I’m asking everyone that I
know to vote for Dr. Pretta VanDible Stallworth for
HCCS Trustee District 9. I’m not supporting Pretta
because she’s long time friend and part of the Blue
Ridge Sunnyside family or that she is a Worthing High
School graduate. I’m voting for Pretta for two
reasons only. (1) Because she is dedicated and
committed to education and the community. (2) Because
she is highly qualified. Pretta commitment to
education started early on in life. She knew that
knowledge was power. She was a member of Johnson
Library book club and Star Reader in grade school. She
went on to continue her education and earned her BS
Degree, MS Degree and just recently her PHD Degree.
Pretta served as the first District 9 HCCS Trustee
from 1989 – 93. See her grade school picture below.
I was so proud of her, my younger brother Morgan and
The story behind the ‘Black
Most people remember when they first heard
it. Perhaps it was elementary school. Church.
A college graduation or special family occasion. For
more than 100 years, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (or
“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”) has been a staple musical
celebration of black excellence and pride in finding ways to
survive (and thrive) in America.
But where did the song originate and how
are so many of us able to hum at least the
first stanza from memory so many years later? Here’s
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” started as
a poem. It was first recited in the year 1900 by
500 schoolchildren at the all black Stanton School in Jacksonville,
Florida, as a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln’s
Weldon Johnson, a civil rights activist, lawyer, and
principal of the Stanton School, wrote “Lift Every Voice
and Sing” to introduce famed educator Booker T.
Washington, who was visiting the school at the time.
Johnson’s brother, John Rosamond Johnson put the
poem to music and
it officially became a song.
In 1919, the NAACP adopted the
song as its official “Negro national anthem” and it
enjoyed widespread distribution and celebration.
According to historians, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
experienced a resurgence during the civil rights movement,
and many parents, churches and predominantly black schools
went out of their way to ensure children knew the words.
Most people remember when they first
heard it. Perhaps it was elementary school.
Church. A college graduation or special family
occasion. For more than 100 years, “Lift
Every Voice and Sing” (or “Lift Ev’ry Voice
and Sing”) has been a staple musical celebration of
black excellence and pride in finding ways to survive
(and thrive) in America.
But where did the song originate and
how are so many of us able to hum at least the
first stanza from memory so many years later?
Here’s the background:
“Lift Every Voice and Sing”
started as a poem. It was first recited in the
year 1900 by 500 schoolchildren at the all
black Stanton School in Jacksonville,
Florida, as a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln’s
Weldon Johnson, a civil rights activist, lawyer,
and principal of the Stanton School, wrote “Lift
Every Voice and Sing” to introduce famed educator Booker
T. Washington, who was visiting the school at the
time. Johnson’s brother, John Rosamond
Johnson put the poem to music and
it officially became a song.
In 1919, the NAACP adopted
the song as its official “Negro national anthem”
and it enjoyed widespread distribution and
celebration. According to historians, “Lift
Every Voice and Sing” experienced a resurgence
during the civil rights movement, and many parents,
churches and predominantly black schools went out of
their way to ensure children knew the words.A remake
of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was done in the
1990s by Melba Moore, with fellow R&B artists
like Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker, Dionne Warwick and
Bobby Brown. (Watch the above video for peak 90s
nostalgia and swag.) A stanza from the song was
also recited by Rev. Joseph E. Lowery during the benediction at President
Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.
Of course, the song hasn’t been
free from controversy. In 2008 jazz singer Rene
Mariesang words from “Lift Every Voice and
Sing” instead of the “Star Spangled Banner” at
Denver’s State of the City Address, which led to
professor who studied “Lift Every Voice and
Sing,” once said despite its inspiring message,
calling it the “black national anthem” could be
seen as separatist and racially divisive.
Despite any criticisms, its lyrics
are reminders for black Americans that each generation
has had to “lift” their own voices to demand and
protect their rights. It’s a song we can still
sing- and stand for- with pride.
Teen sues after school expels her
for not standing during pledge
A 17-year-old Houston student is suing her
high school after they kicked her out for not standing for
the daily Pledge of Allegiance, indicative of a troubling
backlash many African Americans are facing when they choose
not to stand for the pledge or national anthem.
New York Daily News reports that India Landry, a
senior at Windfern High School, had sat “hundreds of
times” during the pledge before, since she was in ninth
grade. However, Principal Martha Strother expelled her on
Monday for her action.
A federal lawsuit brought against the
school alleges that India was threatened by police if her
mother did not come within five minutes, and that the
administrators at the school had “recently been whipped
into a frenzy” by the controversy caused by NFL players
kneeling for the national anthem.
“I see what’s going on with the
country,” India’s mother Kizzy told the Daily News on
Saturday. “I thought let me hurry up and get to my baby
before something happens to her.”
