The Dallas Examiner
In an often forgotten community, children preparing to go back to school received school supplies during the third annual For Oak Cliff Back to School Festival, Aug. 12.
FOC’s annual initiative set out to achieve three goals: inspire the community, show the city that Oak Cliff can unify together and bring positive exposure to Glendale Park – where the festival took place.
The event was nothing short of a success, giving away 3,000 backpacks filled with paper, pens, pencils and folders to local southern Dallas families in need.
“It’s humbling to me that that many people came out. To see that is like ‘Wow! It’s bigger than me,’” said For Oak Cliff president Taylor Toynes as he described the unparalleled feeling of receiving support from his old neighborhood. “I want to see things like this keep happening in the community. People really enjoyed the experience instead of just the goodies and the giveaways.”
But behind the joyful praise, there is a serious tone within the message FOC is trying to get across – the extreme lack of resources in the Southern Sector.
Black children are more likely to live in households that are low-income, extremely poor and/or food-insecure, which affects school performance, preparedness and behavior, according to a U.S. News report.
“We needed this in the community, and it gives people the opportunity to get ready for public school,” said Jalinda Davis, one of the registered participants. “This is a start.”
When a child lives in these types of conditions, it’s easy understand why it’s hard for parents to purchase school supplies due to either economics issues or stores not being in close proximity, which are problems that are no stranger to Southern Dallas.
“When I first moved here I didn’t know what was around, but when I saw this, I was able to come out here and get some resources in the community,” said Kamilah Abraham, a pregnant mother of two and registered participant.
Aside from being a community leader and born and raised in Oak Cliff, Toynes brings an empathetic experience as a former Dallas ISD teacher at W.W. Bushman Elementary school. He started his first drive in 2015 after seeing that his students didn’t have school supplies at the start of the semester.
“I said at the last festival that I hope that a little kid is going to come to this, and it’s going to spark something in their mind to say, ‘I want to do something in my community, too,’” the FOC organizer said.
Access to necessities make a substantial difference in the progression of children and the community as a whole, and its constant absence is becoming more noticeable.
“People didn’t come to the back to school festival because they know Taylor Toynes; They came because they were in need and saw something good happening in their community,” Toynes expressed.
The back to school drive is a step in the right direction and a glimpse into what could happen if more community initiatives contributed to providing solutions to this growing problem.
“I want people to understand and know that everything that we (FOC) do is for our community,” Toynes said. “We are rooted and grounded within our neighborhood. Everyone working with us is from the community. We’re putting our people first.”