaves. Brown or wilted leaves indicate an old fruit.
  • The fruit should feel heavy/dense for its size indicating it is full of juice!
  • Choose a pineapple that smells sweet on the end.
  • Avoid selecting a pineapple with soft or dark spots on the outside or an off smell.

Pineapple can be left at room temperature for 2-4 days before serving. Be mindful to make sure it does not spoil, as it will become softer and juicier the longer it stays out. 

Once cut the pineapple should be good in the refrigerator 5-7 days. If its pine cone-like features make it intimidating to cut, check out this quick video from Dinner Tonight for an easy, stress-free way to cut up a pineapple. 

Per USDA dietary guidelines, it is recommended we consume 1 to 2 cups of fruit daily. Fruit may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed; it all counts. In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group. 

Pineapple is a great source of Vitamin C which keeps our immune system strong and helps our bodies heal quickly. Fortunately, pineapple is tasty in many of the forms listed above. Precut fruit can be convenient and a great snack option but often have a higher price tag.

Pineapple is a delicious, nutritional snack you can enjoy anytime of day. Enjoy it plain, added to salsa, grilled, baked, added to stir fry, and rice. Check out these recipes below!


Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face, AgriLife content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB

Also, I want to take a moment to remind you of our Better Living for Texan’s Vision and Mission. BLT’s Vision is “creating opportunities, changing lives,” and our mission is “to provide research and evidence-based nutrition, health and wellness knowledge to empower individuals, families, and communities to make positive changes for healthier lives.” 

When we come together to discuss food and to discuss wellness we strive to make our presence be one of hope, love, and resolve to truly succeed in BLT’s Vision of creating opportunities, changing lives. This is for all Texans, and it is our privilege and responsibility to contribute and to support each other, no matter our race, our religion, or our background.

Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez is an Extension Agent for the Better Living for Texans program with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine but now calls Waco home. A graduate from Baylor University, she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy Ann just saying hello.

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.

Positive COVID-19 case in long-term care facility

NEWS RELEASE from the City of Waco — May 29, 2020

The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District is working with LakeShore Village Healthcare Center to investigate a positive case of COVID-19 in their facility.

The Public Health District received positive confirmation of the case Thursday, May 28, and began planning with LakeShore Village to test all residents and staff. All residents and family members were notified of the situation. Because of the serious nature of the virus, testing all staff and residents regardless of symptoms is necessary to stop the spread of the virus within the facility.

The testing was conducted on Friday, May 29, by Health District staff and the Waco Fire Department. 228 individuals were tested that included all resident patients and staff. The Texas Department of State Health Services lab in Austin will be testing the samples.  

The Public Health District has begun the contact tracing process. Any resident with COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated within the facility and any staff member with COVID-19 symptoms must self quarantine away from the facility and must test negative before returning to work.

If you have a family member at a long-term care facility and are concerned about the facilities COVID-19 plan, ask the facility the following questions:

  • What their COVID-19 plans are? 
  • What are they doing to protect residents?
  • What will they do if someone in the facility has COVID-19?

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services regulates long-term care facilities.  Call 800-458-9858 to reported suspected abuse or neglect that occurs in a nursing home, assisted living facility or day activity and health services.

Safety tips from Dr. Neumann

A Message from Dr. Iliana Neumann with Family Health Center

May 29, 2020

From Waco Strategic Communications Workgroup (led my Counsel Member Hector Sabido and Natalie Kelinske of Waco Foundation):

Central Texas has done a great job as a community to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, the virus is still a threat, so we’ve listed some preventive measures below to help manage the risks of contracting COVID-19.


  • Virtual and drive by celebrations are still the best.
  • If you are celebrating in-person, the recommendation is to maintain a group size less than 10.
  • Outside is preferable.
  • Use disposable single use utensils.
  • Stay 6 feet apart and use face coverings.
  • Consider having a face covering contest in your small group to see who has the most creative mask.
  • Air hugs and elbow bumps are preferable to hand shakes and other contact.
  • Have hand sanitizer available.
  • Soap and water is also great.
  • Wipe down frequently touched surfaces such as door knobs and table tops.


  • Non-contact is preferable (baseball over basketball).
  • Pools are okay, but limit the number of people in the pool and maintain physical distance.


