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The Warning Signs Were There… Boyfriend Sentenced to 40 Years for Murder of Local Singer and Domestic

HOUSTON FORWARD TIMES — Rena was a local singer in the Houston area.

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By Ebony C. Fleming

She was prepared to leave him. She had taken all she could bear, and was ready to take charge of her life again, not just for her sake, but for her three daughters as well. However, on the morning that she decided to pack up and move out of the apartment she shared with her daughters and with her abusive live-in boyfriend, Rena Hodges, 35, was shot and killed by that very same man.

Rena was a local singer in the Houston area. Her life’s ambition was to use her talent to find a way to stardom and wealth to support her family. When she met Jerald Watt through a mutual friend, the fact that he, too, was a local artist seemed to be an added bonus to their quickly budding relationship. But it was clear very early on that the relationship was not an ideal situation.

“The warning signs were there,” said Alix Nelson, Rena’s best friend of 27 years. “He was jealous, he was a drunk, he alienated her from her family and friends…we just knew from the beginning he was no good.”

However, Rena stayed.

While she never admitted to her best friend or family members that she was in a physically abusive relationship, Rena would talk about some of the ups and downs she experienced with Watt.

“They always argued. He would go off in public – yelling and screaming,” said Nelson. “But she would let a lot of stuff go. He manipulated her, used her, refused to work…but she never told me he put his hands on her.”

But it wasn’t entirely surprising that on Valentine’s Day 2017, Rena decided she was going to move out the following day.

“We had a plan,” said Nelson. “We were going to pack up whatever she and the girls needed and leave. They were going to come stay with me until she figured out her next move.”

On February 16, 2017, after dropping her three daughters off at school, and her niece off at an appointment, Rena called her best friend.

They were on the phone when she got back to her apartment and confronted Watt.

“She told him she was tired of it all and she was leaving,” Nelson recalls. “They were yelling back and forth. I could hear it in her voice that she’d had enough. But then she said he had a gun.”

Seconds later the call somehow dropped. That was the last time Nelson spoke to her best friend.

“So often, victims of domestic violence suffer in silence,” said Harris County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO) Family Criminal Law Division Chief Carvana Cloud. “The reasons are countless as to why they don’t leave abusive relationships, but the outcomes are often the same.”

Harris County leads the state of Texas with domestic violence related crimes. In 2018, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office filed more than 12,000 charges. That’s more than 3,000 more than the 8,699 charges filed in 2017.

“This is an epidemic plaguing our communities,” added Cloud. “That is why we’ve made it our mission to expand our reach into the community by offering protective orders and education to underserved minority groups who in many cases underreport domestic violence.”

The HCDAO Cultural Outreach Program’s main goal is to meet victims where they are, specifically in communities of color where reporting is consistently lower.

“Evidence shows that many women, just like Rena, never come forward. This is why this program exists,” said Cloud. “By working with our community partners we are able to intervene and support a safety plan with the goal of preventing the next homicide.”

Watt pled guilty for the murder of Rena Hodges and was sentenced to 40 years in prison in January – just weeks shy of their two-year anniversary.

“There is no amount of time that would bring her back to her family, to her daughters,” said Darrell Hodges, Rena’s brother.

Hodges now has custody of two of Rena’s three daughters, ages 16, 12, and 10.

“These are three girls who will never have their mother there when they graduate, when they date, get married, and have their own children,” Hodges continued. “Yeah, he’s in prison for a long time, but the damage is done.”

Hodges did his best to encourage his sister to leave, but by the time she made up her mind to do so, it was too late.

“She didn’t make the best choices, but no one deserves this,” said Hodges. “Children don’t deserve this…it didn’t have to happen.”

Anyone in a domestic abuse situation can find help or more information about the Cultural Outreach Program by calling the HCDAO Family Criminal Law Division at 713-274-0212.

This article originally appeared in the Houston Forward Times

Cars

Lions Hold Car Show in Corte Madera

The Corte Madera Lions Electric Vehicle and Classic Car Show was held last Sunday, September 12, at the Village shopping center’s overflow parking lot next to Nordstrom’s. 

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From top, left to right: Chloe Nolasco selling the 2021 Electra Meccanica Solo, 1968 Shelby GT, 1972 Citroen 2cv, 1957 Rolls Royce, 1967 Morgan, 1993 Dodge Viper. Bottom photo from left: 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C MKIII, 1959 Shelby Cobra, 1959 Chevy Corvette (Photos by Godfrey Lee)

The Corte Madera Lions Electric Vehicle and Classic Car Show was held last Sunday, September 12, at the Village shopping center’s overflow parking lot next to Nordstrom’s. 

