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African American News & Issues

Local Organizations team up for Water Safety

AFRICAN AMERICAN NEWS & ISSUES — Flanked by his five-year-old daughter, Karem Greene was one of many parents who spent the afternoon at the Weekly Family YMCA on Stella Link, for a free water safety event. “I wanted to make sure she is water safe. I wanted to get a sense of where she is with water and see what you guys can provide her in terms of safety.”

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YMCA and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority (Photo by: Pat Tucker Wilson)

By Pat Tucker Wilson

Flanked by his five-year-old daughter, Karem Greene was one of many parents who spent the afternoon at the Weekly Family YMCA on Stella Link, for a free water safety event. “I wanted to make sure she is water safe. I wanted to get a sense of where she is with water and see what you guys can provide her in terms of safety.”

Greene’s African American daughter is in a high-risk group when it relates to drownings. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the fatal-drowning rate of Black/African-American children is three times higher than white children. Greene didn’t know the statistics, but he wasn’t surprised at the alarming rate. “There are more kids in urban ethnic communities who can’t swim because they don’t have access to the facilities, but getting them to the facilities so they can learn is important,” he said.

Greene registered his daughter after seeing the promotion for the YMCA’s Water Safety event. He and others took advantage of the event which was hosted by the YMCA and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc’s Gamma Phi Sigma (GPS) chapter of Houston. The organizations promote water safety and encourage teaching children how to swim at an early age.

Weekly Family YMCA’s Aquatic Director, Katie Rosinke, said, water safety is the first step toward one of the organization’s overall goals. “One of the strategic initiatives for the Y is to eliminate drowning. So, our thought process behind offering free swim lessons is so people get a taste of how important water safety is, and how even 30 minutes, can help their child become safe around water.”

In addition to partnering with the YMCA, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. is part of a unique and historic partnership with USA Swimming. Their Swim 1922 initiative is the first of its kind focused on decreasing the drowning rates in the African American community by increasing swim participation. GPS’ Swim 1922 Co-Chair, Sada Okolo-Miles said it was a delight to find a local partner that shares the sorority’s goal as it relates to Swim 1922, “Teaming up with the Y meant our chapter’s reach was wider, and together we could help more people.”

Sorority members braved Houston’s scorching temperatures and staffed an information table, where registered families checked in and received printed information about water safety, discount coupons for a water park, and ice-cold bottled water.

More than 100 families registered for the event, although some were no-shows, Greene said, he was grateful for the free opportunity. Rosinke said, at the Y, inability to pay will never prohibit a child from learning how to swim. You may contact your local YMCA for more information about low-cost to free swim lessons. You may learn more about Sigma Gamma Rho, Sorority Inc.’s Swim 1922 initiative at www.Sgrho1922.org.

This article originally appeared in the African American News & Issues.

African American News & Issues

Helping Kids Through Education

AFRICAN AMERICAN NEWS & ISSUES — Born and raised in the Acres Homes community, Ms. Willie Elaine Hubbard Brooks wanted a way to give back to where she grew up. Inspired by her mother’s community activism and outstanding leadership in the Acres Homes community, Brooks founded the BenCheri’ Educational Center. It was her mother who encouraged her to become an entrepreneur, as she instilled in her the importance of helping the community and those in it.

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BenCheri’ Educational Center

By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb

HOUSTON – Born and raised in the Acres Homes community, Ms. Willie Elaine Hubbard Brooks wanted a way to give back to where she grew up. Inspired by her mother’s community activism and outstanding leadership in the Acres Homes community, Brooks founded the BenCheri’ Educational Center. It was her mother who encouraged her to become an entrepreneur, as she instilled in her the importance of helping the community and those in it.

After spending time subbing, tutoring and mentoring students in the local school districts, Brooks felt the desire pronging her even stronger to give back to the community. The best way she knew how was through education.

Consequently, Bencheri Educational Center was formed. The unique part about the center is that its’ named derived from her children’s names’, Benjamin and Sheree Brooks.

Bencheri Educational Center’s mission is, “to narrow the gap of illiteracy in the community and surrounding areas.” The center tutors students from Pre-K all the way thru college.

Bencheri provides academic coursework in math, reading, STEM classes, debate, public speaking and writing classes. They also teach art, health education, playwriting classes and manufacturing classes that will lead to a career pathway for students to attend a community college or university.

The center also provides classes that are focused on robotics, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The beautiful part about this center is that their curriculum is designed for each student based on their individual needs.

The BenCheri’ Center strives to help as many kids as possible. They are not only teaching them educational skills, but skills that will help them when they enter the real world. Brooks says, “We are trying to make sure these kids not just get a job, but a career.”

