I SEE U, Episode 103: Blood in The Bricks: Moving In On The KKK with Activist Daniel Banks

A Texas-based consortium of organizations known as “Transform 1012” is working to convert one of the last known former headquarters built by the Ku Klux Klan into a culturally vibrant space of restorative justice.

Activist Daniel Banks


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Community organizer Daniel Banks describes the aura of a former Ku Klux Klan auditorium in Fort Worth, Texas as having "blood in the bricks." Banks is involved with a project designed to confront the painful histories of this nation by stimulating dialogue and promoting human rights for all. Built in 1924, the intimidating 22,000-foot, imposing red-brick building once served as headquarters, both for the local chapter of the KKK and for the entire state of Texas, where they staged marching practices, hosted minstrel shows and gathered frequently to strategize their agenda. Over 100 years later, an alliance of eight organizations will transform this structure into a cultural center and "safe space" for the very communities once terrorized by the KKK. Join us for a provocative conversation with I SEE U host Eddie Robinson as he speaks candidly with Daniel Banks. He's a founding board member of Transform 1012 N. Main Street, a Texas-based coalition of local arts, grassroots and service organizations that seeks to convert the space into a beacon of truth-telling, healing and liberation. Banks sheds light on how such a monument of hate has remained within blocks to Fort Worth’s City Hall until now.

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Eddie Robinson: Built in 1924, a historic three story building served as an auditorium and headquarters for the Fort Worth chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. But now, over 100 years later, this same facility is getting an extreme makeover. A group of North Texas organizations are collaborating to transform this red brick building into a cultural hub and safe space for the community.

[00:00:28] Daniel Banks: The building that the Klan built, it is imposing, it is, they built it to, to shock and to awe. And it really feels that way from the outside. I’ve been saying there’s blood in the bricks.

[00:00:43] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. Stay tuned as we speak candidly. With one of the leaders of the 1012 North main street project, Daniel Banks.

[00:00:53] Eddie Robinson: Oh yeah. I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U.

[00:01:02] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. In the year 1921, white union butchers went on strike at a meatpacking plant in North Texas. Plant management moved to replace those white workers with blacks who were excluded from joining the union. Fred Rouse was one of those workers. According to published reports, during a heated union protest, Rouse was attacked, stabbed, and violently beaten nearly to death.

[00:01:39] Eddie Robinson: Local police transported him to a hospital in downtown Fort Worth. Recovering in a segregated ward, Rouse spent several days in the hospital’s basement. But an angry mob of white men sieged upon the hospital and dragged him out in his nightgown. News reports say he was strung up on a tree at the corner of Northeast 12th Street and Sandals Avenue in Fort Worth.

[00:02:06] Eddie Robinson: His body riddled with bullets. Ultimately, no one was held responsible for his death. And that hackberry tree where Rouse was hung was cut down to prevent further lynchings at that spot. Just three years after the lynching of Fred Rouse, construction began on the Ku Klux Klan Clavern Number 101’s auditorium, an imposing building just a mile from the county courthouse.

[00:02:36] Eddie Robinson: The auditorium was a daily reminder of power and politics of the Klan. Make no mistake, the KKK of the 1920s was all about lynching, and shooting, and thrashing of Blacks. Also Jews, Catholics, Latinos, and any immigrant deemed unwelcome. This auditorium also hosted racist, sexist, and anti immigrant minstrel shows.

[00:03:02] Eddie Robinson: As the Klan was pushed into the shadows. This building was sold and for many years was the site of a pecan shelling company. It sat empty since 1999 but local artists and organizations are now working to transform this massive space into a community center and arts hub. The building will now be known as the Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing.

[00:03:33] Eddie Robinson: Daniel Banks is a board member of Transform 1012 North Main Street. A collective of eight North Texas organizations that all came together for this project. We’re pleased to have him join us on I SEE U to talk about this amazing initiative. Daniel Banks, thank you so much for being a guest on I SEE U.

[00:03:56] Daniel Banks: Thanks, Eddie. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[00:03:58] Eddie Robinson: Yeah, Daniel. I mean, first off, I want to learn and know, you know, how did this initial idea come about? How did you directly become involved in this project in the first place? Go.

[00:04:11] Daniel Banks: My husband and I moved to Fort Worth, Texas in 2016. He was hired as a tenure track professor at TCU at Texas Christian University and the dance program.

[00:04:22] Daniel Banks: Prior to that, we were in New York City, which is where we started our company DNA Works. When we got to Fort Worth, Adam was doing some research about lynchings in North Texas and in Texas and came across the name, Mr. Fred Rouse. Who is a Black man and butcher and father who was lynched by a white mob in 1921 in Fort Worth, and it’s the only documented lynching in Fort Worth of a Black man in Fort Worth, meaning that there were three corroborative sources that were like newspapers, but of course, I think we all understand and certainly we’ve actually met people in this process. We’ve talked about family members who are lynched that are not considered right, officially recognized. In the process of researching Mr. Fred Grouse and his life and his his death.

