In 2011, the United Nations declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl Child, in order “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”
The movement was sparked by members of School Girls Unite, an organization of youth leaders advocating for the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Following their lead, President Barack Obama proclaimed Oct. 10 Day of the Girl in 2013, writing:
“Over the past few decades, the global community has made great progress in increasing opportunity and equality for women and girls, but far too many girls face futures limited by violence, social norms, educational barriers, and even national law. On International Day of the Girl, we stand firm in the belief that all men and women are created equal, and we advance the vision of a world where girls and boys look to the future with the same sense of promise and possibility.”
In a 2016 op-ed, First Lady Michelle Obama wrote that the issue of gender equity is not just a matter of policy; it is personal.
“Unlike so many girls around the world, we have a voice. That’s why, particularly on this International Day of the Girl, I ask that you use yours to help these girls get the education they deserve. They’re counting on us, and I have no intention of letting them down. I plan to keep working on their behalf, not just for the rest of my time as First Lady, but for the rest of my life.”
Staying true to her promise, on Oct. 11, Obama and TODAY held a special event on 30 Rockefeller Plaza to “empower and celebrate girls all over the world.” Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Meghan Trainor are slated to perform.
The visibility of the event is powerful; still, it cannot, and must not, overshadow the lived experiences of Black girls who, too often, are victimized, criminalized, and erased.
In 2014, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps facing Black boys. In response, over 250 Black men and other men of color challenged Obama’s decision to focus solely on Black men and boys, and called for the inclusion of Black women and girls, stating in an open letter: “MBK, in its current iteration, solely collects social data on Black men and boys. What might we find out about the scope, depth and history of our structural impediments, if we also required the collection of targeted data for Black women and girls?
“If the denunciation of male privilege, sexism and rape culture is not at the center of our quest for racial justice, then we have endorsed a position of benign neglect towards the challenges that girls and women face that undermine their well-being and the well-being of the community as a whole.”
Specifically, for Black girls in the United States, the intractable scourge of white supremacy stains every corner of their lives; meaning they must battle misogynoir on both institutional and interpersonal levels at every turn.
In the study Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girlhood (pdf), co-authored by Rebecca Epstein, Jamilia J. Blake, and Thalia Gonzalez, the answers of survey participants provided anecdotal evidence of how dehumanized Black girls are in this country. According to participants:
Black girls need less nurturing
Black girls need less protection
Black girls need to be supported less
Black girls need to be comforted less
Black girls are more independent
Black girls know more about adult topics
Black girls know more about sex
While the above racist and sexist perceptions are false, the institutionalized and systemic ramifications of such dangerous thinking are very real, with Black girls suffering the consequences.
According to the 2015 report “Gender Justice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reform for Girls” (pdf), 84 percent of girls in the juvenile-detention system have experienced family violence; additionally, “[girls] in the justice system have experienced abuse, violence, adversity and deprivation across many of the domains of their lives—family, peers, intimate partners and community.”
Former Houston ISD superintendent Richard Carranza is speaking out about his disappointment in HISD’s failure to pass major reforms while he was here. Carranza, who now leads the New York public school system after abruptly quitting HISD, said the district lacked the appetite for changes that would boost outcomes for lower-income and minority students.
“As soon as I left, it seemed like people just didn’t have the stomach to take the fight,” Carranza said.
In an interview with Atlantic Magazine, Carranza who was with the district for 18 months, said HISD leaders resisted changes that would benefit historically underserved students, creating inequitable access to quality education among students from all backgrounds.
The Atlantic article largely focused on his immediate reform efforts in New York City, but Carranza didn’t mince words as he talked about HISD’s current campus funding model and the geographic layout of its magnet schools, which he said have favored students from more affluent and white backgrounds. In the months before his departure from HISD, Carranza proposed shifting toward a more centralized funding model that largely would benefit schools in lower-income and predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
“You would think if you want to integrate schools and really provide a robust push for the entire system, you would place some really sexy magnet schools in those African-American neighborhoods. No! They were all concentrated in white, upper-middle-class neighborhoods, so that if you’re an African-American student, you have to leave your neighborhood to go to those programs,” he said.
Carranza’s comments cut to key questions about the district’s dedication to impoverished and minority students, while also raising the specter that Carranza’s abrupt departure contributed to the proposals stalling. During his tenure the district dealt with
Ultimately, HISD trustees tweaked the district’s current campus funding model and shelved the magnet proposals, to Carranza’s dismay. However, it is arguable whether trustees resisted Carranza’s proposal because they “didn’t have the stomach to take the fight.” Some trustees embraced Carranza’s proposal, but others thought the district administration was moving too hastily and did not provide enough details about the proposal’s merits.
