Thursday, October 05, 2006

Frisco, the arts, and the national media

I’m involved in the arts in Frisco, Texas. Progressive Frisco. Cutting edge Frisco. Ninety-thousand-people-strong-and-growing-by-leaps-and-bounds Frisco. THAT Frisco.

As I write this I’m sitting in Newark, NJ, and watching the national news. The firing of Frisco teacher Sydney McGee over an elementary class art museum field trip is making us look like a backwater rural town, and enough of the story is being left out that it’s very one-sided. The nation’s media has unfortunately decided to laugh at that little bible-belt town in Texas that is so uptight that the people there can’t handle a nude statue in a museum. There really is no such thing as “fair and balanced.”

Frankly, I’m not in Dr. Rick Reedy’s (Frisco Independent School District Superintendent) shoes, so I can’t judge. I know for sure the situation is complex, with allegations and required posturing on both sides. These are symptoms of a small town becoming a big city. Ten years ago when I moved to Frisco, it was hard to imagine that a little town with 7,000 people or so would build into 90,000 in short order—headed for 350,000 in the next half-decade. Now when we have a problem that concerns political correctness and bible-belt influences, it’s national news. It requires a steady hand when facilitating resolution to these issues.

I pray that the situation is settled equitably, if that’s at all possible. I hope that small groups of people aren’t given undue power over everyone else. I will leave it to Dr. Reedy’s deft skills and good intentions.

So why am I writing this? As an antidote to the one-sided national story, I’d like the world to know how progressive Frisco is. Frisco is a bold and diverse place. I live in an upper-class neighborhood delightfully peopled by Caucasian, African-American, East Indian, Pakistani, Filipino, Mexican, South American, Chinese and other Asian families. I go to church with a similar mix. My God, I’ll bet we even have some people that come from Oklahoma here (you’re supposed to laugh). Our community contains many different houses of worship, from Catholic to Mormon to Baptist to Methodist to Presbyterian to Sufism (I keep hoping to see a mosque and a Jewish temple show up, but as yet we haven’t been blessed with their presence).

I am in an interracial marriage. In our years of being Chamber of Commerce members, patrons of local businesses, and involved in Scouts, local sports, and the school system, never have I felt looked down on, harassed, or that I’ve ever lost an opportunity because of it.

We recently lost Dr. Erwin G. Pink, one of our outstanding citizens. I have a story about him that says it all. A few years ago I attended an event sponsored by Frisco’s Heritage Association. It was an event that awarded high school students for outstanding essay writing about what it meant to be a citizen. Of the three that won the contest, one was a Chinese-American boy, another was a white American girl, another was an African-American boy (forgive me for delineating race, but you’ll see my point in a minute). Each of these young people rose to read their essays, each did such an outstanding job that you got a lump in your throat, and each received a warm applause from a Frisco audience. Finally Dr. Pink, old, gray and hopefully wiser than most of us, rose to close the ceremony. I wondered what this old man, who had grown up with Frisco from a time when it really was a backwater farm town, would say. He had every chance to blow it, and all the stereo types of old, scared, white-guys flashed through my mind. He kept it short and sweet.

“I think the future of our Frisco is in very good hands,” he said with heartfelt enthusiasm. He shook hands and hugged each of the winners.

“That’s Frisco,” I thought. It may have been a small, suspicious, closed-minded place at one time—but I’ve never seen it.

Citizens here are, for the most part, tolerant and open minded folks. This is why I enjoy practicing my art of songwriting and music here. I’ve seen Frisco crowds listen to homegrown country music, rock and roll, and hip hop. I’ve seen people appreciate avant-garde visual art, and western sculpture. I’ve seen droves of people show up to listen to both adult-oriented and children’s storytelling at the Frisco Storytelling Festival. Even the local coffee shops hang the works of excellent local artists and photographers.

Having spent the last few weeks combing the nooks and crannies of NYC and looking around New Jersey, I can tell you that when it comes to quality, these hotbeds of artistic expression don’t have much on Frisco except for sheer volume of people.

So, to the world out there: the story is not simple. Please don’t look at it and think that Frisco is just redneck southern town.


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