  • There are no current restrictions, but it’s important to weigh risks.
  • Travel in your personal car may be safer than plane or bus in terms of contact with others.
  • Pack healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, protein bars and water, so you don’t have to stop at convenient stores frequently.
  • Travel with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
  • Consider travel to areas that are less crowded.
  • If traveling to a relative’s house, consider camping in the backyard if possible to avoid overcrowding.
  • If you need to stop at restaurants, call ahead to avoid peak hours.
  • Whatever activities you engage in, consider the people in your circle. If someone in your household is older or has underlying health conditions, remember that whatever you are exposed to you bring back home. You may want to consider self-quarantine for two weeks to protect your loved ones if you feel you were at higher risk of exposure.

We are all in this together! Stay safe.

Local hospital updates

From Waco Strategic Communications Workgroup (led my Counsel Member Hector Sabido and Natalie Kelinske of Waco Foundation):

May 29, 2020

Our local healthcare institutions are working hard to keep patients and our community safe.  We’ve outlined a summary of the preventive measures they are taking to protect all of us.  


One visitor per day for patients receiving care for conditions other than COVID-19. All visitors must be over the age of 16, use designated entrances, wear a mask and be screened upon arrival.  Only one visitor per 24-hour period. For more information, visit bswhealth.com.

COVID-19 testing of patients deemed appropriate through individual case review prior to in-hospital surgeries; patient swabs collected via convenient drive-thru locations.

Virtual waiting rooms allowing clinic patients and loved ones of hospital or surgery center patients to receive updates about their care via calls and text messaging minimizing time in common areas.

Virtual care options provided to patients before and after surgeries and procedures and when appropriate simplifying the experience.

Masking of patients, approved visitors and staff in hospitals, surgery centers and clinics.

Enhanced cleaning and touch-free protocols in hospitals, surgery centers and clinics, including UV-light disinfection and paperless registration.

COVID-19 home monitoring digital care journey enabled through the MyBSWHealth app or website to be offered to those diagnosed with COVID-19, so they can be supported by care teams while quarantined. 


Temporary visitor rules have been implemented and visitors are encouraged to contact Ascension Providence before visiting for the latest information at 254-751-4000.

All associates are screened before they come to work using screening tools designed to ensure they are healthy and symptom-free before entering facilities or providing care.

The environmental services teams perform rigorous disinfecting measures at all facilities.

At the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ascension Providence enacted visitor restrictions to protect patients and staff. Please contact your local facility for information on the specific visitor guidelines.

Staggered appointment times to reduce the number of patients with overlapping wait times.

When you arrive at a hospital, clinic or office, you will notice that waiting areas have fewer people and special instructions are posted for avoiding exposure.Patients who have signs of respiratory illness are asked to call ahead and will be directed to specialty care sites set up specifically for them. These separate sites will decrease the risk of infection at sites of care.

Crisis counseling grant received locally

Immediate Release 

May 29, 2020

With the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is certain: help and support for anybody affected directly or indirectly is here through “Texans Recovering Together.” 

It’s a program funded through a short-term relief grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that utilizes crisis counselors to meet needs of individuals or groups in non-traditional settings in the community.

Services are anonymous and designed to promote resilience, empowerment, and recovery — as well as being designed to strengthen existing community support systems. These free services are being offered statewide through various local agencies.

Here in Central Texas, the Heart of Texas Region MHMR offers these attainable, caring, and responsive support services in McLennan, Hill, Bosque, Falls, Limestone and Freestone counties. The program is in its early stages statewide and locally. 

“We’re adding staff right now,” says Vince Erickson, the local Texans Recovering Together program director. “We have goals of reaching out to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, assess their emotional needs, and provide emotional support, education and connection to familial & community support systems.” 

Erickson stressed Texans Recovering Together supports short-term interventions that involve these goals:

• Helping disaster survivors understand their current situation; 

• Reducing stress and providing emotional support; 

• Assisting Survivors in reviewing their disaster recovery options; 

• Promoting the use of development of coping strategies; and

• Connecting survivors with other people and agencies who can help them in their recovery process.

“Our staff will also be equipped with brochures, flyers tip sheets and educational materials to give to people who want to have something in their hands,” Erickson says. “We are also developing digital information anybody can access on-line.” 

He added the local outreach-oriented staff are Central Texans and are sometimes coping with their own reactions to the pandemic but are ready to provide a certain means of support during this uncertain time. 

If anybody needs immediate assistance, you can call the Crisis Hotline toll free: (866) 752-3451 

If anybody has questions about the program, you can call the following local number: (254) 297-7017 

If you have questions related to data reporting or items related to the CCP grant itself, contact Paulette Supria, Paulette.Supria@hhsc.state.tx.us; 512-368-0490