[00:05:17] Daniel Banks: Adam discovered that there was this building on North Main Street, not a mile from county courthouse. And that it was constructed in 1924 by the Fort Worth chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, Claverin 101. It was built as an auditorium. It was also built as the Texas headquarters for the KKK. And we drove by the building, we looked at it, and it is a huge, imposing, red brick building.

[00:05:50] Daniel Banks: At the gateway from downtown to the north side, which is historically and still a Hispanic, Black, and immigrant neighborhood district. And it was immediately clear to us several things. One, this was the Klan’s way of saying, we’re in charge, we’re watching you. Um, because if you were coming from the north side in or out of downtown, you had to pass by that building.

[00:06:16] Daniel Banks: And secondly, our immediate response was this has to become a center for arts and community healing. And we also understood, uh, immediately because we were taught by our parents to be good guests. We understood immediately that as newcomers to Fort Worth, this couldn’t be a DNA Works project. This was far bigger than DNA Works.

[00:06:39] Daniel Banks: We just knew that this had to be something bigger. This had to be a city project. This had to be a community project. So one of our first meetings was, was with council member, Carlos Flores, whose district, uh, the building is in again. One of our first meetings was with Dr. Opal Lee, the grandmother of Juneteenth.

[00:07:01] Eddie Robinson: Who’s been a guest on I SEE U.

[00:07:04] Daniel Banks: Wonderful. Who, who, uh, is, is a, uh, a celebrity and rightly so, just an, an extraordinary, an extraordinary, uh, friend and, and, and bleeder and visionary and activist. And we began to think about how it would look to have this be coalition led rather than led by a small number of people.

[00:07:26] Daniel Banks: Led by a larger number of people, all of whom served and represented the communities. That were targeted by the KKK at that time. And so just to name our communities, it’s Black, Hispanic, Catholic, LGBTQ, Jewish and immigrants communities. And so we brought together eight organizations and entities and we began meeting in 2019 to see if this would work.

[00:07:59] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson, and you’re listening to I SEE U. We’re speaking with Daniel Banks. Co founder of DNA Works and Transform 1012 North Main Street. It’s a organization coalition of local arts, grassroots, and service organizations all working to redefine a former headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan in Fort Worth, Texas.

[00:08:23] Eddie Robinson: Into a cultural safe space.

[00:08:27] Eddie Robinson: Were city officials and council members in the region cooperating at first with the repurposing?

[00:08:35] Daniel Banks: The support out the gate was overwhelmingly supportive and not only from city politicians, but from a wide range of. Faith leaders, of grassroots activists, of family members associated with the organizations that were part of our coalition.

[00:08:53] Daniel Banks: And of course there was some explaining to do about what we meant by a Center for Arts and Community Healing. I think some folks Um, because Fort worth, I would say for the size of city that it is, it does not have as many performing arts organizations as most city of cities of this size would have. And so I think people were a little confused as to what did it mean to be doing performing arts in that building?

[00:09:18] Daniel Banks: And What kind of performing arts would they be doing? And I think one person said to me, I really don’t see Annie being done in that building. We’re like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Casa Manana has got that. That’s the, you know, we’re not, we’re not going to step on their territory. That’s their territory. Like we’re thinking about stuff that very, very different in terms of what it means. Social justice performing arts looks like.

[00:09:37] Eddie Robinson: When deciding on what the space would be used for, where each of the elements decided on by community members. You know, was it tailored for the community? How, how did all that come about in terms of what the direction of this building would take?

[00:09:52] Daniel Banks: Thank you. That’s a, that’s a wonderful question. Yes, it was all determined based on what we heard in our, if you will, listening tour, I think Adam and I did a listening tour of about 2000 people before we even brought the coalition together. So it was, we heard what the needs were. We heard what people were saying the needs of the North side were.

[00:10:14] Daniel Banks: We knew what the needs of the performing arts community was in terms of opportunities for early career directors and choreographers and mentorship opportunities. We knew that there were food deserts. Throughout the city, but specifically in the North side, we knew that small and micro business owners needed support and incubation and, and mentorship for their projects.

[00:10:36] Daniel Banks: And we also understood because when we first moved to Fort Worth, DNA works came to work at this wonderful coworking space, shout out Ensemble Coworking. And we thought if we could replicate that on a kind of a live work model with affordable housing for artists and entrepreneurs and residents. And there could be that kind of ecosystem where they’re feeding each other.

[00:10:59] Daniel Banks: The artists are bringing their creativity and their imaginativity and they’re out of the box thinking and entrepreneurs are bringing their understanding of business and finance and, and fundraising. And we were all together under the auspices of this project. That seemed like something that could really benefit any city.

