A distinctive characteristic of the Mayor’s Star Council is that we exist to the betterment of our neighbors. We are constantly engaging in conversations and actions to understand the needs of our city and how we can contribute to the wellness of our communities. The health of a city is in the experience of peaceful, safe, and supporting communities, and we at the Mayor’s Star Council are journeying together alongside many others to learn, connect, and serve our city. We have accepted the invitation to be engaged in the challenges the city faces today rather than inheriting them in the future.

For this, every month we participate in different communities and with groups that are making a tangible difference in our city through social services, educational programs, poverty solutions, and many others.

This March of 2017, we met with the people of ACT (Advocates for Community Transformation) to learn about their ministry in South Dallas and get a glimpse of how they are making an impactful difference in people’s lives.

ACT is a justice ministry founded in 2009 to reduce crime in urban neighborhoods using the justice system to fight crime while sharing a life-giving message of hope based on the Gospel the Bible teaches. The mission of ACT is “to affirm and protect the God-given dignity and legal rights of inner city residents to live in a safe, stable neighborhood by empowering them to be advocates for transformation in their own communities.” (Sarah Galaro, ACT’s Mission Statement)

The reality we face in our city and that ACT is addressing is the presence of crime-ridden properties threatening the safety of our people. In the research ACT has performed, they found that the main causes of deterioration and crime in our neighborhoods are: drugs, prostitution, vandalism, rodent infestation, acts of arson, human and animal waste, and hazards for children playing in the area.

The work of ACT is a powerful witness of the best of us, of what we can do when we care for the wellbeing of others, of our neighbors. As noted in DMagazine in an article published in December of 2016, “ACT empowers inner-city residents to fight crime on their streets. The ministry aims to reduce the number of crime-ridden properties, prevent criminal networks from expanding, and restore dignity and hope to the communities it serves. It’s a lofty goal that takes street-level action.”

This first-hand learning experience left us, the Mayor’s Star Council, truly moved and inspired by learning not just about the good work ACT does, but about the reality that there are many good people amongst us trying to make a positive, sustainable, and lasting difference in our city.

We asked Asheya L. Warren, a fellow Mayor’s Star Council member, to share her experience with us of our community project with ACT.

She makes the following observations,

“We spent a brief time learning about ACT. Afterwards, we joined them in door to door canvassing to talk directly with neighbors, sharing information with them on how to access the city resources and authorities, as well as prevent and report crimes. We also provided the residents with information on 911/311 to make sure that they knew how to report any concerns.”

And, Asheya also shares a particular experience that was meaningful to her,

“Our group spent a significant amount of time with two neighbors. One of them was an elderly lady who appreciated the visit and the opportunity to have some conversation. She seemed extremely glad that we were present and planned to immediately put the refrigerator magnet with the new information we shared. She said she was a 40-year resident of the neighborhood. She, along with the many others we met, was appreciative of the outreach effort, willing to listen and engage with us, as well as receptive to the message. Some were unaware of the use/function of 311 as an alternative and non-emergency number. I think this helped neighbors recognize that people were concerned about them and their neighborhood.”

Asheya, alongside many others, was profoundly impressed and moved by the work ACT does and how they are intentionally present in people’s lives addressing and supporting their need of safe neighborhoods. The city of Dallas has limited city resources to meet this need on its own, but it has a vast talent and resources of its people. There are many others that are contributing to the wellness of our city as the people of ACT do.

The future of the city is in the ability of the leaders to empower others so they too can become advocates for transformation in their own communities. ACT will continue to empower residents and promote sustainable systemic change by “[leveraging] local resources, including local laws, courts, attorneys, law enforcement, nonprofits and churches to empower inner-city residents to fight crime on their streets while sharing the hope of the Gospel.” (Galaro)

We commend the work ACT is pursuing and the inspiration they instigate in those of us that want to be part of the solutions too. Our city, our responsibility.