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January 2016

Boys and Girls Club Students Express King’s Dream / Spectrum News 2016


SAN ANTONIO – Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and so do young people with the Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio.

Now they are expressing those dreams through art – chalk art, that is.

The artistic expression is one of several Dream Week events leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18.

The Boys and Girls Club is just down the street from where the march will take place, and members of the staff says they wanted a way for the children to reflect King’s message of racial equality and justice.

“What Martin Luther King said decades ago still applies today, it still applies to their lives and what they’re doing,” says Zuani Villarreal of the Boys and Girls Club.

Villarreal added that the Boys and Girls Club will also take part in the upcoming march.

Photo Gallery: Eastside Chalks It Up for DreamWeek / Rivard Report 2016


The Eastside chapter of The Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a little inspiration from Artpace‘s annual Chalk It Up event and a giant bucket of colorful chalk on Wednesday evening at Martin Luther King Academy.

Reading all the messages from children to their community was inspiring and served as a reminder of the times in which we live. According to their temporary sketches, these children see inequality in our times, but they also see hope. And they demand action.

“Put down the guns now.”

“My dream is to change the world.”

“Colors don’t matter,” reads one, however misspelled.

A portion of the chalked sidewalks at the Boys & Girls Club San Antonio Eastside Branch. Photo by Scott Ball.A portion of the chalked sidewalks at the Boys & Girls Club San Antonio Eastside Branch. Photo by Scott Ball.
After large sidewalks had been filled with inspiring quotes and dreams, a guest speaker arrived. Walter Perry of San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE) and a former Boys & Girls Club member gave encouraging words of friendship and community.

His words seemed to be rubbing off on the children…and the sidewalks.

SAGE associate and former member of Boys and Girls Club Walter Perry gives an inspirational speech to the children. Photo by Scott Ball.SAGE associate and former member of Boys and Girls Club Walter Perry gives an inspirational speech to the children. Photo by Scott Ball.
The elementary school at 3503 Martin Luther King Dr. is also start of the MLK March route.

The event was one of more than 100 included on the DreamWeek San Antonio calendar that culminates with the MLK March on Monday, Jan. 18. The City expects more than 150,000 participants in this year’s march, one of the largest in the nation.

36 Pictures from SA 2020 DreamWeek / SA Current 2016


SA 20/20 hosted a discussion on how various community leaders and organizations have created thoughtful and deliberate action to reach a collective vision for the future of San Antonio. Moderated by Bob Rivard of The Rivard Report, the panel consisted of speakers Andres Andujar (Hemisfair), Molly Cox (SA 20/20), Sandy Morander (YMCA), Sho Nakpodia (DreamWeek SA) and Ron Nirenberg (City Council – District 8).


Photos by Gabriela Mata

Place Changing: Uniting the Eastside One Story at a Time / Rivard Report 2016


The Spire at Sunset Station, the historic church-turned-event-space in San Antonio’s near Eastside, was the perfect setting to hear personal stories told by more than 100 Eastsiders on Monday night.

In the building that was once home to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, the oldest majority African-American congregation in the city, generations of San Antonians gathered together to exchange accounts of living and working in the city’s Eastside during the interactive event “Place Changing: Living Stories of the Eastside.”

The event featured a potluck dinner shared by community members who were encouraged to sit at tables with fellow attendees they haven’t met yet rather than clustering into familiar groups. There were residents, San Antonio police officers, middle school students, and local business owners of all ages and race. In the very room that used to offer safe haven to a community of African-Americans struggling with segregation decades ago, sat a diverse group of people with at least one thing in common: an appreciation for preserving and celebrating the Eastside.

The event was the latest edition of Place Changing, a project series by the Rivard Report and Overland Partners that aims to give insight to the public about how the city, its neighborhoods, and demographics are changing and to help community members facilitate that change in a balanced way. Place Changing’s first project, an in-depth exploration of the Dignowity Hill Historic District in the Eastside, was published last summer.

Visit to read more.

The main purpose of Monday’s event, part of the DreamWeek calendar of events, was to expand the conversation into the larger Eastside by creating a discussion about the diverse neighborhoods’ past, present, and future amid rising interest from developers, increased federal investment and changing demographics.

While historically predominantly African-American, recent studies show that more and more Latinos are calling the Eastside home.

