Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Press Release

William O. Holston, Jr., Appointed Executive Director of Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

DALLAS – January 9, 2012 – The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas (HRI) today announced that William O Holston, Jr., has been selected to serve as its new Executive Director. In his new role, Mr. Holston will oversee the nonprofit agency which provides legal representation and social services free of charge to clients who have fled persecution and arrived in North Texas, often times with few or no resources.

Holston is a Dallas attorney who has a special passion for helping vulnerable people seeking refuge in the United States. Since 1987, Mr. Holston has provided pro bono legal representation for political and religious asylum applicants from 18 countries in Immigration Court. He has volunteered his services for HRI for the past 10 years. In 2005, Mr. Holston was awarded the Angel of Freedom Award by HRI, because of his commitment to provide pro bono services to clients. Because of a generous gift from Charlie and Meredith Stimson, two of Mr. Holston’s clients, HRI”s pro bono program is named the William O. Holston Jr. Pro Bono Program.

“We feel fortunate that Mr. Holston has joined HRI as CEO,” says Robert Graham, Chairman, HRI Board of Directors. “Bill is particularly well-suited to lead HRI into the future and he has demonstrated through years of service to HRI, a deep commitment to serving our clients and a true passion for HRI's mission. We believe he will be a great leader for the organization."

HRI clients are often fleeing countries where they were imprisoned and tortured for their religious beliefs and political opinions. Its women’s and children’s program provides assistance to victims of domestic abuse, human trafficking and those who are victims of crime. The challenges faced by HRI’s clients are immense.

“Our clients come to America with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They are prohibited from working and not entitled to government benefits but have taken huge risks so they have a chance at freedom and safety in our country,” says Mr. Holston. “Our new challenges include providing social services to  clients through our pro bono lawyers, doctors and other volunteers. We need to provide increasing social services especially given the huge backlog of cases in Immigration Court.”

Before joining HRI, Holston was a partner in the firm, Sullivan & Holston. He is a member of the Transition to Law planning committee. Mr. Holston is a teacher and lay minister at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho, serves on the board of Art Conspiracy, Inc., is a frequent commentator on KERA 90.1 FM in Dallas and contributes pieces on local hiking excursions to D Magazine’s FrontBurner blog. He holds a J.D., from Southern Methodist University and earned a B.A. from The University of Texas at Dallas.

About HRI

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal assistance to refugees and immigrants in the North Texas area who are the victims of human rights abuses. It was founded in 1999 by attorney Elizabeth “Betsy” Healy and social worker Serena Simmons Connelly.

HRI assists clients through two main programs: the Asylum program and the Women and Children’s program. The Asylum program assists refugees who have fled to the United States because of past persecution, or the fear of persecution based on one of the five protected grounds (race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group).
The Women and Children’s program assists immigrant women and children who are the victims of violence and/or abuse and neglect.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Spring Creek Forest

I hiked several times over the holidays at this beautiful spot.  Chinqapin and Bur Oaks, , clear creeks, and the sound of bird song and flowing water.I sat here watching Flickers, and Downy Woodpeckers crawling along towering trees. Forest Floor covered in Inland Sea Oats and Virginia Wild Rye.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas

It was 1864, the American Civil war dragged on. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was in no mood for Christmas. His beloved wife Fanny had died in a fire in 1861. His Son Charles was a second Lieutenant in the Company G of the 1st Massachusetts. On November 27, during the battle of New Hope Church, Virginia, he was shot through the left shoulder. The bullet nicked his spine, and exited under his right shoulder. His father was nursing him back to health. He wrote the following poem, which later was set to music as a Christmas Carol.

Christmas Bells
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(The original poem, complete with all seven stanzas)

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

This is an interesting time we live in. The war in Iraq is officially over. Our troops there are in the process of leaving.  The Phrase Peace on Earth, Good Will to men, according to Luke, was sung by angels announcing the birth of a baby in the little Judean Hill Country town of Judea. It was the last place people would expect to find a Messiah. So, what did these words mean? They were supplied by a more mature Yeshua, as he stood and read from the scroll of Isaiah:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, 
   because he has anointed me 
   to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners 
   and recovery of sight for the blind, 
to set the oppressed free, 
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

'We have much to relate to with the poet. Two Thousand years later, the world is still at war. We look with uncertainty at North Korea, and Iran, and their leaders. We still have men and women in harm’s way in Afghanistan. But even more disturbing, is the bitter political wrangling which seems to paralyze our government.

As I reflect on Peace and Christmas, I ask a most fundamental question, How am I adding peace to the world? I reflect on the words attributed to Francis of Assisi.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

So, this holiday season, we greet each other, Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, or Happy Chanakuh. Underneath all of that, I ask, am I an instrument of Peace? 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Merry Christmas

In Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, two men unsuccessfully attempt to solicit funds for the poor from Ebeneezer Scrooge during Christmas. They tell him, “We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.” This is a season where we pay attention to the stunning disparity between haves and have-nots. Children’s Medical Center, recently reported there are 192,502 children in Dallas County that live below the poverty line. About twenty-eight percent of Dallas County children, or more than 183,000 suffer from food insecurity and inadequate nutrition. Worldwide, 1 billion children live in poverty  640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).  The Director of North Texas Food Bank, Jan Pruitt says, “So what they give us is how we respond to hunger and is the community’s statement of how they feel about hunger.’
            There lots of things we can do to relieve hunger. First of course we can contribute money to those who feed the hungry.  North Texas Food Bank feeds three people for every donated dollar. But there are also new strategies on how to combat hunger. Social entrepreneurs are  using the proceeds of their business towards hunger relief.  I can help a local business and feed hungry people. For every bag of granola sold by Impact Foods, they feed a hungry child. They do this by purchasing  Ready To Use foods. They are typically peanut-based and are blended with micro- and macro-nutrients to take a child from severe malnourishment to a healthy weight in 4-10 weeks.  Nammi Truck, a local food truck donates a portion of t-shirt sales to local food banks.
There are political answers to hunger relief. The best way  to combat hunger is to combat poverty. One way to do this is encouraging local agriculture in developing countries. Bread for the World, a hunger advocacy group touted by Rick Steves, the NPR travel expert, writes that US farm subsidies make it impossible for farmers in third world countries to compete. Reducing poverty therefore requires improving opportunities for small-scale farmers to sell their products at a fair price. So it is crucial to have fair global agricultural trade rules. This isn’t charity, it’s fair policy. We should tell our elected representatives we want fair food policies. We should also tell them that even in this down economy we want to continue to prioritize direct aid for hunger relief.  
Finally, there are ways to relieve hunger that are sustainable. My wife and I have given gifts through Heiffer International. The founder, Dan West, came up with the phrase "not a cup, but a cow." They concentrate giving on livestock, training and extension work, and organizational development, which includes planning, management, record keeping, reporting and evaluation. They are helping people feed themselves.
There’s no end to the demands on our money. Like many small businesses, my income was down this year. Still, despite the current financial crisis in our country, I have plenty. We need to ask ourselves, how do we feel about children that are going to go hungry this Christmas? And then, what are we going to do about it? Merry Christmas.