Art Abandonment : on making and sharing art

by Jenuine Poetess

art abandonIn May, Central Texas Artist Collective co-founder, Angie Veracruz challenged Waco artists to engage in a global project called Art Abandonment. The idea for participating was born after a conversation Angie had with a new Waco transplant, artist Christy Town, who first introduced the idea to CTAC.  What a thrilling chain of creative events!

Art Abandonment was founded by artist Michael deMeng in 2012.  What began as a small project among a circle of friends has since grown into an international movement of creating and giving away art.  It’s a movement motivated by beauty, generosity, and the very best of our nature as humans.  The idea is simple: create art, leave it for someone to find.  The goal is anonymous acts of kindness through art.  While the artists are encouraged to sign their work and post art drops on a Facebook group page—with over 28,000 members—the intention is to secretly leave work and quietly intersect every day with bursts of freely gifted art.  There are some basic templates of notes that many of us use to let the finder know this is a free gift they may take and enjoy, leave for someone else, or pass along to someone in need.

splashesAfter Angie shared with the CTAC community, I set about to create some of my first pieces.  The idea of leaving secret art surprises all over Waco is right up my ally.  I found it thrilling to work with small canvases—starting at 3” and 4” square—there is something so very freeing about working with a small space.  There’s no pressure to fill up so much canvas!  I’m still quite amateur in the visual arts department, but abandoning art is not focused on the caliber of art but rather the act of giving away our creations for the joy of others!  The items pictured here are some abstract watercolors I did, about 4×4” each.  I found that as I began creating work to abandon, I wanted to make more and more!  It has become one of my new favorite things to do and I give myself at least one day a month dedicated to making art to abandon.  There is a kind of meditative practice that goes with letting go creations and not knowing the outcome of who received it, what they think of it, how they responded, or what they did with it.

There is an option for finders to email their discovery and they are periodically posted on the Facebook group.  More often than not, the corresponding stories are poignant accounts of people in a moment of pain, stress, or challenge who encounter the art and receive much needed hope, encouragement, and kindness.  It is a wonder to imagine the impact a small creation can have in the life of another person.

you found itA few weeks after Waco artists took to this project, Angie Veracruz found one such abandoned piece, by photographer and illustrator, Michelangelo Flores.  Every artist has their own style of abandoning artwork, just as they do creating it.  Flores opted to hide his work and offer clues geocache-style to its whereabouts.  Looks like it was a successful route to take!   Veracruz opted not to leave any clues as to the location of the work she has abandoned in Waco.  I have left clues on my Facebook page and Twitter, but they are pretty broad and would lead to an adventure should anyone undertake to search the city for art!

rocksI love the community feel of this project.  Anyone can abandon any hand-made item.  There are textile and yarn arts abandoned; some artists create stone or leaf designs they leave on beaches and forest paths; other artists create for a cause to raise awareness for a specific issue.  The Peyton Heart Project raises awareness for suicide and bullying by abandoning crocheted hearts as love notes for anyone in need of a reminder that who they are in the world matter­­s.  Art in every kind of medium has been abandoned—some for the sheer aesthetic, some with a heartfelt message.  I recently abandoned some affirmation rocks painted with acrylic paint and as a result, became connected with the Love is Action Movement at Word Rocks.  I shared the Art Abandonment project with my colleague, Salley Schmid, a therapist who integrates art process into her work with clients and once a month we have a creative jam session to make pieces to abandon.

As a collective of artists, we hope that Art Abandonment will take root in Waco as more artists create and gift their work to the world.  I find a deep satisfaction in the practice and plan to continue.  If you wish to learn more or participate, check out the website.  If you need a daily dose of what is truly good and kind and noble in the world, join the Facebook group and soak up the wonder!  The group page will also give ideas of what people abandon and affirm that anyone can create something to share with others!

Get Involved:

In addition to starting your own Art Abandonment practice, there are a number of other ways you can get involved with arts in Waco this month!

