Community Council of Southwest Texas holds Economic Summit
On January 13 - 14, 2006, the Community Council of Southwest Texas held an Economic Development Summit in Concan, Texas at Neil’s Cabins. (This is the site where RDLN held its National Network Assembly, hosted by CCSWT. in 1997.) The goal of the Summit was part of the process of transforming the agency from a traditional community action agency providing services to an organization that can stimulate economic development and greater self-sufficiency. The Summit's sessions focussed on first time home buyer education, forming a credit union, developing a savings association, resource development, and developing a five-year agenda. Taking a leadership role in this process is the Field Project of RDLN Leader Sarah Hidalgo-Cook. Her Field Advisor, Jorge Botello, is Executive Director of CCSWT. The Board Chair Mike Acosta is also an RDLN Leader. Anselmo Telles of the Housing Assistance Association, a field Advisor for Leticia Carreón, was there as a resource person. RDLN Leader Emma Dixon led the session presenting the “Structure of the Southwest Savings Association.”
Shirley Sherrod (RDLN graduate and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors) shared this report of an event she organized to honor people in Baker County, Georgia, who integrated the high school there forty years ago. The event was held in Albany, GA on January 15, 2006, Martin Luther King’s birthday. Shirley grew up in Baker County and spearheads a development effort that has focused on the acquisition of the school building and development of programs housed in this facility. Below is part of her message to colleagues at the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative:
I had the idea of getting individuals who integrated the school in Baker County together to recognize them for what they did. After forty years, it was hard to get the names of everyone.
The individuals who were honored received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Congressman Bishop, a Certificate of Special recognition as an outstanding Georgia Citizen from the Secretary of State, a copy of a resolution passed in the Georgia House of Representatives and made part of the permanent record Friday, December 16th. They also received a really nice wooden plaque from our organization, East Baker, in recognition of their courageous stand. The Assistant Secretary of State was present to make the presentation from the Secretary of State. Congressman Bishop called me last Friday to say he had knee surgery and would send his aide, and Rep. Dukes was present from the State.
Our musician- Willie Moody, who is blind and can play and sing anything- was first class. We didn't have a speaker. We wanted to allow the honorees to have a few minutes to tell a little of what happened to them.
Even though it was forty years ago, there was not a dry face in the audience. I even saw tears rolling down the face of the State Representative who was there. I cried so much that Eunice [Key] brought a paper towel to me.
One of the students said she had blocked much of what happened out of her miind because it hurt so much. When she received the call, she looked in her year book and saw that she had made the folllowing notation, "if I had to do it over again, I would rather be dead."
Healing is necessary for all of us and the program will do much to help the individuals, who had to fight and struggle every day, to feel that what they did, did not go unnoticed. I wish you could have been there to see all of the hugging and talking going on after the program.
I know how I struggled all of these years after my father's murder. I deal with it by working to make a change. That is the commitment I made on the night of my father's death and it helps me to move on. I will never forget but I work, instead of allowing it to make me do crazy things like drugs or wallowing in self pity so much that I can't function in the way I should.
It doesn't hurt to let the "little guys" know that we remember what they did and we appreciate what they did. Some names are always the names you hear, and they are not the ones who did everything.
Events like this can be used to not only recognize people but to also teach our young children the history.
For many years Yvonne Hampton has had the dream of establishing a community center in her hometown of Butler, Alabama. Last year, she realized this dream with the establishment of the Choctaw Community Development Center, Inc. The center, which is run by volunteers, including Yvonne as its CEO, offers afterschool programs and regular basketball practicee with shoot outs and tournaments. The Center houses the Bay Area Food Bank, and it distributed donated clothing to evacuees and others after Katrina.
Yvonne’s sister Sara Pool worked hard on setting up a Black History Room. There is also a computer room (with four computers for adult education), a library, a kitchen, and plans for an exercise room. A business incubator will be set up downstairs as soon as a water problem is fixed.
The organization’s eleven board members range in age from fifteen to eighty six.
Yvonne earned her master’s degree through RDLN, working with Advisors Billie Jean Young, J.D. and Clark Arrington, J.D., who was then with Equal Exchange.