Two Years and Counting in Oak Cliff
My family and I are celebrating our 2nd full year as residents of Dallas, more specifically Oak Cliff. For those who may be new to Dallas South, Oak Cliff is a predominantly African-American/Hispanic portion of Southern Dallas.
Last year I chronicled our first year in Oak Cliff, and I thought I would give an update here in '07.
I moved my family to Dallas two years ago for two reasons. 1) It was closer to our church and my son's school which are both in Oak Cliff as well as where my wife and I were working at the time. 2) Most of the causes and issues that I was interested in were in Dallas, so I wanted a Dallas address so that I could be a participator and not spectator.
The portion of the Cliff in which we reside has a heavy black population, though our neighborhood happens to be mostly Hispanic. The house we live in is close to what we had in the 'burbs, but there are a number of multi-family units surrounding us. A wiser real-estate investor would have been smart to buy in the Northern portion of Oak Cliff, but unfortunately that's not how I roll (Dallas SOUTH).
Many of my contemporaries who ponificate and prognosticate about our people do it from outside the community. It's a comfortable place to be, and though we are blessed to have a nice house and nice neighborhood our stay has been anything but comfortable.
There has been little to no change from an economic development standpoint since we moved here. The big win is a new development on Illinois that is anchored by a Carnival grocery store. Wachovia, Starbucks, and Applebees are also tenants, but that's about 3 1/2 miles away from us. Should I count the porn shop that tried to move in to our community?
The broader the net is cast, the more some could make a case that Oak Cliff is progressing. My sample set is south of Illinois, and there has been little change there.
Among the positives I count the new Hampton-Illinois Branch Library, Friendship-West Baptist Church and Conference Center, UNT-Dallas, and the new development at Wheatland and Hampton anchored by Target. As a side note I'm sure once the new Target opens next Spring the old one on Cockrell Hill will shut down so it nets out.
There are still no signs of a movie theater south of downtown. We have to go to Lancaster (you can't beat $4 and $2.50 matinees) or Cedar Hill if we want to catch the latest flicks.
Most of our shopping is done in Cedar Hill or Arlington unless I'm in a West Village or North Park Mall kind of mood. Southwest Center Mall continues to go downhill. I've been working on a post about that situation for a few months.
What has been most troubling is the physical state of our predominantly African-American neighborhoods. As my grandmother once said to me; I'm not telling you what I heard, I'm telling you what I know. This is a first hand account of lower to lower-middle class neighborhoods: we are struggling.
I think what has been most disappointing is to have to see young men walking around daily, DAILY, with their pants hanging down and their drawers showing. It's not an every now and then thing or an exception, it is an all day er' day occurrence.
I keep coming back to a day this summer when I was driving up Highway 67. Three young black brothers were walking on the feeder road when one of them mooned the passers by. His two boys dapped him up as if he had just done something of major significance. I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach.
Were these isolated incidents it may not affect me so bad. But again, this is a constant image that I see and so do many young boys in the neighborhood. I in turn wonder what they think when I'm pumping gas in my suit and tie as they hold the pump with one hand and the top of their shorts up with the other.
So many people litter in Oak Cliff. At stop lights I have to look and make sure there are not signs that say "throw trash here" because so many drivers and passengers discard their items as they wait.
Outside of Kiest, our parks are atrocious. It surprises me that the City of Dallas would even place their name on some of these plots of dirt and worn out equipment. You should see how many softball fields lack an outfield fence. I will take a moment to credit the public/private partnership of Hawaiian Falls Dallas which hails itself as America's only inner city waterpark (it's not in the inner city but it is in a black neighborhood in Dallas).
And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the occasional gun fire that we hear in the Cliff. On a night at home alone a couple of months I heard clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack: seven gun shots. I can say that the gun shots and ghetto birds have decreased from year one to year two.
I'm still happy with our decision to move here and I think my wife would say the same. My son spends 2 less hours a week in the car due to a shorter commute to and from school.
Dallas is moving forward, and new leaders are emerging. Tom Leppert and Mike Davis were not yet on the scene when we moved here two years ago, and who knew Dwaine Caraway would rise from the ashes? Casey Thomas has brought new life into the NAACP Dallas branch and survived an attempted coup on his presidency.
I'm in for the long hall, but I do have to evaluate yearly the risk/reward factor of keeping my family in the Cliff. I take pride in our Dallas address, and I'm not totally sure why. It is my belief that if we as an African-American community are going to change our community, it must occur from the inside out, not the outside in.
I respect my philosophers who hypothesize from outside the 'hood, but I'm not really trying to hear most of what ya'll are talking about. We need your voice, even if it is in the distance, but it would be better served if you were HERE with us. Ache!