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'We've got a lot of stories to tell': East Waco community preserves city's history through art, pictures

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Posted at 8:37 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 21:37:12-05

WACO, TX — East Waco is a part of town established in the early 1900's during the age of segregation.

"Downtown by Heritage Square, that was the Black part of Waco. Then it came over across the river," said East Waco historian GiGi Green Bowie

According to Bowie, Blacks, Asians and Hispanics were forced east of the Brazos River. Together the different races established roots based on faith, family and inclusion.

"These people have strong ties that I have never witnessed in all my years, and nothing can separate them from the love of East Waco," said East Waco historian Jeannette Bell.

Bowie and Bell have been compiling pictures and newspapers of East Waco as well as local Black milestones in an effort to preserve its history for future generations.

"I want them to be proud of their cultural heritage, their traditions, their customs, their religions, their celebrations," said Bell.

At the Texas Collection at Baylor University, there were a few pictures leading back to the early 1900's.

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In East Waco historic buildings like Kestner's are still standing, but many others were either destroyed in the tornado of 1953 or deteriorated in time.

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Younger generations are also leaving their footprint on East Waco's history. In Vincent Thomas' case, it's through art.

"It's empowering to live here. It's so loving, so warm inside. I never thought that I would see something like this, especially with racial tension and the climate that we're living in. I just never thought I would work on a project like this, " said Thomas, a co-lead artist of a mural.

The mural is on the side of the TFNM bank along Elm Avenue. It showcases the deep history and tradition of East Waco while also giving younger generations representation in their community.

"As we start to learn our differences, we start to see they are minuscule when it comes to the matter of love, when it comes to the matter of what we're truly created for," said Thomas.

Whether it be through art or through old pictures, people in East Waco want to bridge the divide from east and west of the Brazos River and invite everyone to learn and embrace the culture that is East Waco.

"And we want to welcome everybody to our front porch. You are welcome," said Bowie and Bell.