Category Archives: Media

EVENT on 4/24/17: Future of Public Ed in the Era of DeVos

amunited

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Greater Houston Chapter

invites you to our Annual Meeting and Panel Discussion 

The Future of Public Education in
the Era of Betsy DeVos

Featuring:  Richard Carranza, Supt., Houston ISD; Zeph Capo, President of HFT,  Dr. John Ogletree, Pastors for Texas Children

Moderated by Juliet Stipeche
Director of Education, Mayor’s Office, City of Houston
 
Monday, April 24, 2017
Reception and Annual Meeting – 6:30 pm
Panel Discussion – 7:15 pm
 
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Event Center
3303 Main Street, Houston, Texas 
 
Event is free and open to the public          Free parking available
         RSVP appreciated:  americansunited.houstonchapter@gmail.com

 

 

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Inbox: Super Bowl Sunday #HoustonResists Rally

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Just got this in the inbox and I consider it a must attend event.

Alliance in Action will host a rally and march on Super Bowl Sunday (February 5, 2017) at noon in Hermann Park (corner of Fannin & Cambridge).

Rally will start with speakers at the Dillidiiae art instillation and then a peaceful march to NRG Park – location of the Super Bowl – along sidewalks and public right of ways around 1:00 pm.

As of February 4th, our rally speakers are:

  • US Rep. Al Green (TX-9)
  • Lane Lewis, Harris County Democratic Party Chair
  • Amy Zachmeyer, Democratic Socialists of America – Houston Committee
  • Ashton Woods- Black Lives Matter
  • Luis Lopez, DREAMer
  • Hannah Phalenberg, NARAL Pro Choice Texas
  • Rev. James Caldwell
  • James Cargas, Frm TX-7 Congressional Candidate
  • TBD, ACLU of Texas

Further updates will be posted to the Facebook event page.

Definitely a rally in which multiple issues will be addressed.

287(g) Rally: Sheriff, Mayor Respond

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Credit: J.M. Diaz

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez appeared at this morning’s rally against 287(g), a flawed immigrant removal program.

Gonzalez reiterated his support of immigrant rights and his promise to rid Harris County of the controversial program. He did, however, ask for patience and time to study and navigate its ending because of its ties to federal and state funding, and because he wants to ensure that such a program targets violent and serious criminals. During the press conference, he also reiterated that the program is run within the jail and not out in the field and that his deputies will not be targeting individual suspects because of immigration status.

Local immigrant rights activists are seeking policy changes and strong statements of support to undo programs that target immigrants and have run amok of their stated intents. Programs which basically federalize local law enforcement are flawed and have been a cause for racial profiling, wasted resources, family separation, and downgraded local economies.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, also sought out by immigrant rights activists recently responded with his strongest statement yet.

“I know there are a lot of families and children who are afraid and worried right now about what might happen to them. I want them to know that Houston is, and always has been, a welcoming city, where we value and appreciate diversity. HPD is not the Immigration and Naturalization Service. We don’t profile, and we are not going to start profiling people to determine whether they are here illegally. It hasn’t happened under previous mayors, and it will not happen under my administration.”

Still, at the end of the day, it is policy changes that are sought. And political promises that are expected to be met. And in the era of Trump and his rampant executive orders, leaders feel the need to navigate carefully or else funding may be lost. With the State of Texas attacking elected officials and about to begin consideration of a racial profiling legalization bill in Austin (SB4), it seems some fear taking on the Governor and his bigoted threats.

Stay strong, elected officials. People are counting on you!

Click here for video from United We Dream

No Vendidos in the Cabinet

8247534_f260I’m sorry, I think that was supposed to be “No Latinos in Trump’s Cabinet.”

Either way, the response to that would be, “GOOD!”

What good would a bunch of sell-outs do for Latinos?

Seriously, what would they do for DREAMers, the 11 million, for public education, for health care, women, LGBT, or the low-income elderly? They would be too busy proving how self-loathing and loyal they are to Trump. Let’s get real.

I swear, sometimes I think “professional” Latino groups like LULAC, NALEO, NCLR, and chambers of commerce are just in this game for free tickets to a White House dinner and a photo op. Of course, they’ll call it “advocacy,” right?

