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Charles Butt donates $1 million to PVAMU; Funds to support Ruth J. Simmons Center for Race and Justice

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PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas (June 11, 2020) – Charles Butt, H-E-B Chairman, announced today a $1,000,000 personal contribution to Prairie View A&M University in honor of University President Ruth J. Simmons.

President Simmons joined Prairie View in 2017 after retiring as President of Brown University where she served as President from 2001 to 2012.  She had previously served as President of Smith College from 1995 to 2001. Born in Grapeland, Texas, she grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward where she graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School.  She holds both a Master of Arts and Ph.D. degree in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University.  Simmons chairs the Board of Directors of the Holdsworth Center for Excellence in Education Leadership.

“When I learned of Mr. Butt’s gift, I was overwhelmed,” said President Simmons. “His generosity to the children of the State of Texas and his concern for the quality of education afforded Prairie View students is inspiring to us all.  Our students can learn a good deal from his humanity and the manner in which he lives and practices his values.”

The funds will be used to support The Ruth J. Simmons Center for Race and Justice at the University.  This Center will be proposed for approval to the Texas A&M Chancellor and Board of Regents and the Coordinating Board with the following proposed mission:

The Center positions itself as a multidisciplinary effort, drawing from an array of existing programs that can, together, facilitate greater understanding of racism and discrimination on the one hand and the need for justice on the other hand to strengthen and sustain civil society.  The center’s activities will include:

  • encouraging curricular innovation that helps students better understand how racial and other biases can impact their beliefs, affect their choices and shape their opportunities in life;
  • educational programs for the public on how to combat bias in their communities;
  • expert support for government and organizations seeking to understand how they can improve upon their efforts to assure a bias-free, inclusive environment;
  • training for individuals in leadership positions who wish to improve upon their leadership for inclusion; and
  • support for scholarship and research that adds to knowledge about new areas of injustice that are in need of urgent attention from policymakers and others (such as human trafficking).PVAMU President Ruth J. Simmons

Prairie View A&M University is a state-assisted, public, comprehensive land grant institution of higher education. It is dedicated to achieving excellence and relevance in teaching, research, and service and seeks to invest in programs and services that address issues and challenges affecting the diverse ethnic and socioeconomic population of Texas and the larger society, including the global arena.

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Education

“REEL” Representation

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This Remix on an Old-School Toy Provides “Reel” Representation For Black Children

Nationwide — What do you get when you remix the old-school View-Master with affirming content and Black representation for children? The answer is BlackBabyBooks.com’s new Reel Representation Viewer.

lackBabyBooks.com makes it easier to discover and purchase children’s books with Black characters, but its founder, Veronica N. Chapman, believes they can offer even more. Research shows that when Black children see themselves represented positively in their media, it fortifies their self-esteem and helps protect them from the impact of racism. That’s why Ms. Chapman is launching a product that provides reel representation, pairing a love for the nostalgic View-Master with the empowering art of Black illustrators.

An entrepreneur and children’s book author, Ms. Chapman employs her talents to uplift Black children. “For years,” she says, “I have been developing products and writing to empower and inspire Black children. Thousands of children have benefited from my endeavors by reading my books, purchasing my products, and using services I designed specifically for them. As a result, Black children have learned to love themselves exactly as they are. They have started businesses, been inspired to challenge themselves, and their self-esteem has increased. Our Reel Representation Viewer is a continuation of my commitment to our children so they can stand tall in the face of any efforts to devalue them, and resist any messages that may make them question their brilliance and promise.”

The Kickstarter Campaign to take pre-orders for the Reel Representation RetroViewer is now live. Back the campaign and show reel love to the children in your life by purchasing a Reel Representation Viewer at ReelRepresentation.com

Follow the brand on Instagram @blackbabybooks

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Community

Diversity and Inclusion at Alamo Colleges

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By: Jose Macias Jr., D2, ACCD,

When people say things like the “system is broken” or “everything is fixed” – what they are really saying is that they have little faith or trust in the system. Instances of corruption, oppression, and a lack of accountability over the decades, have done little to restore confidence in government. Government seems to benefit those “who have” verse those “who have not.”

I have been addressing this issue for over ten years as an elected official. I won my first election in 2010 due to the climate of distrust in Judson ISD over a bond package that was mismanaged. A stadium renovation project that voters approved for 4 million dollars ballooned to over 10 million dollars. The construction company said that operational cost had increased since the bid as justification for the increase. It is something I never believed.

Anger in the community was off the charts, and as I began my work in trying to understand the process, I began to understand how the “system” was built. I also understood how linked bond and construction projects were directly tied to the classroom and to student success. Poor facilities meant that our students were not getting the very best environment to learn, and taxpayers were not getting what they paid for. As a school board member, I had to be diligent about understanding our construction strategies just as much as I had to be about our curriculum, teacher retention, and support programs.

In my role serving District 2, I can apply that experience to helping Alamo Colleges grow even stronger. Since it is all about student success, it is imperative we build an efficient system. During my first 100 days in office, I met with many minority business owners in D2 and asked them about their experiences in doing work for Alamo Colleges. Many of the responses were not kind. There was an overwhelming sentiment that we were not being inclusive of small minority businesses.

I recognized immediately the significance of this disconnect, and I committed then to help my district. I reached out to the Alamo Black Chamber of Commerce, The Hispanic Contracting Coalition, and the Fair Contracting Coalition (FCC) and began significant dialogue about creating inroads to greater inclusion of small minority businesses at Alamo Colleges.

Many hours and countless conversations have taken place across District 2 in preparing to take next steps to increase diversity and inclusion practices at Alamo Colleges. It is critical that our business partners reflect our community, and just as important that our tax dollars benefit businesses operating in our community as well.

Our data does reflect a strong record of utilizing minority businesses at Alamo Colleges, but our current course has not bridged the disconnect felt by a large group of minority business owners. With some modifications in our strategies and policies, we can bridge that disconnect.

The issue of diversity and inclusion is something that I know is important to my constituency, and if it is important to those I represent, then it is important to me. After all, the core of representative governance strongly implies that you must “Represent” and “Fight” for the community you serve. That is what I call “Truth.”

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Community

Sam Houston H.S. Has A New Principal

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Sam Houston High School in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) has a new principal. Ms. Sharene Dixon has been named the new campus leader starting this 2020-2021 school year. Students, parents, teachers, community and stakeholders will have an opportunity to meet their new leader and participate in a virtual celebration this evening via Zoom. The Meeting ID: 964 2198 1219 Password: SHHS.

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