Last month, I attended the press conference at Jack Johnson Park regarding the arrest of Donald Neely. At the press conference, Attorney Ben Crump announced a possible march on Galveston Sept. 15 — if the police body cam video wasn’t released.
After hearing that, I wanted to make sure people were able to express their views and be safe. Instead of having people walk in traffic, I suggested a route to the original arrest site that would include closing 23rd Street. The final route was extended and resulted in the march ending where it began.
I’m thankful that the event produced the end result of a peaceful protest by American citizens exercising their First Amendment right with no one getting hurt. The next question is: Where do we go from here?
I love Galveston. While I no longer have property on the island, I was born on the island, and I do have deep family roots to the island. I shared a few things on social media that I think would help to repair the image of Galveston.
Galveston needs to start a “This Is Galveston” campaign showing the diversity of the island and how it is a welcoming place for all. The Galveston Convention & Visitors Bureau can lead in this effort, and they may already be doing some of this, but it needs to be more focused and purposeful in partnership with the city.
I also think that Galveston needs to create an eight-week cultural curriculum about diversity on the island. I attended a public history conference in Hartford, Connecticut, this past March, and the theme was “Repair Work.”
The work to expand the narrative of the stories we tell about our shared spaces is being done all over the country. Don’t let history repeat itself on the island and wait two and a half years to start doing what’s right.
This last idea is out-of-the-box and will challenge the leaders of Galveston to do something bold. I recommend those with the resources and power on the island fully fund the Nia Cultural Center Freedom School for at least three or up to five years. The cost would range between $450,000 and $750,000. Cost includes in-kind donations.
Last month, Galveston community leader Melvin Williams died. His obituary included the following instruction, “In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent in Melvin’s memory to the Nia Cultural Center Freedom School, P.O. Box 1491, Galveston, TX 77550.”
The Galveston Round Table could create a Melvin Williams Grant to the Nia Cultural Center that fully funds the program for five years that makes an investment in the lives of the children of Galveston. These are all workable plans. Now like Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It.”
There’s a national conversation debating the issue of reparations. Reparations is about repair work. The unfortunate event last month with Neely gives Galveston a chance to lead by example of what this repair work should look like.