Oh, my, how will they get on a DC guest list, now?!?

These “pros” have this silly idea that an “X” in the Hispanic box on a federal form is the same as representation. It isn’t. Far from it. Especially in a Trump White House and Republican Congress. Especially if you have a legislative agenda.

There’ve been sell outs like Bush’s AG Al “Torture is Quaint” Gonzalez, or a Honduran nightmare of a Bush nominee Miguel Estrada for a federal court who wanted to do away with judicial review that were backed by some of these professional groups. And for what? Because they were labeled Latino? Because numbers were more important than policy and law? Yeah, that’s pretty much it. This isn’t advancement. It’s an insult to people’s intelligence.

Note to these corporate funded groups:  Don’t do us any favors.

 

Los Texmaniacs at Coffee House Live

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Grammy Award winners Los Texmaniacs made a quick trip into Houston to perform and hour-and-a-half set at Coffee House Live at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in West U. Yes, in West U.

A diverse crowd of around 100 enjoyed an equally diverse show by the Tex-Mex Conjunto outfit, which included rancheras, polkas, boleros, country, blues, and rock selections. Throughout the set, each “Maniac” had several opportunities to show off their chops, especially front-man and Bajo legend Max Baca and accordion hero Josh Baca. Noel Hernandez (Bass) and Daniel Martinez (Drums) provided some solid rhythms, too.

Much of the set came from their latest release, Americano Groove, a mix of genres that can only be called Americana music. Como Te Quiero, Herido, How Can A Beautiful Woman Be So Ugly, and Down In The Barrio were performed perfectly, while they also added the reason they earned the Grammy in ’09, Marina, Marina and Cancion Mixteca. Throw in Danzon Juarez, a Chotis, and a Ruben Vela tribute and you’ve got yourself a pretty powerful show.

The musical diversity kept the crowd energized. Personally, I was trying to escape my usual political doings by attending this event, but even Max Baca had to get political with a song dedicated to the orange guy that’s about to move to Washington DC, with the classic, Mexico-Americano. I was proud to throw up a “power to the people” fist as the song was played, even though we Chicanos were outnumbered. Needless to say, it was a great moment after a tough political week.

Max tells me that a new album is set to be released early in 2017, although American Groove continues to grow in popularity as their reach grows. Recently, they’ve toured the coasts, Canana, and the South and will continue to be busy. They’re scheduled to return to Houston on December 23rd for a show that will include Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers at the Heights Theater. DosCentavos will be there! Stay tuned for more information.

 

 

Scenes From Early Voting 2016

It’s been a while, but I’m getting into this whole political thing, again. I did my part and voted at Tracy Gee Center–it only took 35 minutes. If you’re wondering, #ImWithFlo and I voted a straight Democratic ticket. Some may say there might be some good judges on the other side, but for the life of me, I’ll never understand why anyone would want to be in the Party of Trump, and then expect to be considered impartial. So, I voted a straight “D” ticket, except for a couple of races in which I unclicked the Dems and left it blank.

Here are a few pics from the Early Voting Kick-Off at West Gray Center. VOTE EARLY! More pics here.

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Festival Chicano Friday: Little Joe, Latin Breed, and Isabel Marie

Friday was another big night for La Onda Chicana. Thanks to Festival Chicano organizer, Daniel Bustamante, this one was one for the history books.

The evening began with a reminder from Bustamante:  Tejano is not dead. As much as the gringos in the business or the gringos at the rodeo want to tell us, it’s just not true. Thousands attending a weekend series of concerts ought to tell everyone this. Is it a struggle? Of course! But one only has to watch the musicians on stage to show that they love what they do. And the crowd loves them for it.

