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Texas silently begins massive voter-purge through controversial suppressive program

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Program asks people on voter rolls to prove citizenship, sparking concern that eligible voters could be wrongfully targeted, Guardian Reports

Texas officials have quietly restarted a controversial program to ask people on the voter rolls to prove their citizenship, sparking alarm that thousands of eligible voters could be wrongfully targeted.

The Texas secretary of state’s office has identified just under 12,000 people it suspects of being non-citizens since September, when the program restarted (there are more than 17 million registered voters in Texas). About 2,327 voter registrations have been cancelled so far. The vast majority of cancellations were because voters failed to respond to a notice giving them 30 days to prove their citizenship.

The secretary of state flags anyone as a suspected non-citizen if they register to vote and then subsequently visit the Texas department of public safety (DPS), the state’s driver’s license agency, and indicate they are not a citizen.

Local election officials in Texas’ 254 counties are then asked to review the names. If those officials cannot verify citizenship, they are required to send them a letter asking them to prove their citizenship within 30 days or else their voter registration gets cancelled.

After the county mailed proof of citizenship requests to 2,796 people, 167 voters – nearly 6% of those contacted – responded with proof of citizenship. The state removed an additional 161 people from the list of people whose citizenship needed to be verified, according to a county official.

“We are not confident in the quality of the information we are being mandated to act upon,” Isabel Longoria, the county’s election administrator, said in an email.

In Fort Bend county, just outside of Houston, officials mailed notices to 515 people in October. About 20% responded with proof of citizenship and the rest were removed from the rolls, according to John Oldham, the county’s election administrator. Many of the people who responded said they had accidentally checked a box during their DPS transaction indicating they were not citizens, Oldham said.

In Cameron county, along the US-Mexico border, election officials have sent out 246 letter since September, almost all to people with Hispanic surnames, according to the Texas Monthly, which first reported the program restarted. About 60 people have been cancelled so far.

After the notices went out, a married couple who had heard about the notices came into the elections office to provide their naturalization papers, even though the couple’s citizenship wasn’t challenged, said Remi Garza, the county elections administrator.

“It saddened me too,” Garza said. “People who shouldn’t have to be concerned about this type of proving citizenship felt that they had to do that.”

Voting rights groups say they are trying to better understand the process the state is using, but are concerned eligible voters are getting targeted.

“​​A US citizen voter who gets a challenge letter is understandably intimidated. And especially for naturalized US citizens, who went through an entire bureaucratic process to be able to vote, getting a letter that accuses them of being an ineligible voter is particularly intimidating,” said Nina Perales, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “People will naturally assume, based on this official correspondence, that they might have made some kind of mistake, or that they are not proper voters.”

The program had been on hold since 2019, when a federal judge ordered Texas to stop a similar, error-filled, effort that he described as “ham-handed”. As part of a settlement in that case, Texas agreed to only flag people if they registered to vote prior to the DPS visit in which they indicated they weren’t a citizen. It also agreed to reinstate and challenge voters who provided proof of citizenship, even if it was outside the 30-day window.

The citizenship check comes as Republicans have moved to blunt the rapidly growing political power of Texas’ non-white population. Texas prosecutors have sought criminal punishments for people, including non-citizens, who make voting mistakes and the attorney general, Ken Paxton, has zealously pursued claims of voter fraud, which is exceedingly rare in Texas and elsewhere.

Bruce Elfant, whose office oversees voter registration in Travis county, said his office so far has internally been able to confirm that less than 100 of the 300 to 400 people flagged by the secretary of state’s office were citizens. Most in the group had been flagged because of clerical errors, he said. His office has not yet sent out any challenge notices and is waiting for more information before it does so.

In El Paso county, state officials referred 4,000 suspected non-citizens for review, and around 300 had already offered proof of citizenship, said Lisa Wise, the county’s election administrator. The county isn’t currently cancelling the registration of any voter who doesn’t respond, she said.

Federal law prohibits officials from conducting mass voter cancellations within 90 days of a primary election. Texas’ primary is on 1 March, so the state can’t remove anyone who doesn’t respond to a proof of citizenship letter until later this spring.

Thomas Buser-Clancy, a senior staff attorney with the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his organization was trying to understand why eligible voters were being flagged, but it was clear “something is not going right”.

“Even if your system flags one eligible voter and threatens to remove them, that’s a problem,” he said. “If you have hundreds, and if you add it up across counties, you’re probably getting to thousands of eligible voters, being threatened with removal.”

Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state’s office said he was confident in the data.

“We’re following the settlement agreement exactly as we’re supposed to. If the counties have additional information where they’re able to cross people off the list who have in fact become citizens and they’re lawfully registered to vote, that’s great. That’s how the process is supposed to work.”

But Buser-Clancy noted that those who were able to affirm their citizenship likely only represented a fraction of the eligible voters who were probably affected.

“Those people are the lucky ones that both received the notice, like actually went through their mail, looked it up, and had the documentation on hand to send in,” he added. “What that tells you is that there’s some other percentage of people who are going to be removed from the rolls even though they’re eligible voters.”

♦Culled from The Guardian

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Texas Southern partners with IgboFest to promote education, culture, and diversity

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IgboFest Houston, a cultural entity and festival that showcases the African heritage and Igbo culture to the great city of Houston has partnered with the Texas Southern University (TSU) to promote, embrace, and encourage culture, and diversity education in the community.

TSU will be visibly present at this festival to showcase their potentials as an inclusive, equitable, and welcoming institution for all members of the community. Internationally renowned TSU’s Debate Team will also be at this event to perform the “Igbo Landing Mass Suicide of 1803”, a rendition of one of the largest mass suicides of enslaved people that took place when Igbo captives from what is now Nigeria were taken to the coast of Georgia.

According to Dr. Chris Ulasi, TSU’s acting Dean of the School of Communications who also chairs the Houston IgboFeast, “This partnership is highly needed and most importantly, would reflects the mission of the IgboFest in building cultural awareness, linguistic diversity through teaching and learning of critically endangered languages, and youth cultural literacy.”

Texas Southern University welcomes new president

Texas Southern University President Dr. Lesia L. Crumpton-Young. Texas Southern University, one of the nation’s largest HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), possesses an impressive array of undergraduate and graduate programs, a diverse faculty, and 80-plus student organizations.

IgboFest Houston has reigned for decades in the City, bringing in performers from across the United States and globally. The 2022 IgboFest will showcase the  Ijele Masquerade, classified as the biggest masquerade in Sub-Saharan Africa. Group performances will range from traditional to acrobatic dancers, whereas other displays will involve very rare masquerades from the Igboland. Expected at this event are; Government representatives including Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressman Al Green, Texas Hour Rep. Jarvis Johnson, and others.

This colorful carnival which also is the largest African cultural festival in the City will hold at the Discovery Green – 1500 McKinney on Saturday, July 16, 2022. Admission is free. Bringing the African heritage and indeed the Igbo culture to the most diverse city in America is traditionally motivating and spiritually authentic.

Texas Southern University, one of the nation’s largest HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), possesses an impressive array of undergraduate and graduate programs, a diverse faculty, 80-plus student organizations, and an alumni network comprised of educators, entrepreneurs, public servants, lawyers, pilots, artists, and more, many of whom are change agents on the local, national and international stage.

For more information, please call 281-788-8133  or  832-452-7784

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Houston’s Emancipation Park Bubbles with Juneteenth Festival Excitement

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Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19, 2022.  Sizzling temperatures rising to triple digits, humidity at its highest, and this spectacular Juneteenth festive celebration is on in Houston, Texas. Just the kind of vibe Houstonians needed to balance the heat.  From memory lane to everyday sing-along lyrics, be it cultural, social, historical, or contemporary, Kool and the Gang, The Isley Brothers, Sheila Escovedo, aka Sheila E., and Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly all projected a dynamic type of energy and synergy that surpassed the heat.

Multi-colored flashing stage lights. Action begins with the world renown R&B group Kool and the Gang entering the main stage showing off their funky and jazzy appearance—old school/new school.  Horns playing softly in the background, lead singer proudly welcomes the audience, then gives a brief historic account of their humble beginnings. Being the longest performing R&B group in history, and the most sampled R&B band of all times; JT naming each player as an original with the group, dating back to 1969 when they officially assigned their name as Kool and the Gang; group, album, and song all called Kool and the Gang.  This high energy performance certainly reflects the message in their music. “Celebrate good times! Come on! It’s a celebration. Everyone around the world . . . Come on! Cel-a-bra-tion!”  This signature line had the audience on their feet, rocking to the beat, and echoing every word.

Congress Woman, The Honorable Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner dancing to Kool and the Gang while celebrating good times on the VIP pavilion.

