Tag: Texas

juneteenth

Ten Powerful Quotes About Juneteenth

Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The proclamation was declared by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863, but the news did not reach Texas until two-and-a-half years later. Since then, generations have celebrated the day as Juneteenth and forty-five states recognize it as a state holiday.

As we remember this historic day in United States history, below are ten powerful quotes by central figures about the ugly history of slavery and this holiday’s meaning.

 

Image via CNN

 

1. “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” – Frederick Douglas.

 

2. “I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.” – Harriet Tubman.

 

3. “We’re in denial of the African holocaust. Most times, people don’t want to talk about it. One is often restless or termed a racist just for having compassion for the African experience, for speaking truth to the trans-Atlantic and Arab slave trades, for speaking truth to the significant omission of our history. We don’t want to sit down and listen to these things, or to discuss them. But we have to.” – Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X.

 

Image via CNN

 

4. “If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

 

5. “Anytime anyone is enslaved, or in any way deprived of his liberty, if that person is a human being, as far as I am concerned he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to bring about his liberty again.” – Malcolm X.

 

6. “My people have a country of their own to go to if they choose… Africa… but, this America belongs to them just as much as it does to any of the white race… in some ways even more so, because they gave the sweat of their brow and their blood in slavery so that many parts of America could become prosperous and recognized in the world.” – Josephine Baker, legendary entertainer and activist.

 

Image via CNN

 

7. “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” – Abraham Lincoln.

 

8. “Where annual elections end where slavery begins.” – John Quincy Adams.

 

9. “…the 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free… And my daddy told me that they whooped and hollered and bored holes in trees with augers and stopped it up with [gun] powder and light and that would be their blast for the celebration.” – Haye Turner, former slave.

 

10. “Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.” – Texas Rep. Al Edwards.

 

 

Featured Image Via CNN 

 

 

Local Church Saves ‘Drag Queen Story Time’

After the City of Leander, Texas cancelled a’Drag Queen Story Time’ event at the Leander Public Library, a local church stepped up to rent a room in the library and host the story hour itself.

To refresh your memory, contentious city council meetings and ongoing lawsuits, online petitions, and protests on the streets and massively long police lines all came about because of an hour long story-time hour for kids.

The controversy was aimed at the Drag Queens, who wanted to sit down and read books to children in an effort to promote both a love of reading and also tolerance and acceptance.

Here is that video:

 

 

Unfortunately, the city of Leander, Texas, wrote in an FAQ they had cancelled the event because of public outcry.

“While numerous events are presently under review, the city’s decision to cancel these events at this time was made collectively among City and library management staff after receiving input from many citizens and community stakeholders…”

“I think it’s been blown out of proportion for no reason,” Valeri Abrego, a drag king, told KVUE, “They’re reading just a book…”

 

Valeri Abrego

Image Via KVUE

‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ wasn’t the only event canceled, ‘Summer Superhero Saturday’ also got nixed. However, ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’  got saved by  Open Cathedral Church.

“We must never stop striving for safe spaces for our kids to be unique and loved no matter what,” Open Cathedral Church wrote on Facebook after they decided to rent a room out in the public library, giving Drag Queen Story hour it’s spotlight.

Drag Queen Story Hour

Image Via Kxan

On a Facebook event page, Open Cathedral Church said they will select a drag queen to reach children books about “how wonderful it is to be unique and special”.

 

Lead Minister Rev. Ryan Hart

Image Via Open Cathedral.org

 

Minister Hart told KVUE that, “It’s just about God loving people and us being a part of loving people,” he said.

The event will now be hosted in the conference room at the library at 3 p.m. on June 15th.

 

 

Featured Image Via Open Cathedral.org

Poet

Poet Can’t Answer Questions About Her Own Poem on Texas Standardized Test

It was brought to poet Sara Holbrook’s attention that one of her poems is used to test Texas students on a standardized test. Holbrook looked at the questions being asked. She can’t answer them.