“Carranza didn’t leave any definite plans on the table. Only ideals,” HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said. “For me, there were conceptual changes that were never fully vetted or fleshed out by the administration.”
The district also was dealing with a large budget deficit and a looming threat of a state takeover of the school system resulting from a state law that required the Texas Education Agency to control operations of any school district in which one or more schools failed to meet state academic standards for five consecutive years, prompting a few trustees to question whether HISD was tackling too much at one time.
Is cash-strapped HISD decreasing teacher salaries for the upcoming school year? That’s that claim one teacher is making in a viral Facebook post that’s racked up more than 18,000 views and 700 shares.
Victor Treviño III, the teacher behind the video, feels like the current fight over teacher pay is déjà vu of a similar battle in 2016.
Treviño says he’s most upset the plan’s reportedly been in the works since March, but he only recently found out about it after being tipped off by a concerned HISD employee.
“Obviously teachers, we don’t get into this profession to become millionaires, but at the same time, we don’t want to be undervalued. We don’t want to be exploited,” said Treviño, who’s taught at Austin High School in southeast Houston for 11 years.
In a now-viral video, Treviño warns the district is planning to lower teachers’ expected salaries in the upcoming school year, while at the same time, he says, adding high-level, high salary administration jobs.
“If you really care about students’ achievement, we need to be able to attract and retain the most highly qualified teachers in those classrooms,” said Treviño, who wants HISD to scrap the idea and also begin a new superintendent search.
“That draft of the salary schedule freezes salaries at their current level,” said Andy Dewey, Executive Vice President of the Houston Federation of Teachers, the union for HISD teachers. “Nobody would get less money next year.”
However, Dewey says if that draft proposal is adopted, those employees will not make what they expected to make based on the current salary schedule.
“That’s where Victor is saying the pay cut is coming from, the fact that they are not getting the amount of money that was promised them for next year,” Dewey said.
Dewey says if the board approves freezing salaries, that change would come after the July 13 deadline for teachers to resign and potentially find higher-paying jobs elsewhere.
“Frankly, I believe if HISD tries to do that after the resignation date, they’ll be in breach of contract,” he said.
Dewey says union officials will meet with district higher-ups on Aug. 2 during their monthly consultation. He hopes officials will back off the proposal.
KHOU requested an interview with HISD officials Thursday and emailed several questions, including whether the draft proposal was still under consideration and how long it’s been in the works. In response, HISD sent the following statement:
“Teachers will not see a pay decrease in their salaries for the 2018-2019 school year.”
This week, HISD joined with more than 20,000 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated to publicly thank them for donating thousands of dollars to district students and staff in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
During Houston’s time of devastation, Alpha Kappa Alpha — one of the oldest African-American and Greek letter organizations — provided thousands of dollars in donations, as well as clothes, shoes, nonperishable food items, toiletries, and school supplies that were distributed districtwide to those impacted by the storm.
Members of local chapters also volunteered at donation sites and distribution centers across the city.
“The members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. immediately came to our aid following Hurricane Harvey,” said HISD Board of Education Trustee Wanda Adams, who served as board president during the storm. “The international president of the sorority, Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, sent out a notice to her members asking them to direct aid and support to HISD students. The ladies answered in a big way by donating countless supplies and resources.”
Adams joined with Board of Education President Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Trustee Jolanda Jones and Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan on Monday to present a resolution of appreciation to the organization during their 68th annual Boule. The Boule — the largest of its kind in the country — is an annual international conference that provides women with networking opportunities, leadership training, and development. It was held at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
When Hurricane Harvey rolled through Houston causing massive destruction, the men of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity stepped up to the plate to help the community rebuild.
“We’re unique men who feel the need to help others. Our constant goal is to make sure mankind is doing better,” said Jeffery Williams, who serves as the Life Membership Board Regional Director for the Ninth District (Omega chapters in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas).
Williams also leads the Houston coalition of area Omegas, which is hosting their regional convention in Houston on March 21-25. (More than 3,000 members are expected to attend the conference). The Coalition began as a way to work together on programs and activities mandated by the fraternity and consists of seven graduate chapters (Nu Phi-Houston, Theta Chi-Prairie View, Rho Beta Beta-Houston, and Rho Xi-Freeport, Rho Nu – Galveston, Alpha Mu Mu – College Station, and Mu Mu Nu – Conroe, TX) and five undergraduate chapters: Tau Epsilon (Texas Southern University), Omega Theta (University of Houston), Rho Theta (Prairie View A&M University), Eta Mu (Sam Houston State University) and Nu Delta Delta (Texas A&M University). Rho Nu (Galveston) joined the coalition to comprise 10 chapters.
