Nicole Raphiel and Feleceia Benton

Recorded October 18, 2019 Archived October 18, 2019 36:03 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019283


Friends Nicole Raphiel (49) and Feleceia Benton (36) discuss how they ended up living in DeSoto, a "majority minority" suburb of Dallas, their perspectives of education, and what they want for their community.

Subject Log / Time Code

NR remembers meeting FB through community work. NR explains how she became involved in City Council in DeSoto.
FB describes why she moved to DeSoto, Texas.
FB explains her family's love of music and education.
NR talks about her children and their education.
NR explains why she decided to homeschool her children.
NR talks about DeSoto's successes.
FB talks about learning to develop DeSoto as a majority minority community.
NR talks about the upcoming census and its importance in validating DeSoto's successes.
FB discusses the importance of having a shared vision as a community. NR talks about the value of creativity in a community.


  • Nicole Raphiel
  • Feleceia Benton

Recording Location

Dallas Public Library: North Oak Cliff Branch



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00:06 Hello, my name is Nicole Raphael. I'm 48 and today is Friday October 18th, 2019. We're in Dallas, Texas right now and my interview partner is Felicia Benton, and I know her because he is a community friend.

00:23 My name is Felicia Benton. I am 36 I yeah, I today's date is Friday October 18th 2019. This is Dallas, Texas. My interview partner is Nicole Raphael and she is my friend in the community.

00:41 So Nicole, I've known you for a couple of years. I feel like now I feel it feels like I've known you for a really long time like you feel like sister from another mister like back in the day, but I we will be like formerly known each other for a couple of years, right and we both do some Community work in the city of DeSoto, which is a suburb outside of Dallas. But how how do we meet each other?

01:05 I believe our first encounter was.

01:11 During a Christmas event was it? I don't know you were young really remembering this event. What was honestly how I know you I know you are rather recognize you a community from the Arts commission. So you were supposed all the events, you know how to speak and so I Knew You by face. I didn't know you by name, you know becoming a city council person in a really kind of delving into the community has been great getting to know you because I've admired your work throughout. I've seen you grow up into the marketing round and have seen just different things you've done in the community trying to take us to the next level. So I appreciate that. That's really cool. Alright, you know Bible head and my daddy is a pastor and I've been reading the Bible since I came out there was one of my favorite verses is a good name is better to be having great wealth paper is better than silver and gold. So I try my best to protect my name and my reputation. I don't know if I always do it well, but sometimes but

02:11 That makes me feel good that you knew my name and my face from some work before we actually met. Yes, that's cool. And then you came on the city council. You just started like doing the thing. Well, yeah living in DeSoto, you know, I think it was a natural. It was just natural for me just to just hit the ground running because everything that I do is everything that I wanted to do that I wanted to city council person to do so, you know, it's my city so, you know, I've been behind the scenes to a certain extent and so I just hit the ground running. Yeah. How did you get to Desoto? So my husband at the time found this beautiful community on this particular day, we were literally just driving around and he will go and knock on people's doors and say hey can we look in your house? Cuz we're looking to buy it and people with lettuce in their homes and show us around the house that's dope. And so I believe it was the community of Avondale. Okay, we wanted to their community and it was a National Night Out so, you know, it was like

03:11 Apple pie and a good stuff falling in love with a house off of Redbird Lane in Oak Cliff in Oak Cliff on Boca Chica and so I was still at that house. He was in DeSoto. And so, you know this family it was a interracial family. They had some adopted children black wife white husband Asian child in DeSoto. So then he bought a house. I didn't know so he bought the house. Oh, yeah, my husband at the time. I like how you continue to disclaim the other time part. That's it. That's an excellent disclaimer. So, how long have you been in DeSoto?

04:11 22 years for real 22 years he 2 years that means you got there. What is this right now 19. So if the late 90s 97 you got to Desoto when I was starting High School. Oh, wow. Wow for I was one year old one coming year old and I'm not from where now that's a story. I won't say all of it cuz we are at that much time on the radio, but they moved from Oak Cliff text. Technically. My parents are originally from Strong Arkansas. So they came to straw they came to that the Dallas area when my parents got married because my parents are both going to go to UT Arlington back in the day 7 days together. Yeah. Yeah. My mom was going to go to nursing school and my dad was going to do a math in music kind of combo degree. My mom is pregnant and so they kind of bounced around.

