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July 10, 2015

The Honorable Rhonda Skillern-Jones
Chair, Houston ISD Board of Education
4400 West 18th Street
Houston, TX 77092

Dear Chairwoman Skillern-Jones:

The tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, has forced a national conversation about the place Confederate symbols should have in our society. In cities and states throughout the country, these symbols are being removed because they represent a history of hate and oppression. As Senator Rodney Ellis asserted in his June 24th letter to Chairwoman Skillern-Jones of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), now is the time to consider renaming HISD schools named after Confederate loyalists.

Public schools are brick and mortar representations of the American dream. They are the great equalizer in American society; places where someone from any ethnic or economic background can achieve anything they put their mind to. It is therefore a tragedy that some of these institutions of hope and promise in the Houston area continue to be tainted with names honoring men who fought to oppress an entire race of people. Even more disturbing is that many of the schools bearing names of Confederate leaders are in minority-majority communities.

The history of Houston is rich with a new generation of heroes from a variety of racial backgrounds who fought for hope and equality rather than hate and oppression. These are the types of heroes that are deserving of our reverence, and can inspire and instill pride in current and future students. We implore the HISD Board of Education to take this small yet meaningful step towards ending a subculture of hate that continues to propagate 152 years removed from the Emancipation Proclamation.

Sincerely,


State Senator Sylvia R. Garcia, State Representative Carol Alvarado, State Representative Jessica Farrar, State Representative Ana Hernandez, State Representative Gilbert Peña, State Representative Armando Walle


CC:    HISD Board of Education, Dr. Terry Grier, Superintendent