[00:11:19] Daniel Banks: And, and especially Fort Worth. And so that’s where the ideas came from, was from people telling us what they needed that they weren’t getting, uh, in Fort Worth.

[00:11:29] Eddie Robinson: Describe as people are listening to you, you know, kind of give us some insight on the property. You know, what does it look like? And not only that, how did you feel?

[00:11:41] Eddie Robinson: Right. You know, going inside of this structure, you know, I’m sure there’s, if these walls could talk, you know, cliches all around, but just kind of give our audience some insight on what the property looks like and how you felt once you walked into this incredible massive building.

[00:12:01] Daniel Banks: The, the building that the clan built is a 22, 000 square foot floor plate, three story, almost entirely brick with, with big window structure.

[00:12:14] Daniel Banks: It is imposing. It is, I mean, they, they built it to, to shock and to awe. And it really feels that way from the outside. The, the first feeling of walking in that space is. Is a visceral energy. There is unmistakably a visceral energy. If you blinded folded someone and took them in there and unblindfolded and tell them what it was and said, what do you think this building is?

[00:12:42] Daniel Banks: I don’t think anyone would just be like a warehouse. I’ve been saying there’s blood in the bricks.

[00:12:52] Daniel Banks: And one of the places that I immediately thought of that gave me a similar feeling was when Adam and I visited the. Uh, Cape Coast Castle on the coast of Ghana and West Africa, which is one of the places from which kidnapped Africans were sold into this state called slavery. And the, the, the, I guess you would say the dungeon level really, which is where, um, people were kept in, in very inhumane conditions, had that same feeling of uncomfortable vibration, energy, just knowing what had happened there.

[00:13:38] Daniel Banks: And, and, and literally they tell you when you’re there that the, that the ground and the floor are, one can imagine what that is composed of with thousands of people having passed through there and been held in captivity there. So there is, there is a vibration about the space. And actually we are planning prior to construction.

[00:13:59] Daniel Banks: We’re planning a blessing ceremony of the space. And, uh, and then prior to opening, we were planning a, a healing smudging, uh, consecration of the space.

[00:14:17] Eddie Robinson: Coming up, our chat continues with Daniel Banks, one of the organizers leading an effort to transform a former KKK headquarters in Fort Worth into a new cultural hub and performance venue for the community. Why do you think this building was never demolished? What gave the architect at the time the audacity to build a Ku Klux Klan headquarters in this region in the first place?

[00:14:50] Eddie Robinson: And why are you? Young adults becoming more active in this project. I’m Eddie Robinson. A captivating discussion takes place in I SEE U’s second segment. Don’t move. We’ll be right back.

[00:15:03] Eddie Robinson: If you’re enjoying this program, be sure to subscribe to our podcast. I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

[00:16:05] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson. We’re spending the hour talking about a building in Fort Worth, Texas, a building that Daniel Banks describes as having blood in the bricks, a headquarters, an auditorium built by the Ku Klux Klan in 1924. The KKK back then was mainstream quote unquote respectable politicians and businessmen were members. The KKK still embraced violence and even murder.

[00:16:39] Eddie Robinson: Daniel, it seems hard to believe that this all could be so accepted, right? I mean, as I hear the story and hear you describe all this, to think that someone actually commissioned the space back in the 20s and gave it a green light, you know, KKK headquarters here, your local post office there, a grocery store here.

[00:17:00] Eddie Robinson: It’s just amazing to me to think that someone actually said Build this building right here, and this would be great to have in this town.

[00:17:09] Daniel Banks: Well, I think we have to do a mind shift and understand what, what the atmosphere was in the twenties, the, the, the KKK. So this was not the post emancipation Reconstruction, KKK of the of, uh, uh, Birth of a Nation.

[00:17:29] News Clip: The birth of a nation sparked a revival of the Ku Klux Klan. In the 1920s. The Klan’s ideology of white supremacy and what they called 100% Americanism resonated across the country.

[00:17:46] News Clip: The clan of the 1920s was not a rural clan, which the clan of Reconstruction had primarily been the clan.

[00:17:55] News Clip: 1920s was very big and surprising places. Places like Denver, like Portland, Detroit, which had huge waves of immigration, both of Catholics from Europe and of African Americans coming from the South.

[00:18:10] Daniel Banks: This was an era. Oftentimes historians talk about three eras of the KKK. And we’re in the third era still.

[00:18:17] Daniel Banks: The second era was one of it really being like a fraternal organization. There was, there was not a lot of secrecy about it. The, there, uh, there were law enforcement officers, judges, businessmen, bankers, college professors, college, uh, presidents. I mean, this is where the leaders of Fort Worth and their families gathered.

[00:18:44] Daniel Banks: There are also advertisements that were posted in the paper about social activities and dances and performances that happened on that stage. There were minstrel shows that happened on that stage. And, and we know the name of the architect, Earl Glasgow, who was a very well known architect in the region.

