Summit stresses smart choices for Black males

By Cierra Duncan

Black males of all ages recently convened to receive advice on making intelligent choices, acquiring needed life skills and planning for success.

The fourth annual Smart’n Up Black Male Summit organized by activist Deric Muhammad took place at Lone Star College North Harris. One of its goals is to help change the mindset of Black males.

“You’ve got to know where you are going,” Muhammad told participants. “If you don’t know where you are going, somebody is building a place to put you.”

Black Male Summit organizer Deric Muhammad and three young participants make a point. (Photo: Cierra Duncan)

Black Male Summit organizer Deric Muhammad and three young participants make a point. (Photo: Cierra Duncan)

The summit included workshops on various topics. In “Chess for Success,” Cliff Campbell taught that life skills and strategies could be taken from the game of chess. He is the owner of K.I.N.G. Chess League and a world-class chess player.

“Chess is strategy,” Campbell said. “Your life has to have strategy and planning too. If you’re going around doing what you want to do with no plan, someone is going to lead you where they want you to go.”

He said Black males should focus on having a “good name, good appearance, and good word” and reevaluate their definition of success.

“Success is being the best you can be,” Campbell said. “It is knowing your purpose in life, mastering it, and completing your goals.”

Iman Khalis Rashaad discussed “Run Toward Fear: How to use Faith, Work Ethic and Goal Setting to Get What You Need.” He is the spiritual leader for Ibrahim Islamic Center, a CPA, entrepreneur and mentor.

“If we go to work and are only seeking money, we are in for a life of severe difficulty,” Rashaad said. “If we choose our careers thinking about the service potential and not the profit potential, we begin to become fulfilled and see more value in our work.”

Rashaad said “old-school values” should be brought back. “When I look at the way our youth are going today, it is evident we value playing more than serious work,” he said.

Pastor E.A. Deckard of Greenhouse International Church led a workshop titled “Wake Up! Sounding the Alarm.”

He said young Black males should be aware of the obstacles they will inherently have to face.

“There is a major attack against you,” Deckard said. “There is somebody that would love nothing more than to destroy your future. This is your life; it’s not a game or a video.”
The above article was published in Volume 83, Number 5 (November 28, 2013) of the Defender newspaper in Houston, TX.

The online version is available at


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

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.