When social media god Mark Zuckerberg descended on Southern Dallas last year, the world learned about Taylor Toynes’ neighborhood. That’s the area Toynes grew up in; the same one he founded the For Oak Cliff organization in 2014, to help low-income children and their families lift themselves up from poverty.
Toynes said Facebook founder’s January 2017 visit put For Oak Cliff on the map and cemented its cause.
“Mark Zuckerberg brought more attention to the work we were doing,” Toynes said. “It kind of legitimized it.”
Toynes said the visit has helped For Oak Cliff gather momentum for its work in the neighborhood in the 75216 zip code, whose 2016 median household income was $24,481, less than half of the median income of Dallas County. For Oak Cliff is focused on one particular superblock in Southern Dallas, where its boundaries are: Interstate 35E to the west; I-45 to the east; Illinois Street to the north; and Ledbetter Avenue to the south
Part of the organization’s gaining momentum includes the $275,000 renovation of the organization’s office at 4478 S Marsalis Ave. Work will include the installation of a sound studio, which will play a prominent role in the organization’s Amplify Dallas program, helping youths express themselves through creative works. Amplify Dallas – a four-week program sponsored by the Dallas Morning News, University of North Texas-Dallas, and Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and the Dallas Public Library – emphasizes creative writing and the development of a personal narrative, through the lens of hip-hop (listen to the audio tracks they produced here, with help from noted Oak Cliff producer Justin Rhodes).
For Oak Cliff – which has been working within the framework of the Commit Partnership – is in the process of obtaining its own non-profit status, and is looking to raise additional funding to support its programming, Toynes said. He added that his organization will continue its other programs – the Oak Cliff Festival, its Back to School festival, its summer learning program, and its work in community organizing – to empower the residents of his southern Dallas neighborhood.
Toynes said though he grew up in the 75216 superblock, he learned even more about the impact of poverty on children when he taught fourth grade at W. W. Bushman Elementary School.
“You see more in the classroom than anywhere else,” he said. “I saw some of the students had been oppressed, and I wanted to give them the tools to fight their way out of oppression. It wasn’t just my students. Our community has been oppressed; by poverty, food deserts, racism … our goal is to prevail past that, to give people the tools to liberate themselves.”