  • Creative Waco has compiled an extensive list of summer art camp opportunities for kiddos of all ages.  Click here to learn more.
  • Thursday June 9th: CTAC will be holding an information meeting Thursday June 9th 5:30pm at GWAMA to discuss their upcoming Ekphrasis Word & Image Collaborative Exhibit and call for submissions!  More details about the exhibit and call can be found here.
  • Thursdays in June: This Thursday continues the Writer’s Garett FREE creative writing workshop for Veterans—using writing as a means for exploring and expressing personal narratives of hope and healing.  More information online here.
  • Thursday June 9th: 5:30-8:30pm Art Center of Waco hosts an opening reception for the MCC Visual Arts Student Exhibit.  More details here.
  • Saturday June 11th: Jenuine Poetess will be facilitating a FREE creative writing workshop: I am/I am not :: writing/righting/riting our stories at the InterWaco & Equality Texas PRIDE day at West Waco Library from 3-5pm in the large conference room. More details online here.
  • Saturday June 11th: Waco Poets Society host queer Filipino-American poet, Kai Coggin who will be visiting us from Arkansas to feature at open mic.  7pm at Rufi’s Cocina.  FREE and open to all creative expression including rap, poetry, music, spoken-word, freestyle, story-telling, hip-hop and more!
  • Thursday June 16th: Singer/Songwriter Braden Guess features at Waco Poets Society open mic at Tea2Go at 7pm.  FREE and open to all creative expression including rap, poetry, music, spoken-word, freestyle, story-telling, hip-hop and more!
  • Saturday June 18th: The Writer’s Garett in partnership with the Texas Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment of the Arts presents a FREE panel discussion on Writing as a Healing Practice with authors: Ruth Pennebaker, Leila Levinson, Jack Woodville London, and Jenuine Poetess.  1-2:30pm at the West Waco Library more details here.

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

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




Help break the cycle of poverty for at-risk, teenage mothers in our community

By Glenn Robinson

Did you know the city of Waco has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates, pre-term deliveries, infant mortality rates, and child abuse in the state of Texas? What if there was a way to change these results in a way that benefits not only the mother and child, but also our community and population health overall?

Together with the Waco Foundation, we at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest have launched a program called Nurse-Family Partnership committed to producing enduring improvements in the health and well-being of low-income, first-time parents and their children. Implemented in January 2016, the program is designed to utilize bachelor-prepared RN’s to deliver into a home environment the information, education, and resource connection for the success of the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s overall health at birth. This evidence-based model has been successfully breaking the generational poverty cycle in counties all over America for the past 38 years, including 33 counties within Texas.

This proven model allows care providers to improve birth and health outcomes for first-time mothers and their babies by educating them in ways that increase attendance to appointments, thereby decreasing the likelihood of early delivery, unforeseen complications and follow-up ER visits.

But our commitment does not stop there – the program continues through the child’s second birthday. As part of the curriculum, in-home assessments are used to identify early childhood development concerns, and promote school readiness. Additionally, our team’s goal is to involve the family unit as a first source of learning, as well as provide nurturing and mentor support to the mother so she may become a more prepared and confident parent.

Hillcrest, in conjunction with community partners, recognizes the need for programs like this to help break the cycle of poverty for at-risk, teenage mothers in our community. Nurse-Family Partnership can help break this generational cycle – empowering confident mothers to become skillful parents who are able to prepare their children for successful futures, growing into healthy, productive citizens.

Interested in learning more about this terrific program?  Contact us! Let’s work together for the good of our kids and our community!

Nurse-Family Partnership
Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center
120 Hillcrest Medical Boulevard #303
Waco, Texas 76712

Glenn RobinsonGlenn Robinson has been the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest since September 2007. He previously held several CEO positions at hospitals in Texas, Oregon and South Carolina. A Georgia native and graduate of the University of Alabama, Glenn completed graduate school at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He has more than 30 years experience in hospital and healthcare management, is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, has received several professional awards and serves on a number of national and state healthcare policy boards. He also serves as an Adjunct Lecturer for both Baylor University and Trinity University and is involved in several non-profit organizations and community councils. Glenn and his wife, Rhonda, have three children: Josh, Jacob and Sarah Kathryn, and one grandchild: Pierce.

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




Waco Founder Lions Club Shines a Spotlight on the Importance of Vision Screening

by Louise Powell, Waco Founder Lions Club Vision Screening Chair

This summer, the Waco Founder Lions Club is pleased to announce our partnership with Allergan Foundation. Prevent Blindness Texas, other Waco area Lions Clubs, and the optometry practice of Dr. Robert Salganik to improve the vision of Central Texans.  At the recent groundbreaking of  Waco’s Allergan plant expansion, the Allergan Foundation gave the Waco Founder Lions Club a grant to provide 100 no-cost eye exams to Waco area people who don’t have the money or insurance to cover eye exams.

