Category Archives: Education – K12

Uvalde

I was born and raised about 40 miles from Uvalde, TX in Crystal City. As much as the media talks about how small Uvalde is, those residing in the even tinier towns that surround it think of Uvalde as the closest big city that provides a small hospital, a big Wal-Mart, the KFC and other restaurants, car dealerships, and nice parks that provide more than dirt lots on which to run around in. There’s also Eagle Pass 40 miles in the other direction at the border, but we didn’t like to stop at Migra checkpoints because as Americans we didn’t enjoy having our citizenship questioned, unless we really had to go to La Aguila for the mall or the Social Security Admin office.

Uvalde also offers the area’s junior college for students who aren’t yet ready to leave the area for other universities or who seek workforce degrees in nursing, auto mechanics, HVAC, and law enforcement, or for dual credit courses at the high schools. I even took my ACT at SWTJC. The middle school field trip to the John Nance Garner Museum (FDRs VP aka Cactus Jack) was very interesting, too. The Uvalde Coyotes sports teams have been among Crystal City’s top rivals for decades. I’d add that many of us even have relatives and friends in Uvalde. So, what occurred in Uvalde affected the whole area, whether personally or emotionally and we feel so much for the families that were directly affected. Even those of us who have been gone for 33 years.

Before the news channels got ahold of the events, I was finding out about it through text messages from close friends who had friends with grandkids in the school. Later, when other friends were posting photos of unaccounted for children, and some who even knew slain teachers during their childhood, I found out we aren’t all that disconnected from each other in that area of Texas. In fact, slain teacher Irma Garcia’s father was the Principal at Crystal City High School before they moved to Uvalde during the 80s and Irma’s family are related to a cousin-in-law of mine. Eva Mireles grew up in Eagle Pass, which is the other little city in the area. The father of one of the little girls is from a town down the road from Houston where a friend of mine has taught for years.

When I started doing my internet searches of people talking about it on Facebook, there were so many stories going around that law enforcement had not even announced. One story blamed a “migrant bailout” after a chase because the Migra engages them dangerously and frequently. One news channel (CBS) even took notice of all the Border Patrol members in the vicinity that even that talking head was buying into the fake story. The reality is that BP has a checkpoint just outside of Uvalde on the way to Del Rio and Eagle Pass on the border. And they give all sorts of assists to LE when they’re not hunting brown people or causing accidents from chases. So, there’s a reason folks were questioning the Migra’s appearance and there are enough people there who love to blame “the other.” But it’s a small town and chisme happens really fast and that made things all the more frustrating when people were searching for their kids. The frustrations became more immense in the aftermath, though.

The lack of information provided to parents of missing children was quite angering as the school district, law enforcement, and the hospital were not providing information. It seemed they were getting the “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” treatment. When they began to bring them in one-by-one for DNA swabs to assist in identity purposes, I knew what the outcome would be. One reporter stated they could hear the crying screams of parents as they were told why a swab was needed. One thing about small town folks in crises, we always hold out for hope because that’s one thing we always have and own, and most held out to the very end. But that they were left without a hint of a status for hours is a travesty.

Now, the information is still slow in coming and fast in changing to the point of inconsistencies, even after today’s DPS presser and Greg Abbott’s second presser. Greg Abbott’s first press conference featuring his political buddies was a joke and provided misinformation. Beto O’Rourke’s actions were quite welcome as he spoke truth to power, and their reactions showed us they knew it. A day later, the DPS press conference provided different information and left too many gaps to be filled. The one-hour gap between law enforcement getting shot at and the killing of the shooter was missing.

But then, there is also the allegations of mistreatment of parents by police, or rumors that law enforcement weren’t going in to the school, or others saving their own kids first, including BP agents. I know an investigation takes time, but when parents begin to provide facts of what they were met with when they arrived at the school, it seemed the presser became about defending law enforcement actions against parents, rather than actually investigating those allegations. That same regional director who headed up the first DPS presser, Victor Escalon, is the guy who interrogated Melissa Lucio, who almost ended up in the death chamber recently. That this guy has gotten promoted says a lot about Abbott’s operation.

The timeline is important, but we also need to know who was in charge during the various actions taken by law enforcement, from going into the school initially to the call-up of additional law enforcement and specialists to that one-hour gap to when they finally killed the shooter. It wasn’t until the aftermath that we found out Texas Rangers took over. But who was in charge the rest of the time? As DPS Director McCraw told the press, there is no need for someone in charge in an active shooter situation. One just goes in and takes out the shooters. (We found out later that the incident commander was Chief Arredondo of the school police, who gave the very first press conference on the evening of this tragic day.)