The latest electric vehicles from Marin Luxury Cars — Mercedes, Mini, Ford, Electra Meccanica, and more than 75 pristine pre-1975 classic cars were featured at the show, including a fire truck and a farm tractor.

The event featured food from the The Pig in the Pickle, beer, wine, and live music from three local bands.

The Corte Madera Lions presented this community wide event. All proceeds will benefit local charities.

“The Marin Post’s coverage of local news in Marin County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Art

My Park Moment Photo show opens in San Francisco Presidio

While a lot of establishments such as restaurants, movies, amusement parks and places where people gather were closed for the past 18 months because of COVID-19, one of the few places people were able to enjoy themselves was at parks.

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Courtesy of Lee Hubbard

While a lot of establishments such as restaurants, movies, amusement parks and places where people gather were closed for the past 18 months because of COVID-19, one of the few places people were able to enjoy themselves was at parks.

The New York based non-profit Photoville wanted to highlight this. With a partnership with the San Francisco Presidio Trust, Photoville presented the My Park Moment photo show, which celebrates people loving parks.  

The photo show features pictures of people at parks throughout the United States. The exhibit at the Presidio is spread out over 14 acres of new parkland with trails over tunnel tops creating scenic overlooks and picnic sites in a dramatic display of public art. It will be up from now until August of 2022.

“This exhibit is a celebration of community,” said Michael Boland, chief Park Development and Visitor Engagement officer at Presidio Trust. “It shows how we as Americans can enjoy open spaces. How people can have fun, get fit, fall in love and do a lot of things outside at parks.”

There were 7,000 photo submissions from professional photographers to people with cell phones, of which 400 were selected for the exhibit. The photos were picked by a committee of artists, photographers, and cultural critics from throughout the Bay Area. 

Outside of the 400 pictures used in the show, four photographers who submitted multiple works were given stipends and highlighted for their work as Visual Story Award winners.

One of the Visual Story Award winners was Sheilby Macena, an Oakland photographer, who has 12 pictures in the My Park Moment exhibit. Her work focuses on the citizens of Oakland and specifically, the merchants at Lake Merritt during the pandemic.

“My work comes from the exhibit Black Joy at Lake Merritt, which shows Black people at the Lake, during the pandemic, particularly along sellers’ row,” said Macena.

Sellers Row was a group of 20 to 50 vendors who set up along Grand Avenue and Lake Shore Drive in Oakland by Lake Merritt. This scene would often conflict with many of the new residents in the area.

“My pictures showed Black life and it was a great way to document folks. It was a fun time, but you knew it wasn’t going to last,” continued Macena.

It didn’t. Nearby residents complained and media attention was brought to the Lake. Today, vendors at the Lake are required to have permits and there is a heavier police presence then what was taking place during the pandemic.

“The pandemic was hard on people and parks,” continued Boland. “Parks for some were the only outlet for people.”

Marissa Leshnov also had her work featured in the Presidio exhibit one Visual Story Award winners. Her work profiled the Oakland OMies, which showed a group of Black women practicing restorative yoga in the Presidio.

“These women came together as Black women, supporting each other and promoting wellness,” said Leshnov. “It’s important that people see themselves reflected in the art and I hope this brings people out to the Presidio to see the exhibit.”

The San Francisco Post’s coverage of local news in San Francisco County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Arts and Culture

Car and Motorcycle Clubs Meet in Marin City

The event will take place at the 100 block of Drake Avenue in Marin City, featuring The FoFifteen Car Club and the Marin Muscle Car Club.

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Top: FoFifteen Car Club at night (Facebook). Bottom: FoFifteen Car Club

Performing Stars and Play Marin are presenting “Soulful Saturday,” an event on Sept. 4, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., where the public can meet and greet visiting car and motorcycle clubs.

The event will take place at the 100 block of Drake Avenue in Marin City, featuring The FoFifteen Car Club and the Marin Muscle Car Club.

Soulful Saturday is a part of the Marin City Historical & Preservation Society launching the 80-year celebration of Marin City 1942-2022.

Food, crafts, fresh produce, Oldies but Goodies music, children’s activities, cards games, chess and checkers will be available.

Marin County Covid19 Safety Rules will be in place. A mobile van will be available to provide Covid19 testing and vaccinations.

Community partners will include the Marin County Sheriff, Marin County Fire Department, Marin Housing Authority, Marin Health & Human Services, and St. Andrew Presbyterian Church.

For more information, contact (415) 332-8316 or (415) 944-7141.

The Marin Post’s coverage of local news in Marin County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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