“Y’all means all” has become popular fodder for T-shirts, murals, and Visit Fort Worth promotions. The phrase is folksy, catchy — and partly true. For a city that’s had plenty of missteps — the heavy-handed 2009 police raid of the Rainbow Lounge, recent killings of unarmed black men and women by police officers, and a city council that largely bowed out of an effort to combat a racist “show me your papers” bill — Fort Worth’s various ethnic groups and economic classes coexist, albeit in self-segregated neighborhoods and districts.
United Fort Worth director Daniel Garcia Rodriguez sees the road to economic and social justice as something that can’t be bought with merchandise and ad space. The grassroots nonprofit recently opened its Community Justice Center (2308 Vaughn Blvd) in the mixed Hispanic/black neighborhood of Polytechnic Heights with the aim of providing a community space where grassroots efforts can grow and new civic-minded movements can flourish. The official grand opening event is Sun, Mar 1.
The one-story house has been cleaned and now provides office space and conference rooms for United Fort Worth’s three core focuses: immigration, criminal justice, and civic empowerment. Each area of focus now has a team leader and volunteers who engage with the community and local leadership to further the cause of social justice and equality.
“The work that we are doing represents all communities,” Rodriguez said. “We want the space to provide resources to get our communities informed and engaged.”
During a recent meeting, TCU professor Max Krochmal led a two-hour class on the black freedom movement in Texas. Around a dozen people listened before starting an informal discussion on local politics.
“It’s clear who calls the shots” in Fort Worth, Krochmal said. “Oligarchs, the Bass family and their buddies, the police officers association. You have to organize a financial base that can compete against them.”
Rodriguez said United Fort Worth’s setbacks over the past three years have been learning experiences. The grassroots group, he said, had focused too much on reacting to public policy, like the decision by the Tarrant County Commissioners Court last year to renew the controversial agreement that allows sheriff’s deputies to work with ICE. That agreement, 287(g), terrorizes many in the Fort Worth community.
United Fort Worth’s volunteers realized that they needed to slow down and regroup. The Community Justice Center is part of a new strategic effort to break down the entrenched powers that have shaped and continue to shape public policy long before a city council vote is held, Rodriguez said. He added that his team of volunteers is focused on the 2021 Fort Worth general election. United Fort Worth plans to run a full slate of candidates against Fort Worth City Council incumbents, he said.
Starting at 3pm Sunday, the Community Justice Center grand opening will feature “food, music, and a rally,” Rodriguez said. “We will be canvassing neighborhoods to register voters. It will be a great time. We will start discussions on getting our power back.”