Books Matter: Mia Moody-Ramirez

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Mary Watson Vergnolle

“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others,” wrote Michelle Obama in her memoir, Becoming.

Since the number one bestseller was released, America hasn’t been able to put down Obama’s Becoming. Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, department chair at Baylor University, said she loves how honestly and truthfully the former First Lady of the United States delivers her message about empowerment and overcoming obstacles to the public.

Moody-Ramirez has been with Baylor University for 19 years. She previously worked as a graduate program director for six years before becoming Head of the Department of Journalism, New Media, and Public Relations.

Moody-Ramirez said she has always looked up to Obama as an inspiration and role model for women. 

“She was able to overcome many obstacles in her life and still was able to grow up very confidently,” Moody-Ramirez said. 

Becoming is told in three parts: Becoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. Moody-Ramirez draws inspiration from the way Obama carried herself as a woman in the public eye. 

“I think that we are all becoming in a way,” Moody-Ramirez said. “We tend to be hard on ourselves.” 

She said she believes people should always strive to do something important, but also remember that life is a journey. Moody-Ramirez says Obama’s story inspired her because as a woman involved in the political atmosphere, Obama always remained true to herself, despite criticism and intense scrutiny in the public eye. 

Moody-Ramirez has had a passion for reading for as long as she can remember. She believes literacy is important in the community because it has been shown to equalize educational pursuits for all students. Moody-Ramirez encourages all people to read more often in order to know, understand and respect other cultures and ways of life. 

“There is a whole world out there beyond television and social media,” Moody-Ramirez said. “Reading fosters an imagination and increases the desire to understand other experiences.”

Moody-Ramirez said throughout the book Obama’s grace was evident as she described her life growing up. Moody-Ramirez hopes readers will see Obama’s words as an inspiration to all, especially women, that anything is possible. 

Books Matter: Lane Murphy

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Emily Cousins

Lane Murphy researches African American history in Waco to keep the spirit and legacy of St. James Methodist Church alive. 

Murphy, a writer at Baylor Magazine, bought the a former African American church, St. James Methodist. Now known as “2nd and Clay,” Murphy said they plan to turn the basement into a restaurant and use the upstairs for community gatherings, music and events. 

 Murphy said their goal is to continue the legacy of the building and to help bring into focus African American history in Waco that has been overlooked in the past. 

African American Heritage in Waco, Texas: Life Stories of Those Who Believed They Could Overcome Impediments by Dr. Gary H. Radford, Sr. is currently Murphy’s favorite book because he is actively trying to learn more about the history of the church and the community that was once there.  

“I think it all kind of ties in to some of the things the people had to overcome to make this building to bring it into existence. Also just to learn more about the struggles of African American people in Waco has been interesting and inspiring to me,” Murphy said.

He said Radford’s goal for the book is to inspire young African American people to pursue their dreams. Murphy wants this building to indirectly educate anyone who visits the restaurant or an event. 

“It seems odd for me to be talking about African American history in Waco,” Murphy said. “I’m far from an expert. I’m certainly a novice in it. I have had the chance to meet a few people who contributed to this book who are still alive and others interested in African American history, and those people have inspired me to keep looking and keep searching in this book and other places and see how I can help contribute in any form or fashion to their goals.”

Helping our local Small businesses

By Andie Chilson

With all of the fear and anxiety surrounding the Corona Virus, some of us are wondering, “What’s going to happen to all the wonderful new small businesses that are just starting to sprout up in Waco?” In an effort to help out our favorite local shops during this slow time, we’ve compiled a list of ways for you to help out small businesses, generally, as well as some ways you can show your support for some local Waco favorites.

Tips for helping small businesses:

1. Buy gift cards: Buying gift cards at your favorite small shops that you can use later will help them out tremendously while business is slow.

2. Shop locally online: Most businesses have an online shop where you can find some of your favorite products. Consider shopping your go-to small businesses online instead of ordering from larger retailers.

3. Order in: Order takeout from your favorite local restaurants to limit your exposure to others while still supporting small restaurants that may be otherwise vacant. A number of restaurants as well as delivery services are offering discounts as incentives to order in during this time. 

4. Be extra generous with your tips: If you do decide to order in, consider tipping a little more than usual to help out your favorite local eateries.

Here are a few examples of how to show your support for local Waco shops:

Mamaka Bowls: The new smoothie bowl shop in Waco just is offering in-store pickups as well as curbside deliveries. When you order online, you can write the description of your car in the notes section. When you arrive at Mamaka, all you have to do is text (469) 248-5988 with your name and that you’ve arrived and someone will bring your food to your car, sealed and with gloves on.