In Friday’s DPS presser, we found more truths, and maybe even more individuals to blame as a school resource officer was mentioned as driving into the school parking lot after the shooter had crossed the fence. Also mentioned was a back door that was propped up by a teacher who may have gone to his/her car to get a cell phone that he/she forgot. But let’s also recall that an awards ceremony had been held earlier that morning and there were a lot of parents going in and out of the building and it was probably close to the lunch period. It never fails that instead of finding systemic gaps in problems, they’ll find an individual to blame so that those in charge seem unblameable.

Congressman Joaquin Castro (because Uvalde’s right-wing guy Tony Gonzalez is useless) put out a request for the FBI to take over the investigation. I think this is a great idea considering that there were federal agencies involved in this. And the FBI responded after meeting with Congressman Castro.

It would seem to me that the kids who survived this tragedy, that were in the building, that heard the law enforcement demands and the shooter’s response, and heard the shots being fired at the children and teachers are providing the most information. And I commend the media for putting those stories out as DPS director McCraw went so far as saying some witnesses are “wrong.” Based on what, if he wasn’t even there. And why would victims lie? Let’s recall that 19 cops didn’t even go into the classroom where this happened.

We’ve spent decades debating gun control, gun safety, etc., and nothing has come about other than more guns. There are close to 400,000,000 guns out there. That’s more than one gun per person. They are accessible to criminals. But this shooter wasn’t a felon, wasn’t deemed mentally unstable, wasn’t reported by social media friends and was able to purchase two deadly weapons and over 1,000 rounds of ammo. The ammo purchase reminded me of Chris Rock’s suggestion that we need bullet control because whether it’s someone who is unstable or someone who gets off on shooting high-powered weapons for whatever reason, the fact that they are buying this much ammo should be a red flag in itself.

What’s the answer? Obviously people will protest and counter, and now the Senate has a committee to discuss disagreements and whatever else they discuss. Is there hope? There’s always hope, but there’s also a lot of right-wing nuts who will get in people’s faces to prove their point and I fear law enforcement will round-up anti-NRA protesters before they round-up armed idiots, no different than those cops who failed to go into the classroom until someone deemed a “specialist” arrived.

At this point, I want the investigation to continue, I want these families to receive the answers, all of the answer, they deserve, and I want Greg Abbott and his minions at all levels to stop the bullshit of covering each others asses. There were multiple agencies involved and a few days later, no one can determine answers until they agree on one that is favorable to them, it would seem.

So, when people who fear politics tell us to not get political, my response is to grow guts, or a pair, and get in the fight. Or get out of the way. Although this is the issue of the week, the fact that the inaction and failures at all levels occurred in South Texas tells you how little they care about the area and how easily they get their vote with rhetoric that blames “the other,” for the problems elected leaders cause. And, this isn’t just about gun laws, it’s about how the victims are being treated by authorities.

So, yes, it is political. Get over it. As someone who grew up down in that area, it’s also personal. The fact that so many people are interconnected with the victims makes it personal. And not just the murders, but also the ineptitude of those in charge.

Finally, if you really want change, vote out Abbott, Patrick, and all of the Republicans. They are not on the side of the people.

PS…GOFUNDME sent an email to users listing legitimate fundraisers raising money for victim families. There are alot of fraudsters out there, so, be aware.

My May 7 Election Report

The most uneventful election this year was held on Saturday and Texas homeowners voted themselves some minor tax giveaways.

Voters approved two propositions intended to lower property taxes for homeowners by decisive margins — one aimed at older and disabled Texans and another that would provide modest relief for homeowners across the board.

Unfortunately, renters were largely ignored by the Texas Lege. It’s no secret that, as property values increase across the board, renters are taking any tax bill increases in the teeth. But if you think about it, any tax giveaways to property owners would probably never make it to renters. Makes me think: They couldn’t have added a $175 gift card for renters? I mean, they’re giving away money that will negatively affect us in the long-run, let’s all benefit.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are eyeing a $12 billion surplus in state revenue to pay for some public school costs so districts may lower their property tax rates. Texas is also suing the federal government for the right to use $3 billion in federal stimulus funds to pay for tax cuts.

