What seemed to be a pre- court room press conference about the historical bricks that line the streets in Freedmen’s Town/Fourth Ward, turned out to be a notice that a resolution could be right around the corner by way of court ordered mediation. Led by their apparent tireless leader, Dorris Ellis Robinson, the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition and supporters presented a statement giving the public an update on what the status is on the bricks and their removal.
“The impasse came on January 20 when the city began removing the bricks and the FTPC immediately sought a restraining order and Judge Alexandra Smoots- Hogan granted a Temporary Restraining Order with a hearing set for Friday, January 30,” said Dorris Ellis Robinson, President of the FTPC. “With the importance of this historic cultural resource, the need for preservation and the need to improve infrastructure in the area, Judge Larry Weidman, in the 80th Civil District Court has ordered the City and FTPC to mediation, which begins February 5.”
The mediation news is an ice breaker in the long standing stalemate between the City and the FTPC about the removal of the bricks for an infrastructure utility project to be done under the historical brick streets.
After a temporary restraining order (TRO) was served to Don Conrad of Conrad Construction on January 20th and the project came to a crashing halt, the City of Houston contested the motion which landed the FTPC under the counsel of Attorney Benjamin Hall in Judge Smoots-Hogan’s courtroom on Tuesday, January 27th, a week after the restraining order was served. Judge Smoots- Hogan upheld her TRO, only to amend it to add the date it was issued to the document.
January 30th was the anticipated day for a court room battle that has been brewing for 7 months, but Judge Larry Weidman whose court they were scheduled to be in, ordered the two parties to mediation during a status meeting between both counsels. “I want preservation of the area, if it comes through mediation I’m good with that, if it comes through a forced resolution we are fine with that as well,” said Ellis- Robinson.
The TRO is still in effect and during the mediation phase the bricks are protected from removal by the City. Members of the FTPC are hopeful through mediation the City will see that there are alternate solutions and see the value of preserving such a historical landmark.
“They are historic, they are legacy, they are the blood and sweat of the freed men and their ancestors and their money made the difference,” said Ellis- Robinson. “That is why we can stand here today because they made a decision to improve themselves and this was about 49 years out of slavery, so their energy should be an inspiration to us all, so this area should be a place where people should want to come to see what did people do once slavery ended, where did they go, how did they fare, how did they make a living. It’s so much energy that should come from it.”
Their plan is to come before the City again, as they have presented their trenchless tunneling method of procedure since July of 2014, and ask them to take another look at their actions and what taking those bricks up means to the city. Restoration is not an option; the FTPC wants preservation only and is still ready to fight for what they believe in. One hurdle they have to go back and jump again is the bricks that have already been removed in two previous attempts to uproot. The City of Houston promised to label each brick so they may be placed back from which they came, yet during the excavation of the bricks twice prior, no labeling was performed.
“That is an unresolved issue that has to be discussed at the table,” said Ellis-Robinson about the failure of the City to label the bricks. It is a known fact that the bricks were laid in a Yoruba pattern that led many to safety and have historical markings on some. “We can’t let that continue and we will find clarity to figure it out.”
A voice in the midst of the supporters compared Freedmen’s Town bricks to the infrastructure project performed in River Oaks many years ago, calling for the same methods to be used.
“The city of Houston actually pioneered trenchless technology 30 years ago in the River Oaks project when they put in all the sewage there without disturbing the streets and not tearing up the surface at the demand of the people of River Oaks,” said Michael Nixon, the National Historical Preservation Consultant for the RBH Yates Museum located in Freedmen’s Town blocks away from the designated removal site. “That was done and it’s been done all over the country and even since then it’s a common thing. You actually save money because it’s a less labor intensive thing you don’t have to have as much digging up and in terms of the bricks you don’t have to mark them, remove them, put them back in the same place which is very labor intensive and the city is not even doing that, they infer they are but they really aren’t and they admitted that in court on Tuesday that they aren’t numbering the bricks and we are saying like before, do what you did for the people of River Oaks and do it for Freedmen’s Town, it’s a win, win and it doable. It’s very easy to adapt the current contract to provide for that.”
Now that a judge has order the City to talk to the FTPC via mediation the discussion of preservation and protection for what was called a “culture treasure” will finally take place on what should be listening ears with a mind for compromise.
“We aren’t trying to present the City with any new information. We have been presenting to the City since July options that were available to them to preserve and protect,” said Ellis- Robinson, FTPC President. “Now that the judge said go to mediation to work it out and figure it out, I believe that on both sides we will work to figure out what the solution is. We will come out with a good solution for the preservation of the Freedmen’s Town and also to provide the infrastructure that citizens in this area is in need of.”