[00:19:04] Daniel Banks: There’s a school not far from the building that he, a middle school, that he, I believe it’s a middle school, that he, that he designed as well. And so, This was business as usual. Now, the historians that we’ve consulted have explained to us that the KKK actually didn’t across the country, did not actually build a lot of buildings.

[00:19:27] Daniel Banks: They mostly took over spaces. And if you, if you Google adaptive reuse of KKK buildings or KKK adaptive reuse, you’ll find cinemas, you’ll find, uh, warehouses. And I mean, they, they, they just took over spaces, right? Elks lodges or whatever, whatever the group was. Um, and so what is unique about this building is that it was.

[00:19:52] Daniel Banks: Uh, a new build is the, the, the term that, that we’ve learned in in our work on this project is it was a purpose-built building. And it may in fact be, and I don’t, you know, I, I don’t like to always say the only one, even though that’s what people have said to us. ’cause there’s always exceptions to every rule.

[00:20:10] Daniel Banks: So we’ve been saying it is most likely the last, if one of the last, if not the last purpose-built headquarters or, or, you know. Uh, meeting, meeting halls, auditoriums of the KKK that hasn’t been demolished.

[00:20:26] Eddie Robinson: Wow.

[00:20:27] Daniel Banks: So then why save it and why not demolish it given its history?

[00:20:32] Eddie Robinson: I’m sure some people were basically coming at you and saying, I’m sorry, you know, you two gentlemen who come into my home, you know, I want to forget all about this.

[00:20:41] Eddie Robinson: You know, they’re rocking in their rocking chair. You demolish it, destroy this building. Why are you doing this? How did you respond to those kinds of comments?

[00:20:53] Daniel Banks: Sure. We had the full range of comments. We had people who immediately said, This is amazing. You’re flipping the script on history. You’re, you’re, you’re redistributing resources that were taken from communities and giving them back to communities.

[00:21:09] Daniel Banks: We call it a reparative justice project. And then, of course, there were people who are like, it’s too painful. It should be demolished even just seeing it is, is, is a painful memory, let alone the possibility of walking into the building and our response to, and of course our job is to listen. But if, but if there is a opportunity for dialogue.

[00:21:34] Daniel Banks: Our response is to ask people to consider that you can’t heal from trauma by ignoring it. The trauma only grows within one’s psyche and consciousness. And I would say physiology, now that we know that there’s epigenetic memory and that trauma is passed down. Genetically, if we do not heal from the trauma, it only grows bigger and it only becomes more of a problem in our lives.

[00:22:02] Daniel Banks: And so, so again, this is also understood from indigenous communities to modern human science and some of it is machine science. But we know that trauma needs to be processed and dealt with. You can only go through it to get to the other side. And so what became important was sharing a clear vision as we talked about a little bit before of how this building will provide resources of how this building will provide an opportunity for healing of how learning about the history will.

[00:22:46] Daniel Banks: Be part of a process of ensuring that it does not repeat itself that end up by sweeping it under the carpet only gives people permission to do the same things over and over again and I’m not saying that everybody was convinced I think there are still some people who feel like well, that’s all well and good, but I’m still not gonna go there I will say that having advocates like Dr. Opal Lee has been very helpful and the fact that she is so firmly behind it And speaks so passionately about, you know, one of her, her, her great quotes is if you can be taught to hate, you can be taught to love.

[00:23:22] Opal Lee: What I say to young people. And anybody as a young person, if they’re not 95, I tell them it’s left up to you to change somebody’s mind and their minds can be changed. Those people who are angry and want to hate, they can be changed so that they love people. And what I say is, if you know one of them. And they seem to be a lot of them, let’s change their minds.

[00:23:58] Daniel Banks: And, and to have a space and an opportunity for all of our groups to come together, all of our groups that were harmed by the KKK and some of us who cause harm to each other because of the harm and the trauma done to us, because we know that hurt people hurt others. For us to come together and heal collectively from that trauma so that we can actually repair relationships with one another.

[00:24:24] Daniel Banks: And hold each other in that love and learn to love one another the way that Dr. Opal says is too big an opportunity to miss. And the other thing that, that some of the folks involved with this project and some community members have said, which I think is really wise. is that while there are some people who feel that it is too painful, too, might be too painful to, to, to come and see a performance or a lecture or come to an event in that space.

[00:24:53] Daniel Banks: The younger generation of Fort Worth has really latched onto this building and this project. We have a youth council, which was very important that, that the youth of Fort Worth have an equal voice and vote on the board as each one of our organizations. And they have all said these young folks that have been involved have all said, this is our future.

[00:25:15] Daniel Banks: Jacora Johnson, who was the first sort of founder of that youth council, a student at TCU really spoke so beautifully about how this is a building that will serve. The next generations and the next generations and that they will be inheriting that building.