Kizzy also said she’s proud of her
daughter and that India choose to sit on her own.
The teen was allowed to return to the
school on Friday, but is uncomfortable. She says she plans
to continue to sit during the pledge.
“Students cannot be instantly expelled
except for being a danger,” lawyer Randall Kallinen said.
“The only danger appeared to be that her sitting whipped
Principal Strother into a political frenzy.”
India tells the News that she started
sitting for the pledge in ninth grade and that “police
brutality” and “Donald Trump being President” are her
India is only one of many students and
others who are facing repercussions for standing up against
police brutality and racism in America by following former
NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s lead of kneeling during the
national anthem during the 2016 football season.
After Harvey, jury trials still
haven’t resumed in Harris County
It’s been 10 weeks since Jose
Deras was first locked up in the Harris County Jail. And
because of Hurricane Harvey, it’s nearly impossible to
predict how much longer he might be there.
Deras — who is locked up for a
misdemeanor assault charge, the first black mark on his
otherwise clear criminal record — faces up to a
year in jail, meaning that even if he got the maximum
sentence, his actual time served would likely total about
four months. But Deras’ lawyer thinks his client will most
likely spend more time than that in his cell, waiting
for his case to come before a jury.
Since Harvey hit Harris County
in late August, one of the busiest criminal court systems in
the country has suspended all jury trials. It’s just one
of a slate of challenges facing the county’s justice
system in the weeks since the storm, but defense attorneys
argue that delayed trials — and in dozens of cases,
prolonged detention — have the potential to infringe on
their clients’ most fundamental rights.
Justice delayed, they argue, has
begun to verge on justice denied.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees
the right to a “speedy” trial, but the law offers no
specific guidance on what “speedy” means. And it’s not
entirely clear how that right might change in the face of
unprecedented natural disaster.
Jury trials could resume in
Harris County as soon as Oct. 16, when jurors will be
summoned again to a host of makeshift assembly rooms
downtown. But at least at first, the county will not be able
to assemble nearly the usual number of jurors, and
courthouse workers will have to ration those jurors across
22 felony and 16 misdemeanor courts.
Judge Margaret Stewart Harris,
who is presiding over Deras’ case, said she hopes to hear
it as soon as juries are assembled again. But Franklin
Bynum, Deras’ attorney, said he doubts his
client will be in court that soon.
“Nothing that they have done
has inspired any confidence in me that this is going to be
handled,” Bynum said. “And meanwhile, there’s somebody
sitting in a cage.”
The $95 million Harris County
Criminal Justice Center was only months old in 2001 when
Hurricane Allison hit, taking with it the glow of the new
brick veneer and swamping much of the equipment housed in
the basement. The building was repaired and new flood
Those were compromised this
summer during Harvey, when much of the 581,000-square foot
building was inundated once again with several feet of
water, and damage reached at least to the 16th floor. Pipes
ruptured and windows shattered. Sewage oozed out of
first-floor bathrooms. Staffers escaped the building using
This time, the damage has left a 20-story
hole in the county’s justice system, taking out 40
courtrooms, the district attorney’s office and enough
holding cells to accommodate 900 inmates. Partial occupancy
may be possible in six to eight months, but county engineers
say it will likely a take a year and a half — and $30
million — for the building to return to full
The bigger problem, according to
local officials, sits a block southwest of the courthouse.
The three-floor jury assembly building at 1201 Congress Ave.
saw just as much damage, but the bulk of its business takes
place below ground, where on the county’s busiest days,
about 800 potential jurors can be assembled.
The subterranean floor was so
damaged that it
may not even be repaired. That means there’s nowhere
to assemble the jurors that the county needs to take cases
like Deras’ to trial.
As a result, hundreds of trials
have been delayed, and about 100 defendants sit in custody
awaiting their turn.
In the weeks since the storm,
court locations have been shuffled around, civil trials have
been delayed at least until Nov. 1 and judges based out of
the Criminal Justice Center have moved into nearby court
facilities. Most of those courtrooms now handle a double
Only a fraction of those
courtrooms are equipped with holding cells for inmates,
meaning more bottlenecks in scheduling jury trials and
higher costs to the sheriff’s office, which must ensure
that inmates are secured when they go to court.
Lawyers, judges and
administrators describe a confusing schedule of appointments
across a network of makeshift spaces. Judges shuffle between
their jail docket courtrooms, their bond docket courtrooms
and their trial courtrooms; lawyers struggle to keep up.
“It’s pretty much extreme
confusion,” defense attorney Murray Newman said. “My
calendar looks like a coloring book.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors have to
lug hundreds of court files to nine different locations
across downtown Houston. Nathan Beedle, the misdemeanor
division chief for the Harris County District Attorney’s
office, said his staff is working out of the 16th floor of
the Cotton Exchange Building, five blocks from the Criminal
“I’m in a ballroom with 88
people in one room, and I have about 26 inches for a desk.