Why 100 exams?   The Waco Founder Lions club celebrates its 100th birthday July 2016 (with a huge street party on July 15, 2015 at Lions Park), and Lions International will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2017. Allergan Foundation has chosen to honor the Centennial Anniversary of both the Waco Founder Lions Club and Lions International because, like Allergan, the Lions are dedicated to vision preservation. Since 1925, the Lions’ primary focus has been on vision-related projects. That year—1925–Helen Keller challenged Lions International to become “Knights for the Blind.” Through the years, Lions have recycled donated eye glasses, distributing the refurbished glasses to people all over the world. We have trained service dogs and provided Braille materials for the blind, operated eye banks for corneal transplants, combatted river blindness in Africa and Latin America, and conducted vision screenings in local communities.

Why are no-cost professional eye exams important? Many adults cannot afford eye exams for themselves or their children. Health insurance doesn’t always cover eye exams. Lots of folks don’t have separate vision insurance. And Medicare will not cover routine eye exams for glasses. Lions have discovered these facts as we travel about the community providing vision screenings. When our screenings with our fantastic new Spot Vision Screener reveal a vision problem, we advise clients to make an appointment with an eye care professional, but often they will tell us they can’t afford the exam. Now we can tell our friends that the Lions Club can help them—through the generosity of our partners.

Why is partnership important in preserving the sight of Wacoans? With the help of our partners, we have more people and more money dedicated to vision preservation in Central Texas.  For years, optometrist Dr. Robert Salganik of Optical Dispensary has provided discounted eye exams for referrals from Waco Founder Lions Club, but our Waco Founders Lions Club budget was limited to about 50 eye exams a year. With Allergan’s grant, this year we can provide 100 more Wacoans no-cost exams.  Another partner, the non-profit organization Prevent Blindness Texas, will continue to cooperate with Lions clubs in vision screenings and provide additional vouchers for no-cost eye exams and glasses for adults who qualify. In addtion, local area Lions Clubs cooperate in providing vision screenings to the community and referring people for eye exams.

What does a Vision Screening by Lions Club look like​? You have to see it to believe it!  The Waco Founder Lions Club has purchased a high tech vision screening camera that within seconds “takes a picture” which can identify the following serious eye conditions in a child or adult: nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and pupil and gaze abnormalities. Results are printed automatically and given to the client; if a problem is detected, a printout (in red) advises “Complete Eye Exam Recommended.” In over 1600 screenings this past year, approximately 20% of the children and adults received a recommendation for an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Why is this 20% important? Children from the age of 6 months to 5 years of age are often called the “underserved population” because parents do not realize the importance of a complete eye exam in these early years. In fact a child’s first eye exam should be at 9 months (according to the American Optometric Association and American Ophthalmological Association). Babies and young children don’t know they can’t see, so they don’t tell their parents that anything is wrong. Unfortunately, if a vision disorder such as “Lazy Eye” is not detected and corrected early, permanent vision loss can occur. Poor vision can also affect early learning and beginning reading efforts. Schools conduct annual screenings; however, many children unnecessarily suffer from poor vision for several years before they begin school. Vision disorders stand a chance of correction without surgery if detected at an early age.

If you are interested in scheduling a vision screening– which can be arranged for day cares, health fairs, churches, schools, recreation centers, or community festivals/events—call the Lions Club.  Vision screening for the citizens of the Waco area is a service project of the Waco Founder Lions Club and other area Lions Clubs.

Contact Numbers:    Louise Powell (409) 392-4671 or Waco Founder Lions Club Office (254) 776-5341 –office open Mon-Thurs.   9:00-1:00   –leave a message or e-mail

You can find more information about Spot Vision Screening at this website: Spot Vision Videos.

Louise PowellLouise Powell is currently an adjunct English instructor at Baylor and MCC. Previously she was an English teacher and administrator in Waco I.S.D. She is married, the mother of three grown children and grandmother to six (and one on the way). Louise is a past president of Waco Founder Lions Club and currently serves as Vision Screening Chair.  Waco Founder Lions Club is the oldest continuously operating Lions Club in the world. We will be 100 years old this July 2016. To learn more about the Waco Founder Lions Club, be our guest any Wednesday at lunch, 12:00 at the Lions Den, 1716 N. 42nd St.

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



Entrepreneurs of Waco: WTX Media

(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:   To see all the posts in this series, click here: Entrepreneurs of Waco.  – ABT)

by Hailey Nelson

photographybyaj-portraits“Photography is an art form, and everyone has their own unique touch,” says Aaron Jetelina, or AJ, the proprietor of WTX Media. This is the main reason AJ works alone. Photographers have their own fingerprints on the photos, especially when it comes to editing, and the difference can usually be seen in the final product.