[00:25:31] Jacora Johnson: I think our elders have a tendency to kind of leave us out of these conversations and make um, all of these decisions without us kind of leaving us in the dust, but we’re going to be the ones taking care of the building, maintaining the building, um, inviting folks to the space, getting the word out about these things, um, when this place is vibrant and popping.

[00:25:49] Daniel Banks: And so my thought is also that once. Young folks are, for instance, Sol Ballet Folklórico, which is one of the founding organizations. Once their, their students and their young people are performing, uh, in that space, of course their family members are going to want to come and see them perform. And so, this is the thing about trauma, is one theory of healing from trauma, is that if you can replace those bad memories and those bad experiences with good memories and good experiences, that is one way to heal.

[00:26:22] Daniel Banks: Because you actually substitute and, and, and, and can dissolve that hurt by with good experiences. So there’s, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of levels. There’s a lot of dynamics. Like I said, it’s our job to listen to people, not to try to convince people of anything. And, and also there has been a, I think a shift in some folks about what the nature of this project is and what the potential for this project is.

[00:26:49] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. This is I SEE U. We’re chatting with Daniel Banks of the organization known as transform 1012 North main street in Fort worth, Texas. I’m curious to find out if there’s been any family members that were a part of the Ku Klux Klan.

[00:27:09] Eddie Robinson: I mean, have you ever come across any of those individuals? Go!

[00:27:15] Daniel Banks: It’s such a great question because, in fact, I was, uh, at a performance in New York talking to a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen and 15 or more years about this project, and I was sitting on the aisle, she was sitting next to me, and the man sitting next to her leaned over and said, I’m sorry to interrupt what is clearly a very deep and personal conversation, but my family is from the region, and we recently learned as a family that our elders were members of the Klan, and he said, I’ve been looking for an opportunity.

[00:27:51] Daniel Banks: I’ve been looking for a way for us to make amends and, and do relationship repair. And he said, I’d be honored if, if, if I could do anything to support your efforts. On the other side of the coin, when we were in Houston, Adam and I were in Houston at project Row Houses. Shout out project. Yes. When we were project row houses with a piece, actually that piece that we were creating when we got the tweet in front of the building called shelter in place.

[00:28:20] News Clip: Shelter in place is an artwork by Adam McKinney that he made in collaboration with Roma flowers was a dance film artist, Daniel bank, Will Wilson, who’s a tin photographer and Najeeb who did the music for this piece. The The piece references the life of Fred Rouse, who was killed in a lynching in Fort Worth, Texas in 1921.

[00:28:49] Daniel Banks: And somebody came in to look at it. Project Row Houses for folks who don’t know is a series of literal row houses that get turned into galleries that are, that are free and open to the public. And the, the, the topic was critical race theory, of course, excellent, wonderful programming. Somebody came in and, and, and came in and said, you know, my, my girlfriend asked me to come in and I didn’t know anything about this, but I have a relative, I think it was a, an, an uncle or great uncle and great uncle who was lynched in Fort Worth and it’s not in the history books and nobody talks about it.

[00:29:23] Eddie Robinson: What was your reaction when you learned of the history of Fred Rouse, you know, and his lynching, you know, can you give us some, some insight there as to Fred Rouse? And I think. On some level, you’re working with, um, members of his family as well on this project.

[00:29:43] Daniel Banks: We are working with members of his family. We were introduced early on to Fred Rouse III, Mr. Fred Rouse’s grandson, and Without telling their story, what we came to understand was that he and his siblings did not know the history of their grandfather and have learned more about that history through this process. There’s a partner organization called Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice, which is a, uh, a community partner of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery.

[00:30:22] Daniel Banks: Adam co founded that organization here in Fort Worth and Fred Rouse III is now the president of that organization. That organization has acquired the site of the lynching and is turning it into a memorial space that has been beautifully designed by Design Jones. Uh, Fred III also serves on the Transform 1012 North Main Street Board.

[00:30:46] Daniel Banks: And so he was the first board member that we brought on, who was not part of the original coalition, but as soon as we met him and connected with his family, we brought him on the board, we invited him to join the board, he graciously accepted to represent his family and his family’s interests on the board, because in fact, the, the name of the building will be the Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing and the Fred Rouse Memorial are less than a mile apart from one another as the crow flies.

[00:31:13] Daniel Banks: It’s. And they will be part of a kind of de facto memorial district. There’s also the Frederick Douglass Park, which has since been paved over and kind of forgotten about by some, but not all people. And that is, that, that forms a triangle with these two buildings and they’re all in the same general area in Fort Worth.