05:11 I'm between Arlington and Oak Cliff $7 cuz that's where we can live for, you know, the first part of their married life and then my dad learned about DeSoto because he was hanging power lines interested in DeSoto. So one whole lot of people that look like us in 1984 wasn't in the suburb of DeSoto, but it was the only place we could find a house like nobody would give him a house in Oak Cliff for whatever reason you had a lot of that was because he had enough for four children. Do I guess I wasn't appealing from to the people who were trying to stop from whom he was trying to buy a house. So some housing discrimination was happening totally housing discrimination was happening, but for some reason we were able to land a house in DeSoto that we didn't know that we'd landed up on at the time was the land of milk and honey, and no more milk than honey, but we watched a change and do some things and my family that was still there. We're still super active in the

06:11 Okay. So you said your dad he was about to go to school? Did he go to school for music and math? So let me tell you what happened. I'm mom finished her degree and how she got her degree in nursing but my dad dropped out his last semester so he did not finish like he stayed at home until four years. He said it home literally 2 to take care of his children. Oh, wow. Okay, so tell me about music. Yeah. So my dad he grew up in the church playing keyboard and organ so he thought that that's the route that he was going to go but my mom was like you got to do something else too, but he's always been like a math whiz until he studied math primarily and then he was minoring music. Okay, so we have a health professional if you have a mathematician the hot musician. Yes, and then you my sister's yeah. They're my sisters are older than I am. My sisters are 8 10 and 12 years older than me interesting story about my oldest sister. She started college in 1989. She graduated from DeSoto High School in 19.

07:11 9 in through just like a series of wine.

07:19 That's probably why we think so. Well does mice my big sister is my homie. I love my big sister, but she started school in 1989 and then one of my sisters that got pregnant and so she came back to Dallas and helped her my mom got cancer in 1990 the beginning of the 90s. So she took care of her couple years later. She's got a job to help my other sister who was pregnant like a couple years later got married, but she helped her and then she was working on a job and she left that job to help my other sister whose son was getting ready to start school, but the school wasn't the right fit so she home-schooled him. So all of these like detours happened in her life for literally 30 years and she just graduated last weekend with her bachelor's degree Okay, so

08:10 Healthcare mathematician musician Sister Sister, then you go in there, you know a lot of educating education happening yet. Okay, so I'm leaving somewhere. I'm interested and I was really impressed with the birthday celebration your family had for your father and I was really impressed with the students of the school that he started. So can you talk about that? Yeah, so my oldest sister is the one who left her job to help get that school going. I'm so she helped get it going and then my other sister that's right next to me in a cage. She has a master's degree in education. She was working for Dallas ISD. She left her job to come to the school and help the bill that up. So it's my dad's Vision, but my two of my sisters practically run the Vision Christian Academy school of individualized education. It's been a lot of time with students one-on-one helping them figure out.

09:10 Learn, okay. Go back to healthcare. Yeah the school. Yeah, then This Magnificent musical arts if it's something that you all do. Yeah, he talked about that my child who so there's seven grandchildren all together and music isn't better than everything. So my oldest sister upsetted education the Nexus player has a business and Prosthetics and Orthotics, but she's a singer I was in band. I have a degree in musical theater. My the next sister is a singer as well my mom saying so it's just like in our in our blood my grandpa sang my granny played for forever. So all that stuff is just in our blood and so now we do like musicals every year for the students at the school. We write our own musicals off and sometimes we produce like legit

10:10 When's the most likely write our own and we cater them to the students that are at the school? Okay, so that's what I thought was. So cool. Like I was just in musical theater. That was really cool with that now. Okay Healthcare Healthcare Musician musician mathematician Christian musician Sister Sister education education High School.

