Confessions of a Texas Expat

If I’d known then what I know now, I never would have left.

Confession No. 1: I no longer live in Dallas. I came into my own in the city, graduated from SMU, and got my first magazine job here. It was the city I dreamed of escaping to while growing up a brown girl in the buckle of the West Texas Bible Belt. But I moved east in 2000, bent on conquering the world. I now know better. I could’ve made that happen in Dallas. This issue is full of people who have. And there are thousands more we could have included—if we were publishing a Who’s Who of Dallas. 

But that wasn’t our goal. What we set out to do with “Why Black Achievers Choose Dallas” is provide a snapshot of the types of people who have found success in Dallas on their own terms. North Texas is full of those stories. Every time I mentioned this project to someone, the immediate response was, “Oh, you have to talk to … ,” followed by no fewer than three names. 

Some of those names are included. Other stories we’re saving. Don’t be surprised if, one day, you pick up a D CEO and see in its pages Michelle Thomas, the Dallas-based vice president of corporate responsibility and community relations for JPMorgan Chase. And it won’t be long, I’m sure, before you’ll visit dmagazine.com and read a review of actress and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts alum Ava Wilson’s latest performance. Entertainer and author Steve Harvey hosts 100 young black men and their parents at his ranch outside Dallas each June. Imagine a behind-the-scenes story on that in D Home. Or a pictorial of a wedding officiated by Inspiring Body of Christ Church’s Pastor Rickie Rush featured in D Weddings

Confession No. 2: this issue wasn’t my idea, though I wish I could claim it. Credit goes to two people from two different worlds, D Magazine founder and editor in chief Wick Allison and Dallas attorney Ursula Willie. The two don’t know each other. Wick is white, sixtysomething, and a member of the Dallas establishment. Ursula is black, thirtysomething, and more likely to dine at Buddha’s Belly than Stephan Pyles. Still, a wishful comment Ursula posted on my Facebook page back in fall 2010 spurred Wick to assemble the team behind this issue. It was nothing, really, a throwaway line about moving to Atlanta in search of culture, but it was enough to convince Wick that something had to be done about Dallas’ image problem among blacks.  

“Why Black Achievers Choose Dallas” is a beginning, a quick reveal into a world most outside—and, frankly, many inside—Dallas don’t realize exists. In “Our Dallas,” we asked people why they choose Dallas, what they love about it, and what others should know about their home. We talked to four families about the considerations they weighed when deciding which neighborhoods were right for them. You can read their stories in “House Hunting.” And you can pick the brains of four of Dallas’ most prominent black businesspeople in “The Business Plan.” Booker T. alum Erykah Badu returned to her alma mater to shoot the beautiful images featured in “Class Picture,” while photographer Elizabeth Lavin captured a decidedly unique Dallas tradition, the annual Jack & Jill Beautillion. We covered faith, too. “Choosing Salvation” highlights five of the area’s mega-churches and includes a conversation with Masjid Al-Islam’s Imam Khalid Shaheed. His take on the role the mosque plays in Dallas’ interfaith community is an interesting read for his final comment alone. Next generation leaders in politics, the arts, education, entertainment, and the nonprofit world are featured in “The Upstarts.” And we scoured the city for events and organizations that will help newcomers get plugged into the community. But we gave the last word on black Dallas to The Fly Jock himself, Tom Joyner, a man who has made this city home since the 1970s. Part history, part prediction, his “My Dallas” essay sums up what many of the people we spoke with said about Dallas: it’s a city without limitations for those willing to work. 

If you take away one thing from this issue, let it be this: Dallas belongs on your short list if you’re an African-American looking for culture, opportunity, and community. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just turn the page. 

P.S. Special thanks to Matrice Ellis-Kirk, Ann Williams, Kim Askew, Dr. Terry Flowers, and Rhonda Tankerson for being my eyes and ears.  

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