As of late, Southern Dallas has become the topic of much discussion within the city among professionals and community leaders alike. It’s hard to believe that a portion of our city, which is greater than the city of Atlanta in size, has been largely ignored until recently. With the vast potential for economic growth and the opportunities to strengthen the schools and communities in the area it has become the focal point for many businesses and city leaders. This recent focus has all been spearheaded by Mayor Rawlings’ “Grow South” initiative and served as one of the main reasons I chose to get involved in the Mayor's Star Council. I’ll admit that I had other reasons as well. Obviously it gives me the opportunity to stay civically engaged, strengthen my own professional network, impact my city and all of the other bells and whistles that come with being involved in this great organization.  But, as time went on, this new endeavor became very personal.

You see I’m actually from Oak Cliff. I used to go to Kiest Park on Sundays, worked in Wynnwood Village as a teenager, LOVE Rudy’s Chicken, and think Wingfield’s has the best burgers on the planet. While I've lived in various parts of the city, there has been one constant in my 35 years of living and that constant resides right off the Ledbetter Drive and Lancaster Road intersection at 2347 East Pentagon Parkway. Marion Virginia Heyward is my grandmother and she has lived there for 51 years and still does to this day. I was there recently to visit her and to help her clear out some of the bulk trash that she had accumulated at the old house and it occurred to me that her story is one that runs parallel with the story of Oak Cliff. It is a place filled with good, hard-working people who take pride in their community. Madear (as we've affectionately called her for years) is the quintessential matriarch of our entire family. She is the mother of six children who were all educated in the Dallas Independent School District. She had various jobs that ranged from working at the cafeteria at Kimball High School to cleaning houses for the more affluent in the city. She eventually went on to work for the post office and then retire. “I worked there for 40 years, 6 months and 28 days” she says. I’m in awe of her as I can only imagine the many hardships that she must have encountered during times that were plagued with racism, segregation, and crime. These are things that can take a toll on a person and their family. The community as a whole was impacted by that same toll. I can even see the manifestation of this toll in the old house as I help to clean it up. It has largely become dilapidated over the years. It saddens me as I see the wood rotted away by termites and holes in some of the walls that you can see clear outside from. But Madear hasn’t lost a beat, as I clean with the rest of my family members and she tells jokes and stories and we’re all cracking up. Always the generous heart she then lets us know that she has to go to take a fellow church member to church. “Madear wait, I need to take your picture for my blog” I say, “Ok baby let me get my church-hat” she replies. As I snap a few shots with my camera I find myself in awe again because at age 75 she found enough love for 6 children, 17 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren and none of us lacked for any of it. It’s that same resolve that is representative of the community of Oak Cliff and its citizens and the reason that I have so much optimism for its future.

And now, that same optimism is shared in the vision of the “Grow South” initiative. Anyone who knows me knows that I take a lot of pride in being where I’m from and it would make me even more proud to be able to significantly impact my community positively and to know I made the most of my experience on the Mayor’s Star Council. But really….I just want to make her proud.

Marco Smith | Mayor's Star Council 2013-2014

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