[00:31:36] Daniel Banks: And so this project and, and it’s. Sort of ancillary projects have revealed or, or surfaced many, many stories from all sides of the color line. Uh, you know, one of the things that we also talk about whenever we talk about this in public is the history of, uh, Hispanic folks being lynched by the KKK, which is not necessarily what one immediately thinks about when one thinks about lynching and the KKK, but it’s also very much a part of Texas history and needs to be. Uh, not forgotten.

[00:32:12] Eddie Robinson: That’s fantastic. And it sounds like all of this will be coming to fruition, when? You know, can you give us an ideas to the construction process for the building? When will we see a grand opening? You know, perhaps even, is there a website that people can go to, to just kind of get some insight and status on this transform 10 12 North main street project?

[00:32:35] Daniel Banks: There, the timeline working backwards is we anticipate opening by the end of 2025. Which will actually be the hundredth anniversary. Of the current iteration of the building. So as I mentioned, the building was built in 1924 within, I believe it was approximately six months, there was a major fire to the upper level of the building and the building had to be rebuilt.

[00:33:01] Daniel Banks: And there’s been some back and forth between the historians about was the second version, larger or smaller. Our engineering team, shout out to Spoglass Engineering, Construction Management, they have identified, based on the bricks that were used in the upper level, and the changes that were made to the building, that they could tell were, obviously in the second iteration, because they still are still there, they could tell that actually the building was bigger in the second iteration of the building.

[00:33:29] Daniel Banks: So, breaking news, historians, this is from the engineers. And, and So, so that, that, that new version or the 2. 0 was opened in 1925. So when we open, I guess you could say 3. 0 version, there’ve been so many different uses of the building since then, when we open in 2025, that will be the centenary of the current structure.

[00:33:55] Eddie Robinson: Coming up, we wrap up our chat with Daniel Banks, one of the founding members of a major collaborative working to transform a former KKK building headquarters in North Texas into a cultural hub for the community. What challenges are they confronting with this project and how is it being funded plus. We learned more about how this initiative has had an impact on Daniel and his family.

[00:34:28] Eddie Robinson: What will it take to not only build but transform a structure with such a painful history into a cultural center, a safe space, a performance venue? For those who were excluded and shut out for over a century. I’m Eddie Robinson. Our final segment comes your way right after these messages.

[00:35:05] Eddie Robinson: If you’re enjoying this program, be sure to subscribe to our podcast, I SEE U With Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

[00:35:36] Eddie Robinson: This is I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. We’re here with Daniel Banks. He’s the co founder and co artistic director of DNA Works, an arts and service organization based in Fort Worth, Texas. The group is dedicated to dialogue and healing through the arts, specifically engaging in topics of representation, identity, and heritage.

[00:36:04] Eddie Robinson: He’s taken that dedication into a project of collaborating with dozens of organizations, community stakeholders, and political leaders. To transform a space originally built for hate, a former KKK headquarters that hosted racist, sexist, and anti immigrant minstrel shows and theatrical performances into a community center and arts hub for Black, Latino, immigrant, Jewish, and LGBTQ plus community members.

[00:36:36] Eddie Robinson: Daniel, uh, can you describe for us the challenges, the roadblocks that you and your team have come across where you even weren’t sure if this was even going to come to fruition, that this initiative was going to happen?

[00:36:51] Daniel Banks: I have to say with all humility, the wind has been at our back, we moved slowly and mindfully so that we could take the time to listen so that we could take the time to collaborate.

[00:37:06] Daniel Banks: And I think if we hadn’t done that, we would have had many more challenges. And in fact, I don’t even think the project would have been possible because that is one of the things. In DNA works that involves trauma and difficult narratives and trying to create, um, narrative change around, uh, different forms of oppression, uh, racism, homophobia, all, all of the oppressions.

[00:37:35] Daniel Banks: Um, we understand that working slowly is healing. And so it, it not only gives the artists or the organizers, An opportunity to heal, but it gives the people with whom we’re interacting an opportunity to process, breathe. We actually start, I think, almost all of our meetings and presentations with taking a breath and breathing.

[00:37:59] Daniel Banks: So, the opportunities have been to introduce people to a different way of working. That is, um, that That foregrounds process that privileges process over product. We knew it was going to be really important to walk our talk and that this mission had to trickle out to every aspect of this project. First, we put together a values policy, which we circulated to any potential service providers that we wanted to work with.

[00:38:34] Daniel Banks: And. We made sure that they were in agreement with our values before jumping on board as a as a as a partner as an organizational partner And we put together a gift policy that very clearly lays out who we will and who we will not accept funding from but we’re not good. We are not compromising our values to receive a significant gift from let’s say a corporate entity that is not demonstrated that it treats our constituencies well, respectfully, humanely.

[00:39:11] Daniel Banks: So these are some of the things that I, I remember when in Carlos’s final interview for the executive director position and everything was going great and we were clear that we wanted to work with him and, and I said, no, I just, I just want to warn you, we’re actually probably going to make your job a little more difficult because.