The most poignant reminder of the struggle was when Bustamante brought out the producer/promoter for 13 year-old Isabel Marie–one of the newest additions to the Tejano music industry. Abraham Quintanilla came out and offered a few words and also reminded us of that awful day 21 years ago. But that through all that has affected his family he continues to seek out and offer new talent shows his determination. Tejano isn’t dead.

isabelmarieIsabel Marie took the stage first and offered up a set of cumbias, rancheras, and even wowed us with her rendition of Selena’s No Me Queda Mas. At 13, she has a pretty powerful voice. As a stage performer, she is poised, but at 13, she also shows off that awkward stage a teen goes through. (If a crowd applauded me, I’d be a little geek’d out, so it’s understandable.) Still, she showed range, emotion, and the ability to keep a crowd engaged for an entire show. Great job, Isabel Marie. Keep at it!

adalbertoThe Legendary Latin Breed was up next with Adalberto Gallegos at the helm. Hundreds of years of experience took the stage–even Adalberto was a member at age 19 in 1976. Kicking off with 1988’s Latin Breed Medley, they continued on to Yo Lo Comprendo, Todos Dicen, and even ventured one of Adalberto’s solo hits from 1990, Tristes Recuerdos and a hit that I once owned on a 45 rpm record (kids, look that up), El Cisne. Adalberto wowed us with If You Need Me, too. All of this backed up by a precision-based horn section and the bass action of Stanley Revillas and guitaristics of Steve Velasquez.

littlejoeThe crowd loved every performance, but there was no doubt that they were waiting for The King of the Brown Sound–Little Joe. Another band of highly experienced, highly disciplined musicians, La Familia took off in fine form with a medley of Little Joe’s best ballads–Rebelde, Recuerdas Querido Amigo, and Por Un Amor. Then came Redneck Mes’kin Boy and Mi Nena. Then came some blues music with Lonely, Lonely Nights, which Little Joe delivered impressively, backed up by amazing horn and guitar action. Bass master Mike Torres, III delivered on cumbia El Alacran and percussionist Sam Jones on My Girl. The night continued with hit after hit, including Cartas Marcadas, and the big finish with Las Nubes and Borrachera. Of course, the encore brought folks back to their seats and then to their feet with a sing-a-long of Jose Alfredo’s classic, Ella.

In between, Little Joe reminded the crowd of thousands to register to vote–Mi Familia Vota will be there all three nights. Of course, he also gave ol’ Trump a tongue lashing, including, “Vamos a darle en la madre a Trump!” which basically is the equivalent of, “Let’s knock him the f*** out!” Great crowd response to that. Finally, Little Joe’s white duds were in honor of El Leon de la Sierra, Alfonso Ramos, who passed away this last week.

chicharronesNo doubt, by the end of a La Familia gig, one is tired but oh so happy. And after three performances by everything from new talent to two bands that have been around for five decades, one can take a Saturday morning to re-energize with some chicharrones con huevos and then return to Miller Outdoor Theater in the evening for David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, Ram Herrera and The Outlaw Band, and Little Miss Dynamite Shelly Lares.

DC Reviews: Intocable ~ Highway

intocablecoverNot releasing an album in three years did not hurt Intocable. Twenty-two years of music has allowed them to amass quite a catalog of hits–hits that make for memorable set lists that always get their sell-out crowds singing along.

Still, one always wonders what else Intocable can accomplish on a new album. They have achieved much in the studio and on the road, but their newest album, Highway, is a project that reminds us of Intocable’s versatility, the excellent songwriters they hang with, and why we always get excited about their “next album” taking too long to be released.

In an interview a few years ago, band leader Ricardo Muñoz stated that he may not be the best vocalist in the business, but his on-stage confidence is bolstered by having some of the best musicians in the business. Highway leaves no doubt about this, especially the bajo sexto creativity of Johnny Lee Rosas. While Rosas recorded the entire album, he recently left to sew his own creativity with a band he founded years ago, Masizzo. Nonetheless, his and Alex Gulmar’s bajo playing on Highway is the best I’ve heard on a a Norteño album.

Although the run-up to the album’s release came with online releases of some of the tunes over the course of a few weeks, the band had been riding on a powerful single penned by Louie Padilla, Tu Ausencia. In another interview, Muñoz stated that the tune was a strong reminder of the loss of his father a few years ago. Having lost my Mom 6 months ago, I must say that as I sing along  to it, I usually get a lump in my throat. Released with an excellent video, the next single and video was a lighter one with Quiereme (Amame), a cumbia.

