A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Arts & Entertainment

Meet the Dallas Class of 2020

| 1 day ago

I didn’t have a conventional high school experience.

I went to one school freshman year, another sophomore year, then finally settled into a homeschool co-op when I was a junior. Still, I got the gist of things. My friends at public schools would take me to football and baseball games, homecoming dances and school plays. By senior year, I had a boyfriend who invited me to his prom and made it feel like a perfect teen rom-com, even though I only knew about five people there. I didn’t have a graduation that spring, but my parents had a barbecue in my honor. My dad Photoshopped a graduation cap onto the photos my mom snapped for the invitation.

So while I didn’t have a traditional high school experience, I always got to be a normal teenager. For the graduating class of 2020, that’s not possible. You and I–we never had to worry about a pandemic while navigating the time between childhood and independence.

I wanted to understand what that would be like. So, I spoke to 10 graduating students from across Dallas-Fort Worth and asked them how it feels to grow into adulthood while the world around them seemingly falls apart. Their answers gave me a lot of hope. Let’s give them the recognition they deserve. (The interviews below have been edited for length and clarity.)

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Local News

I Was Detained in Dallas’ Bridge Raid. It Never Needed to Happen.

| 2 days ago

On Monday night, the Dallas Police Department detained 674 peaceful protesters on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. I was one of them.

I knew it could happen. I had seen nonviolent protesters in virtually every state get gassed, shot at, beaten, and arrested over the weekend. But I needed to be there with my fellow Dallas comrades. I was raised in Plano, attended the UNT, and have lived in Dallas since 2015.

During Sunday’s march through downtown, more than 125 people were arrested largely for curfew violations. Two officers are being investigated for “use-of-force incidents” over the weekend, one involving a protester who lost an eye after being shot with a sponge round. Still, prior to Monday night, I had never been cited for anything more than a speeding ticket. I wanted to march to change police militarization and systemic racism, not my permanent record.

It’s funny, I remember thinking as my wrists bruised and my back ached during four hours of confinement, because our entire protest was specifically meant to play by their rules.

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Local News

The Night the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Became a Trap

| 3 days ago

A disquieting scene unfolded last night as a peaceful rally morphed into a controversial mass detention after Dallas police and state troopers surrounded hundreds of demonstrators trying to march across the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. It was the fourth consecutive night of demonstrations to condemn police brutality and commemorate the countless victims of police violence, and the second night on which there were no violent incidents originating from the protestors.

But as about 500 marchers reached the middle of the bridge, they met a wall of police in riot gear. Smoke bombs and sponge bullets and zip ties weren’t far off.

The rally, organized by activist Dominique Alexander’s Next Generation Action Network, was originally planned for 6:30 p.m. at the Dallas Police Department’s headquarters, in the Cedars. But it became clear that Dallas police and state troopers were planning to rigidly enforce the downtown area’s 7 p.m. curfew.

Essentially all vehicular access to the headquarters was cut off . So the rally was moved at the last minute to the Frank Crowley Courthouse on Riverfront, just outside the curfew zone. Later, County Judge Clay Jenkins said he reached an agreement with Alexander that would protect the protestors so long as they stayed on county property. He couldn’t guarantee their safety if they left it.

“Mind you,” Alexander said, as Dallas police, National Guard, and state troopers looked on, across the street. “With us coming to this location, I would not put anybody in danger. Of course, I’m going to get myself advised, and I’m going to ask the city of Dallas for verification on their zone. So, as you see those Teletubbies [i.e. law enforcement officers dressed in riot gear], they’re designed to make you be scared. But we want them to know that we’re not scared.”

“Police starts riots,” he added, “not protestors. People who stand in the way of our rights are the ones who start riots.”

The day started calmly, with a bullhorn and encouragement for fellow protestors to share their story through a PA system. Before the detainments, many who attended seemed nervous to use their full names. But their messages were aligned.

Katie, a young protestor wearing goggles and bearing an umbrella reading “STOP SYSTEMIC RACISM,” said she attended the rally to raise her voice against police violence: “Cops are brutally attacking black people for absolutely no reason except for racism, and it’s got to stop. Plain and simple.”