While many people know the “Ques” as they’re called for their ability to throw off-the-chain parties and step, Williams said service is really at the core of everything they do.
“There is a lot more to it than that,” Williams said. “It’s about service. It’s all about helping men become better men.”
“Yes, we have a good time, but what we do goes so much more deeper than that,” added Marvin Alexander Jr., Southwest Texas State Representative. “We have a Thanksgiving Meal on Wheels, Achievement Week, where we work with high school students, the Charles R. Drew Blood Drive, Real Men Read, where we partner with local schools to read to students, and that’s just a few of the things we do.”
For Antonio Brown, a 15-year member of the fraternity and basileus (president) of the Rho Beta Beta Chapter, joining Omega simply meant that he could continue the foundation his parents had laid.
“The principles we stand for are right in line with everything I believe in,” Brown said. “The good things we do for our community is right in line with how I was raised. Our organization promotes ‘manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift.’ That’s what we’re all about.”
Brown said the organization is committed to future generations and a leaving legacy that uplifts the Black community.
“This is important. We understand the village mentality,” Brown said. “If we know that we’re responsible for each person next to us, we tend to do better. We tend to make sure we’re doing the right thing in that person’s presence. And not just when we’re there but even when they’re not.”
Omega Signature Events
Go Western Scholarship Dance
The dance, established in 1961, was generally held on the third Saturday of February. This Go-Western gala hosted by Nu Phi has been considered the oldest, longest-standing, Black Go-Western in the Greater Houston area. The proceeds generated from this affair are used to provide scholarships and to support the numerous community programs that the Chapter conducts and sponsors.
Annual Boat Ride
Boat Rides have been a part of Omega’s history for a long time. The first Houston-area Omega Boat Ride took place in 1987, “Moonlight Cruise with the Ques.” Nu Phi and Theta Chi jointly sponsor a Memorial Day cruise, which leaves from Galveston, where patrons loaded up at the San Jacinto Battleground to enjoy a five hour cruise and dinner. Rho Beta Beta sponsors a Labor Day event.
Achievement Week is observed each November and is designed to recognize those individuals at the local and international levels who have contributed to community uplift. A High School Essay Contest is held in conjunction with Achievement Week.
*Not a comprehensive list
Omega Psi Phi was organized Friday on Nov. 17, 1911 in the office of Ernest Everett Just, a professor of biology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The organizers were three juniors in the College of Liberal Arts: Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper, and Frank Coleman. They envisioned a creative idealistic national organization that would unite thousands or young men in aim, thought and loyalty.
They selected the name of the organization, Omega Psi Phi, represented by three Greek letters which mean, “Friendship is Essential to the Soul.” The meaning of the letters was adopted as the fraternity ‘s motto. “Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance and Uplift” were adopted as the fraternity’s cardinal principles
California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris knows that higher learning at the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities requires higher funding. Harris has been a longtime advocate for HBCUs, helping to push through a funding increase that would put millions into these schools.
A 14 percent increase in federal funding was included in the Senate’s omnibus spending bill, elevating the amount for HBCUs from $244.7 million in fiscal year 2017 to $279.6 million in fiscal year 2018, the LA Sentinel reported Wednesday.
“HBCUs are critical to the foundation of our higher education system, and provide opportunities for some of the nation’s most promising and deserving students”, Harris, an HBCU alumnus of Howard University, said. “I am pleased funds in this bipartisan budget agreement will be invested in the future of these young people. Ensuring HBCUs have the federal support and resources they need to thrive for generations to come is one of my top priorities as a proud HBCU graduate.”
As part of the Senate bill, historically Black graduate institutions will also receive a 14-percent funding increase, from $63.3 million to $72.3 million. Also, other majority-Black institutions will receive a raise from $9.9 million to $11.4 million. Bag secured!
Harris, along with Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones, requested the HBCU funding increase in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Twelve of their Senate colleagues supported their letter, according to the Sentinel.
HBCU presidents and other officials have been fighting for more funding to keep the doors open to their campuses. Several historically Black colleges and universities have had to operate under the threats of low funding, decrease enrollment, lacking academic programs and even closure. Therefore, the funding increase spurred by Harris and other senators is a great step forward for helping HBCUs.
These schools also contribute billions to states through their economic impact and by helping to generate jobs, two more reasons for the government to keep HBCUs strong.