Waco Cha: The bubble tea truck will continue to operate at its usual location next to White Elephant boutique Tues-Fri this week, noon-5:30pm for all to-go orders and now offers curbside pickup. Co-owner Jaja Chen said that social media sharing and reposting is another great way to help out. Waco Cha is offering gift cards for $20 or $25. Promo code is WACOCO.

Link to Waco Cha gift cards: https://squareup.com/gift/7PDST6CWDGHTC/order.

Wine Shoppe: The Wine Shoppe is offering in-town delivery and asks that Wacoans opt to shop their selection of wines instead of going to big-box stores.

Revival Eastside Eatery: Offering family style meals to take home.  Follow their Facebook page for details.

Check social media for your favorite local restaurant or shop to see what they are offering.  Now more than ever, it’s time to shop local!


Helpful resources for small businesses

-The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a toolkit to help small businesses and their employees navigate the virus: https://www.uschamber.com/coronavirus-response-toolkit

-Disaster assistance loans for small businesses from the SBA: https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/sba-newsroom/press-releases-media-advisories/sba-provide-disaster-assistance-loans-small-businesses-impacted-coronavirus-covid-19

-Citi Bank will waive small business customers’ monthly service fees: https://online.citi.com/US/JRS/pands/detail.do?ID=covid19

-The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has proposed legislation to help small businesses. The proposed legislation would 1. cancel the payment of all payroll taxes, which are typically paid by employers in March, April and May and 2. expand loan programs for small businesses that have experienced revenue loss in the wake of the virus. https://www.uschamber.com/letters-congress/letter-us-government-leaders-coronavirus-response


Andie Chilson is a senior at Baylor University studying journalism and creative writing. She is originally from Houston, but Waco has quickly come to feel like a second home to her. Andie enjoys writing and digital content creation as a way to express her creativity and help people spread their message. In her free time, you can find her reading anything by Brené Brown, doing yoga or exploring downtown Waco. Andie is so excited to be working as part of the Act Locally Waco team this semester!

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.

Books Matter: Jessica Emmett

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Bethany Kula

Jessica Emmett, community services supervisor for the Waco-McLennan County Library, has a type when it comes to books—those written by strong independent women.

Emmett said her favorite book is Bossypants written by Tina Fey. 

“In Tina’s book, she talks about growing up, how she got into comedy and writing, and then talks a little bit about how she became the boss and what exactly that means,” Emmett said.

Bossypants is an autobiography, and according to Emmett, it’s more of an entertainment biography because it is humorous. 

“I really like her style, and the tone of it is very funny,” Emmett said. “She’s super honest about where she came from. She didn’t have a troubled childhood, whereas a lot of authors do overcome things, but she did have self esteem issues and other things that were a challenge for her. It was just nice to see a story of somebody who does cool things and has a cool job.”

Emmett has worked at the library for four years and worked as a teacher and a librarian for three years before joining the Waco library. She said being a librarian has opened up the world of books for her and has led her to read many fantastic books along the way.

Emmett said she recommends this book to anyone, but women could relate to it more since it has a perspective men would not be able to see.

“I think for women, especially young women who are trying to figure out their lives, the book is a lot about the dynamics of how Tina has seen things change throughout the course of her life,” Emmett said. “It’s nice to have somebody lay a roadmap for us women to follow.”

Books Matter: Hector Sabido

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Amanda Wunder

 City Councilman Hector Sabido realizes the crucial role of books in our society and the impact even one book can have on someone’s life or career.

“I’ve always had an interest in politics,” Sabido said. “It’s always intrigued me to see how the political process has played out throughout our country.”

Sabido wonders if perhaps his interest in politics stemmed from his favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, which he first read in his ninth grade English class.

“From the very moment that I read this book, I fell in love with it,” Sabido said. 

He discussed the obvious social injustice in Harper Lee’s book but also praised the fact that good triumphs. 

“I want to live in a community, in a society, where we see that good in people…We know that even though we might make decisions or stand up for things that might not be popular today, but we do it because we know it’s the right thing to do,” Sabido said. 

According to Sabido, the universal message of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is that there should be justice and equality for all.

“Just when I think we live in a society where we think we might have racism under control, something happens that reminds me we have some growth to do,” Sabido said. “And reading this book, and reading through the end, it gives me some type of hope that eventually we’re going to get there…It’s all about what’s inside of us, what makes us human.”

Sabido emphasized the importance of inspiring a love of reading in children, calling it “the basic foundation of an education.” He suggested exposing babies to reading, even at the infant stage. 

“I think we need to bring back the culture where it’s OK to enjoy reading,” Sabido said. 

He recommended Wacoans start with reading the newspaper, encouraging library memberships and pushing literacy not only with children but also with adults. 

“Our world is full of books,” Sabido said. “It’s finding something you enjoy reading. I think that’s the key.”

Books Matter: Jim Holmes

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Matthew Soderberg

“Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior.” Those are the values Waco City Councilman Jim Holmes strives to live by — he’s even instructed his family to place the mantra on his gravestone.

