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OP-ED: An important First Amendment legal battle here in Texas is continuing to weave its way up through the courts

HOUSTON FORWARD TIMES — An important legal battle here in Texas is continuing to weave its way up through the courts and could eventually land a significant national blow to public access that has been historically secured by the First Amendment. The case, which also has major implications for American intellectual property law, was heard April 29 by a panel of three judges from the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals.

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By The Houston Forward Times

An important legal battle here in Texas is continuing to weave its way up through the courts and could eventually land a significant national blow to public access that has been historically secured by the First Amendment. The case, which also has major implications for American intellectual property law, was heard April 29 by a panel of three judges from the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals.

After a Bexar County jury reached a $706.2 million verdict last year in the trade secret case regarding real estate valuation data and modeling, the recipient of that award, HouseCanary, began pursuing unprecedented efforts to seal public trial exhibits which would provide valuable insight into this historic case.

The larger case and verdict will be appealed at a later date. But the recent hearing raised the important question of whether such public trial exhibits can or should be sealed.

In full disclosure, we at the Houston Forward Times (HFT) took a stand editorially as well as in court filings to maintain the public’s right to see into developments that could be industry-shaping. Our position is that open records are always best – with few exceptions.

HFT became a party to the case to help preserve the fundamental rights the First Amendment offers, such as transparency into our government. This includes access to public trial documents, something the courts have repeatedly reaffirmed for years.

In this case, the exhibits in question have already been publicly revealed in court.  At the time, HouseCanary did not object to this.  But now, HouseCanary is oddly trying to prevent the public from seeing this information.  If allowing the public to see it now violates HouseCanary’s trade secrets, why didn’t HouseCanary object in the first instance to this material being distributed in open court?

The principles involved in this case are crucial to civil rights cases. One reason is that historically, sealed records have not played to the advantage of victims of discrimination and the truly disadvantaged. Imagine if the exhibits in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education anti-segregation case had been sealed. The general public would never know the extent of the historic doll study by private psychologists, Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, that served as a key exhibit in the case and is now a public testament to the psychological impact of race discrimination.

Like a roller coaster, the Housecanary case has taken a number of turns weaving back and forth between adhering to the protections of the public’s right to know and arguments to conceal the exhibit. Ultimately, the court granted public access Nov. 30. Now HouseCanary is fighting vehemently to shut the public out in the case that will no doubt end up in the Texas Supreme Court.

If these public trial documents are allowed to become forever sealed, a disturbing legal precedent will have been established that reduces accountability into our government system, restricts people’s freedom to information, and impedes the press’s ability to carry out its essential function.

Therefore, we reassert our conviction that the attempts to seal public information challenges these elements of a free society. The court should uphold longstanding commitments to transparency and treat these trial exhibits as they are – public information.

This article originally appeared in the Houston Forward Times

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NNPA Leadership Launches New Community-Focused Initiative at Mid-Winter Conference in Fort Lauderdale

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “We must leave a footprint in all of the communities where we have a presence and where we are making an impact,” stated NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards. “As we visit different cities, we must connect with the communities we serve and leave a lasting impression. In doing this initiative, we must also highlight the newspaper(s) in those respective cities to make sure they’re included in the effort. We must work collaboratively together and make every community remember that the NNPA was on the scene and should never be forgotten.”

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Bobby Henry, Publisher, The Westside Gazette; Ms. Gwendolyn Shaw, Owner/Director, The Red School House; and Karen Carter Richards, NNPA Chair.

The Red School House Chosen as Inaugural Recipient

NNPA Community Impact

By Jeffrey L. Boney, Associate Editor, Houston Forward Times

As part of the first phase of an established marketing plan for the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the leadership of the storied organization announced the launch of their inaugural “NNPA Community Impact” initiative to kick-off the 80th Anniversary of the NNPA.

This initiative was championed by NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards, who believes the NNPA should regularly highlight organizations that are making an impact, or people who are making a difference, in their respective communities, but rarely get the recognition they truly deserve.

“We must leave a footprint in all of the communities where we have a presence and where we are making an impact,” stated NNPA Chair Karen Carter Richards. “As we visit different cities, we must connect with the communities we serve and leave a lasting impression. In doing this initiative, we must also highlight the newspaper(s) in those respective cities to make sure they’re included in the effort. We must work collaboratively together and make every community remember that the NNPA was on the scene and should never be forgotten.”

Just this past week, at the start of the 2020 NNPA Mid-Winter Conference that was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the NNPA put this initiative into action as they worked alongside local publisher Bobby Henry of The Westside Gazette to honor The Red School House as the “NNPA Community Impact” inaugural recipient.

“The Red School House has served the Fort Lauderdale community for more than 52 years and has taught and developed many upstanding African Americans who have moved on to make their own impact in various communities around the nation,” said Bobby Henry, Publisher of the Westside Gazette. “I was honored to work with the NNPA to select The Red School House as the ‘NNPA Community Impact’ inaugural recipient in my city.”