In attendance were both long-time and newer Eastside residents, as well as curious San Antonians from other parts of town eager to learn more about the area. Seven featured storytellers were assembled to help facilitate the audience’s own storytelling, and included community stakeholders of varied backgrounds.

The speakers were Charles Williams, Eastside resident, business owner, and cultural historian; Rosemary Kowalski, founder of The RK Group; Linda Cherry, the youth director at Ella Austin Community Center; Dianne Green, principal consultant at Culture Transforms Community Enterprises; Juan Rocha, facilitator at Wheatley Community School; Dieter Cantu, executive director of the nonprofit Position of Power; and Hubert Lee Brown, community health worker and violence interruptor for the City’s Stand up SA program. Almost all have lived and worked on the city’s Eastside for most of their lives.
Wheatley Community School employee Juan Rocha gives his story. Photo by Scott Ball.
Wheatley Community School employee Juan Rocha shares his story. Photo by Scott Ball.

Charles Williams, an Eastside resident, businessman, and cultural historian, discussed how the Eastside has recently begun a transformation from a crime-ridden, low-income community to an area in which young couples and professionals can feel safe raising children. That transformation, for some, is yet to be realized. But during the 60s, Williams said, the near Eastside was a bustling center for residents, entertainment and business.

“From about 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., people used to walk the streets like New York City,” Williams said. “Sometimes I take a nostalgic drive down Commerce Street and I really have to use my imagination to see how it used to be.”

Today, much of Commerce Street is lined with buildings with boarded up windows. But some staple businesses have remained and the long-vacant Friedrich Building, which looms particularly large between Pine and Olive streets, has recently piqued the interest of multi-family housing developers.

Brown brought a different perspective of the Eastside into the conversation. For him, the Eastside was a step up from growing up on the Westside with a drug-addicted mother.
Outreach Supervisor for Stand Up S.A. Hubert Lee Brown gives his story. Photo by Scott Ball.

Outreach Supervisor for Stand Up SA Hubert Lee Brown shares his story. Photo by Scott Ball.

His family was poor but he said he didn’t know it because everyone around him was poor. Then he started to live with his father in the Eastside. It was then that he realized how bad his previous living situation really was.

“All I’d seen was negativity. Prostitution, drugs, and shootings,” Brown said.

After school, his time in Atlanta, and some time in jail Brown became a record label producer and then a rapper. But he found something lacking in the lifestyle and found himself the victim of a shooting and in and out of jail.

Brown is now the outreach supervisor for Stand Up SA, a violence prevention program funded through the Metropolitan Health District, but that doesn’t come close to describing what he does. His job is to work a team of volunteers and staff to prevent retaliation shootings. When someone is killed in what appears to be gang-related shooting, Stand Up SA is called in to talk to the victim’s and perpetrator’s family, friends, and associates to try to avoid further violence.

“I decided to give up on the street life and I wanted to give back,” Brown said.

Kowalksi, 91-year-old founder of The RK Group, expressed her enthusiasm for the way the neighborhood has changed in regards to race and class. The RK Group is one of those staple businesses on Commerce Street and brought several trays of food to Monday night’s gathering.
Founder of The RK Group Rosemary Kowalski gives her story as Robert Rivard assists her. Photo by Scott Ball.

Founder of The RK Group Rosemary Kowalski shares her story as Robert Rivard assists her with a microphone. Photo by Scott Ball.

“My life has been part of the Eastside for many years,” Kowalski said. “Back then we were all segregated, not just by color but by class. The new way is so much better for all of us. If people have respect for you, we can all be together.”

After hearing all seven stories, the audience was then encouraged to share their own Eastside stories with their respective table. “What is your favorite memory of the Eastside?” asked facilitators assigned to each table. “How have you noticed a change in the Eastside?” and “How do you think the Eastside will be in 10 years?”

While some tables contained Eastside dwellers of more than three decades, others included citizens who made their homes there just last year. Judith Grant, a local writer and Eastside resident as of September, said though she is newer to the neighborhood she has already noticed quite a bit of change.

“Just from having started renovations on my house in April, the change is phenomenal,” Grant said. “Everyone has to be careful about that because homes are turning into just money-makers and not homes to live in.”

Similar to the trials faced while overcoming racial differences years ago, the community now is having to pull together in order to avoid rapid gentrification in their area. Hearing the stories of fellow Eastsiders, she said, has inspired her to stand up for the community in the wake of new developments occurring in the area.