 

Sara Holbrook

Sara Holbrook | Image Via Loganberry Books

 

It all started when an eighth grade teacher from Texas emailed Holbrook, asking her how many stanzas were in her poem. He needed to know in order for his students to answer practice questions. However, the poem wasn’t formatted correctly. The question was:

 

DIVIDING THE POEM INTO TWO STANZAS ALLOWS THE POET TO―

 

A) compare the speaker’s schedule with the train’s schedule.
B) Ask questions to keep the reader guessing about what will happen
C) contrast the speaker’s feelings about weekends and Mondays
D) incorporate reminders for the reader about where the action takes place.

 

C) is allegedly the correct answer, but Holbrook is unconvinced. According to her, “I just put that stanza break in there because when I read it aloud (I’m a performance poet), I pause there. Note: that is not an option among the answers because no one ever asked me why I did it.”

 

That isn’t offered as an answer because poetic interpretation can’t be broken down into multiple choice. You cannot discuss a poem as “either this or that is the case.” Instead, making meaning of a poem depends on a kind of spectrum of possibility. By putting the stanza break here, Holbrook could be trying to do this, but she could also be trying to do this. No serious reader of poetry sees anything as black and white. That’s the beauty, the point even, of poetry. No easy answers.

 

And for Holbrook, the WRITER of the poem in question, the answers are far from easy. Here is an excerpt of her poem “Midnight” and its corresponding question:

 

. . . And I meander to its rhythm,
flopping like a fish.
Why can’t I get to sleep?
Why can’t I get to sleep?

 

14. The poet uses a simile in lines 23 and 24 to reveal that the speaker —

 

F  wants to be outside G  cannot get comfortable H  does not like fishing J   might be having a dream

 

To do a proper analysis of any poem’s use of abstract imagery, an interpreter would need hundreds of words. Four brief choices on a scantron do not do justice to the spectrum of meaning that any metaphor creates.

 

Holbrook says, “I can’t answer the questions on my own poetry.” Neither can I. In your position, neither could anybody. Of course, the victim here isn’t Holbrook. The victims are the students and teachers expected to make sense of quantifying poetic interpretation. Not only is it impossible to decipher what the test maker thinks the correct answer is, it’s actively ruining poetry in young people. They’re being taught (to no fault of the teachers) that one’s reading of a poem is either right or wrong. To this I’d say pick up Gertrude Stein and tell me what exactly “A rose is a rose is a rose” means. There just isn’t one way to interpret poetry.

 

For Holbrook’s full thoughts on this calamity, click here.

THUG Banned

‘The Hate U Give’ Has Been Banned by this School District

Angie Thomas’s debut novel The Hate U Give has received widespread critical acclaim and sits (comfortably, for thirty-eight weeks) at the number one spot on the New York Times best seller list for young adult based-sellers. It also made the long-list for the National Book Award and won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for fiction. It’s even been optioned for a film adaptation. And last but certainly not least, it’s been banned from the Katy Independent School District, the public school system in the largest suburb of my hometown, Houston, Texas.

 

The novel, often shortened to THUG, tells the story of Starr Carter, a black teenager traversing two distinct worlds: the impoverished neighborhood she lives in and the affluent halls of the suburban prep school she attends in the “good part of town”. Then, a white police officer shoots and kills her best friend Khalil and our protagonist, Starr, is the only eyewitness. The incident becomes a national headline and the media of the book acts pretty much exactly like you’d expect: some blame the victim, others see it as a call to arms. 

 

The Hate U Give

Image via Amazon

 

Clearly inspired by real-life events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, the book unabashedly tackles issues of racism and police brutality. 

 

I’ve always had lingering disdain for Katy. One of many suburbs that surrounds Houston, Katy thinks it’s all that when it is really, really not. It undeniably blows, and so does this decision to ban the book. If I had to condense my feelings about this into three words, they would be “straight up bullshit.”

 

Angie Tomas shared the news of THUG‘s ban on Twitter:

 

 

Support for the book and the author was immediate and from all over, including teachers from the district that banned the book, who pledged to read and recommend the novel. 

 

Twitter user Abby Berner tweeted a call to action urging people to call the district office, claiming Superintendent Lance Hindt banned the book without conducting the normal review process, doing so in response to complaints from parents about the book’s “inappropriate language.”

