Houston Newsmakers: Former TSU president gained first-hand knowledge about challenges of racism

Also: Houston Reads Day on Mar. 2; fight for voting rights

Civil Rights Act Signed July of 1964 (KPRC-Pixabay)

Dr. James Douglas has a resume that reads like a book.

The common denominators are education and activism. Douglas was born in 1944 in segregated Texas, which meant he gained first-hand knowledge about the challenges of racism.

The former President of Texas Southern University and the Houston Chapter of the NAACP, Douglas is a guest on this week’s Houston Newsmakers with Khambrel Marshall and says his father helped him understand that education was a priority.

”He made a promise to himself that he would provide an opportunity for all of his kids to go to college,” Douglas said. “All nine of them graduated with college degrees. It was his planting that seed very early in life that he always thought a college degree was very important to be successful in life.”

Douglas touches on several other topics including:

  • How a lynching danger as a child shaped his life
  • How his civil rights fight differs from the fight facing the current generation
  • How retirement is not in his vocabulary as an educator or civil rights activist.

See the full interview on this week’s program and on Houston Newsmakers EXTRA online here.

Voting Rights Activist says no excuses for not voting

Pam Gaskin was just starting her freshman year at the University of Texas when the voting rights act of 1965 was passed.

Even though at 18 she was too young to vote at the time, she began registering people to vote and has done so every year since then.

She says she remembers with African Americans had to pay a poll tax to be able to vote.

“Two dollars, three dollars for poll tax. Think about it,” she said. “In the 1940s when a loaf of bread was 19 cents, two dollars was a lot of money So if you wanted to vote you paid the poll tax.”

Gaskin has volunteered for the non-partisan League of Women Voters for more than 20 years and says there’s no excuse for anyone not to exercise their right to vote.

“I say well you know politics is practiced by politicians who make policy, and policy affects your everyday life so vote for yourself!” she said.

Houston Reads aims to increase literacy among children

March 2nd is Houston Reads Day in the city!

Literacy Now is the nonprofit sponsoring this day when hundreds of Houstonians are invited to read to elementary students to elevate their love for reading. The nonprofit spends the year working to increase reading levels.

“We really look at exponential growth in a short time because we’re working with the students 4-to-1 so it’s very targeted,” said Jacque Daughtry, Executive Director of Literacy Now. “We have very specific instruction to fill in the gaps of the skills that they don’t have for various reasons.”

Bronchelle Walters Johnson is the Principal at A.A. Milne Elementary School and says the Literacy Now program has been a great help.

“Our goal is to bring the world into the classroom and that’s through literature and Literacy Now has helped us do that,” she said. “Houston Reads day is a big event that we look forward to. And we have a lot of great events that are mapped out for the month of March to ensure that our student’s needs are being met!”

Find out how you can volunteer to help on this week’s Houston Newsmakers with Khambrel Marshall.

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Journalist, meteorologist, community leader and volunteer.