“I have more hope after listening to these stories and I feel like there is a real community. We need people to feel empowered, people shouldn’t feel powerless.”

It is that same spirit Grant holds that inspired so many of the community members present Monday night to reflect on the event in conjunction with DreamWeek.

Williams stressed the importance of remembering the past in order to make a better future.

“This week is about coming together as one, about embracing one another as sisters and brothers, and to tell the story of yesterday,” Williams said to applause.

The event is just one of more than 100 taking place during DreamWeek, leading up to the MLK March taking place on Monday, Jan. 18. Just as the Eastside community is joining together for their neighborhood, it is expected that the San Antonio community will join together for the march. Panelist and Youth Director Dr. Linda Cherry has faith that that will be the case.

“Where else can you go where the African-American community is only 8% yet that community produces one of the largest MLK marches in the nation?” Cherry said. “I couldn’t live in a finer city.”

*Top image: Ella Austin Community Center Youth Director Linda Cherry gives her story. Photo by Scott Ball.

10 Ways to Have a DreamWeek / SA Current 2016


Taking place from January 9 to January 20, DreamWeek is a twelve-day summit in San Antonio featuring speakers, mixers, workshops, and celebrations. All of the summit’s events are meant to foster discussions centered on issues in our multi-cultural community and to honor the teachings of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visit for a full listing of events.

San Antonio’s DreamWeek Dreams Big / Texas Public Radio 2016


You may have heard people speak about DreamWeek recently and want to know more about it. I spoke with spokeswoman Nicole Bernal, and she’s definitely a glass-half-full kind of person.

“If you can change one mind or enlighten one person I think the whole summit is worth it.”

That summit is DreamWeek, a massive series of city- and community-sponsored events.

“DreamWeek takes place in downtown San Antonio over 12 days in January. And it’s a summit of events–this year we have over 150.”

While the events vary from panel discussions to movie viewings to mixers, galas and wellness forums, Bernal says they all have a common theme.

“They want to promote peace, tolerance and understanding of these issues so that we can work towards a peaceful resolution. So really, every event is dedicated towards advancing the issues of tolerance, equality and diversity.”

These are particularly polarizing times. “Do you sometimes feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle?”

“No, no, I don’t think so,” she said enthusiastically. “You have to believe that good will win. You have to believe in the good people you are working with. The people that are hosting events this year have doubled from last year. There are people out there who want to advance this positivity and these voices.”

Bernal says the city’s cultural diversity positions it squarely at the forefront of what the evolving America can become.

“We have all this diversity. No. 1: Why don’t we celebrate it? No. 2-: Why aren’t we celebrating it more? And that’s what these events do. They bring awareness to an issue.”

DreamWeek is actually nearly two, ending January 19.

For more on DreamWeek go here.

For the DreamWweek Facebook page, go here.

Daughter of Segregationist Governor Discusses Race & Voting Rights / Rivard Report 2016


The American historical drama “Selma” (2014), which depicts the marches for voting rights led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the mid 1960s, served as the perfect primer to Peggy Wallace Kennedy’s talk after the MLK, Jr. Commission‘s film screening Monday night at the Carver Community Cultural Center.

Her father, former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, is best known for standing in front of the University of Alabama in 1963, protesting the registration of two black students. She was 13 years old at the time. He later apologized and admitted to his daughter that he regretted his defense of segregation, but he is widely remembered as a symbol of segregation in the South.
Local civil rights advocate Charles Williams introduces Peggy Wallace Kennedy. Photo by Katie Walsh.

Local civil rights advocate Charles Williams embraces Peggy Wallace Kennedy. Photo by Katie Walsh.

Wallace Kennedy, 65, did not sugar coat that fact. She acknowledged her father’s mistakes and did not excuse them, but provided an explanation for his actions as governor in the mid ’60s. Before he served as governor, Wallace Kennedy said her father was a progressive who advocated for the equal treatment of African-American lawyers in his court and frequently invited African-American attorneys to lunch so they could avoid the segregated cafes around the courthouse square.

George Wallace ran for governor in 1958 as a moderate on matters of race and lost, but won the election when he ran as a segregationist in 1962. Wallace Kennedy said she believes he chose to forgo his personal beliefs in order to win the election.

