By DR. SELENA SEABROOKS
The Dallas Examiner
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. And we’ve got to get our community off the menu,” Dr. Kimberly McLeod, associate vice president of economic and academic development at Texas A&M University, said during a recent interview.
McLeod said she attended a conference last year with an elected official who wanted to grow the African American Leadership Institute. Afterward, she offered to support and assist in connecting the AALI with other professional institutes that she was associated with to create more visibility, impact and influence as it relates to moving a Black agenda in Texas. She later held a call with Sen. Borris Miles, expressing that Texas had challenges with education, as well as criminal justice, health care, housing, infrastructure and the environment.
To address such challenges, McLeod formed the Texas Coalition of Professional Organizations with the assistance of a steering committee, which included Rep. Ron Reynolds, Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe, Texas Southern University Professor Carroll Robinson and Alief Board President Darlene Breaux.
The organization has been comprised of approximately 100 Black leaders from nearly 100 African American organizations around the state.
“When you look at 100 groups that could have memberships of 1,000 or more, you’re looking at a very large population of influencers,” she expressed.
The coalition convened for the first time in October. The represented organizations included 100 Black Men of Houston, Dallas and Austin; Black Leaders Collective; Texas Legislative Black Caucus; Texas Association of Black City Council and Texas NAACP. Also in attendance were Black physicians, nurses, educators and journalists.
“Everyone was passionate about wanting to create advocacy for the African American community in Texas,” McLeod said.
She explained that they would initially address challenges that may impact the African American community during the upcoming 88th Texas Legislative Session.
“If there is a bill that the members feel may cause harm to the community, at the very least, if they can’t stop it, to amend it and suggest revisions, testify on behalf of whatever those interests are,” McLeod explained. “Bills that need our support, we want to organize … to show our support to make sure that they go through. And bills that have not been identified, work with our Black legislative caucus to see if we can get some movement on some items that may not have been addressed.”
There are six areas the coalition has deemed as a priority: public and higher education; health care, including mental health; jobs; economics and housing; civil rights, voting rights, and criminal justice and environment infrastructure.
“That’s the village mentality,” she said. “That is what not only do we need for our community in Texas, but it’s what this generation that is in the school system and the generation that has not even been born yet. We are laying the ground so that when it is their time, they have opportunity, they have accessibility and they are included in what happens in this day for that group.”
On Monday, the group hosted its first in-person meeting in Austin.
McLeod envisions connecting students in higher education with mentors, internships and scholarship opportunities.
“The conditions of education are eating our students alive and those that are serving them. We’ve got to do something different,” she expressed. “I want to be that village. I want to be that community, where students that are underserved, first-gen, that need the support but don’t know how to get it.
“The work that is being organized now is being organized by a group of volunteers that care so that no one has to feel they have to fight for advocacy, opportunity, inclusivity alone.”
The coalition’s website is still under construction and growing. To learn more, visit the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators at https://tabse.net or Texas Educational Policy Institute at https://tabse.net/tepi.