Like a shepherd with his staff tending to his sheep was Ron Isley with his cane entering the stage, capturing the crowd, singing their 1978 classic, Groove With You. And the audience swinging side-to-side, singing along, and . . . grooving.  This epic old-schooler slows it down, calling out the “Choosey Lovers.”

Day 2—Sunday, June 19, 2022

But Houstonians were not only grooving with the musical artists, among many others was one political rock star, Beto O’Rourke -candidate for Texas Governor immersing in all the festivities at the Juneteenth Celebration at the Emancipation Park 150th Anniversary.

This multi-ethnic, multi-talented diva is ‘multi’ with a sense of ‘purpose’ from all angles; she sings, plays, and dances to multi-genre music. With the mic in her hand, rocking to the background instrumentals, Sheila educates the audience of her Mexican Indian father and Creole mother.  Soaked in a medley of instrumentals, she signaled to the musicians to halt.  She then commands the keys, and each musician strikes accordingly.  As a woman of the Christian faith, not only did she sing, danced, and played the guitar and drum to secular and gospel music, she also gave a chilling testimony about surviving childhood molestation at the age of five.  Her statement shows in her performance: “Music is love, God is love and God is music.”  She talked about her faith in God.  Being a believer who sings secular music, but loves Jesus, she said, “I bring church to the people. My ministry is ‘Abuse’.”  She uses her voice to bring out the best in people. At 64 plus, going non-stop about 70 minutes in her performance decided to take the guitar off stage to engage directly with the audience.  It was just about sunset and the temperature was cooling down when she asked everyone to stand in solidarity with her in ‘passing the love.’  In obedience to Sheila’s request, the audience stood up, and as instructed, each person telling as many around them, “I love you.”  This sacred moment was followed by Sheila passing the love with the song “What the world needs now is love sweet love.”

Maximum security. Houston Police Department standing at attention at work.

Frankie Beverly greeting Houston with his favorite line: “Long time nuh see!”

The grand finale! With the volume pumped up, stepping on stage in style is the distinguished legend, Frankie Beverly starting off with one of his greatest hits, ‘Laid Back Kind of Girl’, then he serenades the ladies with “Southern Girl”, followed by “We Are One,” and the rest of the show was a rap.  Pausing, Frankie in his rhythmic posture, dancing from within, points the microphone to the audience, drums, keys, strings, and chords on medium sound, and the audience on one accord becomes the loudest voice, singing to Frankie’s all-time classics.  So then, what do you say about this artist who enters the stage with such an effect? Yes! Vintage, classical, and mystical is Maze/Frankie Beverly with countless recordings, performances, and awards on the global stage for more than 50 years.

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Interesting facts about Emancipation Park.  November 7, 2007, a remarkable act took place when the Houston City Council declared the park a historic landmark after it voted unanimously.  On April 24, 2019, United Nations Education Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Emancipation Park as a UNESCO Site of Memory.

Mission of Emancipation Park—To enhance Emancipation Park by preserving its integrity and enriching its heritage as a local, state, national, and international landmark. (For more information visit https://epconservancy.org)

In a brief conversation with Ramon Manning, Chairman of the Board of Directors, I asked, “What is the ‘Why’ behind this celebration?” Ramon responded, “This festive event goes beyond food, fun, fellowship. There is an educational aspect that educates generations about historic, cultural, and social issues that are embedded in American history. Often, there are stories about the struggles that the slaves encountered, but there were also countless untold victories, one of which is about the group of former slaves who pooled together the funding and purchased the property where the park is located.”  Another question I asked was, “And what value does this all bring to the community?” He answered, “This community park is an asset to Houston, Texas, and American history.  It stands significant to recognizing and acknowledging culture, history, and continuing education.”

♦The Guardian News would like to express sincere thanks to Michelle Kelly and Tara Hanney of Kelney Communications for such remarkable hospitality and accommodation

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Houston

OMG—Houston selected to host 2026 FIFA World Cup matches

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The city of Houston, Texas was selected by FIFA as one of the host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup that is being hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. NRG Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, will be the venue in Houston for the world’s largest sporting event. Details are still to come on what games and how many will be held in Houston. We won’t know for a few more years who will be playing here.

Houston joins the cities below as hosts for the 2026 World Cup. The United States will have most of the tournament games with matches also being held in Canada and Mexico.

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