In other words, they’re using money that all Texans contributed to the pot to reward some while giving the rest the shaft. There’s no idea on how these cuts will be paid for in the future, either, unless they slice education budgets. Also, there is no fairness in this, but it wasn’t like anyone was going to launch a campaign against it.

Local Races

A friend of mine ran for Mayor in a tiny town to the south of Houston, but was defeated. On the other hand, one of my CCHS classmates (who’s also the Dem Party Chairman in Zavala County) squeaked by to win his race for Crystal City City Council. Congrats, Joe Uribes!

Otherwise, this was a boring election.

The Run-Off

But the Democratic Party run-off is on May 24, with early voting starting on May 16th and ending on May 20th. Find your sample ballot here (when it becomes available) and study those in the running.

I know my initial leanings have either changed or are drawing a blank at the moment. Races to watch include Texas Attorney General, Texas Land Commish, Texas Comptroller, as well as the Harris County Commissioner Pct 4 race and local judicial run-offs. It’s a busy ballot and all the races will all become a lot more interesting. Kuff has something on one of the judicial races. I’ll have a new and improved Stace Slate soon.

Abbott Goes After Immigrant Children

Greg Abbott truly is evil.

He announced that, since a right-wing extremist SCOTUS is willing to end abortion rights, well, Texas may as well challenge other rulings, like 1982’s Plyler v Doe, which ruled unconstitutional Texas’ practice of withholding money from schools serving immigrant children.

Abbott cites the cost of educating students in his most recent anti-immigrant attack. Others go straight for racist bullshit.

“We’re talking about public tax dollars, public property tax dollars going to fund these schools to teach children who are 5, 6, 7, 10 years old, who don’t even have remedial English skills,” Joe Pagliarulo (right-wing radio host) said. “This is a real burden on communities. What can you do about that?”

Actually, it’s all about Republican hatred toward brown folks. These bigots want you to forget that people pay property taxes through rent payments, they pay local sales taxes to keep businesses open. But that doesn’t matter if these kids are in their schools offending their white supremacist sensibilities.

“Texas already long ago sued the federal government about having to incur the costs of the education program, in a case called Plyler versus Doe. And the Supreme Court ruled against us on the issue about denying, or let’s say Texas having to bear that burden. I think we will resurrect that case and challenge this issue again, because the expenses are extraordinary and the times are different than when Plyler versus Doe was issued many decades ago.”

Times are different? I think Abbott means that Trump allowed challenges based on hate, rather than on law and precedent.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out another reason to throw Abbott out of office in November.

The 2021 Run-Off Results

Congrats to Elizabeth Santos (D-I) and Sue Deigaard (D-V) on their re-elections to the HISD board. While Santos squeaked by against a well-funded and hard-working opposition Dem, it was Deigaard who was able to defeat a right-wing nut quite handily.

Unfortunately, my friends Holly Flynn Vilaseca (VI) and Anne Sung (V) were defeated by right-wing nuts who promise to threaten the lives and health of teachers, students, parents, etc., with their anti-mask positions. They are also all about a whites-only history education. Seems to me voters fell for some stupid positions by some hateful (and vindictive) people. Of course, perhaps there was some anti-incumbent sentiment because of actions made by some of them. But people are falling for just about anything that divides and conquers entire communities, possibly even their own communities.

Kuff and others point out that these districts were previously held by Republicans who some call moderate. I never thought of them as moderates since their positions with the new GOPers are similar, just with meaner delivery. And since moderates hardly exist anymore, and this election proved that there were indeed two sides from which to choose, what the hell happened?

I’m thinking turn-out. But I also think voters are taking a turn for the stupid and Democrats need to worry about that in 2022. And I mean the Primary, where we will see some judicial and countywide candidates exploiting issues like crime and bonds, which are easily attacked with one liners and only defended with position papers.

Obviously, in a close election, someone is bound to go negative. Campos isn’t too happy that his client in D-I was attacked, but he’s really pissed about the Democratic Party’s involvement in a race between two Democrats and I understand where he’s coming from since everyone seems to want to be a kingmaker, lately.

As Kuff pointed out, Democrats still have a 7-2 edge on the school board, but these right-wing nuts know how to make noise. They know how to blame others for society’s ills–especially those caused by right-wing nuts. So, I don’t see the majority as a strong one. Given how easy candidates were being bought and paid for by the right and special interests all around Houston, the majority can be controlled by the minority. Hell, just look at “Democratic” Washington, DC.