The quote comes from Larry McMurtry’s novel Lonesome Dove, a Western story about a couple of ex-Texas Rangers on a cattle drive. The 62 year old said the book encompassed such a sense of adventure he just couldn’t help but relate.

“There can be adventure at any time in your life,” Holmes said. “That’s the first thing I picked up.”

The senior VP of First National Bank of Central Texas is a Nebraska farm boy at heart, and he said he began reading the sports page with his dad at the early age of six because that was all there was to do. He recalls reading comic books and baseball cards in his youth. He advises young readers to just follow their passions and let that lead them into other worlds.

“The more you read, the more you find out about things, regardless of where you read them,” Holmes said. “Read something that interests you. Start with … something that captures your interest and your creativity and your thought process.”

Now, the city councilman finds adventure jet skiing up the Mississippi River, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and running with the bulls in Spain. All the while, he still makes sure to keep a paperback with him wherever he may go.

Books Matter: Grant Teaff

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Jake Pittman

Grant Teaff was the head football coach at Baylor University for 21 years, but early in his career Teaff looked to a book to help him become a more well-rounded coach.

In 1957, Teaff had just graduated college and knew that he wanted to be a head football coach in the Southwest Conference, but he had to get started somewhere. Teaff first got the job as the offensive and defensive line coach for his alma mater McMurry College in Abilene, Texas. But when he showed up for his first day on the job there was an unexpected turn.

“The next thing that happens to me while I’m the assistant football coach, the athletic director calls me and said, ‘Oh by the way,’ you are also going to be the head track coach,” Teaff said. “Now the only thing I knew about track was that you turn left and hurry back.”
McMurry had very few track scholarships and didn’t have a lot of money to fund the program. So, Teaff had to find something to help him turn the program around, while having no experience in the sport and also trying to keep climbing his way up as a football coach.

“I didn’t know much of anything about track, so I contacted the track coach at Baylor, Coach [Jack] Patterson, which gave me my first connection at Baylor. [He] later hired me as the head football coach there,” Teaff said.  “And while I was talking to Coach, I was introduced to a book called Championship Track and Field.”

Championship Track and Field was written by 12 track and field coaches who all excelled at a certain event. Teaff said he studied this book intently and implemented the teachings into his own coaching.

“Many of these coaches I had interviewed personally, while others I had been introduced to by this book,” Teaff said.

Teaff said that the teachings in this book helped him excel to become the Hall of Fame football coach that he worked to be.

“I taught my football players how to run and how to jump correctly using the teachings of this book, and it always proved successful,” Teaff said. “I truly believe that it is one of the reasons we were able to become so successful, so quickly at Baylor.”

Teaff said he has talked a lot about the books and people who have influenced his life and philosophy including Tom Landry, Darrell Royal and R. C. Slocum, but this book is special to him because of the tools that it gave him when he needed them most.

Books Matter: Francene Haliburton-Francis

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Maggie Alexander 

After being an educator in Waco Independent School District for 34 years, Francene Haliburton-Francis became an author. Her book, 728 Lenox Avenue Haliburton Home Squared, has been the most impactful book in her life. 

728 Lenox Avenue Haliburton Home Squared is a combination of stories and poetic expressions about faith, family and race relations. It allows people a glimpse into the life of Haliburton-Francis, seeing a new perspective.

“I want people in the Waco community to take a peek into an African American perspective of growing up in Waco in the ‘60s, and what the integration process was like on the other side of the river,” Haliburton-Francis said. 

Haliburton-Francis found inspiration after reading Barack Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father. In the book Obama writes of his native home land in Nairobi, Kenya. 

“He refers to his heritage home as home squared because it is home twice over,” Haliburton-Francis said. “It was so significant to me, I decided to write about my childhood home ‘Haliburton, home squared.’” 

728 Lenox Avenue Haliburton Home Squared allowed Haliburton-Francis to reflect on her past and tell her story. 

“Whenever you write about your own personal experiences, it gives you a chance to reflect on meaningful events in your life, whether they are negative or positive,” Haliburton-Francis said. “When you think back on your life, you are going to have moments that make you laugh again, cry again and moments that when they happened you were angry, but now you are free.” 

Haliburton-Francis brought her love of teaching and writing into one with the book. While teaching in WISD, Francis saw kids who didn’t have a safe home. She often had children in her class who didn’t have somewhere secure to go after school. She was inspired as a teacher to have her classroom be a protected space, physically and emotionally, for all her students. 

“The point is how home is a place where we process our experiences in life, whatever emotions we had as children. Home should be a safe place to process those emotions,” Haliburton-Francis said. “There are some children who don’t have a safe place to process what they are experiencing, and they are the ones who need to process it the most.”