Furthermore, she stated, “Our students will get the best skills, training, mentorship and will be accountable for mak-ing their community sustainable.”

If you are interested in learning more about the BenCheri’ Educational Center, you can visit their website at http://bencheri-educationalcenter.org/ or call (713) 598-1646 for more information.

This article originally appeared in the African American News & Issues

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African American News & Issues

COMMENTARY: The Governor’s Veto; Retaliation or Racism?

AFRICAN AMERICAN NEWS & ISSUES — During the 86th Legislative Session, I worked with several organizations to pass more than 28 pieces of legislation targeted to help the many communities of Senate District 13. Many of those bills, the community had a hand to help craft. From criminal justice reforms, consumer advocacy, affordable and accessible healthcare options to jobs and economic development, my legislative package was about improving Senate District 13. I authored Senate Bill 390 to create the Northeast Houston Redevelopment District. This bill was one of the most critical bills in my legislative package.

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Photo credit: cleanfax.com

By Senator Borris Miles

During the 86th Legislative Session, I worked with several organizations to pass more than 28 pieces of legislation targeted to help the many communities of Senate District 13. Many of those bills, the community had a hand to help craft. From criminal justice reforms, consumer advocacy, affordable and accessible healthcare options to jobs and economic development, my legislative package was about improving Senate District 13. I authored Senate Bill 390 to create the Northeast Houston Redevelopment District. This bill was one of the most critical bills in my legislative package.

Like many parts of low-income and economically challenged areas, there are a lack of grocery stores and abandoned shopping centers and major retailers plagued around the area. After meetings with local Northeast community leaders and local elected officials, we crafted SB 390 to give this area the help it needed to attract new businesses and jobs and breathe life back into the community.

I carefully moved this bill through the Senate Chamber, and throughout the session, the governor did not indicate any problem with the bill until May 20th, one week before the end of the session. After working with the governor’s staff and making the requested changes, his staff even provided assistance in clearing procedural hurdles to help the bill pass. After the session ended, he vetoed the bill, which made little to no sense to me.

The governor’s veto said SB 390 “goes too far.” How?! Communities like the Galleria, Upper Kirby, Midtown, Memorial City and other more affluent areas have been able to reap the benefits of these redevelopment districts for years. If the governor believed these districts went to far, then why didn’t he veto all of the special district bills that passed this session, not just the bills from three Democratic legislators.

I sent a letter to the governor detailing my thoughts and my suspicions behind his veto. I want to know if his veto was an act of retaliation because I refused to sell out my community and support his nominee for TX Secretary of State, who earlier this year attempted to purge more than 95,000 voters from the Texas voter rolls, or one of racism. I want to know it is neither or BOTH. I am awaiting his response.

While this veto eliminates a tool to help revitalize this area, it will not stop my efforts to continue working with the community to bring businesses and jobs for the people in these neighborhoods.

This article originally appeared in the African American News & Issues

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African American News & Issues

Living Legend: Honorable John W. Peavy, Jr.

AFRICAN AMERICAN NEWS & ISSUES — Judge John W. Peavy, Jr. was born on April 28, 1942 in Houston, Texas to Malinda Terrell Peavy and John W. Peavy, Sr. Peavy graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School in 1960, where he began his lifelong engagement in local politics as a member of the Young Democrats of Harris County. He then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he earned his B.A. degree in business administration with an emphasis in accountancy in 1964. Peavy worked for Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson’s office as an undergraduate student, and later as a White House staffer during Johnson’s presidency. In 1967, Peavy received his J.D. degree from the Howard University School of Law.

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Judge John W. Peavy, Jr. (Photo by: thehistorymakers.org)

By Afram News

Judge John W. Peavy, Jr. was born on April 28, 1942 in Houston, Texas to Malinda Terrell Peavy and John W. Peavy, Sr. Peavy graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School in 1960, where he began his lifelong engagement in local politics as a member of the Young Democrats of Harris County. He then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he earned his B.A. degree in business administration with an emphasis in accountancy in 1964. Peavy worked for Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson’s office as an undergraduate student, and later as a White House staffer during Johnson’s presidency. In 1967, Peavy received his J.D. degree from the Howard University School of Law.

Upon graduating from law school, Peavy returned to Houston, and opened a private law practice focused on criminal and civil cases. In 1967, he joined the Harris County Community Action Association as an associate senior coordinator; and, in 1969, he became an executive assistant to Harris County Judge William Elliot. He then worked as an expert for the American Bar Association’s Project Home, where he handled real estate cases for the NAACP. Funded by the Ford Foundation, the program provided legal and technical assistance to federal housing programs. Peavy also served on the Houston City Council. In 1973, Judge William Elliott appointed Peavy as justice of the peace for a newly formed, majority-black district in Harris County. He was later elected for a full term in 1974, serving until 1977 when he was appointed by Governor Dolph Briscoe as judge of the 246th District Court. There, he presided over family law cases, and helped reform the family court system through his endorsement of mediation programs within the court system in 1985. In 1990, Peavy was placed in charge of family law courts for all of Harris County. Peavy retired from his district court judgeship in 1994.