Carl Alberto, an ER nurse bearing a sign reading “FRONTLINERS STAND WITH BLACK LIVES MATTER,” said, “I want to be here in support of every race—especially the black community, right now, because obviously we’re seeing a lot more injustice against the black community.” He hoped for a peaceful protest: “If we can’t control the government, we can at least control ourselves, and show that we can do it peacefully.” He stressed that he believes police often serve and protect. He also couldn’t help but worry about the spread of COVID-19 via these large protests.

Just before 8:45 p.m., protestors started heading north, on Riverfront. It’s unclear if Alexander communicated with this city about this move. While he coordinated with the county regarding the rally, he did not communicate about the march. Many of the protestors filed in with the crowd, though it’s not clear whether a majority knew they were headed for the bridge. They didn’t know what they were walking into.

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Local News

‘This Rage That You Hear Is Real’: On the Ground at the Dallas Protests

| 4 days ago

The national tide of protests against police brutality in the wake of the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd reached Dallas last weekend. Protests continue this week. Gov. Greg Abbott will be in Dallas on Tuesday afternoon to detail the state’s response. But the weekend showed a range of expressions, from peaceful marching and chanting, bursts of violence and tear gas, concluding with a quiet, solemn prayer in Uptown’s Freedman’s Cemetery. Hours later, police would begin brutally enforcing a curfew.

The weekend’s protesters were diverse in race, gender, and age. Many wore masks to guard against COVID-19, carried signs, and wore shirts reading “I can’t breathe”—Floyd’s last words—or “Black lives matter.” In the spirit of intersectionality, Latinx protestors arrived also with signs reading “Tu lucha es mi lucha” and shirts reading “Fuck ICE.”

To the distress of many, violence—tear gas, flash bangs, looting, beatings—arrived upon the shadow of the protests.

Protestors with whom I spoke were against the looting. They expressed desires to make their points peacefully. The following is an account of their attempts to do so—attempts constricted by the police, rioters, looters, and inciters of violence.

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Local News

Friends of the Late Artist Donald Fowler Reflect on His Legacy

| 4 weeks ago

Artist Donald Fowler spent the last few days of his life in Dallas reaching out to his friends.

Almost six weeks into an unprecedented pandemic, Fowler was sending supportive texts. He was arranging visits while socially distancing, making sure to stay at least six feet apart. He was organizing drive-by birthday parties.

On Sunday, May 3, Fowler, a beloved retailer and playwright, was in a jogging accident involving a DART streetcar that traverses the Houston Street Viaduct between downtown and Oak Cliff. It took days for his friends or family to learn of what had occurred. When the clues were pieced together, news of Fowler’s death came as a shock to multiple communities in Dallas: Theater, visual art, retail, and the media.

Seamlessly moving from one circle to the next, Donald Fowler is a wonderfully difficult person to summarize. He was part of the cultural fabric of Dallas in a way very few people are. Fowler’s upbeat persona and tireless pursuit of multiple disciplines in the arts made him a favorite, from the multiple stages he graced to the writers’ room. He had an equally known presence in the world of high-end goods, endearing himself to the eccentrics drawn to one or all of these things.

Offensively handsome, Fowler’s charm sometimes masked a sly and biting humor. According to those arts patrons who knew him best, he was exceedingly generous with his time and attention. Fowler’s friends and associates helped illuminate the radically gregarious person he was in the days following the tragedy, often fighting back tears or describing having spent much of the week grieving.

When asked for comment, their stories were as effusive as they were specific. And they flowed out freely, illuminating a man who was unforgettable upon first impression.

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Q&A With U.S. Rep. Colin Allred: We Must ‘Shift From a Defensive Posture’

| 4 weeks ago

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, believes we aren’t approaching the coronavirus pandemic with the aggression necessary to stop it. Indeed, these last two months have felt like we’re on our heels, doing whatever we can to avoid others and stay inside as the economy craters and our public health officials scramble to secure testing and personal protective equipment.

We haven’t been able to test broadly, spending weeks on a metered basis that portioned out testing to first responders, then the high-risk symptomatic residents, and then finally grocery store and delivery and retail workers. Our public sites are still are not testing asymptomatic people at large. Although your doctor can still steer you to a test from a private lab.

Our contact tracing is ticking up, and Gov. Greg Abbott packaged his order to reopen the economy with a plan to hire 4,000 people whose jobs will be tracking anyone who came into contact with a COVID-19 patient. He spoke about strategically deploying to hot spots.