[00:39:29] Daniel Banks: There may be some money that you want to bring in that we won’t accept. And I also said, and we are not going to do naming rights. We might call our various spaces something else, but it won’t be for a donor’s name. And I said, you know, it might, it might be for an activist’s name or a community leader or organizer’s name, but it’s not going to be a donor who gets their name on the theater or on the meeting room.

[00:39:53] Daniel Banks: And so I said, I don’t know if you’re going to work with us because we’re going to make your job a little bit harder. And I want you to know that now up front. And he said something so beautiful. And I think it was to the. And Carlos, forgive me if I’m misquoting you, but I believe what he said was, it makes me want to work with you all the more.

[00:40:14] Daniel Banks: So that just gives you an idea. You know, so I wouldn’t necessarily call those challenges. I would say that we knew that we had to rewrite the rules and we had to find the people for whom the new rules. Made sense and excited them and that they were actually excited to try something new. I mean, God bless the projects group, who’s our project management, uh, group and John Stevenson.

[00:40:40] Daniel Banks: I feel like every week, you know, he says, you know, well, so the next step is, and I’m like, yeah, what if we tweak that a little bit and if we did it this way instead of that way, what if we use this language instead of that language? And we’re constantly evolving our language to, you know, the week we’re constantly finding better ways to talk about who we are and not use colonial language to describe ourselves.

[00:41:05] Daniel Banks: You know, I mean, we certainly don’t use the term minority. Um, especially given that Fort Worth is a global majority, majority city. So we don’t, you know, we challenge whenever anyone uses the term minority, we avoid words like under underprivileged or marginalized because that’s not someone’s ontological state.

[00:41:25] Daniel Banks: That’s not who we are as people. That’s things that have been done to us. And then even there was a period of time where we were talking about under resourced communities, but that actually doesn’t take into account the fact that we have resources with cultural resources. We have, um, historical resources.

[00:41:43] Daniel Banks: Uh, we’re just talking about money. We’re talking about the, you know, redlining, really. So we started then using the term redlining because that’s in fact what it is. Is if you’re being, you know, if communities are being deprived of resources. Um, of, of economic resources, then that’s redlining and now we’re starting to talk about ourselves and especially our youth as resilient, not as under invested, not as under anything, but as resilient, no matter which culture, all of our cultural groups.

[00:42:10] Daniel Banks: We come from resilient communities. And so again, that hasn’t been so much a challenge as it’s been an opportunity to put the microscope on every, every brick, right? Every brick of our process and, and make new choices that lead to freedom. I always quote the great poet, Sonia Sanchez, from the Black Arts Movement, who is still with us, blessedly, and is really an elder in the community and an inspiration to me, and one of her early plays, the title of the play is, Uh Huh, But How Do It Free Us?

[00:42:48] Daniel Banks: And I, and that’s sort of DNA works is lens through which we make all decisions. And, and, and, and I’ve, I’ve introduced that to, to the 10, transform 10, 12, uh, board as well, every decision. Okay. But how do it free us?

[00:43:05] Fred Rouse, III: I believe that when my grandfather gave up his life with his last breath, he spoke into the wind and he said, this is only the beginning.

[00:43:14] Fred Rouse, III: And they thought they killed the name Fred Rouse. They thought they killed the man Fred Rouse, but a hundred years later, Fred Rouse came back in the form of me. His blood came back, not on the ground, but in a body and his name, everything still lives on.

[00:43:37] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson, and we’re speaking with Daniel Banks, who’s working to convert a former Ku Klux Klan headquarters into a community center and arts hub in Fort Worth, Texas.

[00:43:53] Eddie Robinson: I wanted to get more insight on you and your life. I mean, how have you managed to keep your eyes on the prize, right? I mean, you know, what really has motivated your passion for this kind of work?

[00:44:09] Daniel Banks: Well, my parents named me Daniel, so I was going to be doing something with justice. You know, the name Daniel literally means God’s judge. And my family is definitely one. That has always, uh, been about change and, and healing and justice.

[00:44:33] Daniel Banks: And I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of discrimination and injustice. So, uh, I’m always pivoting. I, as a young actor in college, I was told that, um, I would never make it, um, commercially because I was too ethnic looking. And so I pivoted to directing so that I could give opportunities to other actors who were being treated

[00:44:54] Daniel Banks: the way, uh, that I was being treated or, or, you know, that was, I was being told was my future. So I, I, I just, I don’t know that, that this was, that this was a choice. This was, this, this is just what my journey has been. I, I, I, I was very, I was fortunate to know two of my great grandmothers and all four of my grandparents and, uh, and know them well and know their struggles and know, um, I mean, they essentially all came to this country as refugees and stories that I heard horrible stories of violence, of discrimination.