Anyway, I’m of the opinion that a big effort at redistricting HISD is in order if we really want to utilize this majority. There is no reason to have a district that has River Oaks paired with Gulfton, or Sharpstown with West Houston or Northside with the Heights. It’s just too damn diluting. But I’ll leave that to the experts who will probably lecture me on this.

Anyway, it’s on to the 2022 Democratic Primary where some of our favorite officeholders get challenged and are forced to spend money to keep their party nomination. I swear, we love democracy until a fave officeholder gets challenged.

A Look At The Election Results

Although a power outage at the vote count HQ cramped the style of those of us clicking “REFRESH” all night (and that of many more election workers), some of us decided to go to bed right after the early vote came out. As of this morning, it looks like folks in Houston will need to return for a run-off, while in Alief, the results on the bond and school board seem finalized as they do not require a run-off.

Alief ISD voters, all 5000+ of them, approved 3 of the 4 bonds, with the stadium bond going down in flames, 47-53. The other sports-related bond seems to have passed by less than 100 votes. The biggest bond, which would go to improve and build facilities won overwhelming support from the voters, as did the technology bond. It would seem that voters, at least the 5000+ who voted, knew their priorities and less than $20 million in stadium improvements were not a part of it.

In Alief ISD board races, Darlene Breaux will return after handily defeating Debby Pepper. Harvey Anh Tong earned over 45% of the vote to earn his place on the board. Incumbent Jennifer Key returns to her position after a huge win. And with 56% of the vote, Gregg Patrick, a local pastor, will take his place on the board.

So, yes, I went 3 of 4 on the bond, although I was also iffy on the stadium, and I went 0 for 4 on the board races. It seems the 5000+ who cared enough to vote want the status quo. As long as they don’t mess things up, I guess, right?

At HISD, it looks like run-offs are the order of the day with District I’s Elizabeth Santos taking on Janette Garza Lindner; Sue Deigaard (V) just missed the 50% mark and will take on right-wing-supported Caroline Walter; Holly Flynn Vilaseca (VI) will need to take on Kendall Baker after a surprisingly tight race; and Ann Sung (VII) is also headed for a run-off after a 2nd place finish against her main and well-funded opponent Bridget Wade. Meanwhile, Myrna Guidry (IX) will take her place on the board after finishing with 60% of the vote.

In HCC District 3, Adriana Tamez defeated Brandon Cofield, while Eva Loredo will be in a run-off with Jharett Bryantt in District 8. Meanwhile, since no one stepped up in District 6, the bigoted Dave Wilson will return to the board probably earning more complaints and stepping up his right-wing whining.

In San Antonio’s special election in HD-118, Democrat Frank Ramirez was defeated by vendido republican Lujan. Will the results change in 2022 when they do this all over again? We shall see. The race had 11% turn-out.

Austin defeated a measure that would “super” fund the Austin police department. That’s a good thing.

While there were some great victories in Philadelphia, Pittsburg, NYC, Boston and other places, the results in Virginia were pretty sad. A state which went 20% for Biden over Trump handed Democrats a stingingly close loss. When you have a recycled Dem dude at the top of the ballot…well, anyway. Democrats refuse to learn how to take on racist republicans. I think all this squeamishness started when Hillary Clinton apologized for calling the racists “deplorables,” thinking she could earn their votes. Anyway…

Regarding the power outage in Harris County, I agree with Kuff that these glitches give the County a chance to fix things so we can avoid them when everyone shows up next November. Election chief Isabel Longoria deserves some kudos for testing the whole system to ensure nothing was lost in the process before releasing vote counts; however, those who suffered were the precinct and alternate judges who were delivering their equipment to the counting station. Democracy can suck sometimes and those folks who work a 12-hour day at voting locations deserve a lot more than our thanks.

Anyway, stay tuned for the upcoming fireworks in the HISD run-offs. Although it’s all about turn-out, there is bound to be some deep reaches into opposition research in an attempt to change one or two minds.

Early Voting Has Begun – Oct 18 – 29, 2021

Early Voting around Harris County has begun and will run through October 29, 2021. You can vote early at any location in Harris County. You can find your sample ballot by clicking here.

On the ballot are eight (8) state propositions and you may also have local school and college board trustee races on your ballot, so, your sample ballot is the best way to find out what’s up.

