On the Grill
No barbecue bias: Each year the Cold River Cattle Company BBQ Team, consisting mainly of small businesses and private sponsors in the $500 to $2,000 range, raises money for the Sunshine Kids, and this year the Small Steps Nurturing Center.
We also throw a Miss Blue Jeans Contest, which is open to passersby as both entrants and audience. I am disturbed by Robb Walsh's use of an inaccurate description of the racial profiles as a premise for the article about racism in the barbecue competition in Houston ["Barbecue in Black and White," May 1].
Among the girls in our competition this year were black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American faces and names. At no point was race a consideration for acceptance of an entrant, and I think Mr. Walsh should apologize for such an implication. The audience also contained a good mixture of the racial cross-section of Houston's multicultural society, albeit in less-than-perfect proportional representation, but Mr. Walsh seems to exhibit somewhat selective vision at times. Might I suggest he get his eyes checked, if not his bias.
Hot sauce: After reading "Barbecue in Black and White," I am convinced that Robb Walsh is much more than a food critic. Thank you for a wonderful piece of culinary journalism that is not afraid to call things as they are. The barbecue at Goode Co., Otto's and Pappas is overrated, overhyped and soul-less. To call food from those establishments "real Texas barbecue" is as embarrassing as it is insulting.
Love bites: I have to say I've never given so much thought to barbecue before. I've lived all over the South and have eaten it from North Carolina to Texas and back, without realizing there was so much history behind it.
Thanks for the thought-provoking article. So, do you think if I walked up to Bill Bridges and said, "Hey, you old crazy-ass cracker" that he would know I was saying it with affection?
Name withheld by request
Overhaul psychiatry: While I'm sure that the Devereux facility was motivated by an interest in maintaining funding, I can't help feeling that we're missing the forest for the trees ["A Hanging Offense," by Margaret Downing, April 24].
Cecilia was a child from a drunken, abusive home who allegedly suffered a sexual assault when she was only nine years old. Her response to this world is an angry, violent one -- can anyone blame her?
Yet the finding of the medical community is that she has a chemical imbalance that is responsible for her behavior, a total denial of basic cause and effect. For there even to be a hope of saving those Cecilias still living, there needs to be a re-evaluation of the entire basis of the psychiatric profession. What really did come first -- the chicken or the egg?
Mary Jane Holliday
Stories that matter: Your story on Cecilia was touching, and I wish more people would take the time to write stories about things that matter to someone. Maybe, like you said, no one ever knew she was here. Your story can help them to see the light, for things that go on in places like this.
I usually don't even read the papers because it's always the same: who shot who and war and all those things. With this story, I could not put the paper down. Someone told what happened to a little girl who all along was crying out for help, for someone to love her and pay attention to her.
Thank you. I encourage you to keep up the good work.
Shante S. Francis
Dehumanizing prisons: I was not surprised to read in Scott Nowell's article ["Mail Sacked," April 24] that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has taken yet another draconian step toward the total dehumanization of Texas prisoners, many of whom are nonviolent offenders.
Until I moved from Texas back to my native Massachusetts last year, I was an avid listener of Ray Hill's Prison Show on KPFT, although I have no friends or relatives in the Texas prison system. It reminded me that convicts are also human beings who are loved by their family and friends in the same way their victims are loved. It also kept the following question in the forefront of my thought: How much punishment is enough?
I can imagine that the continued dehumanization and oppression of one of the free world's largest prison populations (through the revocation of privileges rooted in common decency) eventually will result in significant unrest and revolt and a decisive political backlash against those who use the harsh treatment of prisoners for election-year grandstanding.
It pains me that in Texas, a state that I love, the prison system has more in common with that of the Soviet Union than that of most free, democratic societies outside the birthplace of "compassionate conservatism." Then again, as Stalin used to say after political purges, "Life is getting better, comrades, life is getting better."
William G. Harris
Graceless awe: Your articles interested me greatly ["Stung" and "Teamwork," by Zoe Carmichael, April 24 and May 1]. I also practiced long and hard and was given an opportunity to try out for the Texas City team. There were many girls who were not picked, including me. I was disappointed, but then I realized I didn't have the grace and skill it took to perform the high kicks that the team is known for. It doesn't matter what color you are. Before you trash Texas City's drill team, look around the county in order to gain a fair perspective of how the area school districts are different and how they are alike.
You did a grave disservice to the Stingarettes, and they deserve an apology. Whenever there are issues between people of color and others, the race card is always played first. Ms. Weatherspoon said the routines weren't that hard. Try interviewing one of the officers from the Stingarettes drill team. You'll find out how hard it truly is, indeed.