And I’m the division chief,” Beedle said.
The court system has resumed
business in stages since Harvey. Judges were in jail holding
makeshift jail dockets as soon as Aug. 29, as rains were
still soaking the city. Other court proceedings resumed
Sept. 11, with judges working elbow-to-elbow in makeshift
Jury trials will be the last part of the
justice system to come back online.
Starting later this month,
jurors will be summoned to the cafeteria and other large
rooms in the Harris County Administration Building. It’s a
quick-and-dirty solution; administrators have had to order
portable bathroom facilities and rent folding chairs.
Even with these measures,
though, the county will not be able to accommodate the usual
800 potential jurors. They’ll start with about a third of
that number — meaning jury trials will resume at a
Meanwhile, dozens remain in jail waiting
for their day in front of those jurors. Some of those
defendants face charges as severe as capital murder or
aggravated sexual assault; for them, a delay of a few months
could be negligible or even helpful, if a defense attorney
needs more time for evidence collection, for example.
But for people like Deras who have been
charged with low-level offenses and whose sentences would
last only a few months, those delays are critical.
“At any point, if you’ve got
someone in jail and they can’t get out and they’re
awaiting trial on a misdemeanor, that would be a gross
injustice,” Newman said. “When you’re dealing with
other types of cases, you know, it becomes kind of a sliding
scale of how unjust you feel it is.”
Judges and county administrators
insist they are doing the best they can under the
circumstances and say defendants in custody will take
precedence once trials resume. And the district attorney’s
office has worked to get as many people out of custody as
possible, Beedle said. That means dismissing minor cases,
reaching more plea agreements and recommending trials in
front of a judge rather than a jury.
“In the week after Harvey, I
filled out more dismissals in a week than I ever have in my
career,” Beedle said. “We’re looking at every single
case where somebody is in custody. We’re doing that on a
daily basis. If there is a way for me to resolve the case
— if that’s to offer a court trial or a plea agreement
or a dismissal — we are doing it. And that’s for every
But that hasn’t helped Deras,
who has resisted taking a plea bargain because he’s
undocumented and knows that a criminal conviction makes
deportation more likely. He’ll stay in jail awaiting trial
while his attorney fumes.
“There’s no legal basis for
prolonged detention because you can’t get your shit
together and have a jury,” Bynum said. “You can say that
this is the most complicated part of the system. But this is
the part of the system that matters — everything else
is subordinate to this.”
Mold, E. coli found in public
housing complex after Harvey
The Houston Housing Authority says the
Clayton Homes government housing complex has nearly 100
units that are beyond repair following Harvey.
The authority announced high levels of
mold and E. coli bacteria have been found in the units.
“If I don’t find something, I don’t
know what I’m going to do,” said resident Victoria
Davis. “I’m pretty much homeless.”
Davis is among the many residents
displaced from the complex following the floods.
She took KHOU 11 News inside of her
flooded unit where the overpowering smell only allowed for a
Mold is growing on walls and debris from
the bayou waters line the corners of the unit.
Many of the displaced Clayton Homes
residents were granted Section-8 housing vouchers to be used
toward new rentals, but residents like Davis say it is not
Davis says many landlords refuse to rent
to low-income residents receiving government assistance.
Combined with the fact Houston is suffering from a dearth of
low-income housing options, many displaced residents may
have to look outside of the Houston area to find places to
“It’s just hard,” Davis said.
“Everything was pretty much destroyed.”
The flooded units at the Clayton Homes
complex will not be restored, said the president and CEO of
the Houston Housing Authority. Tory Gunsolley said the I-45
expansion project expected to break ground in the next few
years had the complex already slated for demolition.
Gunsolley said it would not be cost
effective to fix the damaged apartments just to have them
torn down in the near future.
The flooded apartment units have remained
accessible to residents since Hurricane Harvey even though
they currently pose health threats.
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Nelly speaks out on rape charges
Nelly was arrested Saturday in Washington
state after a woman came forward claiming he raped her on
his tour bus. He was taken
into custody at 4:37 a.m. says police spokesman
Nelly was booked for “investigation of
rape” in the second-degree. He has since been released
from custody and Stocker does not know when the rapper will
first appear before a judge.
Nelly has now broken his silence on social
media, denying any wrongdoing.
“I am confident that once the facts are
looked at, it will be very clear that I am the victim of a
false allegation,” he posted.
“I do want to apologize to my loved ones
for the embarrassment and for putting myself in a situation
where I could be victimized by this false and defaming
allegation,” he added.
“In other words, y’all know damm well
I ain’t do no dumm s— like this.”