“His life’s story stands as a lesson to his seven grandsons – a lesson of the hazards of running away from a personal commitment to truth in order to gain power,” Wallace Kennedy said.

“Today, as we prepare to elect a new president, we see candidates who are like my father, who are willing to abandon the dignity of truth for the shame of winning on the backs of the oppressed and the powerless.”

She spoke with unwavering resolve, and will continue to advocate for peace and equality across the county, but there was a time when she struggled with the decision to stand up against her father’s politics or keep “living a life of quiet indifference.”

She made her decision one afternoon while visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site with her husband and 8-year-old son. While observing photos of his grandfather standing in front of the schoolhouse door, her son sadly asked her, “Why did Papa do those things to other people?”

“I realized in that moment that I was at a crossroads in my life and the life of my son,” Wallace Kennedy said. “It was now time for me to do for my son what my father had never done for me. It was the first step in my journey of building a legacy of my own.”

The end of her speech was greeted with a round of applause and standing ovation from the audience. Wallace Kennedy’s husband, retired state Supreme Court justice Mark Kennedy, then joined her on stage to discuss specifics about voting rights in present day America, and more specifically, Texas, which has the lowest voter registration and turnout rates in the nation.

With his wife by his side, Kennedy advocated for reform of voting rights for ex-felons. He said 532,000 ex-felons cannot vote in Texas, which he thinks is a problem.

“We need to look for ways to change our legislation once we realize that ex-felons can marry, go to college and teach,” Kennedy said. “They can live their lives but they cannot vote.”

Following his short speech, the couple briefly answered questions from the audience and kindly thanked the audience for the graciousness and applause. As attendees filed out of the auditorium, audience member Claudia Rabago said she was taken aback by Wallace Kennedy’s sincerity in her recount of the past.

“I was not aware of her background,” Rabago said. “With politicians, you know what they do, but you never really hear about their children or what they are going through. What strikes me the most is knowing that when (Wallace Kennedy) was little, (what happened with her father) stuck with her and now she is trying to make a wrong right.”

The event, part of the MLK Commission’s King Week event series, is just one of more than 100 included on the DreamWeek San Antonio calendar that culminates with the MLK March on Monday, Jan. 18. The City expects more than 150,000 participants in this year’s march, one of the largest in the nation.
Peggy Wallace Kennedy (center) stands with her husband, Mark Kennedy, and event organizers. The film screening of Selma was hosted by the MLK Commission at the Carver Community Cultural Center. Photo by Katie Walsh.

Peggy Wallace Kennedy (center) stands with her husband, Mark Kennedy, and event organizers. The film screening of Selma was hosted by the MLK Commission at the Carver Community Cultural Center. Photo by Katie Walsh.

*Top image: Peggy Wallace Kennedy speaks to the audience at the Carver Community Cultural Center. Photo by Katie Walsh.

DreamWeek Panel: Inclusion Vital to Making Neighborhoods Equitable / Rivard Report 2016


Despite fears of continued gentrification, and the City of San Antonio’s efforts to prevent it, there are ways to ensure social inclusion while rebuilding a neighborhood.

That’s the conclusion of a panel discussion held Monday at Café Commerce. The event, “Revitalizing the Dream: An Equitable Neighborhood Development Discussion,” was part of the DreamWeek San Antonio calendar of events and revolved around current trends and anticipated changes in small business development, affordable housing, and family financial wellness. The discussion was hosted by the Texas-based nonprofit National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB), which helps communities attract and generate private and public investments.

More than 50 people listened as four local panelists defined equitable neighborhood development. Brad McMurray, development director for the local nonprofit Prospera Housing Community Services, said to him it means reinvesting in or redeveloping a community by using its existing assets and making it more attractive.

“It would be an equitable situation where those who are invested in the neighborhood are involved in improving it,” he added.

Janie Barrera, president and CEO of local non-profit microlender LiftFund, said organizations such as hers are critical to helping to improve a community’s financial literary rate, especially when a home’s value comes into play.

“Let’s level the financial playing field,” Barrera said. “Ask yourself, ‘Who’s living in those homes?’ It’s our responsibility to educate our neighbors so they can make good financial decisions.”