Deserving more: I was really glad for the article. I was lucky enough to come from schools that picked their squads based on the girls' actual talent and not their race. I had the opportunity to be on a diverse squad, which to me is the best.
The girls mentioned in the article seemed like drill team material, already practicing and taking extra dance classes to increase their skills. When selecting a drill team, that's exactly what coaches look for -- commitment and dedication -- and all these girls had it. This makes it even more appalling that they didn't make the squad. Hence the reason the race issue came into question.
I've known of other drill teams that want all the girls to be a specific height, weight and race. How insane! Even the Radio City Rockettes have African-American members. High school is supposed to be fun, and drill team is a part of that. I feel sorry that this experience has been taken away from them because of racist people.
Texas City should be grateful to have these girls gracing their squad.
Pride and passion: The battles over racism were indeed fought long ago, and it is an aspect of our society that should no longer exist. It is understandable that these girls and their parents simply want to be given the same opportunities as everyone else.
However, an accurate opinion of this article cannot be formed without the percentage of girls that made it out of girls that tried out. The breakdown of the team is not far from that of Texas City High School. In 2001, the Stingarette dance team consisted of 8 percent African-Americans, 30 percent Hispanics and 62 percent Caucasians.
The Stingarettes team is hardly a discriminating organization when you consider that nowhere on the tryout score sheet does it ask for ethnicity, that our constitution prohibits it, and that five of the 12 officers are non-Caucasian.
This article also succeeded in being a tacky representation of the audacious media. As a Hispanic three-year member and senior military officer of the Stingarettes, I am appalled by these allegations. I have always been proud to be a Stingarette and represent a team that has the school- and community-wide reputation of being a refined, dedicated and talented team of girls.
These allegations were made out of understandable heartbreak and frustration. It's never easy to handle rejection. It becomes a matter of handling the situation maturely, allowing it to make you stronger and motivate you to work harder, and not allowing yourself to give in to vindictive attacks and assumptions.
Elyssa Nicole Yanas
White focus: I'm a white senior honor student at Texas City High School and I am against the racism at TCHS. It seems every year blacks are excluded from something, be it sports, clubs or drill team.
I've noticed the Stingarettes always seem to focus on the white girls, which is not fair; some black girls are way more talented than half of the squad. Honestly, I would not want to be on the squad because it's always the slutty, stuck-up and rich white girls who make it. Racism has been going on a long time at TCHS, and it's about time someone did something to stop it.
Hoops horrors: Why don't you get all the facts first? I guess it's easier to write an article from one side, and not both. Taking things seriously is what educating young people is all about.
I guess next you'll interview some of the parents of the nine white young men who didn't make the basketball team.
Lozano and Lucre
Skewed priorities: I was manning a table at the 420 event for Houston Copwatch, and the only trouble I heard of came from Alex Lozano [Racket, by John Nova Lomax, May 1]. The man can't seem to separate charity from making a buck. Then again, maybe that's all he's about. His own words condemn him. He calls Garcia "one of the sweetest guys in the business" like it's an insult.
And if he thinks he's one of the few people in Houston who actually care about the music business here, then he's part of the problem. I will continue to support NORML as a private citizen and member, as well as a member of Copwatch, since the war on drugs is nothing less than a war on our civil rights. And I will also spread the word about Alex Lozano.
NORML campaign: Thanks for letting people know what happened at the Houston NORML benefit. I think you showed Alex Lozano's main goal was to profit from this event for a nonprofit group that has had to endure Reefer Madness for far too long.
That has been one of the main reasons marijuana has remained illegal: money! The drug dealers stand to lose a lucrative black market caused by marijuana prohibition, and the law enforcement/prison community would lose funding because marijuana is the main component of our country's failed drug policy.
Texas House Bill 715, which would reduce possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to a class C misdemeanor, is pending in a Texas legislative committee because we will lose federal highway money because of a clause in the bill.
I want to thank all the sponsors, volunteers, bands and clubs that helped out. Our "hempstorian" Duane said Pam from Silky's, Walter's and Fat Cat's invited Houston NORML back for next year.
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Strung out: I and a couple of co-workers purchased tickets for the guitar that was to be raffled at the 420 Festival, and we did not receive a refund (I still have my ticket).
I will be contacting Mr. Lozano to ask for the refund since he is allegedly the one who took the guitar, but I doubt that I will be successful. Judging by his actions and behavior at the festival and his comments in the article, it appears that his favorite "worthy cause" is himself and his favorite "local music" is the money jangling in his pocket.
Name withheld by request