‘The New Jim Crow Era’

The Dallas Examiner | 2/17/2014, 9:47 a.m.
Friday night, St. Luke “Community” United Church presented as part of the Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. African Heritage Lecture Series, ...
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The Dallas Examiner

Friday night, St. Luke “Community” United Church presented as part of the Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. African Heritage Lecture Series, an open discussion on the “New Jim Crow Era.” Guest panelists were state Sen. Royce West and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

The discussion included the injustices found today in the juvenile system. Price informed the group about steps Dallas County is taking to improve the disparities in the juvenile justice system, such as the Academy for Academic Excellence that he said is successful. The academy addresses the academic needs of students in the justice system and drug treatment programs, as well as students with learning difficulties.

Dominating the discussion was the imbalance that exists within our public education system – the teachers, the policies, the system and what can be done to change things.

West mentioned the lack of unity that exists in our community. He gave the example that he recently invited some ministers to dinner, only to find out they didn’t know each other. Mention was made of the role the Pastors Coalition played in the Unity Estates development in Oak Cliff several years ago. Rev. Henry Masters, the church’s senior pastor, said ministers today in Dallas are not interested in organization.

The audience was engaged in the discussion – trying to determine what would be the best plan of action for them to take.

The frustration of systems gone wrong was evident.

Rev. Marcus Jones, a 30-year-old youth pastor at St. Luke remarked he was the youngest person in the room – and he wondered if the people in the room knew that there’s a generation gap that exists today between young Blacks and older Blacks. He said young Blacks don’t know their history and asked what plans exist to teach them it. People in the audience mentioned efforts they have made in the past to reach young people – some were successful, some were not.

Mention was made of Rev. Zan Holmes’ frequently preached sermon, Have you read the minutes of the last meeting. Do we know what our forefathers did to get us where we are today?

Rev. Diane Masters, the church’ associate pastor – who is also a mathematician and a former school administrator – told about her successful experiences in public schools to teach our children and the improvement that resulted in test scores as a result of her efforts.

There was much exploration of what can be done to change education policies in the public school system. However, no real resolutions were found.

West emphasized that we have to count the votes. He counts his votes, and works to get something done through negotiation and compromise. Maybe we don’t get everything we want, but we get something.

He also mentioned the success of his Conrad Program, where approximately 100-plus students are placed in summer internships with major companies, like AT&T, and gain valuable work experience. He also spoke of the work U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson started when she was the state senator – and that he continued that effort after being elected to the Senate.

Bernadette Nutall, Dallas Independent School District trustee, asked the group to study HB 5, which no longer requires students in high school in the state of Texas to take Algebra II in order to graduate. However, students who do not take Algebra II may not meet eligibility requirements to enter four-year colleges, and this should be a concern to our community.

Overall, it was a good discussion. However, it is overwhelming when we think about all of the problems that exist for Blacks today – our children in a pipeline-to-prison, our children unable to read, write, do math and think.

What can we as individuals do? What can our churches do? What can community and privately run organizations do? Can we really improve on what is being done? Can we work together more?

Want to comment on possible solutions? Become part of the conversation. Email your letters to mbelt@dallasexaminer.com.