HOUSTON- Whether closing schools, shutting a post office, being pushed out of neighborhoods or holding police accountable for shooting down young Black unarmed men, the Black community appears under siege in Houston.
“We are not disconnected from any of these battles and they are not coincidences,” said Kofi Taharka, leader of the National Black United Front Houston Chapter. “There is a plan going on here and we need to step up. Black people need to understand that “They” are coming for you in the morning (in one area of the city) and coming for me (in another area) by evening.”
Freedom fighters are pulling back the curtain and exposing the motives of politicians, developers and realty groups who want to poor and disadvantaged African-Americans and their communities pushed out of town.
“All of us must stand up to protect and preserve the history and individual pride of our neighborhoods,” he said. “We cannot allow them to run us out.”
That’s what hundreds of African-American parents and community leaders told HISD leaders who showed up at public hearings for school campuses slated for closure. Some of them include Dodson, N.Q. Henderson and Port Houston elementary schools; Fleming Middle School; and Jones High School. The schools have a large majority of African-Americans children students attending the schools. Others like Houston activist Deric Muhammad and State Rep. Harold Dutton have vowed to fight the plan.
“We have no choice except to look at school closures as an attack on our community,” Muhammad said. “It is an assault against our future. We cannot sit idly by and watch the “educational amputation” of our community takes place. HISD Superintendent Terry Grier is a “butcher” bent on closing schools and cutting off opportunities for our children.”
Gentrification is a very real issue that is seen in areas of the Third and Fourth Wards and Freedmen’s Town. It is spreading at an alarming rate and appears to be one of the reasons to close Southmore Station. Southmore Station, a post office, at 4110 Almeda, sits at the historic site of Houston’s first sit-in demonstration. In 1960, Texas Southern University students marched from their campus to that location to challenge segregated lunch counters at Weingarten Supermarket.
“As the gentrification of Black neighborhoods take place, they are seeking to close traditionally Black schools to make way for the white children whose parents are moving back into inner city,” Muhammad added. “The police will be used to enforce this plan, as well. The hour is critical. We have no choice except to stand our ground.”
Closing the sight threatens to erase another key piece of Houston’s Black history.Areas predominantly Black now near downtown have been targeted by developers and real estate moguls who want poor Blacks and the elderly out of the way of what they call progress.
“It’s that prime real estate they want and are trying to get it by any means necessary,” Taharka said. “This is a nonstop effort and we must learn from our history, organize and tell developers and others we will not allow ourselves to be pushed around.”
The fight to preserve the history also includes respecting the needs of the elderly and poor who use the facility. Closing it would be a disrespectful and a cold slap in the face for community leaders and freedom fighters working to preserve a legacy rich history and heritage.
On another front, freedom fighters are trying to raise awareness on the need for equal and fair justice for all.
From Chad Holley beating to the Jordan Baker shooting , the Houston Police Department and Harris County District Attorney continues to be numb to its killings, beating and the locking up of hundreds of Black youth and men at alarming rates. The continued abuses call for actions that will stop the abuses before another Black man goes down and another mother has to bury a son.
That’s why for the past three years, volunteers from the NBUF and the New Black Panther Party stands each Tuesday 12:00 noon either at the Harris County Courthouse or Houston City Hall to bring attention to abuses and to call for an independent civilian review board with subpoena powers, funding and prosecutorial powers to address police brutality and other community issues involving the police.
“Things continue to happen in the news and we are there long after the cameras come and go,” he said. “It is a sustained effort on our parts to reach out to others and keep those incidents and issues on the table.”
Taharka said the issues are growing by the day and no one should expect them to go away anytime soon.
He said he hopes people will wake up and demand changes in direction before things get too far.
“If we don’t organize and stand up together, there will be no one left (in the evening) when they come for me…” he said.