10:39 Zoe yep, that's all I do is yours. Yes. It's weird. Like people know her that I don't know like I don't know like things gets shared. I guess if it was like, oh my God Zoe OU Zoe's mom? Perhaps Zoe school so that when he was born I 10 years ago. We just weird that she's 10. She was born with Down Syndrome. No fingers on her right hand and I which I did not really know that I was going to be our set up until she got here and that, you know single motherhood as with a kid with Down Syndrome with no fingers on her right hand is kind of like an unlikely set up but we just learned so much and she taught us so much about people just told us so much about love. She taught us so much about how people receive information as to our marketing company is named after her because we've just learned

11:39 That people are more like her than they are not you know, like so was at me so that means that you know, sometimes we talk like people that we we we think that people understand what we're talking about how we think that people will see something that we might ride or post or something that we're trying to advertise and they're just going to understand and that's not always true and a lot of times is because we overcomplicate communication. So Zoe has taught us how to simplify and she's taught us how to be creative in the way that we communicate all at the same time which sounds really easy, but what is simple is not easy. So that's a lot that is some of what she saw dust and Sons always now 10 weird and she seems right. Yeah, sometimes things great like if she concentrates she can actually hit the notes, but mostly she sings bass. Okay, that's funny not good, but it's hilarious.

12:39 And it makes a lot of people Happy Meal be included don't care. Yes. She does make a lot of people had happy me included. Okay Healthcare.

12:52 Interstate education, is there sister sister you Zoe music ok, musical theater of musical theater. I studied it and college. I have a degree in it. Also a degree in advertising and public relations, but I still at perform like all over Dallas all the time. Next year is the first year in a long time that I'm not slated to be on somebody stage. Okay, but I fell in love with musical theater in DeSoto High School when I was a sophomore and I was in the musical Godspell and now I've been in the hospital several times. I was just in gospel at Water Tower Theater is Addison, and I was John the Baptist and am right at school. Do you have how many kids do you have just have died due to signs.

13:52 Daughter. Okay, and how old are they? What do they do? Where are they? Give me the spill. Sure. I'm already he's 23. That's my baby. And yella. She's 25. She's in the middle are mine is 2727 25 and 23 and got my daughter. She is the one who's that Mom. What I'm going to do without you I said baby you going to live? No, I'm going to get a big house and have you come live behind me? Okay, like what is that all about it so she ended up moving to Charlotte Charlotte extra year after graduation. So now she lives in Nevada until she works in Vegas and she decided she wanted to be a pastry chef when she was 8 years old. Wow. I'm so today. She is a pastry chef. Well as the manager now, she's a manager at Marriott Convention Center restaurant in so that's cool. So she started that at 8 and then re

14:53 He's my musician and he is the creative. He's like left side creative right side creative. He just wanted to separate so he's working for a christ has graphic design and he's working for a stem cell research company is doing their graphic design cool. Then the number one or mine. He is he's he's the analytical one, you know in so if you ever watch the cartoon Dexter, you know them a little girl and then Dexter he was Dexter. So he was the little Brainiac so he's Adidas web development for a tell him Health company do right. Now everybody is gainfully employed. So I have no babies they pay bills. They pay me back something care of me, you know, they could let me know they check on me and she know and when they're at the house, you know, they took me in and so I love it. Yeah.

15:53 Are good job? Yes. Yeah good for you. If we got some yes a man. They all go through desotoschools interesting know tell me about it. Okay, so they wanted to start a 1 year which which year what time of year OK the younger two was there in first grade and third grade know for the first and fourth first and fourth grade and then my old is he never attended DeSoto at all. So I spent 12 years at different phases home schooling each of them. Wow phases until the oldest. He ended up graduating from Richlands. They have the first Collegiate program, you know, all the Collegiate programs that everybody's talking about now using the very first program, so he graduated thin from you. So that was cool. And then the younger two, I'm pushing a life change if they graduated from Booker T, Washington, so they're both my daughter. She plays piano the youngest when he plays guitar and so yeah.

16:52 So why were you guys in and out? Why was it one year?

