By Steven Monacelli

Students of all ages gathered in J.P. Hawn Park on the last weekend before school kicks off across Dallas for games, dancing, and prize giveaways. The event was organized by local nonprofit Not My Son, a Black-women led grassroots community organization that got its start during the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020. It was their third annual Back to School Festival, and it appeared to be a successful one.

“We had an amazing turnout of 675 students,” said Not My Son founder Tramonica Brown. “Students were able to get backpacks, calculators, pencils, erasers, notebook paper, spiral binders, and other school necessities on their school supply lists.”

Heat in the high nineties with no cloud cover didn’t dissuade parents and their kids from coming out for a day of fun in the sun. Volunteers with Not My Son kept kids entertained with a DJ booth and a variety of games with gift card prizes: spelling bee, running race, dance off, and more. 

Community partners like Oak Cliff Veggie Project provided fresh produce to festival-goers, and Buffalo Wild Wings offered free chicken and hydration.  A special station called Smarty Pants allowed students to earn gift cards, tables, and even a bedroom suite for answering questions in the core subjects. A bounce house occupied the kids who weren’t interested in games and quizzes, while Atmos Energy and the Office of Code Compliance manned information booths for the parents. 

The Back to School Festival and supply drives are just part of the variety of community oriented events and services Not My Son offers toward their mission “to empower underrepresented voices and distribute/provide resources to those in the community who need them most.” 

During the 2021 Texas power crisis and freeze, Not My Son helped house hundreds of families who had been displaced. And after an explosion at the Highland Hills apartments in September 2021, Not My Son helped rapidly rehouse over 100 families. More regularly, they conduct community cleanups in South Dallas, food drives, and voter registration drives.

All of this work has been made possible through the grassroots volunteer network that founder Tramonica Brown has built. 

“The third annual Back to School Festival was a reflection of what is possible when a community unites on behalf of children and our schools,” Brown said.

To learn more about Not My Son events, or to sign up to volunteer, visit 

Steven Monacelli is an independent investigative journalist based in Dallas. He has been contributing to Dallas Weekly since 2021. He is also the publisher of Protean Magazine, a nonprofit literary publication.

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