“On the other side of the bridge, past the nice loft apartments, the newly built parks, and the Trinity Grove diners is where you’ll find me.” Sa’Vana Davis’s winning essay about the current state of West Dallas and her vision of change landed her a weekend trip to Atlanta, Georgia, to learn about one of the most memorable change agents in history: Martin Luther King, Jr. I sat down with Sa’Vana in a local taqueria to hear her well-articulated thoughts on her “hood,” her dreams, and her perspective-shifting trip. Sa’Vana was selected as one of five winners of the Dallas Mavericks Black History Month essay contest, which prompted 8th-12th grade DFW students to address the topic of “Advancing ‘The Dream’: Taking the Next Step to Improving My Community.” In her essay, Sa’Vana grimly offers the following depiction of the community she has grown up in: “Here in my hood we can’t celebrate New Year’s or the 4th of July because we wouldn’t know if the noises outside our bedroom windows were fireworks or gunshots. We can’t stay out [past] the street lights, not because we would be disobeying our parent, but because of unpredictable gunplay and fights.” She goes on to say that surely, this environment is not what “Dr. King fought and died for.” Her essay concludes with a bold proclamation: “I plan to succeed in life and give back to my community. Make the kids of the future have something to look up to, something to have hope for.”
When I asked Sa’Vana to elaborate, she expressed frustration about the paradox of the grumbling she hears in the community compared to the change that she believes is actually being effected by its members. Echoing the words in her essay, Sa’Vana shares her dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon, moving back to West Dallas, and taking part in the community. She even goes on to say, “I think that’s what Mercy Street wants us to do.” She is exactly right - our dream for our young leaders is that they would ultimately be the agents of transformation in the community.
Sa’Vana’s thoughtful words were rewarded by her trip to Atlanta on February 2 - 4, where she spent the weekend exploring the city and its cultural landmarks, learning about Martin Luther King, Jr., and building relationships with the four other contest winners. She left the trip with a reflection of MLK's life and the importance of opinions. She shares with me a story she heard:
“[MLK’s family] had a dinner table, and at the dinner table, whatever conversation the grown-ups were having, the kids were able to give their opinions on. So that made me think that’s why Martin Luther King was so opinionated! That’s why he spoke out about what he believed, because he was able to exercise this as a child.” She goes on to say, “I think I feel that I need to learn that my opinion is worth being heard...and where my opinion is needed the most.” Lastly, Sa’Vana chose to bring her momma as her trip chaperone, which delighted them both. She notes in her journal, “Today was the first day my mom ever flew on a plane and it was amazing. Her facial expressions are priceless but this is truly many times to remember.”
Sa’Vana has been present at Mercy Street for years, notably with her involvement in the Leadership Institute as a summer intern and former Street Team member. The three pillars that the Leadership Institute seeks to develop in emerging leaders are Christian leadership, an entrepreneurial mindset, and grit - the passion and perseverance to needed to accomplish hard things. To read her full essay, click here.