On This Juneteenth, ‘For Oak Cliff' Mission Is Stronger Than Ever

Founder Taylor Toynes shares his thoughts on liberation day and why he launched an endeavor to liberate Oak Cliff

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An amazing group is doing amazing things for the Black and Hispanic community in South Oak cliff.

It’s a mission to liberate.

“We aim to liberate Oak Cliff from systemic oppression,” said Taylor Toynes, founder of the nonprofit, For Oak Cliff.

Recently, volunteers have been feeding families through the pandemic with meal-kits, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables. But that’s just one of the countless things they’ve been doing to enrich and empower the minority community in the surrounding area.

The group was born from the heart and soul of Toynes, who was born and raised there.

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Taylor Toynes, founder of For Oak Cliff

“We have a lot of pride and tradition in our community,” he said.

Toynes started this mission six years ago in his classroom at Bushman Elementary School when he noticed some students didn't have school supplies.

“There were disparities that I recognized that were still in the community even from when I was their age,” he said. "So for me, I didn’t want to continue to be someone sitting on the sidelines watching my students suffer. Watching my community suffer. Watching my family suffer."

He hosted a Back to School festival for the community that year, which turned up thousands of supplies for those kids. Since then, For Oak Cliff has hosted more festivals, built a community center, launched a GED program, fed countless families, and planted community gardens.

For Oak Cliff
Face-painting from one of For Oak Cliff's back to school festivals.

Years later, Toynes and his team of dedicated volunteers have been creating a culture of opportunity in a neighborhood often plagued by oppression.

“Our programs are centered on our four pillars of work – which are education, advocacy, community building, and the arts. And there are different programs that drive each one of those pillars through a culture of education and increasing social mobility and social capital,” he said. “In order for us to do that, it has to be done collectively.”

That’s why he’s established an important aspect of the For Oak Cliff mission – the SuperBlock. It’s a section of South Oak Cliff that surrounds the community center, which acts as the backbone for the area. This is where he brings other organizations to network and partner on various projects and charitable events to help uplift the neighborhood.

For Oak Cliff

"I was blessed to have a foundation with my parents in my household. That was a privilege for me. But a lot of people didn’t have that and a lot of people had to deal with that same trauma. Those traumas make them make specific or particular decisions," Toynes said.

He spoke more about those traumas Oak Cliff has experienced over the years and how that correlates to the injustice and oppression Black communities continue to face, even in 2020.

"We can go back to trauma from my ancestors who were enslaved. When you look at the people who were enslaved for 400 plus years, even when you look at it from a scientific point -- trauma is passed down through genes. So these things are passed down from my ancestors, generation after generation and it’s still in us right now," he explained.

But the power to overcome is greater than the trauma itself.

"It’s important to understand the power in our bloodline as Black people," he explained. "Because you've got to understand, we came from being captured in Africa, hundreds of thousands of people didn’t even make it across the water to get here. And then endured years of slavery, Jim Crow, the crack era, all of those things -- and we’re standing here today with success stories. People who have prevailed. People who have PhDs. That's powerful.

On this Juneteenth, it’s important to recognize the crucial work of For Oak Cliff. Because now, the world’s eyes are more keen to the very oppression Toynes has worked hard to overcome in his beloved South Oak Cliff.

“That’s one thing that we’ve got to continue to put out, is that we are powerful. We are resilient. And today on this liberation day, on Juneteenth, that’s what I just want everybody to remember, is their true power.”

Click here to learn more about For Oak Cliff and how to get involved.

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