16:57 Excellent question. All right. So so my husband at the time he wanted to make your shirt that sits at the time every time we were entrepreneurs. So he really needed my help inside of the business. And so, you know, he really needed my whole time and so we put them in the school, you know for that year and I was the you know, the home schooling parent quite naturally. I will be a helicopter mom in so, you know, they did the one year and it was okay, you know, but he just wasn't what I wanted for them and more than anything. I want them have a Christian education, right? But at the same time to you know, I haven't homeschool vs. Going to public school. There's just so many more opportunities that we were able to give them in a hostile environment vs. You know being in the standard by uncle has changed a lot of ways. It used to be that The Homeschool kids were like the strange ones if they were social personality.

17:56 Schooling is becoming set. So more sets of such normal behavior that you knows more accepted and the kids can have more opportunities. So we were at the very beginning. So there are some Pioneers after American Pie and see in the private school space for a long time and our school is still small and much of what we do is adapt it to homeschool behavioral homeschool curriculum. So yeah black folks home schooling know around that time, you know, we were in that space and started to meet people so actually how I decided to home school just a tall was I met a man in African American man who had five children and his last child was about to get well was about to go into high school and he did not want his last child, which was his daughter to go to wilmer-hutchins, you know to go to that system as her his son's day cuz you know, they went through their issues. So he was a postman. He didn't know what he was doing. So he was home schooling and didn't realize it. So what he did was he went to see rally.

18:56 College and ask the teachers. Can we order these classes? Why is it so he started having his daughter all that the different classes AZ and so she learned trigonometry. She will learn Chinese. So, you know, she was at a higher level you have you know, and so I met him and he was telling me the story and at the same time. I was just being pulled in my heart like hey, you know, you can do this, you know at the time my oldest was in private school in a private Christian School. We've had a lot of money for that you sure and using abeka curriculum. I can buy that I can do that. And so that's really kind of how I meandered into homeschooling with my meeting Kim that's out at the time but a crazy story and now that I don't have a bunch of children. I feel like my nieces and nephews are my children. My oldest niece's 45 and I worked at the school for the first 5 years that it existed. I mean, I'm still there every week I was there when you texted me.

19:56 Theater there every single week and I'll run the arts program. So I feel very connected to the kind of work that we do but you know, where do my minority-majority community wouldn't wear in a minority-majority suburb on top of that which I'm not sure that's a common. I still don't think that's like super coming around the United States like minority-majority suburbs. We're starting to see changes across the country. But still it's still that our area. I think it's still a bit of an anomaly so some of the challenges when they've been with like education or government Economic Development, what are some of the challenges that you have in this conversation around education has kind of triggered these Gods what are some of the challenges that you've experienced in this community giving are different demographics and where we're trying to go what are some of the challenges you've experienced educationally speaking. I wouldn't I would definitely say DeSoto is not different than any other District, you know, because school district have

20:56 They're up there down. My choice to homeschool was one that this this was my Mantra on my worst day. My worst day was better than a teacher's best day with my child, you know, and so it's like like let that marinate a little bit. So just imagine the teachers worst day with your child. So that was my sentiment, you know, so it was really important for me that I gave them the best that I can possibly give him, you know, which was myself, you know, but me being 100% but it didn't matter whether you Public School homeschool charter school private school, you know, if the parent If the parents is not there in on top of it, yeah. It just really doesn't matter for sure that I've seen situations were home schooling went back private schools went back Charter Schools went back as well as public schools. Right and the consistent person has to be the parent is 1% the parents so I never a sign or scribe.

21:56 You know more responsibility on someone. I don't know, you know to be real human.

22:06 Think that is normal or not. And I hate that that's true. But I don't know if that's the average thing. I think a lot of parents especially when their children are great School Aids. They really rely on the school to do the work. We've experienced bad being a school at parents relying on the school to do all the things but before a parent sign the contract we tell them like we're all about partnership and everything that we do is about Partnerships. If we're not working together, then you know, what are we doing? We have to be in partnership with one another. Right? Right. If I do something at the school for 8 hours and then the child goes home and you your behavior is something polar opposite of what's being taught at school. Then we are not going to grit get a child that has a consistent mindset about a consistent thing. The things have to be the same, right? Exactly. Exactly. I don't know their parents who have to rely on a certain system of school systems and they have to and feel like they have no other choices you nobody so important that parents no matter what the decision

23:06 That they are involved at every level hundred Pino in so often times we tend to in our community trust you or just give 100% trust, you know, but it's one of those, you know trust but verify. Is still very attached and you know, really honestly biblically speaking. The responsibility of Education was on the father.

