Jackson Lee calls for end to violence

by Cierra Duncan

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee asked Houstonians to unite to help prevent the gun violence taking a toll on area young people.

“It is time that law enforcement and the community take immediate action to stop these senseless crimes on our youth with these guns,” she said during a press conference held in Third Ward.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is joined by youths in calling for an end to gun violence.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is joined by youths in calling for an end to gun violence.

Jackson Lee encouraged the community to come together in support of a strategy that addresses the causes and effects of youth violence. “We must begin discussing common-sense steps we can take right now to combat gun violence,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 13 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 are victims of homicide every day. Jackson Lee said such statistics are “shocking” and “unacceptable.”

“What is further disturbing is the fact that homicide is the leading cause of death for African-Americans between ages 10 and 24, and the second leading cause of death for Hispanic-Americans,” she said.

Jackson Lee recently introduced HR 65, the Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act, and has co-sponsored other gun safety legislation while in Congress.

If passed, HR 65 will prevent children’s access to firearms. It will also do the following:
• Increase youth gun safety by raising the age of handgun eligibility to 21 and prohibit youth from processing semiautomatic assault weapons.
• Increase punishment for youth possession of handguns and semiautomatic assault weapons and for the transfer of such weapons to youth.
• Require gun storage and safety devices for all firearms.
• Make adults responsible for death and injury caused by child access to firearms.
• Require that a child be accompanied by an adult during a gun show.
• Authorize the attorney general to provide grants that enable law enforcement agencies to develop and sponsor gun safety classes for parents and children.
• Allow each school district to provide or participate in student firearms safety.

Jackson Lee said communities must take on the challenge of changing the violent culture among young people, a task that won’t happen overnight.

“We collectively fail our children when we fail to teach them to resolve their problems in a nonviolent manner,” she said. “While we can act now and pass legislation to ameliorate some causes of the youth violence epidemic, this problem is larger than our laws. We must work tirelessly to create an environment in this country that lifts the psychological burden of violence off the shoulders of our kids.”
The above article was published in Volume 83, Number 4 (November 21, 2013) of the Defender newspaper in Houston, TX.

The online version is available at http://issuu.com/defendermediagroup/docs/11.21.2013_e-full.


Did candidate fool black voters?

by Cierra Duncan

Bruce Austin, a longtime member of the Houston Community College Board of Trustees, said he lost the recent election because of deception on the part of his opponent.

Small business owner Dave Wilson beat Austin by 26 votes on Nov. 5. Wilson received 50.1 percent of the vote for the HCC District 2 race. Austin, a 24-year incumbent, received 49.9 percent.

District 2 is a predominantly African-American Democratic area that covers parts of North and Northeast Houston. Austin believes Wilson was able to get so many votes because he deliberately deceived voters into thinking he was black.

Wilson, a white Republican, did not have his picture on his website or campaign materials. His direct mail pieces featured only African-Americans and one mailer advertised he had the support of Ron Wilson, the same name of a former African-American state representative. In the fine print it stated that “Ron Wilson is Dave Wilson’s cousin.”

Dave Wilson (Photo: GA Daily News)

Dave Wilson (Photo: GA Daily News)

“We learn in a democracy it depends on honesty and transparency so that voters can make an informed decision,” Austin said. “In the case of Wilson, fraud undermined the integrity of our political system.

“If you look at the problem, he plotted from the very beginning to deceive voters. He sent out pieces that had lies and misinformation in them. This is the relationship he has established with the constituents of District 2.”

Bruce Austin (Photo: Houston Community College)

Bruce Austin (Photo: Houston Community College)

Austin said Wilson’s campaign tactics could damage his reputation with HCC students. “You are telling students one of their board members has deceived them for political gain,” he said.

“Since I have been on the board my concern has been about creating economic mobility for the people that I serve,” Austin said. “The bottom line was to get them in line for a higher wage job. I don’t think that is the intent of Mr. Wilson.”

Wilson could not be reached by the Defender for comment. However, he told KHOU-TV that he was surprised by the victory.

“I’d always said it was a long shot,” he said. “No, I didn’t expect to win.”

When asked about his cousin’s endorsement, he said, “He’s a nice cousin. We played baseball in high school together. And he’s endorsed me.”

Wilson said on his website he is “uniquely qualified” to be on the HCC board because of his business background and his commitment to education. He also said he is committed to keeping “our” money for “our” children.

Austin encourages voters to pay attention to who is running during elections and their campaign platforms. He said he will request a recount after the narrow loss.

“I haven’t finished the election,” Austin said. “There are things that are yet to be done in terms of checking the process. I don’t know what the future holds but I hope the best. What I’m doing is what I can to make sure justice is served.”