Nelly’s lawyer Scott Rosenblum clearly
stated their position after the arrest. He said Nelly was
“the victim of a completely fabricated allegation.”
“Our initial investigation, clearly
establishes, this allegation is devoid of credibility and is
motivated by greed and vindictiveness,” Rosenblum added.
“I am confident, once this scurrilous
accusation is thoroughly investigated, there will be no
charges. Nelly is prepared to address and pursue all legal
avenues to redress any damage caused by this clearly false
How much has been raised for Harvey
relief — and how is it being spent?
After Hurricane Harvey dumped up to 50
inches of rain on parts of southeast Texas and caused
historic flooding, an outpouring of financial support
and charitable contributions has flowed to
Almost a month and a half later,
floodwaters have receded, leaving Texans in 39 counties to
clean up rotting debris and destroyed homes. An estimated
1,100 people remained in eight different emergency shelters
around the state earlier this week, and 62,304 Texas
residents are still living in FEMA-paid hotel rooms.
Two weeks after the category 4 storm made
landfall, Congress approved a $15 billion federal aid
package. And donors have given hundreds of millions more to
the Red Cross and a host of Harvey relief funds: one
started by Houston Texans star JJ Watt has pulled in
$27 million, while the Rebuild Texas Fund, spearheaded by
the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, has raised $70.7
“We are in that period where everyone is
saying nice things and patting everyone on the back saying
we understand your pain, we understand your needs, and
sooner or later that’s going to get back to dollars and
how those are spent,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said
at a recent legislative appropriations meeting.
So how exactly is that money being used?
Here’s an overview of what’s been spent at the state and
federal level — and what hasn’t.
The Tribune will be updating these
numbers regularly. Are there other relief efforts we
should include? What else should we know about how Harvey
relief money is being spent? Get in touch here.
Federal Funding: $15 billion
While lawmakers are expected to approve
more money for disaster relief — Texas leaders
on Thursday requested another $18.7 billion — the
state won’t get the full $15 billion because the money
will be divided among the states and territories hit by
hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
About half of the money has gone to FEMA,
which generally helps disaster victims take care of
more short-term needs like food, water, medical care and
So far the agency has spent $886.6 million
on assistance for Texans affected by Harvey, including
$683.2 million on housing-related expenses — help
paying rent, essential home repairs and some personal
property replacement — and $203.4 million on “other
needs assistance” that includes hotel rooms and $500
stipends for displaced people.
The agency has also approved an additional
$327.8 million to local governments that have requested help
rebuilding infrastructure like roads, bridges and levies.
The other half of the federal relief money
flows through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development to help financelong-term
rebuilding. It’s intended to fill in the gaps after
individuals or government agencies have exhausted all other
sources of relief.
“We are the long-haul type responding
agency, we aren’t the first responder,” said Brian
Sullivan, a spokesman for the department.
The Small Business Administration’s
disaster relief loan program, available for businesses and
individuals, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food
assistance program also provide aid during disasters. So
far, the SBA has approved $784 million in low-interest loans
in Texas, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission
has administered more than $209 million in USDA food
State of Texas: $103 million
Abbott has awarded $103 million from the state
disaster fund to pay for Harvey-related expenses, and just
under half of that went to fund the Houston’s recovery
Another $43 million went toward deploying
the National Guard during the storm, and the remaining $10
million went to the Department of Public Safety for costs
incurred by the Texas Emergency Management Division.
Some local officials, including Houston
Mayor Sylvester Turner, have called on Abbott to tap the
state’s $10 billion Rainy Day Fund to help with rebuilding
and cleanup expenses, but the
governor has said if that happens, it won’t be
until the 2019 legislative session.
Red Cross: $300 million
Central Texas chapter spokesman Geof Sloan
said the nonprofit, which partners with local governments to
run shelters and provide disaster assistance, has given $148
million in direct financial aid in the form of $400 stipends
to more than 370,000 Texas households as of Sept. 28. That
number will increase as the Red Cross continues accepting
applications for the stipends via its website through Oct.
Sloan said the organization has deployed
more than 7,300 workers to support efforts in Texas. Its
emergency shelters, he said, have served more than 3.7
million meals and snacks and provided more than 421,000
overnight stays since Harvey hit. Sloan said that a cost
breakdown for these services was not currently available.
A recent ProPublica
investigation called the Red Cross’s role in
Harvey disaster relief into question and uncovered records
of local officials in several counties complaining that the
organization did not provide promised support or help.
Rebuild Texas Fund: $70.7 million
A spokeswoman said the organization would
be announcing the first round of recipients next week.
JJ Watt Foundation’s Harvey
Relief Fund: $27 million
The Houston Texans player smashed an
initial fundraising goal of $200,000. The foundation did not
respond to a media inquiry asking how much of the money has