For AJ, it all started in high school when his photography teacher left suddenly, and AJ began taking over all of his teacher’s photographing responsibilities. He started out photographing football games and sports events, but that slowly morphed into taking over the rest of the school’s events. Today, AJ’s photography hobby has grown into a well-known business. Beyond finding something you’re good at, he says, “You have to find your niche, because it’s so important to be unique in this business and have focus. There are many new photographers out there, but if you find something interesting, like pet photography or newborn photography, you’re sure to receive more business.”

AJ found his “niche” while taking pictures for a few local dance studios. He realized the typical process that has been used for decades in school and sports photography, does not work with dance photography. When photographing a dance studio one must account for the multiple outfits dancers have, and you need to be able to accommodate a variety of poses. Parents want to see their child’s portraits before making purchasing decisions.  AJ developed a new system in order to meet his customer’s needs. Instead of parents pre-paying for pictures without seeing their images, Aaron uses multiple computers as viewing stations. After the dancer finishes his or her photography session, the  images are viewable on the computers to help in making purchasing decisions. Along with his professionalism and experience, this innovative way of making sales has enabled AJ to grow his client base to over 20 dance studio across Texas.  Last year he photographed over 1000 dancers – which equates to 3000 outfits and 20,000 poses/images – all in the span of 10 weeks.

AJ is now using his knowledge of dance photography to develop a training program to help other photographers across the country learn how to be successful in this very specific photography niche. “I figure I can’t work in more than one state at a time,” he says.  With the training program, other photographers can learn to use AJ’s process to expand their businesses.

magnolia-market-waco-wtxmediaAJ’s interest in developing efficient business processes goes back to college where he earned a business degree. Since AJ started his photography business in junior high, he already had quite a bit of knowledge about photography by the time he entered college.  He decided that earning a degree in business would be beneficial in continuing his career.  AJ’s business degree and his expertise in photography programs have both been integral to his success. For instance, he uses editing programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom to fix minor cosmetic issues such as teeth whitening, and to do major editing such as full background changes, postermaking and more. He spent over seven years mastering these two editing systems, and has been able to use this to his advantage when it comes down to setting himself apart. “Everyone wants the perfect Pinterest shot. They see photos of perfect sunset weddings and immediately assume that’s how it’ll work. When in reality, it takes a massive amount of editing to get those.” This is only part of the reason that photographers can be expensive. It takes two hours to edit every one hour of shooting. So a full eight-hour wedding, can take sixteen hours or more to complete all the basic edits.

Another reason for the cost is that photography is an art. It’s like selling a painting or a movie. It’s something that can never be recreated the same way, and the artist takes pride in his or her work. This is especially evident when the photographer gives away the printing rights to customers. Typically photographers will have a second meeting with their clients where they select the photos they’d like to keep, and they are only allowed to print through the photographer. For his clients, AJ creates a flat rate depending on what they want done; then he provides all of the edited pictures on a flash drive for the customers to use as they please. It’s another innovation, and it has drawn many customers. “The world is relying so much more on technology than it used to, and no one wants the photos printed anymore, they want to put them on Facebook or Instagram,” he says.

AJ’s photographs also appear on Google; he is the only Google photographer between Dallas and Austin. No, he isn’t the guy who rides around in the car. He takes panoramic business images that appear on Google. These help businesses advertise, and they help customers get sense of what a place looks like when they search online. AJ’s experience and his vast array of equipment, including a camera with panoramic capabilities and a swivel tripod that allows the camera to move in a complete circle, helped him land the Google job. AJ owns several cameras and a multitude of different lenses that enable him to capture images from a great distance or up-close and in detail. In other words, he’s prepared because he knows no two photo-shoots are ever the same.

One thing that is the same is Waco, or at least AJ in Waco. He graduated high school here and returned here after college to continue his business. “I grew up here, and the best part is I get to do what I love and capture moments in people’s lives that they can cherish for years to come.”

Aaron JetelinaThe entrepreneur…Aaron Jetelina started out his career in photography back in 2000 photographing portraits and events. Over the years he has developed the skills and knowledge in working with companies to meet their specific branding and marketing needs. He graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2007 with a bachelors in business administration and management.