[00:45:38] Daniel Banks: And so. I carry them with me. They are, not a day goes by where I don’t think about what they, what they taught us. Some more literally than others, but just what they taught us through their being. So I’m very, uh, that’s And I’ve been, and I’ve been blessed to have amazing mentors and amazing teachers who have also taught me so much.

[00:46:09] Daniel Banks: The reason I went to grad school, cause as an artist, I never thought I would go to grad school as I met professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, who wrote Decolonizing the Mind.

[00:46:18] Ngugi wa Thiong’o: But the mind is affected much more than just the economic materiality. Yeah, in a sense that there’s a tendency for is to look for validation from the West.

[00:46:33] Ngugi wa Thiong’o: In other words, sometimes the initiatives from within the country are not valued, but if the same initiatives are kind of applauded in European capitals, then people have a tendency to say, oh, that’s good, you know. And as I was reading his book, I, I was like, oh my God, you have, how do you know my childhood?

[00:46:58] Ngugi wa Thiong’o: How do you know what happened in my kindergarten classroom? We just met, you know, in the whole book, like just laid out my entire life from start to finish. Even into grad school of the different forms of violence and aggression and power that people wield. In education and cultural life and political life.

[00:47:21] Ngugi wa Thiong’o: And I just have been so fortunate to work with the most spiritually and intellectually inspiring people. I could sit here and just tell you all the people on whose shoulders I stand. That’s how I do it, is that I’m doing it with their presence and with their hands on my back, moving the project forward.

[00:47:53] Eddie Robinson: Well, you know, as you venture into this new restorative project and look forward to what it will bring to the community. The energy and the compassion it has to inspire a region, a Southern city that has a history entrenched in racism and discrimination to know that you’re playing a direct part, you know, in helping people and future generations with healing and recovery, even on a note relating to the notion of a reawakening, a rebirthing, so to speak, you know, I’m most excited for you.

[00:48:27] Eddie Robinson: And this is remarkable work. That your team is doing. And so with that being said, Daniel, of all the accomplishments that you’ve made, of all that you’ve had to endure in getting this project up and running Daniel, what life lessons have you learned about yourself thus far?

[00:48:49] Daniel Banks: I really think that this taking it slow thing has gotten, I mean, it was something I was already thinking about playing with pre COVID and then,

[00:49:01] Daniel Banks: this, you know, the majority of this, the early days of this project happened during COVID, keep in mind. And I think that, that, that just really solidified because, you know, I lived in the, I was born in New York. I lived in New York for many years. I was, I was fast. I was like, gotta get it done now. If it doesn’t happen tomorrow, it’s not happening.

[00:49:20] Eddie Robinson: I lived there for 20 years. I know. Yeah. Right.

[00:49:23] Daniel Banks: You know, like, like, like that’s and, and, and something shifted in me, the joy of, of just slowing it all down and taking it. Slowly and taking it moment by moment. And also, I’ll just share the woman who introduced Adam and me and actually ended up marrying us.

[00:49:40] Daniel Banks: Yavilah McCoy said something actually on a trip to Fort Worth that, uh, which she was speaking in a synagogue in Fort Worth. She said, it is our job to create spaces for people to fall in love with one. And I think that just that simple statement, which through our story circle processes through, you know, we, I, I feel like we’ve always been doing that, but, but when somebody just sort of names the thing, right?

[00:50:09] Daniel Banks: And you’re like, Oh, that, that, that’s what we’re doing. And to also keep that along with Sonia Sanchez’s wise words, Yavilah’s words. I think what I’ve really learned about myself is it, it, it just comes down to those two things. Uncomplicate it. Take as much away as possible. One of the things I, I talk with people about when I, when I lead sessions on, on group facilitation and community organizing is don’t give them more than they can hold in one hand.

[00:50:44] Daniel Banks: Like, if you’re giving instructions to the room, don’t give them more than they can hold. And so I think I have, I have really clarified for myself over this time that those are the two things that I hold in my hand is, uh huh, but how do it free us? And creating spaces for people to fall in love with, with one another.

[00:51:03] Eddie Robinson: He’s one of the leaders of the transform 1012 North Main Street project out in Fort Worth and co founder of DNA works Daniel Banks, thank you tremendously for being a guest on I SEE U.

[00:51:20] Daniel Banks: Eddie. Appreciate you.

[00:51:25] Eddie Robinson: Our team includes Technical Director Todd Hulslander, Producers Laura Walker and Mincho Jacob. I SEE U is a production of Houston Public Media. Visit us at I SEE U. edu. I S E E U show. org for more about this week’s episode and links to our social media channels. Subscribe to our podcast, wherever you listen and download your favorite shows.

[00:51:56] Eddie Robinson: Search for I S E E U. Show with Eddie Robinson. I’m your host and executive producer, Eddie Robinson, and I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U. Thanks so much for listening until next time.


This article is part of the podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson

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