Peavy was a member of the Houston Area Urban League, the NAACP, Houston Area Urban League, and the U.S.-China Friendship Association. He also served as the director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas. In 2018, Peavy was honored with a historic portrait at the Harris County District Civil Courthouse.

Peavy and his wife, Diane Massey, have four children.

Source: thehistorymakers.org

This article originally appeared in the African American News & Issues.

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African American News & Issues

Houston’s Dynamic Duo – Mother / Son Seek Seats on Houston City Council

AFRICAN AMERICAN NEWS & ISSUES — Does the name “Provost” sound familiar? It certainly should. Provost is synonymous with volunteerism, service and mentoring -all simultaneously. The name Provost is about to become a lot more familiar. Why? I thought you’d never asked. Georgia Provost, who most know as “Mama Pro,” and her son Jerome Provost are running for seats on Houston City Council.

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Georgia Provost and Jerome Provost

By Afram News

Does the name “Provost” sound familiar? It certainly should. Provost is synonymous with volunteerism, service and mentoring -all simultaneously.

The name Provost is about to become a lot more familiar. Why? I thought you’d never asked. Georgia Provost, who most know as “Mama Pro,” and her son Jerome Provost are running for seats on Houston City Council.

Georgia, who is running for City Council, Position 1, amazed over 81,000 votes in a run for City Council in 2015. Endorsed by the Houston Chronicle then as, “an individual who brings grassroots awareness and years of experience helping solve problems in her community.” The Chronicle statement added that “Georgia’s qualifications will prove valuable on the council. “She will speak up for Houstonians too often ignored by city government,” the Chronicle endorsement further stated.

Imagine, if you will, how much stronger Georgia’s voice will be with a seat at the city council table.

Jerome Provost has his heart, sight and mind set on improving the community where he lives, works and where children play. He has walked, talked and worked with community businesses and individuals in the community his entire life and he knows their needs, issues and concerns.

Jerome is not just committed to hearing his constituents. He is committed to addressing their needs, among which are to change the trajectory of District D by pulling investment toward the District for ALL residents to benefit, to bring innovation and creativity to city hall and blight control.

Jerome, who grew up with a successful businessman father (Herbert) and an activist mother (Georgia) has witnessed first hand changes in his own community.I’m pleased with some of the progress that has been made over the years” Jerome asserts. “Yet there are parts of District D that has stopped growing. I want to work hard to assure the District as a whole grows.”

Georgia’s goal is to achieve what she promises on the campaign trail when elected. ” I want to create a network where neighbors are helping neighbors and where everyone grows. My goal,” she says, “is to bridge the gap in Position 1. I plan to be the change I want to see,” this is a promise she plans on keeping…

This article originally appeared in the African American News & Issues.

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African American News & Issues

Helping Kids with Incarcerated Parents

AFRICAN AMERICAN NEWS & ISSUES — here were many transformative criminal justice reform bills lawmakers filed and pushed this session. Bail reform, the Sandra Bland Act, the TDCJ Independent Ombudsman and Raise the Age are some of the few pieces of legislation that were proposed, but never had a chance with Republicans in charge. But, one bill was able to get out, I authored Senate Bill 1746, which will help kids with incarcerated parents stay on track to graduate from high school.

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Photo by: Matthew Ansley | unsplash.com

By Senator Borris Miles

There were many transformative criminal justice reform bills lawmakers filed and pushed this session. Bail reform, the Sandra Bland Act, the TDCJ Independent Ombudsman and Raise the Age are some of the few pieces of legislation that were proposed, but never had a chance with Republicans in charge. But, one bill was able to get out, I authored Senate Bill 1746, which will help kids with incarcerated parents stay on track to graduate from high school.

According to a research study conducted by the University of Texas at San Antonio, about one in twenty-eight children has a parent in prison. Students with incarcerated parents are at a much higher risk of suffering through academic difficulties. Also, these students are at risk of developmental challenges such as poor diet and sleep; some students have difficulty in staying focused in school. This, in turn, puts them at risk of dropping out of school.

Education Code requires school districts to provide accelerated instruction to students who are at-risk of dropping out of school. Currently, the TEA classifies a student being at-risk from a list of 13 indicators. Indicators on the list include the student being homeless, pregnant or a parent or if the student has a limited English proficiency.

