Thursday, April 19, 2012

African-American Boutique Migration

Dallas-Fort Worth is a hot destination for talent. But the city is a hard sell to college-educated African-Americans. In this regard, Dallas might as well be Detroit. The metro is off the mental map. How can Dallas compete with Atlanta for the best African-American talent? Return migration:

There are those who have left and come home again. They are among a growing group of young black professionals who grew up on the city’s southern side, went off to first-rate colleges, and have returned to buy homes, work, and raise families in Dallas.

Among them is Kevin Curry, a DeSoto High graduate who went on to the honors business program at the University of Texas and then to Harvard Kennedy School. Curry, 30, returned to Dallas, bought a condominium downtown, and works as a senior communications and marketing analyst for Dell.

“There are other places around the country and around the world that I could have gone and lived, and I chose to come back to Dallas,” Curry says. “I like the city. I like the people. It’s a great place to be.”

Curry acknowledges that it might be harder for black professionals to find their social niche in Dallas than some other cities. But the scene is here, if you know where to find it. His social life is, in part, dictated by groups such as Facebook and, which cater to black professionals, sending out texts to announce gatherings at House of Blues, Zouk, or Ghostbar, Curry says.

Cedric Mims is also on the list. He graduated from Cedar Hill High School, received a law degree from Pepperdine University, then was ready to come home. “I love this city,” says Mims, 30. He started the Mims Law Firm and recently was appointed a judge in Cedar Hill. “I cannot imagine living anywhere else.”

And then there is Taj Clayton, who is running for Congress, vying for Eddie Bernice Johnson’s seat. He moved with his family to DeSoto when he was 18 years old. Then he went off to Harvard. After Harvard Law and a stint in Boston, Clayton and his wife, Tonika, also a Harvard graduate, decided to move to DeSoto and build a home in a gated community with a mix of black and white residents. The Claytons picked Dallas over other cities, believing it would be the best place to raise their children, ages 6 years, 3 years, and 4 weeks.

When Clayton ran around the track at the DeSoto Recreation Center, he watched the 9- to 11-year-old boys gather to play basketball. They started and ended practice with a prayer.

“There is a strong sense of community here,” Clayton says. “Even though we have problems in this area, we’re proud of this area, and we’re willing to fight for this area.”

Emphasis added. Return migrants will go where others fear to tread. I'm struck by how the Dallas story mimics the Rust Belt redevelopment narrative. It all starts with people who think their hometown community is special moving back.

Mostly thanks to my work in Cleveland, I've noticed that many return migrants have trouble finding the scene. The critical mass that might attract other non-native talent is lacking. Cities such as Dallas do not realize the strength of the return migration flow. The same is true for the return migrants themselves. A lot more could be done with this demographic and our urban neighborhoods would be much the better for it.


pete-rock said...

Jim, really good insight here. On a purely speculative and anecdotal note, I hear similar stories from Detroit's African-American diaspora. I'm a member of a Detroit ex-pats group on Facebook and there are a number of members who are waiting for the right signs and the right time to consider coming back. I think city budget stability, continued incremental economic growth, and the revitalization of a few neighborhoods will start a trickle of return migration in Detroit that will increase exponentially over time.

Jim Russell said...


This Dallas story is the first time I've encountered anecdotal evidence of African-American return migration. I haven't looked into it, but this article reads like what I'm seeing across all demographics. I suspect that African-American return migration to Detroit might be further along than many realize.

I hope everyone reading this post clicks through to the article. Fantastic piece.