Highway is definitely a journey of experiences and of emotions. It’s also one of Intocable’s darker recordings, perhaps a journey of their own experiences as a band and as individuals. From love to love hurting to love lost, the band seems to describe just about anything that any given individual has gone through. Tunes like Te Perdono, a ranchera, reveal the pain of love lost by setting standards by which one forgives–and they’re not easy standards:  “Te perdono si un dia traes a Dios hasta mi puerta; cuando vea que a tus ojos salen lagrimas de sangre…” One even feels the sadness of the acordeon.

Equally haunting is the ballad, En La Obscuridad, about moving forward after losing on love, but what remains are the thoughts that cloud one forever. That much is noticeable in the song’s extended musical ending with the haunting back-and-forth of the acordeon and what can only be described as mind-noise in the background.

Intocable also hits on an important social issue, the missing and murdered women of Juarez. Wilfran Castillo’s Dia 730 tells the story of a 17 year-old girl with dreams of becoming famous lured by a man offering opportunities of success only to go missing and probably murdered. This cause has been around for years and the lack of response (few arrests and convictions) continues to instill fear in Juarez. Thankfully, Intocable adds to this discussion, including the pain families go through and the ineffectiveness of law enforcement. It’s a powerful and descriptive tune.

The band also reminds me that they grew up in the same rock era as I did, and Un Dia Sin Ti and Duele El Amor, both rancheras, have tinges of rock guitar and drumming (by Rene Martinez) that effectively set up the songs. The signature Intocable cumbias are also evident, with Cuando Me Vi En Tus Ojos and Sueño de Amor providing some danceable treats.

Intocable also invites a guest lead vocalist, Beto Zapata, on Cuestion de Tiempo, which he delivers quite well. The album is well-rounded out with Cuidare, Usted Me Encanta, and Quiza No Sea Tarde, making this a musically diverse album.

Intocable is:  Ricky Muñoz, Rene Martinez, Sergio Serna, Felix Salinas, Alex Gulmar, Juan Hernandez, and familiar new entrant, Danny Sanchez.

You can find the new album on various online outlets, but also exclusively for sale at Wal-Mart. Kudos to Ricky and the crew on a great production. They keep proving that independently produced records are the best ones out there.

RIP ~ Emilio Navaira

emilioThe passing of Grammy-winning performer Emilio Navaira has sent shockwaves through the industry–affecting fellow musicians and fans alike. At 53 and riding a wave a success after what many consider a second chance after a horrific tour bus crash in Houston sent him to the brink of death, it would seem Navaira had many years to go in his storied career.

Late Monday night, tweets and Facebook posts from friends, family, and fans announcing Emilio’s death took over news feeds, as well as YouTubes of videos and songs he made famous. Some were songs from his 90s heyday with Emilio and Grupo Rio, and for others, like me, who followed him since the mid 80s, it was tunes from his stint with David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, where he launched his career in his early 20s.

As popular as he was in Texas and the US, Emilio was filling seats in Mexico in the last weeks of his life, and he was expected in Texas this weekend. His most recent album released in 2015 was one of duets, Juntos, with Tejano figures, including vocalists with whom he used to compete for business, such as Ram Herrera, Jay Perez, Ricky Muñoz (Intocable), Michael Salgado, Max Baca (Texmaniacs), Bobby Pulido, Marcos Orozco, Ricardo Castillon, and his old boss David Lee Garza. The CD also includes a re-do of his monster hit, Juntos, with his sons Emilio and Diego, and daughter Emely. In a MYSA.com article, Michael Morales , a long-time producer for Emilio, stated a new album was in the works, but no news as to completion.

Emilio leaves a catalog of huge hits, but simply going over various shared Facebook posts, it is obvious he also leaves a lot of memories. Even for me. I was recalling the mega-dances in the 90s, like the TMA Caravan of Stars at Palmer Auditorium in Austin, or a huge concert at the Alamodome, or dances in which people packed in like sardines at Cocktails in Austin. It was a an active time in La Onda. The last Emilio performance I attended was in 2013 at a Tejano Music Festival in Humble and it was a strong one.

 

Que En Paz Descanse, Emilio.

Services by Castle Ridge Mortuary, San Antonio:

Sunday, May 22 – Visitation for Fans 10AM to 5PM at Freeman Coliseum, SATX.