The governor signed SB 1746, which adds students with incarcerated parents or guardians to the list of at-risk indicators. Now, these students will qualify for certain benefits other at-risk students currently receive which will help them graduate from high school. These benefits include programs like supportive guidance, enrichment activities, academic enhancement and support services, college and career awareness, and much more.

There are organizations that have stepped up to offer intervention services and programs to help at-risk youth. I am proud to do my part by passing this legislation to help kids in our community and Texas. The school to prison pipeline disproportionately targets minority students from our neighborhoods. It introduces them to the criminal justice system at a very young age, and once in, it’s hard to get out. This bill will not dismantle the pipeline, but it removes a path to it. This bill will give our kids the help they need to graduate from high school and get on a path to success.

This article originally appeared in African American News & Issues.

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African American News & Issues

PRESS ROOM: Cy-Fair ISD Graduate Grabs NYC Dream at Carnegie Hall with Celebrities, $10,000 Art Scholarship

AFRICAN AMERICAN NEWS & ISSUES — Within a whirlwind of 24 hours, Cy-Fair ISD graduate Taylor Powers met actors Tina Fey, Rose Byrn and designer Zac Posen. The young photographer was treated like a celebrity herself at Carnegie Hall as one of eight, $10,000 art portfolio recipients awarded by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards through the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artist & Writers.

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(l-r) Taylor Powers and Tina Fey (Photo by: Carol Vaughn HCDE Communications)

By African American News & Issues

CY-FAIR – Within a whirlwind of 24 hours, Cy-Fair ISD graduate Taylor Powers met actors Tina Fey, Rose Byrn and designer Zac Posen. The young photographer was treated like a celebrity herself at Carnegie Hall as one of eight, $10,000 art portfolio recipients awarded by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards through the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artist & Writers.

The Cypress Woods High School student traveled to New York this June with her family and photography teacher Tina Fox for the prestigious national awards ceremony. This year Scholastic recognized 800 teen Gold Medalists selected from more than 340,000 national entries from young artists and writers in grades 7-12. Locally, Taylor’s portfolio was chosen last winter by a panel of art professionals from Harris County Department of Education, regional affiliate of the Awards.

“New York City was like a fairytale to me,” said the 18-year-old. From visiting the Today Show and seeing the Jonas Brothers to getting lost on the subway and experiencing Times Square, the experience mimicked a movie, a dream come true, she said.

Backstage at Carnegie Hall, visiting celebrities greeted the top-award students. Tina Fey posed for a personal photo with Powers, and the Saturday Night Live star even complimented the teen on her dress.

“I was smiling so hard that I could barely get out the words “thank you’,” she said.

Photography teacher Fox has been an art teacher for almost 30 years and has been involved with HCDE’s regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for 27 years. Through the validation and recognition students gain from Scholastic, she sees student confidence rise. As Powers began working on her senior photography portfolio this year, her teacher knew it was unique and powerful as she created the body of images.

“This is the first time I’ve had a student receive this type of award,” she said. “I know this award has opened opportunities for her that she otherwise might not have had.”

HCDE Scholastic Art & Writing Coordinator Andrea Segraves sees the power of expression that Scholastic Art & Writing Awards lends to young student artists and writers as they gain notoriety for their artistic talents.

“The Awards have identified and honored so many talented writers and artists over the years like Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Robert Redford, Lena Dunham and Ken Burns,” said Segraves. “To join in those ranks is such an empowerment for these teens.”

Powers’ future career plans include attending community college until she hears back from the esteemed Savannah College of Art and Design, her dream college.

“I hope to be able to commission art pieces for clients one day and do photo shoots for anybody seeking a photographer with a keen eye,” she said.

She is quick to credit her teacher for encouraging and pushing her artistic endeavors while thanking Mom Letitia for influencing her creativity and buying the digital camera to help her forge her artistic pathway.

(For information about entering, judging or sponsoring the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards through Regional Affiliate Harris County Department of Education, go to https://hcde-texas.org/scholastic-awards/ or email asegraves@hcde-texas.org.)

About Harris County Department of Education: HCDE provides special education, therapy services, early education, adult education and after-school programming. Services are funded by government grants, fees and a local property tax of approximately $9 per homeowner. For every dollar in local property tax collected, HCDE provides $4.86 in services to the 25 Harris County school districts. We operate four campuses for students with profound special education needs and adjudicated or recovering youth who require a low, student-teacher ratio and highly structured environment. One-hundred percent of students served on HCDE campuses are at-risk. We are governed by an elected board of seven trustees and have 1,100 employees and 33 facilities, including 15 Head Start centers. More info at www.hcde-texas.org.

This article originally appeared in the African American News & Issues.

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