Brenda Cherry Interview – Part II

Dallas South Blog: What is the purpose of Concerned Citizens for Racial Equality?

Brenda Cherry:   We formed CCFRE in 2003 after we filed complaints regarding PISD staff calling black children names such as stupid and lazy. We also noticed that on a daily basis, approx 90% of the students sitting in detention and OCS were African-American. We asked one of the assistant principals why Afican-American children were punished at such a higher percentage than white children. He said it was because black parents are not able to be proper parents because black parents come from a lower socio-economic status and have single parents households. He stated that his family “was poor when he was a child but his family was clean”. When the school board disregarded our complaints, we asked the Paris NAACP to look into it.

Robert High was Vice-President of the NAACP as well as an assistant to the PISD superintendent. His response was “I’m not going to sit here and let you talk bad about my school”. The chief of police also blew off any complaints we filed. The same for complaints regarding housing. That lead us to form CCFRE, because we realized that there was no agency in Paris willing to address issues regarding racism and the violation of civil rights.

DSB: Describe the joint efforts in Paris that have been taking place between CCRE, the Millions More Movement, and the New Black Panther Party.

BC:  After three years of attempting to talk to the school superintendent Paul Trull and the PISD school board, the Chief of Police Karl Louis, and the Paris Police Department as well as Denny Head of the Paris Housing Authority, and after the US Department of Justice attempted to mediate the situation and PISD school board decided they had no interest in talking the situation over or coming up with solutions, and after it appeared that they chose to retaliate instead by various means, we contacted the Dallas New Black Panthers.  

In December, we contacted the Millions More Movement. We have been busy organizing, stratagizing and it has shown people they don’t have to sit and suffer in silence. We have many more people coming forward now and willing to go public. However, those are not the only organizations that helped or are helping with the situation in Paris. Those are just the ones people like to talk negatively about.

I don’t believe ShaQuanda would be free right now if not for the efforts of Gary Bledsoe who is President of the Texas NAACP. Mr. Jim Blackwell and the Tarrant county Local Organizing Committee must be placed on the top of the list of those who have helped with the situation in Paris. They and Olinka Green were very instrumental in organizing and making changes in Paris. Rickey Smiley has been a tremendous help as well as the Dallas NAACP.

I think it is a joint effort. Our seeking the assistance of The New Black Panthers has lead Phillip Hamilton of the Paris News to wage several attacks in the newspaper. They attacked the New Black Panthers, Nation of Islam. They even labeled our group as a hate group and all we have ever done is openly talk about the problems and file valid civil rights complaints. One article stated that myself and my “cronies”were the only racists in Paris Texas and the “victims” were “anybody white”.

DSB: What type of dialogue has taken place between CCRE and African-American elected officials in Paris?

BC:  None, Zero, Zilch. We only have four African-American elected officials in Paris, Mary Fisher and Kevin Gray on the city council and Carolyn Lockett and George Fisher on the school board. The two on the city council claim there is no racism in Paris and they have never experienced any. Our organization has appeared before the school board on several occasions. The first time I appeared before them, both Lockett and Fisher stated that they had the same problem as I was having when their kids were in school. My complaint was regarding racism. George Fisher is the husband of Mary Fisher. Even if they chose to address issues of racist, most likely they would get out-voted because so far neither the school district or the city council has shown any real desire to address those issues. On March 25, 2007, the following appeared in The Paris News:

 “The Paris Branch of the NAACP called for a timely release of Shaquanda Cotton from the Texas Youth Commission after a four-hour executive committee meeting Saturday.The group also asked that an emergency item be placed on Monday night’s Paris City Council agenda to consider naming a diversity task force. Paris Mayor Richard Manning said late Saturday that he believes it “premature at this time to consider it.” “I believe it is a good idea, but the council needs some time to make sure we can legally do this and then make sure we have the right people,” Manning said.”

We recently got a new mayor and On May 22, 2007, the following appeared in The Paris News:

During a citizens forum, Marva Joe asked for suggestions on creation of a diversity task force to deal with claims of racism. “Back in March, Paris was described as the most racist city in the United States,” she said. If the City Council cannot create a diversity task force, “is there any suggestions on what the citizens of Paris can do about this? Because this is not going away,” she said. “We need help, some kind of avenue, when people who live here are unhappy about whatever, that a group of people can get together and try to help solve the problem,” Joe said.

In March of 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice attempted to mediate the issues with Paris Independent School District and Concerned Citizens for Racial Equality. Although at first, PISD claimed to want to discuss the issue and find solutions, they later wrote a letter to the U.S Dept. Justice stating that they did not wish to mediate. When public entities refuse to even discuss a problem, it creates a bigger problem.

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