African-American activists still believe the devil is in the details when it comes to Houston Independent School District deciding not to close three of five schools that were on the district’s chopping block.
“This is not progress and this move is not a victory for activism,” said Activist Quannel X. “This is a game of divide and conquer that power plays two minority groups against one another.”
HISD announced Wednesday that Nathaniel Q Henderson Elementary School, Port Houston Elementary School and Fleming Middle School would be removed from closure consideration by Board President Juliet Stipeche.
The decision comes after a month long visits to school sites and hearing hundreds of alumni, parents and concerned community activists who were upset and concerned about the closing of their neighborhood schools.
The decision leaves Jones High School and Dodson Elementary School targeted and in the crosshairs of closure on March 13. The schools have a large minority populations of African-American students.
Kofi Taharka, leader of the National Black United Front, Houston Chapter said he is not elated about the move by the district because they cannot give good reasons why the school need to close.
Taharka even took his argument straight to Superintendent Terry Grier at the HISD State of the Schools luncheon, but was stopped mid-sentence after he confronted Grier with the important questions about the closings in African-American neighborhoods. Grier refused to answer and walked away.
“I remain firm that I am against all school closures,” Taharka said. “It is my school today and then they are coming for your school tomorrow.”
Taharka is not off base in his statement because Grier has said he will continue to review and evaluate schools with low enrollment each year, especially in areas where population growth is stagnant or falling or if development plans are less prevalent.
“This is a serious issue because under-enrolled schools are often not able to support the same types of programming that schools with full enrollment can provide – creating inequities that are unfair to students,” Grier said.
Quannel X said the board’s latest move is setting up a confrontation that has the potential to permanently damage coalitions and relationships between Blacks and Hispanic forces.
HISD is the largest school district in Texas and seventh-largest school district in the United States. The district has a total of 211,552 students. Of those, 61.9-percent of students are Hispanic and 25.2-percent of students in the district are African American.
“It appears the latest move by Latinos to cut a deal with Whites means they do not want a coalition with Black people, so Blacks are on their own,” he said. “This “color” vote choses one minority group over another and gives Hispanics the green light to be the chief minority (voice) group in Houston.”
Quannel said the same thing happened to Blacks in California and Blacks in Texas and Houston better get ready for what is about to happen to us.
The same divide and conquer scheme in California has divided Blacks and Hispanics and left Black power, voice and minority representation severely diminished and nearly irrelevant.
“The days of building a lasting coalition are over,” he said. “Blacks need to get ready because there is a dreadful day coming for us.”
Quannel said despite the latest news, he remains committed to fighting for the people, the community and pressing forward.