My ballot will look like this:

State Propositions (Ballotpedia Explains The Propositions)

Prop 1 – Adds pro rodeo foundations to list authorized to hold raffles. (FOR)

Prop 2 – Allows counties to issue bonds to finance redevelopment of towns and cities. (FOR)

Prop 3 – Forbids local government from prohibiting or limiting religious services (when something like COVID-19 or some sort of disaster occurs and the decision is made for the protection of residents). (AGAINST) (Explanation)

Prop 4 – Changes the eligibility requirements for judges to run for office. (FOR)

Prop 5 – Extends State Commission on Judicial Conduct’s power over judicial candidates. (FOR)

Prop 6 – Allows group home residents to name an essential caregiver with visiting rights. (FOR)

Prop 7 – Allows surviving spouses, 55 or older, of disabled persons a limit on school district property taxes. (FOR)

Prop 8 – Allows surviving spouse of military member killed in action to a property tax exemption. (FOR)

ALIEF ISD

Position 4 – Debby Pepper (Endorsed by TSTA)

Position 5 – Randal Stewart

Position 6 – Ronald Franklin (Endorsed by TSTA)

Position 7 – Damon Barone (Endorsed by TSTA)

Bond Prop A – FOR (Bond Descriptions)

Bond Prop B – FOR

Bond Prop C – FOR

Bond Prop D – FOR


While I do not reside in Houston ISD, I do have some favorites.

District I – Elizabeth Santos

District V – Sue Deigaard

District VI – Holly Flynn Vilaseca

District VII – Anne Sung

And, while I await the outcome of whatever is going on with my own HCC trustee, my favorites for whom I am not able to vote are:

HCC District 3 – Adriana Tamez

HCC District 8 – Eva Loredo

Get your voting done early. Otherwise, you can vote on November 2.

The 2021 Alief ISD Bond

Along with a few races for school trustee, we Alief ISD voters get to decide on over $500 million in bonds to address aging facilities and buses, athletics upgrades, modernization of the stadium, and more technology. With a small tax increase and no tax increase for 65 and older, this kind of investment is needed for this growing district. Sounds good enough, so, let’s dive a little into it.

According to the district, it has been six years since the last bond and that bond came in on time, on target, and under budget. I must say, it’s nice to see the new buildings that have gone and are going up at the moment that address student career needs, staff development needs, and transportation needs. Currently, the average age of school buildings is 35 years, so, it is time to continue upgrading to ensure equity around the district.

The bond has been broken up into four parts (state law, I’ve been told by a committee member).

Prop A is for $482.6 million to pay for safety and security upgrades for school entrance and more funds for ISD police; two replacement schools; a new agri-center on the site of the Alief Community Garden; all sorts of renovations; for Fine Arts, new instruments, sound-proof practice rooms, dance flooring, and theater lighting.; new equipment for Career and Tech Education programs; and new buses to transport students.

I like Prop A and will vote for it.

Prop B is for $9.1 million in athletic upgrades to include tennis court resurfacing; dugouts at Hastings HS baseball field; gym scoreboards; resurfacing baseball/softball fields; replacement of football turf; and replacement of outdoor scoreboards.

The wealth seems to be spread around the various sports, so, I’m thinking YES on this one. Better turf means increased safety for athletes and less maintenance needs.

Prop C calls for $19.4 million to modernize Crump Stadium. According to the district, the stadium is almost 50 years old and has not had much in investment in improvement. The stadium was also built when enrollment was less than 20% of what it has become. So, they are asking for this cash to build a new press box, new turf, new track, new locker rooms, and one of those fancy video scoreboards.

When I cruised around the district, the first thing I noticed was how modern the stadium was, considering it was 50 years old. It seems they were ahead of the game when it was built. New track and new turf not only ensures safety, but it also makes the stadium attractive for playoff and other community events. It is stuff that is needed, but it is also pricey. The first time I voted against a bond, I lived in Humble ISD because it was too football-centric, but the total package here seems to be about the students. I’m trending toward supporting Prop C because why should the “fancy” school districts get all the nice stuff? Also, at least they didn’t ask for some $200 million monstrosity.

Prop D calls for $30.6 million for technology upgrades. A reminder that there are now over 50,000 students and staff at Alief ISD and they are deserving of the best. The bond ensures the district keeps a tech replacement schedule for the next three years. The bond includes classroom instructional technology; campus iPads and desktops.

Yes, I’m for it. I wish it would have been twice as much!