Alondra Alvarez lives about five minutes from her high school on Detroit’s southwest side but she drives there instead of walking because her mother fears for her safety. Once the 18-year-old enters the building, her surroundings take on a more secure feel almost immediately as she passes through a bank of closely monitored metal detectors.
“My mom has never been comfortable with me walking to school. My mom is really scared of street thugs,” said Alvarez, who attends Western International.
As schools around the U.S. look for ways to impose tougher security measures in the wake of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead, they don’t have to look further than urban districts such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York that installed metal detectors and other security in the 1980s and 1990s to combat gang and drug violence.
Security experts believe these measures have made urban districts less prone to mass shootings, which have mostly occurred in suburban and rural districts.
Officials in some suburban and rural school districts are now considering detectors as they rethink their security plans after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz allegedly brought in a duffel bag containing an assault rifle and opened fire. He’s charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
The massacre has galvanized thousands of students around the country who walked out of their classrooms for 17 minutes — one for each Parkland victim — on March 14 to protest gun violence.
“I think urban schools are eons ahead. They’ve been dealing with violence a lot longer than suburban schools,” said Philip Smith, president of the National African American Gun Association.
During the mid-1980s, Detroit was one of the first districts in the nation to put permanent, walk-through metal detectors in high schools and middle schools. New York schools also had them in some buildings.
By 1992, metal detectors had been installed in a few dozen Chicago high schools. And in 1993, under pressure to make schools safer, Los Angeles’ district announced that it would randomly search students with metal detectors.
Such measures “are designed to identify and hopefully deter anybody from bringing a weapon to school, but metal detectors alone portray an illusion of being safe,” said Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the 50,000-student Detroit Public Schools Community District.
“Our schools need to be safer than they are,” Vitti said. “As a nation, we need to fully fund and make sure all districts can adequately staff school resource officers and also offer mental health and first-aid training to all educators.”
Security measures don’t always keep guns off school grounds. A 17-year-old high school senior was killed and another student wounded March 7 in a Birmingham, Alabama, classroom shooting. Metal detectors at the school were not in use that day. A 17-year-old student has been charged with manslaughter.
Two students were shot and three people suffered other injuries in February when a gun in a backpack accidentally fired inside a Los Angeles Unified School District middle school. The district does random metal-detector wand searches daily in middle schools and high schools. A 12-year-old girl has been charged with being a minor in possession of a firearm and having a weapon on school grounds.
In response to the Parkland shooting, Florida’s governor has said he wants to spend $500 million to increase law enforcement and mental health counselors at schools, to make buildings more secure with metal detectors and to create an anonymous tip line.
A package of legislation passed by the New York state Senate includes provisions for metal detectors and improved security technology in schools. A parent in Knox County, Kentucky, has said his law office would donate $25,000 for metal detectors in schools there.
Alvarez, the student at Detroit’s Western International, said she and others who attend the school go through metal detectors every morning. Her elementary and middle schools also had metal detectors.
“I’ve always seen it as something that made me feel safe,” she said, adding that all schools should have them and not just inner-city ones “so students don’t feel discriminated against.”
Metal detectors are seen as a symptom of a “stigma that already exists,” said Mark Fancher, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan’s Racial Justice Project.
“There is a presumption that urban schools — particularly those with students of color — are violent places and security demands you have procedures in place that are intended to protect the safety of the students,” Fancher said.
But metal detectors, property searches, security guards and police in schools create conditions similar to those found in prisons, he said.
“Students, themselves, internalize these things,” Fancher said. “If you create a school that looks like a prison, the people who go there will pretty much decide that’s what is expected of them.”
Many urban districts have a greater awareness and sensitivity when it comes to students’ needs, said Kenneth Trump, president of the Cleveland-based National School Safety and Security Services, a K-12 security consulting firm.
“I think in urban schools, the approach of most of the educators, administrators and security personnel is, ‘We realize there are issues kids bring to school,’” said Trump, who has been in the school safety field for more than 30 years. “The people will tell you, ‘We are not in denial … we acknowledge our problems. We just don’t have enough resources to deal with it.’”
Suburban and rural administrators, parents and students often view themselves as different from their big-city counterparts, and that may impact how they treat school security, he said.
“There’s very often that divide of ‘There’s us and there’s them. We’re not the urban district. We are the alternative. We’re the place people go to get away from the urban district,’” he said.
A lot people describe the younger generation as wayward and self-absorbed. But if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see that they’re picking up the mantel in ways that the adults in power have not.
