A handful of people stood just outside the gates of Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center as Houston Independent School District school board members pulled their cars in for the school board meeting on Thursday evening.
They'd hoped more people would turn out for the protest organized by Texas Organizing Project, Millennium Makers, Inc, Tre Magazine, 3sisters in the Spirit Theatre Ministry, Safe in His Arms Outreach Ministry, Real Urban Outreach Ministry, Inc., and Charity Productions, Lawanda Dogan said, holding a sign in one hand and blocking the sun from her eyes with another.
When Hair Balls got a release announcing the protest a couple of days before it happened, it seemed like kind of a generic, Marlon Brando-esque protest of everything. But it turned out the group's grievances are very specific, and had to do with concerns over schools in the Third Ward.
When HISD turned Ryan Middle School into Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan, many of the Third Ward students attending the school were moved to other schools, Caroline Evans-Shabazz, chairman of the education board for the Houston branch of the NAACP, said. The group is worried that the move with Ryan Middle School and other developments will mean undermining the education system in the Third Ward, she said.
"We want an equal education for all students, and we don't have that across the board," Sister Mama Sonya said.
The group didn't attract much attention, standing out there in the still-broiling heat from about 4:30 until about 5:30 on Thursday afternoon, just after the meeting started up.
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At one point, we were kind of hoping the educational-protest version of Brando would show up and throw in his two cents on the matter, but it was hot as hell out there and standing on the side of the road holding up those signs was an impressive feat, with or without The Wild One.
HISD spokeswoman Denisse Cantu said earlier in the day that she couldn't comment on the protest because she was unclear exactly what they were protesting. Cantu did not comment on the protestors' accusations that HISD is trying to close Third Ward schools, but she did state, via e-mail, that the application process for magnet schools is open to all HISD and non-HISD students, with the application process beginning in November and giving parents the option to apply to multiple schools.
They were protesting because they are concerned that HISD might be interested in consolidating and closing their neighborhood schools because the Third Ward is a prime location, close to everything in Houston, Evans-Shabazz said.
"There is a big land grab going on in the Third Ward, because it's valuable because of the location, but we love our community, and we don't want to lose our schools," Evans-Shabazz said.