The above article was published in Volume 83, Number 3 (November 14, 2013) of the Defender newspaper in Houston, TX.

South Park residents react to burglaries

By Cierra Duncan

Members of the South Park community recently gathered to discuss the crimes plaguing their community. In the last 12 months, 13 businesses within the same city block radius have been burglarized. The town hall meeting was held at MiracleLand Church. Quanell X, alongside members of the Houston Police Department, business owners and local pastors, led the meeting where residents discussed solutions to the robberies.

“There is too much crime taking place in our community,” Quanell X said. “A lot of the crime can be fixed by us but we have to take a very progressive position. We have to be willing to tell the criminal element we stand together.”

He said when something happens to one person it affects the entire community. He also encouraged residents to utilize police services if they know information that can help solve a crime.

“Many of us know what’s going on but are too afraid to call,” he said. “Many don’t believe you can call in anonymously but you can!”

Some residents were unsure of the daily actions they could take to prevent crime from happening.

Panelists take part in a town hall meeting to discuss neighborhood crime.

Panelists take part in a town hall meeting to discuss neighborhood crime.

“We have to become a true community again,” said Lieutenant Troy Finner of HPD. “We have to stick together and start looking out for one another. We have to start holding people accountable.”

Finner said residents should be familiar with who lives in their neighborhoods and should know when something is out of place. “If you see something, say something,” he said.

Officer T. Harris said residents can come into the community’s police storefront locations and make complaints.

Harris is the Southeast PIP (Positive Interaction Program) Coordinator for HPD. They hold meetings every second Thursday of the month where residents can learn about the police department and state their concerns.

Kehlin Farooq, owner of Mr. Indian Hair, said police can only do so much. “We have to take a more active role in being concerned about what’s taking place in our communities,” he said.

Farooq’s business was recently burglarized. Four women robbed the establishment of more than $15,000 in hair extensions. The robbers were eventually caught and Farooq increased security inside his business.

MiracleLand Pastor Brian Allen echoed Farooq’s sentiments.

“The police are here but they can’t do everything,” Allen said. “We all have to take the approach of ‘if something happens to someone in my community, I’m not going to turn my head.’ At some point, enough has to be enough.”

“No one is going to be concerned until you are concerned,” Farooq said. “We have to take our communities back. The only way we are going to do this is by saying ‘I no longer accept it.’ This is not a bad community. We just have a few ‘bad apples’ in it and we’re going to change it.”
The above article was published in volume 83, number 2 (November 7, 2013) of the Defender newspaper in Houston, TX.

District D Election Results

Less than 20 percent of registered voters participated in the 2013 Houston elections for City Council Seat District D.

According to the Harris County Clerk’s office, District D has 110, 678 registered voters. However, a mere 19, 663 people turned in a ballot during the election. Of the total, 2, 073 residents turned in absentee ballots, 6,716 participated in early voting and 8,397 people voted on Election Day.

Dwight Boykins, president and CEO of D. Boykins Consulting Firm, received the majority of votes. His campaign received 7,372 votes, 42.9 percent of the total collected.

Georgia D. Provost, business owner and photojournalist, earned 14.37 percent of District D residents’ votes. 2,469 people selected her name on the ballot.

N. Assata Richards received 1,882 votes, 10.95 percent of total ballots. Richards is program manager of the Mother’s Residential Program at Project Row Houses.

Christina Sanders is currently an adjunct professor at Texas Southern University. She received 1,151 votes, 6.70 percent of the total collected.

Travis McGee is CEO of Jireh Community Life Center and president of Sunnyside Garden/Bayou Estates Civic Club. He received 1,068 votes, 6.21 percent of the total.

Lana Edwards is a retired HISD administrator. She received 731 votes, 4.25 percent of the total.

Anthony Robinson is an army veteran, lawyer and business owner. He received 730 votes, 4.25 percent of the total.

Demetria Smith is founder of the Anti-Poverty Coalition. She received 467 votes, 2.72 percent of the total.

Keith Caldwell is delegation chair for Precinct 392 and sergeant-at-arms of Senatorial District 13. He received 464 votes, 2.70 percent of the total.

Larry McKenzie is an experienced teacher and medical technologist. He received 424 votes, 2.47 percent of the total.

Kirk White is a community volunteer, rapper and studio owner. He received 263 votes, 1.53 percent of the total.

Ivis Johnson is a manager, business owner and contractor. He received 165 votes, 0.96 percent of the total.
All information was gathered from the Houston Harris County Clerk’s Office and Defender newspaper.

Written for Texas Southern University Fall 2013 Advanced Reporting class.