Post office supporters won’t back down

by Cierra Duncan
Defender

Third Ward residents continued to rally to save the Southmore Post Office on Almeda while commemorating the 54th Anniversary of Houston’s first sit-in.

In March, 1960, Texas Southern University students marched to what was then the Weingarten’s supermarket on Almeda. Their objective was to be served at the lunch counter like their white counterparts.

TSU students sitting at the lunch counter at Weingarten's supermarket on March 4, 1960.

TSU students sitting at the lunch counter at Weingarten’s supermarket on March 4, 1960.

Today the post office is one of six still being considered for closure or repurposing by the U.S. Postal Service. Supporters refuse to stop fighting to keep it open, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is urging residents to write letters of support to a postal executive by March 26.

Jackson Lee also asked residents to inform others who may be unaware of what is going on.

“Everyday people are using the post office and they don’t even know [it could close],” she said. Jackson Lee added that the facility remains busy and is needed by the community.

“This post office may seem like a small issue,” said Assata Richards, a Project Row House board member. “But it is an opportunity to galvanize our community and say that our community is not for sale, that the history of our community is valuable and that we are valuable.”

Serbino Sandifer-Walker, a journalism professor at TSU, reflected on the facility’s history. She played an instrumental role in getting a historical marker commemorating the sit-in placed at 4110 Almeda.

Texas Southern University professor Serbino Sandifer-Walker talks about the Southmore Post Office's history.

Texas Southern University professor Serbino Sandifer-Walker talks about the Southmore Post Office’s history.

“The students did something in this city that had never happened before,” she said. “They stood up and they said change would have to happen… They wanted justice and equality for African-American people who had been treated like second-class citizens for years.”

Letters of support for the post office can be addressed to Vice President of Facilities, c/o Sandra Rybicki, Southern Facilities Service Office, P.O. Box 667180, Dallas, Texas, 75266-7180.

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The above article was published in Volume 83, Number 19 (March 13, 2014) of the Defender newspaper in Houston, TX. (http://defendernetwork.com/)

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Thomas reflects on music, growth of KTSU

For more than 60 years, George Thomas has played the trumpet and loved jazz music. He has played with highly acclaimed artists such as Kirk Whalum, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Joe Sample.

In 1995, Thomas became general manager at KTSU radio station, which broadcasts from Texas Southern University. He helped influence Houston’s perspective on jazz and transformed the radio station into a nationally known and respected company.

In 2005, under Thomas’ leadership, KTSU opened an 18,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility. It now houses multiple production rooms, an announcer’s room, newsroom, multi-purpose center, internet studio and administrative suite.

Thomas has retired from KTSU and was recently honored during a celebration at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church. Here he reflects on music and radio.

George Thomas

George Thomas

Defender: How did your career in the radio industry begin?
Thomas: I started in radio as an account executive at KYOK. It was one of the first Black radio stations in Houston.

Defender: How has KTSU provided exposure for up and coming musical artists?
Thomas: KTSU did not have the same restrictions as commercial radio stations. Public radio stations have a freer range to play different music. In public radio we get to play the music people don’t hear all the time whereas in commercial radio you may hear the same music repeated. That’s the difference between public radio and commercial radio. One is driven by money and the other is driven by audience support.

Defender: What are your hopes for the future of KTSU and other Black-operated radio stations?
Thomas: The paradigm of radio is changing so rapidly. You don’t pay for the services you normally get on a radio station. You get in the car and cut on the radio. However, you also have things like satellite radio and internet radio and other places where you can get the same service. Radio, especially public radio, is going through a real change now because not only are you competing with commercial radio but also competing with getting the audience to contribute to the station. The future is complex because there are so many other media companies competing for the same audience.

Defender: What are your plans post-retirement?

Thomas: I plan to continue promoting and being involved in music. I plan to continue playing with my band, George Thomas & Friends, and promoting jazz music.

Defender: Which artists influenced your music?
Thomas: I’m a Miles Davis fan. He was a trumpet player I admired coming up during the 1950s and ‘60s.

Defender: What have been some of the highlights of your career?
Thomas: KTSU would be a main highlight. When I came to KTSU it was just a radio station. We managed to get the radio station affiliated with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio and Public Radio International. We were also able to get a grant from Corporation for Public Broadcasting and get the station certified. This meant that we could get programming from NPR and Public Radio International. We created programs that were specifically designed for audiences of color. That was a great achievement in getting the powers that be to fund the African-American public radio consortium and to present programs to audiences of color.

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The above article was published in Volume 83, Number 1 (October 31, 2013) of the Defender newspaper in Houston, TX.

The online version is available at http://issuu.com/defendermediagroup/docs/10.31.2013_e-full.

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.
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All information was gathered from the Houston Harris County Clerk’s Office and Defender newspaper.
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Written for Texas Southern University Fall 2013 Advanced Reporting class.