Updated information: Mediation will begin Wednesday, February 4, 2015 from 9a.m.-5p.m. at 770 South Post Oak lane, #410, 77056 with Judge Mark Davidson as the mediator. Mediation for FTPC is led by Attorney Benjamin Hall.
After another round with the City of Houston and Conrad Construction, the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition has stopped the uprooting of the hundred year old bricks on Andrews Street this morning.
FTPC President, Dorris Ellis Robinson, spent the morning hours speaking to media while watching construction workers pick at the bricks, taking them up one by one and stacking them neatly in layers. In her patience, she worked diligently with her team to get a legal motion to the site to stop the further work. By 11:30 am, Catherine Roberts of the FTPC and Rutherford B. Yates Museum rushed over the freshly signed temporary restraining order requested last night in an emergency motion to stop the project.
Since July of 2014, the FTPC has requested that Mayor Parker and the City of Houston to reverse their decision to take up the bricks in order to update utility (water) lines under the streets. The debate over preservation and restoration has resulted in a stalemate as neither side has found a middle ground with the other.
“We have tried to schedule meetings and we do our work and they do their work and no meetings take place,” said FTPC President Dorris Ellis Robinson. “We’ve come to an impasse and we had to do a TRO (temporary restraining order) today.”
This is not the first time Robinson has interrupted Conrad Construction’s project as she laid in the trench made by removed bricks almost a month ago, during a trial run of what would be.
“We have 14 days to meet with the City and again explain the alternative solutions and to have support for preserving a historical place,” said Robinson.
Community member Charonda Johnson saw crew members out Monday afternoon inspecting the area and said she knew then it was be something going on today.
The members of the FTPC have continuously shown their devotion to preserving the history of the freed men who paid their own money to have the bricks made and laid.
“They’ll never be able to put back the sweat and tears that it took to put it (bricks) down,” said Reverend Samuel Smith, pastor of Mt. Horeb Baptist Church that sits about three blocks away from the construction site.
Many that gathered at the site complained that the bricks were not being labeled and placed like the City promised which provided further unrest about the project.
“It’s disheartening, the broken promises by the City,” said Ashley Jones of the FTPC. “The methods used are not what they promised, no labeling or identifying of the bricks. How can they be replaced?”
Once the TRO was given to Don Conrad of Conrad Construction and after reviewing the document and speaking to the City of Houston, stopped the removal of the bricks and began to replace the ones removed.
According to Alvin Wright, Public Information Officer for the City of Houston, the next step is for the City to go through legal and they will review it. The first court hearing will be January 30th at 1 p.m.. The court has not been released yet.
The temporary restraining order will stop the construction project for 14 days.
Christmas night ended in death at a popular lounge in Texas City, TX as a 20- year old black man named Carlton Smith was shot to death by a Texas City police officer, Christopher Hamm, in the early hours.
Officers were called to H.T.’s Lounge on Hwy FM 1765 at Lake Road at 1:20 am asking for assistance in closing the club. Witnesses have repeatedly said that there was a fight in the club that allegedly the young woman who was with Smith was involved in. The participants in the altercation were said to be removed from the club and then another fight broke out that involved the deceased.
“It all started off that there was a fight that broke out in the club and one thing led to another and somehow it ended up outside. As they go outside my buddy Carlton was getting jumped by six or seven people and the only one to defend him was himself. His cousin, Erica, got a gun and shot in the air to get everyone away from him and as she shot it in the air someone hit her and she fell,” said an eye-witness, whom wished to keep his name private,as he stood with Smith’s family. That’s when Carlton grabbed the gun and that’s when he started shooting at the ground to get them away from him, everybody got away from him and as he had the gun pointed to the ground the law man just shot him in the head, first shot, and then when he was going down he shot him in the shoulder,second shot and then he just walked up on him and he shot him like four more times.”
The trouble with this incident is the many different recountings of what really happened.
Texas City Police Chief Robert Burby held a press conference the same day as the shooting, December 26th, to issue a statement that varies from many several eye- witness testimonies.
“Upon arrival to the scene the deceased was observed in the front parking lot firing a handgun in the direction of the patrons who were exiting through the front door of the establishment,” said chief Burby. “The Texas City police officer arrived in the parking lot and saw the individual shooting a handgun in the direction of people and drew his service weapon. The deceased turned towards the officer and pointed his gun at the officer. The officer then fired his weapon striking the deceased. The deceased was pronounced dead at the scene.”
H.T. Aldridge, owner of H.T.’s Lounge, who has operated this heavily frequented club for over 30 years handed over surveillance videos over to the authorities and is cooperating with the investigation.