The NNPA and The Westside Gazette saluted The Red School House by presenting them with a check for $500, as well as hosted a pizza party for the kids.

From vision to planning to becoming a reality in 1968, The Red School House has provided a safe, caring and learning environment for children whose parents were working, and has become a staple in the community for over 50 years.

Mrs. Julia was employed as a bus driver for the School Board of Broward County and was married to her husband, Mr. Harvey Shaw, who was employed as a Longshoreman for Port Everglades. The couple had 5 children and because everyone in her family found themselves working, Mrs. Julia recognized that there was no one at home to raise the children in the family.

After recognizing this dilemma, and to ensure the family’s children were properly cared for, Mrs. Julia declared “someone has to stay here and keep these kids.”

That is when and how The Red School House was birthed. It was the old-fashioned tradition of including the home, church and community that became the catalyst behind Mrs. Julia using her home as a primary place to start caring for her family’s children.

That house now stands as a legacy for the family and for the community.

In addition to caring for her own family’s children, Mrs. Julia also wanted to give back to the community in which she lived for so long. As a result, the doors of The Red School House were officially opened in September of 1968 with only 25 students. The early years of The Red School House were built on the shoulders of her family. Although the whole family worked at the school at one time or another, The Red School House was mainly run by the women of the family.

After the untimely death of an aunt who worked at the school, in 1983, Mrs. Julia asked her daughter, Ms. Gwendolyn Shaw, to come home in 1984 to take over operations.

At the time of her mother’s request, Gwendolyn was living in Chicago and was working at Jet Magazine and at Motorola Corporation. Because her mother wanted her to become the Director of The Red School House, Gwendolyn made the decision to move back home and honor her mother’s request. In 1986, they were able to renovate the school, which had previously operated out of two buildings. They consolidated the school into one building without ever closing their doors. In 1993, the playgrounds at the school were reconstructed to make them safer for the children and all of the teachers became CDA certified.

Mrs. Julia passed away in 1998, leaving Gwendolyn with the sole responsibility of running the business. As part of their regular school routine, every morning they start the day with devotion, with all children and staff front and center. Gwendolyn comes forth and sets the atmosphere for the day and afterwards, the students return to their classroom setting.

They are taught the basics of reading, writing and math skills; Black history; World History; geography; science; life skills; participation in events such as field trips to the laundromat to wash their clothes, to the grocery store to expose them to grocery shopping, to Wal-Mart for Back-to-School shopping; community clean-up; cooking; sewing; hygiene classes; Bible class; social skills and development; sign language; three foreign languages (German, Japanese and Spanish); performing arts; manipulative skills; and homework is sent home twice a week.

Outdoor play is part of their daily schedule (twice a day) and gymnastics (physical education) is every Friday at the community L.A. Lee YMCA.

The students also attend field trips to all Disney on Ice productions, circus performances, Sesame Street performances and any cultural and fine arts performances that will enhance their exposure to appreciate the world of fine arts, entertainment and community activities. Twice a year, the performing arts skills of the students (ages 2 thru 5) are displayed at their annual Christmas program in December and at the Graduation performance held in May.

In the month of April, they host a Kiddie Prom that is held at the Elegant Signature Grand in Davie, FL. In the month of November, they have an etiquette class for all the 4- and 5-year-old students, where they dress up (the boys in their dressy attire with a $2.00 tip in their wallet, and the girls in their dressy attire with a purse on their arms).

The Red School House students are picked up by limousine service and taken to the Cheesecake Factory in downtown Fort Lauderdale where they dine for lunch and are taught how to model good behavior and manners.

Since inception, The Red School House has grown from 25 students to over 160 students. Even more impressive are the number of former students who are now staff members and some staff members who have worked for The Red School House for up to 40 years.

The Red School House has been in business for 52 years and has never received any federal funding, primarily because they didn’t want to change their curriculum.

“We are still as strong today as we were on that September day in 1968,” Gwendolyn states. “Our purpose has become our passion, to make a difference in our community, to care for children in providing a safe and nurturing environment, to provide educational excellence for each child. We are a traditional school with traditional values and a whole lot of love.”

This is a monumental initiative for the NNPA and is consistent with its overall mission and vision. Since its founding exactly 80 years ago, the NNPA has consistently been the voice of the Black community and an incubator for the news that makes history and impacts the country today and tomorrow.

From delivering news, information and commentary to being the largest and most influential Black-owned media resource in America to reach local markets with African American consumers. From helping to shape ideas and opinion to shaping thinking. From thought leadership to leading change. Each week 20 million Americans from all backgrounds seeking news from the Black perspective turn to NNPA newspapers.

This initiative will expand the impact and reach of the Black Press across America and in local markets to ensure the mission and vision of the NNPA remains relevant.

To learn more about The Red School House or to make a donation, please call 954.249.2901 or send it to 1205 N.W. 4th Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312.

Jeffrey Boney is a political analyst and frequent contributor for the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is an award-winning journalist, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur and business development strategist. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.