Allred worries that this isn’t enough. He looks at South Korea, which had its first case a day before America did. But while we have had a little over 76,000 people die from the disease, South Korea has had just 256. How? Aggression. The New Yorker detailed South Korea’s approach, which was akin to tracking and hunting an animal:

There, people talk about COVID-19 as if it were a person. Leaders at the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have told me that the virus is sneaky, nasty, and durable—and that it has to be hunted down. In Singapore and China, large teams of public-health workers are on a war footing, confronting the virus like the mortal enemy it is. In the face of such an enemy, America’s passivity has been puzzling and unworthy of the best episodes in our history. The time has come for us to get into the fight. It’s not too late: we can still mobilize and start hunting down the virus.

Allred speaks in a similar manner. He doesn’t suggest that we all be monitored through an app on our smart phones, a la South Korea’s mandate. But he is pushing a proposed plan from President Trump’s former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb and Andy Slavitt, President Obama’s head of Medicare. They want $46.5 billion in federal funding to pay for mass testing and contact tracing. It would allot billions to pay for hotel rooms for Americans to quarantine in, then pay those people a per diem for their time.

Allred believes it would trigger some much-needed offense. But first, we have to get real about this virus. It isn’t going away any time soon. No matter what sector of the economy is open. The below has been edited for length and clarity. 

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The Workers on Dallas’ Food Frontline 

| 1 month ago

We’ve heard a lot from business owners and restaurateurs and big-name chefs. Especially now, as we cover re-openings, ever-evolving safety guidelines, and government loan snafus, theirs are the voices from which declarations leap. Theirs were the horror stories as they shuttered restaurants, changed models, and made harrowing decisions. Their quotes make headlines.

And of course they do: They’ve got much to lose and heavy decisions to weigh every day. They have staff who depend on them, too. If it wasn’t clear before, as it is so plainly now, the front of house servers, back of house cooks, and clerks stocking your local grocery shelves are the lifeblood of the food industry. Those employees don’t get to work from home.

As some restaurants across Dallas reopened at 25 percent capacity on May 1, employees returned to work—reluctantly, in some cases. Unless they have “good cause” to stay on unemployment, which the Texas Workforce Commission cites as lack of child care or being a 65-year-old “high-risk” individual among other reasons, it’s back to work they go. So for many, concern for your health isn’t reason enough to remain on unemployment. Employees can be reported for unemployment fraud if they’ve rejected a job offer and try to continue their benefits.

But returning to work means a return to those low wages—a base pay of $2.13, which hasn’t changed for decades—plus tips shared among front and back of house workers. Often uninsured, will they receive health benefits if they didn’t before coronavirus hit? These are important considerations for an industry ground to a near halt, now attempting to slowly find its “normal” again. Except these days, for the same low pay, restaurant workers face higher risk of coronavirus exposure. When they have to work, they cannot avoid others.

Many see this moment as a time to pull back the curtain on realities that have long been ignored, like the lack of safety nets and the morass of bureaucracy through which restaurant workers slog.

And so, these are the folks we wanted to hear from—the ones doing their best to serve you food in dining rooms that are too close for socially distant comfort, the ones keeping their immunocompromised family members safe. These are their stories, edited for clarity and length.

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What Faith Looks Like Now: A Conversation with the Reverend Dr. Michael Waters

| 2 months ago

I called the Reverend Dr. Michael Waters, pastor at Abundant Life A.M.E. Church in South Dallas, on a Tuesday afternoon a few weeks ago. I’ve known him for a few years, I’ve written about him before, and I am always curious to hear his perspective on matters of faith and justice and Dallas and its citizens. The pandemic we are in the midst of, of course, touches on all of that and more, so he was someone I wanted to listen to.

In the beginning stages, as the coronavirus swept across the country, Waters was one of the loudest voices telling people to stay home, a stance that wasn’t popular among other clergy. Lately, he is also making sure that people keep their eyes open, and see that the coronavirus is wreaking the most havoc on the members of society who can afford it the least, people like the members of his congregation. It has become clear that COVID-19 is disproportionately killing the black community.

Our conversation about what it has been like to be a member of the clergy recently, and the hard decisions he’s had to make, follows.

But, first, a prayer.

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