On Sunday, December 28, 2014 at 5:00pm, the Smith family led by activist Quanell X held a press conference on the steps of Texas City Police Department asking for the releasing of the videotape to the family and public. Due to the conflicting reports community members such as King Yashua and the Nation of Liberation feel as if Smith was assassinated. Quanell X has joined the family and community to demand transparency under “questionable circumstances” that surround this shooting.
“We just have three demands that’s all.Release the video tape. We are asking that the videotape be released we want that tape from the night of the club to be released,” said Quanell X. “That will tell the truth about what happened at that club that night. So if for the sake for transparency and justice, release the videotape because we believe the videotape will tell the story according to eye witnesses the young man was shot from the back.”
The hurt of the family was profound as his mother, Kathy Kelly, could barely express her thoughts on the situation. All she could manage to say was, “I cant describe how it feels.”
The sadder issue was the opposition the family met by supporters of the Texas City Police Department that created a stir during the brief press conference.
Protestors revved up the motorcycle engines to try and block communication between Quanell X and the media. They tried to over power the eyewitness and mother. It quickly escalated to racial rhetoric and that only added more grief to a tragic situation.
“Just go home,” yelled a protestor. “The truth is going to come out,” responded King Yeshua.”We want America to see how we are treated down here. We are in the heart of the confederacy. You should have never assassinated the man.”
The press conference fell apart as the two sides mashed up in a shouting match that lasted longer than the press conference. Eventually prayer was given although it was not respected by everyone present. Over time more and more community members started to show up due to the heavy circulation of social media posts about the highly charged event.
Quanell X gathered the crowd together in the dark,cold and rainy night to tell them to pray and not to be led into something that was not intended, to leave with respect.
“We want one thing ,we only want one thing, We have spoken to eyewitnesses who haven’t even given statements to the police yet and we want the actual footage, let everybody see. If the brother was wrong then we need to see because none of us are defending someone who is wrong but if the young brother was shot from the back and never given a command to put the gun down and all he was doing was grabbing the gun trying to stop the young girl with the gun and shot that many times from behind, we have a problem,” said Quanell X.
He requested that everyone respected the wishes of the parents,to be non-violent.
The investigation is still pending and Officer Hamm has been placed on modified duty.
We are writing to inform you about an all-expenses-paid program for highschool student journalists from low-income backgrounds that will take place for 10 days next summer on the campus of Princeton University. The program is entering its 14th year; since 2002, approximately 260 students from high schools across the country have participated. The program’s goal is to diversify college and professional newsrooms by encouraging outstanding students from low-income backgrounds to pursue careers in journalism.
Classes at the program are taught by reporters and editors from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Daily Beast, Time, National Journal, New York Magazine, The New Republic, ESPN the Magazine, CNN and NPR, among other media outlets. Students meet with numerous Princeton professors, as well as Princeton’s president and dean of admissions. They report an investigative story, cover a professional sports event, produce a TV segment, and publish their own newspaper. And they receive guidance on the college admissions process not only during the 10 days of the program, but also during the fall of their senior year of high school.
Students selected for the program will have all their costs, including the cost of travel to and from Princeton, paid for by the program.
If you are a teacher, we ask that you encourage your students to apply. If you are an administrator, we ask that you help us spread the word by publishing an announcement for teachers or other administrators who might know students who would be interested in applying. We will happily accept several students from the same school, so there is no need to worry about your own students competing for slots in the program.
The application process will take place in two rounds. The first round of the application should be filled out online here:
We must receive this part of the application by 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, February 20, 2015.
Those students selected to advance to the second round of the application process will be notified in March. They will be asked to provide printed copies of the following items via U.S. mail: an official transcript; the first page of the 2013 (or 2014, if available) income-tax return form (the 1040 or 1040EZ form) of their custodial parent(s)/guardian(s), or a signed statement by their parent(s)/guardian(s) saying that their income is below the level at which they would be required to file income tax returns; a recommendation letter from a teacher; and clips from their high school newspaper or other publication (optional).
To be eligible for the program, students must meet the following qualifications:
- They must currently be juniors in high school.
– They must live in the continental United States.
- They must have at least an unweighted 3.5 grade point average (out of 4.0).
– They must have an interest in journalism.
– The combined income of their custodial parent(s)/guardian(s) plus child support payments, if any, must not exceed $45,000.
Note: This program is for students from low-income backgrounds. If the combined income of the custodial parent(s)/guardian(s) plus child support payments, if any, exceeds $45,000 and a student still wishes to apply, he or she may attach a letter explaining why his or her family qualifies as financially under-resourced.
Additional information about the program is available at www.princeton.edu/sjp.
If you have questions, the best way to reach us is via email at email@example.com.