Conclusion of Dallas South Interview with Brenda Cherry
DSB: Have there been any noticeable changes in the mood of the city since Paris, Texas gained nationwide attention?
BC: OhhhYes. It has made a lot of those in the African-American community hopeful. It has angered many in the white community and some people are on the attack. There is an ever increasing siege mentality, fostered by the newspaper and those few radio stations in town. They have shifted the responsibility, avoided and denied complicity in their being the cause of the problem in the first place.
The victim ShaQuanda and her mother has, instead, become the perpetrator of a greater “crime” of degrading of the city and its people, by not shutting up. So the misinformation and lies surrounding her conviction are now being multiplied and justified with more new lies and slander about her and her mother. And these are accepted as being ‘true’ without one question ever being raised. They should have just accepted the injustice and moved on with their lives or so goes the popular thinking.
And now, because others did not come forth and tell their story, other families are now coming under attack in the same way, but with fewer voices being raised in protest. I guess we should “stay in our place”. That is the only acceptable position for Black people in Paris. I can never accept myself or my children, or any black child being devalued in such a way with out raising my voice. All of us matter.
DSB: What was your position on the $37 million Paris I.S.D. facilities bond package that voters just passed?
BC: I believe that it’s not just facilities that need upgrading in the district. Certainly there is a need in every school district to constantly maintain and upgrade facilities because that contributes to an effective school atmosphere where learning can take place. But it is counter productive to focus on pushing a specific group of students into ISS, detention, alternative school, jail, TYC and eventually into the streets as a way of correcting “behavioral problems”, and specifically when most of those problems are seen primarily in Black children.
The real problem is in the short-sightedness of administrators who see their role as wardens, not as models. What currently exists is focus on order, not on learning, on buildings, not people; especially Black children. This was a not bond package for children and their real needs. The TEA stats tell us that.
DSB: Where would you like to see Paris, and the PISD go in the years ahead.
BC: I advocate for this school district to incorporate wrap-around programming and provide support services for students, families in the local community. I think educational institutions should include a variety of learning opportunities, during and after school, including health services, student/parent counseling, music, art, and career training and placement on a non discriminatory basis.
That has not happened, instead we see the building of edifices to the narrow vanity of a select group of people and that group rarely if ever include Black children or consider of the unique needs of Black children. I would like for the people of Paris to be more open minded. I would like for those in power to actually listen rather than go into defensive mode every time racism or the needs of the African –American community is brought up or when a complaint is filed.
Ms. Brenda Cherry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org