By Arielle Johnson
If we know what the problems are that plague our community, then sit down to come up with solutions to fix them, then and only then, are we on our way to true freedom. A wise man once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” You can have a list of a thousand problems you have identified as issues needing solutions, but until you come up with a plan and organize an army to carry it out, nothing will change.
Mr. Nathan White describes himself as being a Mama’s boy. Growing up, he was never involved with any major trouble. In fact, his siblings and other family members had to keep an eye out for him when they were being mischievous because he was guaranteed to report any wrongdoings he witnessed. Mr. White was so straight-laced he decided after going to college that he wanted to join the Policy Academy.
In 1988, Mr. White joined the Dallas Police Academy. Things were going well with his training until a police car chase turned fatal. During his training, he was dropping off prisoners with two officers, Officer Lisa Sandel and Officer Mark Fleming, when one of the officers noticed a stolen vehicle. Immediately, they started to pursue the vehicle while calling in to their superior to report the crime. The cold, wintery conditions in January 1989 made the roads treacherous, and because the supervisor was already aware of the danger involved with the pursuit, he asked the officers to abort their efforts to apprehend the perpetrator. Unfortunately, they ignored the warning they received and lost their lives because of it. The supervisor later committed suicide, the cause of which was believed to be connected to his disregard for protocol. All officers in training were supposed to be paired with seasoned officers. Mr. White was the sole survivor in the crash, but his injuries were so severe, he had to be put into an induced coma so the medical staff could stop the bleeding on his brain and gastrointestinal area. It is a miracle that he survived, as the vehicle was totally demolished.
When Mr. White awakened, he was surrounded by family and medical staff. Of course he was totally oblivious to the trauma he suffered in the crash. “Initially, I had no idea about the severity of my injuries. I thought I would be going back to the academy in no time to finish my training,” said Mr. Wilson.
Deep down inside, Nathan White always wanted to be a servant to his community. However after the accident, he had to carve out a more realistic plan for his life. After much contemplation during his recovery, he realized it was time for him to organize an army of workers, who would focus on making life better for our children. Paying close attention to the disparities between our community and our white counterparts, the army he assembled, which consisted of parents, middle school, high school, and college students, decided to form an organization that would make affordable childcare and education their priorities.
Mr. White formed a non-profit organization called the “Community Improvement Club,” in 1991. Initially in the area of childcare, the focus was on single mothers and low-income families, but as the word got around about how successful the childcare program was, in little of no time, judges and lawyers started dropping their kids off at Mr. White’s childcare center too.
In the area of education, Mr. White and his team decided they wanted to do something about their children ranking at the bottom of the list of standardized test scores around the city of Dallas. One-on-one tutoring was suggested by the “Community Improvement Club” and before long, they were on everyone’s radar. The Duncanville school district was so amazed by how this group of community people helped to improve their students’ scores, they invited them into the Duncanville ISD to help them in their quest to avoid being at the bottom of the list of school rankings again.
As the students progressed through the different grade levels, the focus of the community organization switched to improving the students’ math scores. So from 1997-2001, the organization changed its name to “Math Connect.”
With the children who grew up in these aforementioned programs, as well as young adults who had no connection whatsoever to them, a new dynamic started to present itself in the community. Outstanding warrants, and the threat of being jailed for them. If you have warrants for your arrest, what do you do when you get to that question on a job application? Answer ‘yes’, and your application is express delivered to file number 13, answer ‘no’ and watch the job offer slip out of your hands before you can finish filling out your onboarding paperwork.
Currently, there are over 500,000 active traffic warrants in Dallas. That is huge number when you stop to think about it, and it is daunting. Trust and believe there are people in our community who are fearful of being stopped by police officers because they are scared of being carried off to jail. These people cannot live normal lives carrying this type of fear around with them everywhere they go. On the one hand, they need their car to get to work, but if they get stopped by the police, there is a chance they may lose their job because they are not able to go to work if they are locked away in a jail cell. So this is where Connect Dallas comes in.
Connect Dallas is what Math Connect has evolved into. Mr. White says, “Our people believe the police are systematically out to get them. Therefore, their response has been, ‘F da police’. No….how will the community improve with this type of relationship? True enough, there is some racial profiling in some communities, however, it is not the case all of the time. If you have a ticket, get it taken care of.” Mr. White believes straightening out warrants, tickets and fines helps to facilitate people’s ability to be employable again. We cannot have our children going around in life believing they too will have warrants for their arrest when they grow up, but they see it so much in their everyday lives, it appears to be the norm.
Last year in May 2017, the Texas legislature passed Senate bill 1913, that essentially wiped away the threat of a person being jailed for being too poor to pay their fines. The bill will allow the defendant to pay in increments, or satisfy their debt through community service.
Mr. White considers the passing of this bill to be a victory for the community and definitely a step in the right direction towards helping our community get its freedom back. He has asked us to extend an invitation to you to contact him if you need help with taking care of any tickets you may have. Connect Dallas is a team of volunteer lawyers, judges and people from the community. Feel free to reach out to him anytime, night or day at 214-412-5572. Also, keep in mind, after you get your fines or warrants cleared, Mr. White can help you get involved with a job training program or even find a job here in Dallas. He can even offer assistance if you are an entrepreneur in need of guidance. Maybe you are not the person in need of help, but know someone who needs help, by all means, pass them the number so they can work on making a change in their life.