There are several examples of this but perhaps none stronger than what high school students across the country did today. At 10 am. students took 17 minutes to show solidarity for the 17 students killed during the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They were pushing for increased gun legislation—just something to ensure their safety when they’re trying to get an education.
HISD trustees will continue their slate of public meetings at schools labelled “improvement required” campuses by the Texas Education Agency, with the next one taking place at Worthing High School to discuss its fate and that of feeder school, Woodson Middle School.
The meeting is Wednesday, March 21 at 6 p.m. at Worthing, 9215 Scott St.
“Worthing is part of 10 schools slated for closure, so we want to update parents and the community on what the two bills mean – House Bill 1842 and Senate Bill 1882,” said HISD Trustee Wanda Adams.
According to HISD, Worthing and Woodson have fallen behind academically over the last four years and per state law (HB 1842) must meet all state standards this year or face closure or have an appointed management entity run the schools.
Senate Bill 1882 offers what some see as a ray of hope in the form of options allowing these schools to form outside partnerships, avoiding closure and total takeover.
Adams said such a partnership “would give Worthing two more years [to meet state standards] and up to $1000 per student.”
“Students have been working hard to show some growth. Still, closure is a real possibility. Unfortunately, this is what Worthing is facing because of the long history of not meeting standards. We want people to know the truth,” Adams added.
Adams said current plans for Worthing – making it an International Baccalaureate campus or a career and technology school – will also be discussed at the meeting. She added that discussions have begun with potential partnership institutions, including Texas Southern University.
Whatever plan will be enacted must be voted on and passed by the board by April 30, though the board’s only meeting before that date is April 10, increasing the sense of urgency for the March 21 meeting even more.
From Maine to Hawaii, thousands of students planned to stage walkouts Wednesday to protest gun violence, one month after the deadly shooting inside a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Organizers say nearly 3,000 walkouts are set in the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Students from the elementary to college level are taking up the call in a variety of ways. Some planned roadside rallies to honor shooting victims and protest violence. Others were to hold demonstrations in school gyms or on football fields. In Massachusetts and Ohio, students said they’ll head to the statehouse to lobby for new gun regulations.
The coordinated walkout was organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Women’s March, which brought thousands to Washington, D.C., last year. The group urged students to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim in the Florida shooting.
Although the group wanted students to shape protests on their own, it also offered them a list of demands for lawmakers, including a ban on assault weapons and mandatory background checks for all gun sales.
“Our elected officials must do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to this violence,” the group said on its website.
It’s one of several protests planned for coming weeks. The March for Our Lives rally for school safety is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital on March 24, its organizers said. And another round of school walkouts is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
After the walkout Wednesday, some students in Massachusetts say they plan to rally outside the Springfield headquarters of the gun maker Smith & Wesson. Students and religious leaders are expected to speak at the rally and call on the gun maker to help curb gun violence.
At Case Elementary School in Akron, Ohio, a group of fifth-graders have organized a walkout with the help of teachers after seeing parallels in a video they watched about youth marches for civil rights in 1963. Case instructors said 150 or more students will line a sidewalk along a nearby road, carrying posters with the names of Parkland victims.
The walkouts have drawn support from companies including media conglomerate Viacom, which said it will pause programming on MTV, BET and all its other networks for 17 minutes during the walkouts, and students will temporarily take over MTV’s social media accounts.
The planned protests have drawn mixed reactions from school administrators. While some applaud students for taking a stand, others threatened discipline. Districts in Sayreville, New Jersey, and Maryland’s Harford County drew criticism this week when they said students could face punishment for leaving class.
In suburban Atlanta, one of Georgia’s largest school systems announced that students who participate might face unspecified consequences.
But some vowed to walk out anyway.
“Change never happens without backlash,” said Kara Litwin, a senior at Pope High School in the Cobb County School District.
The possibility of being suspended “is overwhelming, and I understand that it’s scary for a lot of students,” said Lian Kleinman, a junior at Pope High.
“For me personally this is something I believe in, this is something I will go to the ends of the Earth for,” Kleinman said.
Other schools sought a middle ground, offering “teach-ins” or group discussions on gun violence. Some worked with students to arrange protests in safe locations on campus. Officials at Boston Public Schools said they arranged a day of observance Wednesday with a variety of activities “to provide healthy and safe opportunities for students to express their views, feelings and concerns.” Students who don’t want to participate could bring a note from a parent to opt out.
Meanwhile, free speech advocates geared up for a battle. The American Civil Liberties Union issued advice for students who walk out, saying schools can’t legally punish them more harshly because of the political nature of their message. In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Texas, some lawyers said they will provide free legal help to students who are punished.