23:32 All right.

23:34 In other words of parents role in so we can use that as a standard. You know, it just kind of triggered. Am I said, but just talking about you know, where we live in our community being an anomaly it is economically it is, you know to have that many African Americans aggregated in one place at the various economic levels, and it's a community that is thriving. You know, it is thriving do we want better? Do we want more? Yeah, we do. Yeah, we do, you know, but it is something that the city has had in Dallas County know, you know an average, you know, if we look at what's happening in Dallas County right now and come levels in certain parts of Southern Dallas County are going down. Yeah, you know, but then you come tri-community where unemployment is at 4% you know where you have people at the top of the food chain people the bottom of the food all living together in a community that just now has public transportation.

24:34 Creative because of the way the infrastructure of the streets because you know, turn bus lines when come there United couldn't support. The roads going to be supported by it. So a lot of things are in place to make out of town, right and in the Big Sean's was just financing of it because the way our state finances public transportation, you can use it for one or two things Economic Development or public transportation DeSoto Chelsea use it for public transport mean for economic life Princeton city of Glenn Heights shows use theirs for public transportation, right, you know, so the system that's in place now, which is Dallas Area Rapid Transit. It is expensive in for the cities that have not been paying into that system is hard for us to kind of get in and catch up, you know, because the city's who's been paying into the system has facilitated all the routes that you see as well as the real Ryan it right now. We'll never be able to afford a yeah. I love you. Listen to the conversations that I love love love and four number of reasons one because we have a minority-majority community. These are

25:34 Conversations. I think we are we've been accustomed to having just because of where we've been I had a complete mental shift a few years ago, even in my Approach toward thinking about these kinds of things because I started thinking about my grandfather and his grandfather and my grandfather passed away last year at 102. The old man is born on September 11th. And he died on Father's Day is poetic. Like I love I love love love love. My grandpa says he's taught us so much but but the year before he passed away we did this interview with him. We invited some people and we turned on the video recorder we gave her a microphone. We just ask him questions because you know, how often do you get a chance to hang out with a person who's been around for centuries? So we asked them I forgot to ask him about it for my Aunt B's biscuit recipe. I regret that I will figure it out though. But anyway, one of the questions someone

26:33 I asked him about his parents and his grandparents. I don't know how I landed on the question, but he said to me my grandfather was a slave and that's all I want to say about that. Wait a minute and then you know that one statement gets you to thinking. Hey, my grandfather was born in 1915, which means that his grandfather was born somewhere around there. Probably early 1880s. Maybe you do the teams in the 1800. So that means From Slavery. Are we one two, three four, maybe five generations, like literally.

27:21 Five generations that is not a long time to go from families not having literally anyting to having something and then given the fact that what happens when my father and my mom moved from Arkansas to Dallas and get pulled over on the way in literally get pulled over run off the side of the road on the way into Dallas and they experience their version of housing discrimination. This is 70s 80s. Now my generation my sister generation. I finally gotten to the point where I can we got some education we had to sell our left liver to wait. We only got one liver had to sell her liver to get it when we have it now. So now we're getting to the point where we can find some economic stability some African American and so that means that as it pertains to help communities work the how you get.

28:21 In your city, like who knows that stuff who knows how Chambers of Commerce work who knows how Economic Development works in the city? Who knows that I've got a shop locally at the store in order for our numbers to prove that we will support something bit Hoon. That's like not common. I don't think it's common knowledge amongst our folks because when did we have when do when do we learn in government class or economics in those are not the things that I learned? I like that you said that those was one of the things that you learned and the cool thing about today is is that information is really out there for people to know and to learn and so I really start with this place. I don't know what I don't know, you know, and so that has always make me go deeper into understanding. Okay. Well, how do you know how does one plus one equal to?