Sunday, May 22 – Rosary, 4PM at Freeman Coliseum (Fans Welcome)

Monday, May 23 – Funeral Mass, 1PM at San Fernando Cathedral

24 Hours in Cristal

flopopeyeI spent a day in Crystal City, TX this past weekend for my mother’s funeral mass. Yes, THAT Crystal City that’s been in the news after the indictment of its mayor, a couple of councilmen, and the city manager. Recently, another councilman was indicted for human smuggling. And, then, it made national news again when the water turned black and dirty.

Crystal City has a political history in Texas. What most Chicanos see as a history of political involvement and self-determination, others saw as a bunch of young brown-skinned radicals that Texas’ then-Democrat Governor called communists. Other Dem leaders pushed back against migrant farm workers (including activists from my hometown) marching to Austin to demand higher wages. They didn’t seem to get that in the process of political change, Chicanos in South Texas saw an increase in higher education attainment and Chicanos were finally part of the political process at various levels–and by their own doing, not through political favors from the establishment Democrats who preferred docile, unquestioned loyalty.

It was during this time that I was born and grew up. A lot of these newly degreed Chicanos and Chicanas would become my teachers. I was reminded of this when two of my former teachers that I had not seen in decades attended my mother’s funeral mass. I was reminded that the History of our little town was indeed a positive one and not one worthy of blame for any problems that were actually caused by a power structure that demanded Chicanos be politically and economically (cheap workforce) subservient. Cristal was punished, no doubt, for its activism. In a sense, it’s still being punished.

When an anglo Republican, a few years ago, somehow finagled his way into the city attorneys and then the city manager’s job at a salary almost equal to that of the Mayor of Houston, a lot of people began questioning what was going on. That the guy’s salary took 1/2 the city’s operating budget was questionable enough. But now that indictments have come about because these guys were getting [allegedly] bought off to ensure a gambling business’s success, among other things, the city has gone through a lot of embarrassment that somehow has called into question the City’s political history. What it did show was the town’s vulnerability.

Then, the water turned black, according to a few pictures and internet memes. For sure, the water had some sort of contamination. While the town’s water tower and system has always been under some sort of repair, there’s no doubt that there has been a need for major investment in the town’s infrastructure. Streets have been crumbling, pipes have been bursting, and leadership (state and federal) has been lacking. Surely, the town’s tax base couldn’t cover the costs of infrastructure development since major businesses have avoided Cristal for other area towns. Even the fracking boom mostly missed the town for other localities, while some of my friends gained a few jobs in the field. Still, we’re talking about a town of 7,000 souls who should have a right to drinkable water. A town whose population grows older and infirm. But this stuff isn’t reported in the news. (And we’re still awaiting the results of water tests from TCEQ.) And the needs of these South Texas towns, even with billions of dollars being made by oil companies, have gone largely ignored.

sawsBut I was also reminded that there are a lot of good people in the world. The San Antonio Water System sent a semi with 5,000 gallons of drinkable water to give out to the people. An environmental services company and the neighboring town of Carrizo Springs sent several pallets of bottled water to give to the elderly and homebound. Volunteers came together to make sure this happened. I felt a bit of pride in my town while I watched some of this happen.

Crystal City has turned out many survivors and fighters. And even folks like me who left the day after high school graduation who will still advocate for it and the people. The town has been through much while people who had been stepped on for decades pressed forward–at times successfully, if only temporarily. When other forces pushed for its demise, the town and its people survived. Crystal City can and will survive this.

The wheels, ever slow, are in motion as, hopefully, some good people without any self-interest will be elected to a new City Council after all the business of recalls and court dates is done. All new management will be hired to hopefully put the city on a better path. For now, though, it’s inevitable that the town will see a bit more turmoil and drama while it works out the kinks. “No hay mal que por bien no venga,” as my momma Flora used to say.

My mom loved her pueblito. She was born there, grew up there, and she and my Daddy made their family there and ran Medellin’s Texaco for decades. They even switched to La Raza Unida after conservative Democrats defeated Sissy Farenthold for Governor. Through all the changes and turmoil, we survived on love and friendship. We experienced that all over again as we returned for a day to give mom the Catholic funeral mass that she deserved. A lot of family and a lot of friends joined us, including the Flo-Fans from Facebook. Thank you for a wonderful experience. ¡Que Viva Cristal!