Dolphin Heights History

“The Residents of Dolphin Heights Take Back Their Community” written by Anna Hill for The Dallas Morning News July 8, 2008

I have lived in the Dolphin Heights area – south of I-30 and east of Fair Park – for 30-plus years. We purchased our first home in this community, which at the time was mainly home to black families, with one white family in the midst, and offered affordable rent rates.

In the 1980s, a good Minyard’s grocery store was just off Military Parkway, catering to all the surrounding communities. On the corner of Dolphin, Military and South Haskell was a quick-shop store and gas station. Homes were maintained and kept up to code; lawns were nicely cut and trimmed.

Then the older generation began to die or go to adult care facilities. The younger generations began their own lives and moved to other parts of Dallas, neglecting the inherited properties.

Thus began the transformation of our community and the arrival of drugs, crime, prostitution and gangs. With young people leaving family homes empty and unattended – or selling out to “slum lords” – there was less and less true pride of ownership.

Homeowners make a neighborhood a community, not just a place to live. Renters simply don’t have the same investment.

The abandoned homes were taken over by drug dealers, and the slum landlords began to rent their properties and take extra pay in exchange for letting dealers use their houses to sell drugs.

What few homeowners and renters were left were frightened to the point that they just turned their heads and looked the other way rather than report activities to the police. Some moved away or locked their doors and pulled down their shades. In the worst cases, some took money from dealers in exchange for their silence.

Fifteen years later, our community is about 70 percent Hispanic, 29 percent black and 1 percent white. For years, we had little support from our City Council representative and the city – period.

We suffered the injury of businesses moving away and the insult of even pizza companies refusing to deliver. No one cared about this part of Dallas.

Well, there were still a few of us who cared – and we got down to work.

With some help from the police, city code enforcement, the City Council, planning commissioners and Mayor Tom Leppert, we now have been noticed as a neighborhood that waits for no one individual to bring back our community.

Instead, we have taken our community back. We assessed our needs and are now focused on working with others to makes the fixes a reality.

For example, that means we have a voice in what, how and who will develop in our community. We have screened several investors interested in our area. They know we are not leaving but instead intend to be a part of any development that takes place. They may build, but we will be heard and our wishes respected.

Walk down a street now, and you see Mom with a stroller and children walking in the evening. Why? Because we all look out for one another, and everyone knows that if you are seen doing wrong, a police cruiser will soon be on the way to ask you questions.

The Dolphin Heights community is a prime example of what can be accomplished if residents work together and speak up for ourselves with one voice.

It was when we took action for ourselves that North Dallas took interest in the Dolphin Heights Neighborhood Association.

Anna Hill is the president of the Dolphin Heights Neighborhood Association

 

Short Documentary Film about Dolphin Heights

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