Amanda Hoss offers comments during a DreamWeek panel discussion on equitable neighborhoods at Cafe Commerce on Monday, Jan. 11. Photo by Edmond Ortiz.Amanda Hoss offers comments during a DreamWeek panel discussion on equitable neighborhoods at Cafe Commerce on Monday. Photo by Edmond Ortiz.
A neighborhood improves only when all residents and stakeholders participate, said NALCAB Executive Director Noel Poyo. The hard part is encouraging full involvement.

“People get upset when their neighborhood changes. It’s not just because rents go up or it gets harder to stay there financially,” Poyo said. “It’s when everybody else who’s leaving looks like you and when everybody who’s coming in, doesn’t.”

What makes a neighborhood vital, he said, is “in the DNA” of the people who have been there the longest and have the most to gain or lose when their community changes.

Kristin Davila, vice president for Merced Housing Texas, a local non-profit developer and manager of affordable housing, said developers cannot afford to exclude current residents of a neighborhood that’s undergoing change.

“It’s important as long as people have an opportunity to benefit from the investments, and have a say in what new resources are made available. It’s absolutely essential,” she added.

Several San Antonio neighborhoods are on the verge of improving or deteriorating, according to Poyo, and that’s reflective of many cities nationwide. Declining levels of investment and redevelopment do not mix well with escalating costs of services and infrastructure, he noted, especially in inner-city neighborhoods.

Poyo gave a couple of examples of neighborhoods on the verge. Take a look at Pearl, the redevelopment of which did not directly effect surrounding neighborhoods, he said. But now that Pearl has become a case study in successful urban infill, surrounding neighborhoods in Midtown are coping with the positives and negatives of the increased traffic and influx of businesses and high-end residential communities.

“You look at those neighborhoods – where will they be in five years?” Poyo asked rhetorically.

Dignowity Hill Historic District, another neighborhood “on the verge” is experiencing rising values of improved homes and businesses but is surrounded by a larger network of Eastside neighborhoods that doesn’t have the historic housing stock that is attracting new residents or the proximity to downtown’s growing amenity economy.

Poyo and his fellow panelists explained that’s why all stakeholders – developers, businesses, residents, the public sector – must emphasize proper planning and foresight to make sure neighborhoods such as Dignowity Hill and those near the Pearl can be successful without gentrification entering into the picture.

One of Merced’s newest projects is the development of Oscar Eason Senior Apartments at East Commerce and Olive streets, which is a community meant for very low-income senior citizens. Davila called the project “a well-thought out plan” that enables area seniors to continue living in their neighborhood at an affordable rate.

Barrera said she is interested in how LiftFund and other financial institutions can encourage low to middle-income residents to help shape the destiny of their neighborhoods by improving their individual financial situations.

This can be done, Barrera said, by residents adjusting to the “new ways of living” in a certain neighborhood – taking advantage of more available transit options, securing a job at new business closer to home, or starting their own business.

“Let’s think about what all this change can bring with it but with planning, to make sure you have a work/live place,” she added.

Affordable housing may play a major part in the City’s next bond proposal, scheduled for 2017, McMurray said. But in order to maximize such a bond program – if approved by voters – the private and public sectors must consider people who are able to secure affordable housing on their own and those who simply cannot. In other words, everyone has to have a part to play in the public dialogue.

More and improved multi-family communities will have to be part of the solution, McMurray added, given projections for San Antonio’s future growth. If the City is willing to give affordable housing a major monetary commitment in its 2017 bond proposal, Poyo said, it should be all in.

“I think it would be irresponsible not to (infuse millions of dollars) given the state of the economy,” he added.

The Source: DreamWeek Spurs Dialogue / Texas Public Radio 2016


DreamWeek began its 4th year last Friday. The 12-day series of events, lectures, and activities aims to inspire conversations about cultures and communities. Encouraging these conversations, they hope, will foster tolerance.

The series of events leads up to the Martin Luther King Jr March next Monday, but is operated independently of it. San Antonio’s MLK march is the largest in the country attracting more than 150,000 people annually.

The past few years have seen the hyper-polarization of the country’s politics envelope its culture and many of its communities. Riots in Baltimore, Ferguson, and other U.S. cities over the unarmed deaths of African American men, have highlighted the chasm of communities. Questions of policing, ____ and justice permeated 2015.

What does DreamWeek mean in the context of today’s America


Shokare Nakpodia, President and founder of DreamWeek LLC