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COMMENTARY: Spiritually Speaking… God’s Got You; Just Put One Foot In Front of the Other

What is more meaningful than a walk or a trip with someone whom you respect, admire, love or can learn something from? One of my most memorable things to do was to go for a walk with my children when they were toddlers. There was something about them discovering and exploring the world around them with absolutely no fear, because they knew I was there.

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Have you ever gone somewhere walking and talking with someone you were totally in sync with? That might be why people refer to discovering God as “walking in faith.” Some people refer to it as being led.

By James Washington, Publisher Dallas Weekly News

I have at times talked a little about “Faith Walk” and it dawned on me that I have also questioned just what that meant. Maybe you can explain it better than me and know that I’m not trying to be funny. I’m being real and just want to gain and give more perspective on what many have told me, I went through. Some claimed to see a transformation in me as I have come to Christ. Others have said, “As you go through this walk.”

Obviously, I’ve used the term myself when trying to explain my different view of the world as seen through a new pair of spiritualized eyes. The whole experience has been and continues to be extremely dynamic. I’m just curious about the ‘walk’ reference. I suppose when you think about it, many in the bible had truth revealed to them on a walk or, on a journey. God has seen fit to communicate to many a saint while they were going from one place to another, or, even through the spiritual travel of a dream. It’s a simple enough analogy.

What is more meaningful than a walk or a trip with someone whom you respect, admire, love or can learn something from? One of my most memorable things to do was to go for a walk with my children when they were toddlers. There was something about them discovering and exploring the world around them with absolutely no fear, because they knew I was there.

Today, I can go anywhere with my wife. It really is the journey and not the destination for me. Have you ever experienced this? Have you ever gone somewhere walking and talking with someone you were totally in sync with? That might be why people refer to discovering God as “walking in faith.” Some people refer to it as being led.

Factually stated, the effort to get closer to God requires movement. I think the walking analogy is merely a human endeavor trying to speak to going in a spiritual direction. The best example is of course Enoch. “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Genesis 5:24. What a blessed way to go.

The bible talks of walking humbly, walking in the light, walking with the wise, walking in counsel, walking together and walking on water. The point seems to be that the Christian life is a journey; one in which we want to share with God, one in which we talk and if we’re truly blessed, He will listen.

The search for salvation is a spiritual journey; one which can best be described as taking the first step towards truth. Once taken, your life changes forever. You change. I know I did. So I guess this faith walk thing is merely a public or in some cases a private acknowledgement that one is letting God order your steps in this, His world. If you do this, God will lead you right to Him.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12. So when you get up in the morning, think about this and let God order your steps.

Make a deliberate effort to listen and hear where God is telling you to go, or not to go. They say faith comes by hearing. What better way to hear than by taking a stroll with the Lord on tomorrow. Make a concerted attempt and see where God leads you. He has been known to show up in the oddest places and you will see Him in the strangest faces. Give it a try and know this. If you are seeking Him, He is very easy to find. All it takes is that first baby step. May God bless and keep you always.

James, jaws@dallasweekly.com

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OP-ED: My Grandfather was MLK’s Mentor

HOUSTON FORWARD TIMES — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth. We all know his contributions to humanity, but many of us do not know who his mentor was. Well, it was my grandfather, Rev. Dr. Theodore Judson Jemison Sr.

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Rev. Dr. Theodore Judson Jemison Sr.

By Edward Pollard, Houston Forward Times

Friends,

As we celebrate …all the tremendous sacrifices and triumphs Black Americans have contributed to our country, my own family’s legacy of advancing civil rights always astonishes me. I’m reminded of how imperative it is for me to continue that legacy and tell our story.

Most of us have leaned on mentors to guide us and help us succeed in attaining our desired goals. Even the most successful and notable people have searched the knowledge of others and heeded their advice in hopes of mirroring their success and eventually surpassing it.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth. We all know his contributions to humanity, but many of us do not know who his mentor was. Well, it was my grandfather, Rev. Dr. Theodore Judson Jemison Sr.

Before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, that received international notoriety, my grandfather organized a bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana three years earlier in 1953. The Baton Rouge bus boycott was so successful that Dr. King came down to Baton Rouge to stay with my grandfather to get the blueprint and learn the strategy of how to do it in Montgomery. King later wrote in his memoir, Stride Towards Freedom, that Jemison’s “painstaking description of the Baton Rouge experience was invaluable.” (page 75)

Aside from being incredibly proud to have a grandfather with such a rich history and leaving such a powerful mark on this world, I often think about his story and how, for the most part, it is not widely known. Many times people do not understand the impact others have played on those who finally have the big break through. There have been so many untold stories of painstaking situations that people have endured to get us closer to equality. As such, it should empower all of us to do all we can to instill confidence, wisdom, and encouragement to the next generation because you never know how your guidance and efforts can lead someone to change the world.

Together we will!

This article originally appeared in The Houston Forward Times.

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