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‘For a Place Called Dallas’ and the Citywide Kickoff of Big D Reads

Thursday morning at the downtown J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, the city-wide reading of the once-banned book The Accommodation began with the kickoff of Big D Reads.
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Dallas' poet laureate, Joaquín Zihuatanejo, reads a poem inspired by the book The Accommodation, which is the focus of Big D Reads 2022. Bethany Erickson

“This is not a book you should read alone,” D Magazine Partners publisher Noelle LeVeaux told the 300-plus people gathered to kick off Big D Reads 2022, the city-wide reading of The Accommodation at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library downtown Thursday morning. If the crowd present for the occasion was any indicator, nobody will be: as people found their seats, most immediately opened the book and began reading while waiting for the program to start.

It’s hard to fathom that a book that was once banned before it was even printed is now the subject of an ambitious endeavor that will see 30,000 copies distributed and more than 40 events designed to create conversation opportunities around the contents of the book. (For a full list of activities and to find out where you can get a free copy of the book, go to bigdreads.org.)

At Thursday’s event, Dallas’ first-ever poet laureate, Joaquín Zihuatanejo, read a new poem inspired by the book. We’re including his work below.

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For a Place Called Dallas

“There is no real reason for a place called DALLAS.”

—from a political flyer promoting a major bond issue in Dallas, 1985

as cited in The Accommodation by Jim Schutze

Let us do more

Than simply move beyond the past

Let us learn from it

Let us change both in spite and because of it

For so long we’ve been reaping what we sow

Knowing what we know all along

That smoke fades

While terror tends to linger

I’ve been trying to put my finger

On this place called Dallas for a while now

How people love to simplify

That whole beautiful shining city of the southern Sun Belt

Reeks of black ties and white lies

Dallas…is much more diverse and conflicted and beautiful than that

It’s hoop dreams and inner city youth

It’s Jim Schutze telling an awful truth

In a poignant and necessary way

It’s Will Evans publishing a book

Written 36 years ago today

It’s a Southside single mom

Working two jobs to make ends meet

It’s loving someone this way

And never letting go

It’s waking up to laugh

With Jub, Junior, and Gordo

It’s a young, strong, Black mayor

Leading us into a new day

It’s breathing free

At least it should be

Walking city streets never feeling restricted

It’s Mark Melton fighting for the unjustly evicted

It’s a non-binary Black poet

Reminding every Queer person in this city

That you are a snowflake

Born to be the most beautiful thing you can be…yourself

It’s me at age 19

Peering through Parkland pediatric glass

To catch a glimpse of my newborn daughter

It’s Robert Wilonsky and Sara Cardona

Honoring their fathers

With what they create

With how they live

It’s WordSpace

And Karen X

And all that she selflessly gives

It’s Sylvia Komatsu

Devoting herself to public media every single day

The 40 plus years of service and heart she pours into KERA

It’s Jo Giudice

Guiding us

In all things library, equity, and design

It’s Anita Nanez Martinez

Reminding us that Ballet Folklorico is divine

It’s Pleasant Grove, Highland Hills

And Tenth Street Freedman’s Town

It’s a Journey Man

Creating safe space at DaVerse Lounge

It’s shutting down

The small town

Country club oligarchy

With its stones and sticks

Its urban politricks

Closing the door

And speaking soft spoken truths

Betrays this city’s youth

Believe me when I say

They are desperate to know

Where they come from

Let us make it our duty

To teach our children

Their history

In all its ugliness

In all its beauty

What if equality, fairness, and generosity

Was what we sow

What if we do something revolutionary

Like…take some of the funding

Set aside for the Ross Perot

And give it to Black and Brown owned theatres

To help them grow

To show them that this city

Our city

Sees them

So let us confront the truth

In Topic lyrics reverberating

Through UTD and SMU dorm halls

Let Daniel Yanez paint it in murals

On WestSide walls

It’s equal parts Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bach

It’s Jess Garland teaching girls how to rock

It’s a city finding a way to not only acknowledge

But support the activists, artists, and advocates

That make this city

Extraordinary

But after all this

They…still say

There is no real reason for a place called Dallas

I say…everyone gathered here today…

Is reason enough

Dallas is…

A place where wellness begins

It’s the Momentous Institute

Building social emotional health in our youth

It’s Vicki Meek and the South Dallas Cultural Center

Teaching young people

To find the artist that lives within

It’s the Aberg Center for Literacy

Teaching refugee children

It’s Arttitude supporting Queer artists

Who paint and write toward catharsis

It’s the Austin Street Center

Lifting up those in need

It’s the Senior Source helping the breaved…

These are among the many reasons

For a place called Dallas

It’s me

It’s you

It’s Sonny Bryan’s BBQ

It’s my Abuelo whispering to me,

Tu voz es tu poder

Words I will never forget

It’s a young, poor, Brown barrio boy

Growing up to be Dallas Poet Laureate

It’s always fighting the just and good fight

It’s a street poet writing wrongs with all his might

It’s everything we’ve been through

And all the good we will do

So let it begin with you

You me we

You me we

We are the reason

For this place called Dallas

Author

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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