Hailey NelsonThe writer…Hailey Nelson is a secondary education major with a concentration in English. She has moved around to five different states, but Texas is her favorite.  She is a semi-pro photographer and loves animals more than anything. Baylor is her second home.  She is a member of both Kappa Delta Pi honors society and Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

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

My Story of Homelessness, Hope, and a Mustard Seed

by Destiny Fernandez

In 2009, I was a quiet, goofy, friendly sophomore at University High School. I was a soccer player, a JROTC cadet, a member of the color guard, a cheerleader, and an absolutely terrible softball player. I enjoyed my friendships, took care of business in academics, and intentionally surrounded myself with community. All the while, no one knew of my homelessness. I wasn’t trying to hide it from others so much as I was trying to hide it from myself. It was painful, frustrating, and discouraging if I thought about it for too long.

On the outside, I seemed to be doing great. On the inside, I wrestled with frustration as I coped with what was happening at home. One Saturday morning, officers entered my home and flipped everything upside down…my belongings, my life. We lost everything. My stepfather went to prison on drug-related charges, and from that point on, life for us was never stable. We moved often, with family members and friends. At times, my mother, brothers, and I were separated.

Although what happened was painful – and is difficult to remember, and difficult to share — I hope that it is a reminder to be patient and loving with people. It’s true that you never know the battles they are facing.   Despite changing, unstable situations, I still went to school with a smile on my face (a little blue fish told me to “just keep swimming”). Most days, that smile was genuine; other days, that smile was there because it was better than answering anyone who would ask, “What’s wrong?” You might wonder how I managed to hold it together when life was falling apart. When I look back, I can’t believe it myself.

What I can say is that I was surrounded with people that cared for, loved, and encouraged me. Although in some ways I was broken, they didn’t treat me like I was. Through every encouraging word, breaking of bread together, and moment of laughter, they unknowingly helped me pick up the shattered pieces of my life. “Homeless” is a painful, stigmatizing, and shameful word to use to define yourself. However, I am willing to own it only to encourage. To encourage students like me to see that life can get better. To encourage others to see the impact that is made when a student is surrounded with support, love, and encouragement on their journey. Each of our students has individual gifts, talents, and goals that need to be nurtured and believed in. They should have no doubt that they are important. They are valued. They are loved. I am where I am today because others believed in me; they said I could, so I did.

Today I have two college degrees sitting on my bookshelf: a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree from Baylor University. I haven’t taken them out of the tubes because they’re difficult to look at. When I look at them, I’m reminded that my story is sometimes considered an exception. It shouldn’t be. I don’t want it to be. In the state of Texas, and across the nation, the homeless youth graduation rate is 25%. In Waco ISD last year, 100% of homeless seniors graduated. That should attest to the incredible resiliency, strength, and ability of our students.

Every student, including those experiencing homelessness, has unique gifts, talents, interests, passions, goals, and dreams. They should feel cared for, valued, and empowered enough by those around them to relentlessly pursue those dreams. Someone in my life was crazy enough to tell me that I was called, equipped, chosen, set apart, loved, and that all I needed was a mustard seed of faith to move mountains. I am so thankful for each person in my path that prepared the soil, helped me to plant, water, fertilize, give sunlight to, and nurture that mustard seed.

So many people have heard my story and in retrospect have said, “I wish I knew then; I had no idea…I could’ve helped; I could have done something.” To which my response has been, “well, you can now.” You can do something to support and love on our youth experiencing homelessness in Waco by supporting The Cove. The Cove is a teen nurturing center designed to provide a safe space for student experiencing homeless to access the resources they need to thrive.  It is an amazing place that will provide the care, opportunity, value, and empowerment that students like me need to walk in all that they were created to be. I urge you to support the Cove in any way that you can.

In order to open our doors to these deserving students this fall, we need to raise funds. The Cove has set a goal of $300,000 by December 2016. It is imperative for the well-being of our students and of our community. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU. To the countless people who helped change the trajectory of my life: THANK YOU. My life has not been the only one you’ve changed.

The Cove is a teen nurturing center designed to provide a safe space for student experiencing homeless to access the resources they need to thrive. The Cove’s mission is to empower and equip youth experiencing homelessness. The Cove is truly a community effort to care for some of the most vulnerable youth in Waco. There are lots of ways you can join us. Check out our Philanthropy and Volunteer pages for more information. To learn more, to get involved or to donate, please visit the website:

Destiny FernandezDestiny Fernandez is a Waco native.  She graduated from Texas A&M in 2014 and recently received her Master of Social Work degree from Baylor.  She is passionate about education reform and hopes to make a difference in Texas education.  To connect with Destiny, email:  To learn more about and/or donate to the Cove, visit:

