Diane Ragsdale was born in Dallas on July 10, 1952. The most important influences on her as a child were her mother and family, the church, the YWCA, and the NAACP youth council headed by Juanita Craft. Through these institutions she learned that struggle marked the most successful path to creating change and applied that philosophy for the rest of her life. As a young adult, she tried to balance work with the South Dallas Information Center, SCLC, the NAACP, and her studies at Texas Woman’s University, which hamstrung her academic success and led to her mother pushing her to transfer to Dallas Baptist University to focus more on school. When she graduated, she went to work at the Veterans Affairs hospital, but found it unrewarding. She wanted to treat the causes of sickness, not the sickness itself, so she threw herself back into activism and won a seat on Dallas city council.
Ragsdale had many important issues that drove her in her time as a city council member, but the three she found most important were police misconduct, single member district voting, and the anti-apartheid movement. In terms of police misconduct, she pushed for a sociological study to determine the causes of police abuses, helped establish guidelines to remedy those abuses, and sought continued oversight to ensure that the changes she helped create remained in place. Ragsdale also struggled to change city council seats from at-large voting to district voting. She eventually worked to create fourteen different voting districts in order to give African-Americans and Mexican-Americans a larger voice on city council. Further, Ragsdale vehemently pursued the anti-apartheid agenda. She came to the movement through Marvin Crenshaw and worked with him to lobby to get the six necessary votes in city council to push through an ordinance for the city to divest its investments in businesses that operated in South Africa. Through her lobby, and making other city council members feel uncomfortable or guilty, she and Councilmember Lipscomb with the help of Marvin Crenshaw who served as staff successfully passed an ordinance for divestment in 1985.
Ragsdale’s professions as a registered nurse, council member and activist/organizer have taught her that there is a direct relationship between one’s health and one’s living conditions. Her life work continues to confirm the importance of community development, recognizing key components necessary for a healthy community. These components include safe, quality, affordable housing; readily accessible healthcare; quality childcare; strong schools; good nutrition; significant cultural organizations and meaningful business and employment opportunities. Putting her understanding into action, Ragsdale is the visionary founder of the Innercity Community Development Corporation, and one of the founders of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Health Center.
Today, Ragsdale is still actively working to better the Dallas community. Most of her attention is turned toward issues of land use and quality of life of South Dallas residents. She currently heads the Innercity Community Development Corporation which seeks to provide residents of South Dallas affordable homeownership, a small business incubator, and community education.
More related Links: