Houston – Law enforcement leaders gathered at Acres Homes Multi-Service Center to discuss criminal justice matters across the city. NAACP Houston Branch recently implemented its Quarterly Conversational Series (QCS) to feature and highlight expert speakers from around the city, region, and country to provide insight and strategies for addressing current political, social, and economic inequalities. This conversation was the second of the year as the first conversation featured Mayor Sylvester Turner, Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Senator Borris Miles and was moderated by NAACP Branch President, Dr. James Douglas. The second conversation featured Chief Art Acevedo, Sheriff Ed Gonzales, District Attorney, Kim Ogg, FBI leader, Perrye Turner, and moderator Tracy Clemons from ABC 13.
The conversation began by each city official proclaiming that they are all striving to work together to ensure safety, fairness, and justice in the Houston area. That is, each law enforcement official took the time to introduce themselves, and articulate how they were dedicated to serving the Houston community justly. These earnest words spoken by leaders was preceded by a palatable meal that included chicken and waffles, which settled many stomachs and helped open many ears for the discussion.
Much of the quarterly conversation was based on tough questions from members of the community looking to get “straight” answers. From the long line of community members looking to hear answers to their questions, matters erected included elder fraud, police brutality, sex trafficking, citizen responsibility, Shapammala Buckner(missing young woman), HISD officer inappropriate relationship with student, immigration, bias in police officers, gang violence, minority community outreach, and bail reform. Law enforcement leaders were prepared to answer questions and were unified in their responses.
Community activist, Arthur J. Smith, came to the event to speak on the misconduct of a Houston police officer who tazed him, he claimed, unjustly. However, Smith feels that the panel of leaders are qualified to be in charge. When asked about the evening dialogue, Smith stated, “I believe the dialogue was real because anytime you have some elected officials that put themselves in a position to be question on the spot, that let me that they real about what’s going on.” He continued, “I really think this crew right here is our dream team in the city of Houston right now.” Anyone who is a Rocket’s fan- or knows anything about the city’s history-knows that there is no higher honor than to be considered to be a part of a team likened to the “Dream Team” of the 90’s.
Traditionally when conversations and dialogues happen in the black community, it does not always equate to action. In many cases, some may agree that these discussions take place to just appease the Black audience. When Chief Art Acevedo was asked if this was a “dog and pony show,” he responded, “there aint no dog and pony show- what you see is what you get.” He continued, “I don’t say anything in public that I don’t say behind closed doors.” Acevedo believes that the panel is a “progressive team that understands criminal justice” and “public safety.”
It seems that the NAACP is greatly aiding the Black community with the insertion of quarterly conversations in Houston. The forum presents a great opportunity to analyze the city’s leadership and hear from citizens who are truly concerned about matters affecting our communities. If African-Americans are to continue to have a presence- or seat at the table- in society, there must be consistent leadership on behalf of African-Americans in our communities.
By: Lorenzo Tolbert