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Protests Brought Awareness, But Will There Be 'Real Change'? North Texas Black Leaders Reflect.

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Tarrant County Commissioner Devan Allen and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price

Global demonstrations for justice and civil rights continue months after a white police officer killed George Floyd in Minnesota. For some, changes prompted by the protests seem permanent. But are they? 

We asked two Black leaders in North Texas: John Wiley Price, Dallas County’s longest serving commissioner, and one of the newest Tarrant County commissioners, Devan Allen.

Demands for justice after George Floyd’s death spread far and fast. And though some past Black Lives Matter marches prompted pushback and then faded, these protests have persisted. Still, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price — who's served 35 years in that position — remains unsure of their impact.

"I’m not jaded. I’m not jaded. I remain optimistic," Price said. "But I understand that’s a long wall, at a brick at a time. I don’t know how much time I’ve got to keep trying to lay those bricks. But I am standing on some of those bricks that somebody else laid. So I can’t get tired, and I can’t give up."

One county west, Commissioner Devan Allen represents Arlington, mostly, as Tarrant County’s youngest Black commissioner. She is 38 and hasn’t quite served two years. Allen, like everyone else, has seen Civil War monuments come down and schools and sports teams change their names.

"Some people are making some changes because they believe it’s the right thing to do. And others are doing it because it’s cool to be woke right now," Allen said. "Not that I’m unsupportive of name changes and other things, but if that doesn’t actually change the culture of the organization and the people who are making the decisions and setting the tone, then its superficial."

Allen believes some changes she’s seen, cultural and otherwise, will stick. And she’s been impressed by the broad diversity of marchers around the world, especially young people.

"Either they perhaps have lived in a world that’s more connected, and so they have had the benefit from seeing the diversity of thought and position on issues," Allen said. "They aren’t afraid to have who and what they think they are challenged by someone else. And they see it as a benefit and not necessarily as something to be afraid of."

Commissioner Price is a bit more hesitant to believe in the permanence of changes he’s seeing because, well, he’s seen it before. He saw police beat and sometimes kill Black men and women decades ago — and this year. The same way he saw people of all races and ages march together decades ago — then again this year.

“They don’t know history," Price said. "Schwerner and Chaney, they were Jewish, they lost their lives on the Freedom Rides. You know? We’ve seen this movie before. Anglos joined Dr. King. Young people were part of the movement. Some clergy. And if you have no historical context then you say 'Wow. This is a movement.' Yes, well, go back and do a little history."

Price says he’s cautiously skeptical. Allen, who says she has directly experienced sexism, racism, and other 'isms,' is more optimistic about what the protesters may change.

"I think when you have grown up being exposed to more things, more people, it prepares you to do bolder things for others," said Allen. "I think that’s one of the things I’ve been pleased with, with the demonstrations and the protests, is seeing how diverse those participants are."

Allen says for this movement to translate to real change, participants must get involved in their communities and set down roots. For Price, policy is key. After all, the laws of the land long maintained slavery. They also separated Black and white people in school, at restaurants, water fountains, the bus.

Got a tip? Email Reporter Bill Zeeble at bzeeble@kera.org. You can follow him on Twitter @bzeeble.

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