Anyway, that’s my take on the Alief ISD bond. Early voting begins October 18 and runs through October 29. Election Day is November 2. I’m still trying to find more information about candidates for school trustee. There are a few of those races on the ballot, which makes up a good chunk of the board being chosen, so, this is important.

Thanks to all those neighbors who participated in the bond committee–89 strong, working for 6 months, and over 2000 hours. It is said that if passed, Alief ISD will save over 65 million bucks in escalating construction costs and inflation. I know I have that in mind, especially as the pandemic continues.

For more information, visit the bond website!

QEPD – Gregg Barrios

I’ve known about Gregg Barrios for a long time.

The former Crystal City educator impacted a lot of students’ lives, mentoring so many kids who became leaders in their respective communities, taught students during the 1969 Crystal City Walkout, and was even the print communicator of La Raza Unida Party with the newspaper, La Verdad. Of course, I wasn’t even born and/or was very young during this part of his life. But he left his mark on Cristal and I learned about it.

Beyond Cristal, he impacted even more lives as a journalist, writer, poet, playwright, cultural critic, and recognized literary figure. To call him a genius and a force of nature doesn’t do him justice because he already knew he was both. Gregg passed away suddenly last week.

He is being remembered by many on his FB page–so many stories. I’ll forever be proud of being included as “Dos Centavos” in the acknowledgments of his poetry work, La Causa, as I had shared some of his works and linked to many of his writings in Texas Monthly, LA Times, and the San Antonio Express-News on DosCentavos.net as a way to support him.

I wrote a lot about his play, Rancho Pancho, which he debuted in San Antonio in 2008, staged in Provincetown, MA at the Tennessee Williams Festival, and finally, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque to rave reviews . It was during this time when I finally met him. It was during the trip to catch Rancho Pancho in New Mexico when I found out he had mentioned me in La Causa, which really touched my heart.

Rancho Pancho is the story of Williams’ tempestuous relationship with South Texan Pancho Rodriguez. Racism, classicism, the nature of superior/subordinate relationships, and the influence of Rodriguez on Williams’ work are just a few of the themes touched on in this play.

And my nephew was cast in the play as Pancho just after he graduated from university and as he was headed to LA to begin his professional acting career. So, needless to say, I became quite the follower of Gregg’s work and exploits as he kept in touch with my family over the years.

On October 15, 2021, Gregg was to be honored by San Antonio Writing Center, Gemini Ink, at their annual Inkstravaganza with the Award of Literary Excellence. So, I’ll steal from them the bio they used on Gregg:

Gregg Barrios is a first-generation playwright, poet and journalist. He is also a graphic digital artist and film-maker. His award-winning plays have been produced in San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Albuquerque, Provincetown, and New York City. He has received a Rockefeller Grant, a Mark Taper – CTG Fellowship, and an Artist Foundation of San Antonio Grant for his theater work. The San Antonio Current has called him “A Texas Treasure.”

Barrios’ journalism has appeared in The New York TimesFilm Quarterly, the Los Angeles Review of BooksSan Francisco ChronicleFilm CultureLos Angeles Times, and the Texas Observer. He is a former books editor and columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. He was a founding editor of the local Spanish language daily Rumbo, and an editor of La Verdad, the Raza Unida Party newspaper. Barrios received a USC Annenberg Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship in 2013, and was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2015. He received a Golden Gavel for his literary work from the Texas House of Representatives, and was the 2015 Fall Visiting Writer at Our Lady of the Lake University. He currently serves on the executive board of the National Book Critics Circle.

Barrios credits his time at Andy Warhol’s original Factory as transformational. He made an experimental film, BONY (1967), with/about Warhol “superstars” poets Gerard Malanga and art critic René Ricard. He later collaborated with Warhol on a Nico music video. His short film Desperately Seeking Dionysus (1968) was part of the Velvet Underground NYC exhibit in 2018. Excerpts from Barrios’ original Bowie-inspired rock musical Stranger in a Strange Land (1976) were featured in Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists… exhibited at Blue Star Contemporary, also in 2018. In 2019, the Austin Film Society honored Barrios for “bringing film culture to Austin through Cinema 40 Film Society” that he founded as a UT student in 1965. Recently, his digital photography was part of the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture at the Centro de Artes exhibition for the New York Foundation of the Arts. 