 

Liz Lemon Oh Brother

Gif Via Tenor Keyboard

 

The book does include profanity, ranging from the typical four lettered shits and fucks that people don’t blink an eye at to the N word, which is the scapegoat the district is using to ban the book. But did they also ban To Kill a Mockingbird or any of the major Mark Twain books? I’d bet good money that they didn’t.

 

Thomas acknowledges the use of this language and empathizes with why Katy ISD might take issue with it, but she implored the educators to look past the language and focus on the message. Realistically, we all know what’s going on. Scrolling through related tweets suggests that the issue lies within thematically uncomfortable material AKA racism and police violence. 

 

Neither Superintendent Hindt or the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association has publicly commented on the matter, but Thomas shows no signs of discouragement. “I’m not bothered,” she said.

 

I am. Bothered and disappointed. 

 

Featured Image Via Instagram user @storiesforcoffee

Book Censorship

‘Where’s Waldo’ Among 15,000 Books Banned From Texas Prisons

If you are one of the more than 140,000 incarcerated people serving time in a Texas state prison, there are 15,000 books to which you are not allowed access, according to Paul Wright of the Human Rights Defense Center. This list is said to be growing exponentially, and once a book goes on it, it never comes off. Book banning has been exercised by authorities to prevent inmates from gaining access to certain information that they deem inflammatory or that they dislike, for decades. 

 

A Prisoner Browses the Bookshelf In a Texas Prison

Image Via chron.com

 

Some of the bizarre items on the list include Freakanomics, a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets and a collection of Leonardo DaVinci’s sketches, which are banned due to sexual content. Also included are novels by Langston Hughes, Noam Chomsky, Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie for their use of the “n-word”. Dante’s Inferno and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple are also forbidden.

 

But the most recently published book to be banned is Dan Slater’s Wolf Boys:Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel, the story of two Texan boys who become assassins for the infamous Zetas Drug Cartel, because of the details provided inside that describe the correct packing of narcotics into a vehicle for smuggling purposes, content that breeds the idea of ‘illegal scheming’. This book is non-fiction. Both teenagers are currently housed in Texas prisons.

 

An annual event called Banned Books Week, celebrating the freedom to read and literature that has been targeted by censors, brought this news to light. You might wonder who is in charge of making these decisions and hand selecting these books. According to Paul Wright who is also an editor of Prison Legal News which has been fighting censorship behind bars for over 25 years: 

In Texas, as in most states the judge and jury on a book’s fate is typically an anonymous mailroom clerk, who often don’t have high school diplomas. The bureaucratic system rubber stamps it from there.

Wright says federal prisons have even banned President Obama’s books. This paranoia stems from the inherent need to extinguish uncooperative behavior, which ‘apparently’ kicks off whilst reading the biographies of black leaders or about the inequities of our justice system.

 

Prison

Image Via SFGate.com

 

Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas prison system, said Slater’s book was banned because it violates the department’s rules about books that contain information regarding criminal schemes. It was banned from all Texas state prisoners before it was even published last month? It may be grim and violent, but it is a detailed and thoughtful look at American society and the war on drugs. Censoring books such as this strips an inmate of their constitutional rights and there have been countless lawsuits involving prison guards and inmates who were denied access to education.

 

Deborah Caldwell Stone, deputy director of the American Language Association’s office for Intellectual Freedom insists that “prisoners who read tend to behave better and rehabilitate sooner but prison officials care only about maintaining power and control. There is probably a new story every day like this [the banning of Wolf Boy.]

 

Wolf Boy

Image Via Audio Book Store

 

It’s not hard to see why certain books could be banned — books about lock picking or bomb making, for example. But when you’re not allowed to read books by Bob Dole, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Sojourner Truth, but you’re more than welcome to dig into Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf or David Duke’s My Awakening, questions arise.

 

“Texas is less rational than other states,” says Michelle Dillon, program coordinator of the Seattle-based non-profit Books to Prisoners. Although it’s a national problem, it is particularly bad in more conservative states in the south. 

 

You can get involved in forwarding books you no longer have use for to prisons all over the country through such charities as; NYC Books Through Bars. A full list of Book donating services is also available here for state specific charities.

 

Featured Image Via The Odyssey Online