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SMU students focus on South Dallas history with new program

SMU MLK group
Annette Nevins
Southern Methodist University is collaborating with some local media outlets to highlight South Dallas.

A program at Southern Methodist University is teaching students to focus on the people and places of South Dallas.

About seven summer school students in the journalism program got the opportunity to tour Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard last Thursday. The two-mile stretch of road leading to Fair Park is home to predominantly Black businesses and low-income residents that are often overlooked.

Through this program, students captured videos and interviews of business owners and residents to create stories based around successful development projects and highlight the residents working to improve it daily.

Cecilie Brattlie is a junior journalism major at SMU. She’s not from Dallas but she said she can see where the support is needed in the southern community.

“I think that with more awareness and more attention on the area, there could be more funding or more resources provided, which could ultimately open up a new chapter for South Dallas,” said Brattli.

She focused her project on South Dallas organizations that help residents struggling with the justice system get a second chance at employment.

The Dallas Media Collaborative awarded the university a $3,000 grant to form new story ideas, which the journalism department proposed this multi-dimensional storytelling project as part of their summer intercession feature writing class that collaborates with publications like Dallas Free Press, Texas Metro News, and Dallas Doing Good.

“We want to amplify the voices of residents and business owners in the neighborhood to spotlight diverse narratives about the lesser-known neighborhoods of MLK, Jr Boulevard,” said Annette Nevins, visiting professor at SMU.

Nevins believes the program is also an opportunity to not only show the students, but the community a different side of South Dallas.

“Many of us in Dallas may have driven in our way to Fair Park in South Dallas, but that's usually maybe once a year,” Nevins said. “Where does that leave the students and businesses at the boulevard the rest of the year?”

Students and interns get a chance to visit places like the Forest Theater, Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce and businesses around Fair Park. Each student is responsible for completing a story that will have the opportunity to be published by one of the partnered publications.

The program will continue to be offered in the fall at Southern Methodist University through various classes including business journalism, feature writing and film classes.

Zara Amaechi is KERA’s Marjorie Welch Fitts Louis fellow covering race and social justice. Got a tip? Email Zara at You can follow her on X @amaechizara.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Zara was born in Croydon, England, and moved to Texas at eight years old. She grew up running track and field until her last year at the University of North Texas. She previously interned for D Magazine and has a strong passion for music history and art culture.