Barrios has written four poetry collections: Air-Conditioned Apollo (1968); Healthy Self (1979); Puro Rollo (1982); and La Causa (2010). His poetry has appeared in Hecho en Tejas, Latina Magazine, Harvard Review, Aztlan and Vietnam, Fiesta en Aztlan, New Orleans Review, and Home Front: An America at War Reader, Lowrider, and El Quetzal Emplumece. An anthology of his poetry “My Life: The Poem I Never Wrote: New & Selected Poetry 1968-2021” (Hansen Poetry) is scheduled for publication in 2021. 

Barrios served in the USAF as a combat medic during the Vietnam War. He appeared in “Telling SA,” The Tobin Center’s theater production, and on the PBS national broadcast of San Antonio veterans. He was a Harvard Fellow in 2017 and a Yale Fellow in 2019. Recently, he endowed Urban-15’s Mega Corazon with the Gregg Barrios Beautiful Words Prize for the Best Poetry Performance. His new play “Hard Candy: The Life and Times of Candy Barr” will premiere at the Gregg Barrios Theater at Overtime in early 2022. 

No doubt, there was much more for Gregg to accomplish and more lives to impact. I only hope the projects he was currently working on are continued to their completion.

Gregg Barrios, ¡Presente!

SCOTx Ruling Affects Dallas and Bexar Mask Mandates

That’s right, the Texas Supreme Court decided to temporarily stop the mask mandates put forth by these two counties while it hears arguments from each side. School districts and other entities were not affected by this decision if their school boards and superintendents issued mask mandates for their students.

The responses coming from Attorney General Paxton and Greg Abbott show some ineptness (AG), as well as fear of a Texan revolt (Abbott).

“Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all ISDs and Local officials that the Governor’s order stands,” Paxton said in a tweet on Sunday after the ruling.

Abbott’s response to the decision was less pointed, specifying that his executive order does not prohibit mask-wearing.

“Anyone who wants to wear a masks can do so,” Abbott said in a tweet.

But some of the local officials who defied Abbott’s order said they’ll continue to fight.

Local leaders who are standing up to Greg Abbott will continue the fight. While Abbott and the republicans have politicized and monetized the pandemic for their own benefit, the leaders who are fighting back are doing it for all of the right reasons.

“We won’t stop working with parents, doctors, schools, business [and] others to protect you,” Dallas County Judge Jenkins said.

Fueled by the highly-contagious delta variant, hospitalizations have increased across the state at a pace quicker than any other point during the pandemic. Less than half of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

Ultimately, the people of Texas must stand up for their themselves and defy Greg Abbott: Vaccinate! Wear a mask! Keep social distance! Stop mass gatherings! And keep clean! Some of us are watching which “leaders” are acting like fools and kissing up to Abbott.

Meanwhile, let’s keep an eye on these court decisions.

Leaders Defying Greg Abbott

It’s been heartening to see school and local leaders begin the process of standing up to Greg Abbott’s mask ban; especially as schools begin to open up to students and staff.

Bexar County and Dallas County have won temporary restraining orders that allow them to call for masking up of schools. Last night, Harris County Commissioners voted to authorize the County Attorney Menefee to attempt the same.

Both judges cited public health needs in their decisions. Arteaga said she did not take her decision lightly. She cited the start of the school year and public guidance given by Woo concerning the need for masks in public schools as the highly contagious delta variant contributes to a surge in coronavirus cases across the state. Parker, meanwhile, wrote that “Judge Jenkins cannot be precluded from implementing the mitigation strategies he believes are sound, reliable, and backed by scientific evidence.”

Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton’s responses seem to be coming out of those frontier days when their own ancestors were spreading small pox to the original inhabitants of Texas. They both choose to go full on racist and blame brown people, instead. The facts are on our side, though.

Obviously, Abbott and his minions will appeal and place children and Texans in danger.

The worsening COVID-19 numbers are telling us that we need to mask up again and follow CDC guidelines for distancing. They’ve been telling us this for a while before many wanted to admit it. Over 10,000 Texans are hospitalized and hospitals are in crisis mode regarding room availability and staffing.

Greg Abbott’s “strong encouragement” of personal responsibility is coming late as vaccination immunity will still take time to improve the situation. Action is needed now and masks are the answer to slow the spread, as well as encouraging people to stop acting like fools and filling up venues and restaurants.

Keep masking, folks. Avoid crowds. Keep clean. And if you haven’t yet, get vaccinated. The City of Houston alone has over 30 locations around the city.