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

The Jesse Washington Memorial Service & My White Fragility

by Joel H. Scott

JW lynchingThe Jesse Washington memorial service was a confluence of feelings for me.  It was  sobering, enlightening, liberating, divine… and it made me feel fragile.  While I found myself wooed by the rhythmic interplay of words of lament and declarations of faith, (a faith that overcomes the longstanding shadows of hatred and egregious forms of violence), internally, I was struck by my feelings of fragility about my place at this service. I know I represent, both symbolically and historically, a form of unchecked dominance and power to underrepresented populations in this country.  I’ve known this for a long time, but it is still uncomfortable for me.  Rather than sit with my insecurity, I still prefer to focus on how much “progress” I’ve made in the past 15 years of work toward becoming a more “culturally competent educator.”

So during my intermittent discomfort throughout the service, I found myself thinking things like: “Yes, but this [lynching] happened 100 years ago. So much progress has been made this century…” and other similar self-soothing thoughts in response to my internal dissonance.  This kind of thinking is what emerging scholars such as Robin DiAngelo describe as a form of “white fragility.”  White fragility prevents empathic listening from occurring in critical discourse regarding equity and inclusion. Well-intentioned discussions addressing the delicate issues of racism, power and privilege are too often met by defensiveness, guilt, or the need to qualify, benchmark, or point to progress—all of which smell suspiciously like shame-avoidance.

This isn’t just occurring individually (as in my case at the memorial service), but institutionally. For example, during the service representatives of Waco were offered times to apologize to the family and community. The corporate declarations of “I’m sorry” turned quickly to descriptions of the new “progressive” Waco.  In my opinion, these statements subtly overlooked the gravity of this occasion. And, while Waco may not hold egregious rallies today such as the one in 1916, our community, and our country, continues to trip itself up with “fear-of-the other” behaviors and attitudes that “disembody” people of color.   Ta-Nehisi Coates describes this phenomenon poignantly in his recent book, Between the World and Me. Look no further than existing policies and practices that continue to disproportionately impact minority groups: the historic bias of standardized testing, the mass incarceration of African-American men, for-profit detention centers, predatory loan businesses, and the persistent misogyny and institutional racism plaguing many of our “prestigious” universities and organizations. All these things are part of an unfortunate mindset rooted in fear and fragility.

white-fragility-racismLook, as a white male of current and historic privilege, I get it. No judgment here if you feel fragile when facing these truths. It’s uncomfortable to sit with these feelings without offering words of hope for humanity or citing current breakthroughs, especially when the event in question happened 100 years ago. But herein lies the tension: In order for personal transformation to stir, Critical Race and White Identity Development theories point to the need for living fully into this tension — without the crutch of self-serving cliché’s and well-intended suggestions. Living into this cognitive, moral, and spiritual tension is work!

  • It means empathically listening to friends directly impacted by bias and prejudice.
  • It means admitting to ourselves and others that we have biases (a natural human behavior , but one that becomes violent if it goes unchecked).
  • It means working toward a deeper understanding of the ways we support prejudice and bias of all kinds through ignorance or silence.
  • It means facilitating conversations with our children regarding their friendships and who they may intentionally or unintentionally exclude at school or church.
  • It means studying culture, language, and/or music that we may not be naturally drawn to or interested in.
  • If you are a Christian, it means wrestling with social gospel realities and inclusion at church.
  • It means gently yet firmly redirecting or confronting conversations that are rooted in sweeping generalizations and fear-based perspectives.

People much smarter than I am who study racial reconciliation agree: to develop cultural competencies that can lead a city, a church, or an organization to greater equity, inclusion, and redemption is to live deeply into this tension.  As such, I’m grateful for the privilege of attending the memorial service, grateful to be starkly reminded again of my own fragility. Writing this piece for ALW is one of a number of cathartic experiences I have had of late (including responding to my 10 year-old son’s questions about privilege, fear and violence in response to the Waco Horror and service) that are humbling reminders that I still have much to learn and do on the journey toward redemption.

*For a richly uncomfortable account of the Jesse Washington tragedy, I encourage all Wacoans to read The Waco Horror by Jesse Washington at

8/29/12 -- Boston, Massachusetts Joel Scott - Higher Education Photo by Cydney Scott for Boston UniversityJoel Scott most recently served on faculty at Boston University. His scholarship is anchored in moral development with an eye toward higher education reform. After four years of commuting and 300,000 flyer miles, his family has decided to remain full-time in Waco. Joel is currently re-rooting, looking forward to backyard barbeques, driveway basketball, and living a more integrative life.

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