By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Harris says the after-school program has dramatically changed her life for the better. Her kids are now aware of a world of possibilities beyond Turner Courts, she says. But more important, her participation in the program has restored her faith in herself.
"For somebody to come to the projects and offer me a job, I can't explain it, but it changed my life. It gave me hope," she says.
Success stories such as this one are what keep him going, James says. And while he is optimistic about the small changes his organization has made in the poorest parts of the city, he says there is much work to do. His dream, he says, is to change an entire neighborhood—say 20 or 30 blocks—from the ground up. He has his eye on Bexar Street, which is lined with boarded-up houses, graffiti-covered shops and liquor store after liquor store.
Changing a place such as Bexar Street will require more than the resources of CDM, James says, regardless of the political connections he has built up over the past 13 years. It will require the cooperation of the entire city. And that won't happen until Dallas residents change the way they think about the poor, James says.
"When you get into the lives of people, you see that everyone's the same," he says. "And the differences are mediated largely by circumstances beyond their control, and often those circumstances are institutional and relate to our policies and how we have things set up.
"The people who live in these neighborhoods have all the capabilities to turn their communities around. They just need a little bit of help."