29:21 You know, what the hell in that plus? Yeah, what's going on with that in So within our communities in a place where you know, where we do have an anomaly of this community of majority African Americans are the income level, you know, that will shock some people, you know from the Assassins Hanover said, you know, there are people who are now in place who do understand some of those rubrics but depressed tax of where we are in the southern sector of Dallas County in the city of DeSoto. We are red line so that same type of discrimination your parents encounter in trying to find a home. It's a type of is the same type of discrimination economically that we're not seeing in our Southern sectors because people are going around us to create that type of wealth vs. Coming into us because they don't believe the thing that's there was Stacy. I'm so this is where I went back door into the sensor.

30:21 Wait until they go online to use your telephone. You can make phone call. That's all you know, so you can do all that. That's great to know. If you don't do it, then don't knock on your door, you know, but having those actual numbers, so those people know. Hey, you can't make money in this segment of the world. You really can, you know, so that's so important for us this year that's can be really detrimental to but what I like about you Felicia, so this this all started from Community you guys so recently you hosted something called where we Collide when we Collide we're we're we're okay. I'll let you know what we learned from this event is that we are not always asking we're not always asking the right questions. So I think the first thing that we have to do is have the boldness to come together.

31:21 Ask really hard questions that are beyond the surface. So not just I love it. You said Redline economics? I don't know if I've ever heard that put like that before but I think that is brilliant. I want to talk about it somewhere but I think we got to we got them have the bonus to come together and I just as Leaders but leaders and lay people in the community that are willing to know that they need one another the folks that don't call themselves traditional leaders are as necessary as the folks that are find themselves in positions of leadership and I think particularly because especially minority-majority communities. I think we have to learn how to get creative Economic Development traditional Economic Development. Those rules don't apply to read 1% So that means that we have to what I've learned is that we've got to get created which is why we chose the topics that we did. So when we Collide we asked five big questions what if we were in 10

32:21 What if we knew our neighbor what if artist had a seat at the table has had a voice what if Faith had a seat at the table and what if I use moved back those are our big five questions that we explored answers two or more. We just drove it and never more questions along the way but I think those that collaboration of questions trigger the realization that we've got to get creative about how we move our community forward and we've got to use all parties involved got to be the folks that are leading and the folks that are walking. I need to be in the same room and they need to have a shared Vision. I think if everybody can understand who we are and where we're going and those things are clearly communicated we can do a better job and move being together instead of moving individually. So this is how we collided which is in community.

33:20 In a position of leadership and I am a business owner. I don't have I don't sit on a city council or bored I used to but me as a business owner has a responsibility as well, you know, the even even if it's just present that's a responsibility. I'm glad that you know that okay. So you are the champion for that, right? You know, I didn't say any Champion assistant Nicole councilwoman Championship. Today is October 18th 2019. When will be a part of questions are so critical for a community so critical and you're right creativity is what we need, you know and having creative voices in a creative Community primary manatees perspective can give us a different outlook on hey, what does economics need to look like in so having people who understand that in the right places is also very important as the same old thing that work for some other City when it looked like not what it is that it doesn't work for.

34:20 That's because the people who who love that don't love this and so now we have to be to be creative and command our own Economic Development system to call. I'm so sad that your great-aunt couldn't be here to interview with you today, but I'm really glad that I got Anita, you know, I just love my Aunt Nita she was not feeling well today. We do not know her age, right? We do not know her age if you were to look at her you would see her face is not wrinkled it maybe move just a little bit, you know, it's just hard to tell in so I really wanted her to have opportunity to tell her story. No cuz she has a lot of stories and you know, she was a wonderful woman. She took care of her husband, you know, he he had cancer my uncle red and so she took care of him very well. She was a business owner entrepreneur. She grew her own cabbage and

35:20 Things in the backyard and South Oak Cliff on 50th Street Dive. We had chickens known as the rabbit lady and you know, and if you were to eat her food or hot water cornbread, you would cry because it was so good as it was our food is so blessed. I fell and so I miss my Aunt Bee's house. Thank you for taking her place a great conversation. I really appreciate it. Thank you for inviting me. This is a credible. So we're caught up now. Okay. Okay. Thank you, Felicia.