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D I S P A T C H NEWSLETTER j FALL 2011
PLEASE JOIN US F OR THE A CL U OF FOR ACL CLU TEXAS ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING AND CONFERENCE, NOVEMBER 5 & 6 IN HOUSTON!
With the relocation of our headquarters to Houston, and the launch of our statewide Community Action Network (CAN), we are very excited to invite you to this year’s Annual Membership Meeting set for November 5 & 6. The theme of this year’s meeting – community activism – will engender vision, elicit hope, evoke action, and equip a new wave of freedom fighters across Texas. We promise that you will return home reinvigorated and with a better understanding of how to design, implement, and manage an effective advocacy campaign. By networking with ACLU of Texas members and supporters from across the state, you will have the chance to connect with like-minded people who are also working for change. Our new ACLU of Texas CAN is a
way for people across the state to be the eyes and ears for individual rights and real issues in your communities. We chose community activism as the theme for this year’s meeting to give you the tools you need to stand up for civil rights and against injustices where you live. Texas is a big state, and we can’t do it without you. The keynote speaker, the Rev. William Lawson, noted community leader and civil rights icon, will share experiences from his lifetime of working to bridge the gap between the powerful and the powerless.
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Letter from the Executive Director Dear Friends: We often say that if the ACLU closed its doors today, someone would have to reinvent it tomorrow. Never has that been truer than in the last 10 years – since 9/11 – as many of our values have been betrayed and, ultimately, our security undermined. In fact, it has been the ACLU that has summoned the best that is in us, that has reminded us what is truly American and truly Constitutional. Here in Texas, we fought back against the anti-immigrant, anti-landlord ordinance in Farmers Branch, and we stopped more than 80 anti-immigrant bills. It was the ACLU of Texas that said it was wrong for children to be locked behind bars in an adult prison just because their parents’ immigration status was questioned. And it was we who challenged the government’s denial of passports to people whose births were attended by midwives, people like David Hernandez, a Gulf War veteran. We also told a North Texas sheriff he had to take an inmate to a clinic if she wanted to have an abortion. And as a result of our work, the state has a new law that makes it illegal to shackle pregnant inmates during labor and delivery. The 5th Circuit supported our defense of a kindergartner’s right to start school wearing his hair as his religion dictated and, with our partners, we have changed laws that were causing our school children to leave school with criminal records rather than academic records. Sadly, it hasn’t been all success. From reproductive rights to the voter ID law, we have a lot of work to do. But, my colleagues and I wouldn’t get up each morning to do what we do if we didn’t believe that we really can change the course of events in this great state. And we are going to do it by changing hearts and minds. We are taking our message of activism to the grassroots. We are going to help our supporters find their voices to say no: no to school-sponsored religion; no to incarcerating rather than educating school children; no to a justice system that puts African American and Hispanic men in jail at a disproportionally high rate; no to denying basic constitutional rights for our hard-working neighbors who, for whatever reasons, find themselves in an immigration no-man’s land. We want Texans to lend their voices to calls for equality and dignity for all people - for a just society. We will succeed only when Texans speak up. More than ever, we are grateful to have you as a member. It is people like you who make the difference. Join our new Community Action Network (CAN) and raise your voice! In Liberty,
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Paul Asofsky, Houston PRESIDENT James Aldrete, Austin VICE PRESIDENT, PROGRAM Richard Alvarado, San Antonio NATIONAL BOARD REPRESENTATIVE Lee Henderson, Fort Worth SECRETARY Madan Goyal, Plano AFFIRMATIVE ACTION OFFICER Michael R. Wyatt, El Paso VICE PRESIDENT, LEGAL Kurt Schwarz, Dallas VICE PRESIDENT, DEVELOPMENT Jaime Diez, Brownsville Nancy Friedman, Houston Mary Scott Hagle, Houston Gilberto Hinojosa, Brownsville Reggie James, Austin Annette Lamoreaux, Austin Lisa White Shirley, Dallas Mohammed Tariq, M.D., Plano Rev. Emilee Dawn Whitehurst, Houston Susan C. Young, Houston Mark Yzaguirre, Houston
ST AFF TA Terri Burke, Executive Director Maida Asofsky, Campus Outreach Coordinator Kirsten Bokenkamp, Communications Coordinator Cynthia Clark, Director of Finance Jason Cordoba, Legal Fellow Victor Cornell, Austin Regional Coordinator Dione Friends, Online Media Coordinator Krystal Marie Gomez, Advocacy & Policy Counsel Monica Gonzales, Headquarters Office Manager Lisa Graybill, Legal Director Dotty Griffith, Director of Public Education Frank Knaack, Associate Director of Public Policy & Advocacy Emily Ling, Policy Administrative Assistant Cheryl Lovelady, Legal Fellow Betsy Moon, Development Associate Cheryl Newcomb, Director of Development Rebecca Robertson, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy Matt Simpson, Policy Strategist Mark Whitburn, Senior Staff Attorney Brittani Williams, Annual Fund & Development Coordinator Gislaine Williams, Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator
Youth and LGBT Rights: Hats Off to Nikki Peet!
Earlier this year we advocated on behalf of students who had been denied the right
to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club on the campus of Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi. Nikki Peet, a student at Flour Bluff High School who was originally denied permission to start a GSA club on her campus, has become a star in her own right. She is an inspiration for young activists across the state and around the country. After originally threatening to prevent all extracurricular groups from meeting rather than to allow a GSA to form, Flour Bluff High School decided to allow the GSA for the remainder of the 2010-2011 school year. In August, the school district voted to continue allowing the GSA to meet for the current school year as well. But, there are some signs that the school may retrench, and the ACLU of Texas remains ready to take action up to and including litigation if need be. GSAs are student run extracurricular clubs that bring together lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, and straight students to support each other and promote tolerance. This success didn’t fall in Nikki’s lap. Nikki is an example of somebody who saw an injustice, and decided that she wouldn’t stand for it. She reached out to the ACLU of Texas for legal support. Using all resources available to her, she received media training from GLAAD, asked for local advocates to get involved, and planned a day-long protest in front of her school. The ACLU of Texas threatened the school district with a lawsuit, and Nikki worked on publicizing the issue through Change.org, which garnered 55,000 signatures. Through her advocacy efforts, Nikki was successful at changing not only her life, but also the lives of others. She is an inspiration to us all. Here’s to you Nikki! ’
Advocating for Gay-Straight Alliance at Flour Bluff High School
Watch Nikki accepting her GLAAD Award www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj4V7o8zVSM
Free P eopl e Read F CL U of T exas th Annual Banned Peopl eople Frreel eelyy: The A ACL CLU Te xas’’ 15 15th Books Report to come out in late September For many years the ACLU of Texas has monitored book banning by school districts across the state. According to the 750 school district reports we received for this past school year, the number of books banned has decreased from 20 to 17, but that is still too many. This year our Banned Books Report focuses on the popular Young Adult (YA) genre. When it comes to book-banning, the YA genre is the most frequently targeted. This year’s report will come out during national Banned Books Week in late September and will provide information about books that have been banned, challenged, or restricted in Texas schools during the previous school year. It will also feature interviews with two popular YA authors. To raise awareness, concerned people across the state will hold Banned Books Readings in local libraries, in their homes, in coffee shops, and in parks. If this is something you would like to do, please contact Gislaine Williams at email@example.com. Also, check out our Banned Books toolkit at www.bannedbookstx.org. ’ Check out the Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin. Detailing the history of censorship in the United States and drawing on the archives of ACLU attorney Morris Ernst who defended James Joyce’s Ulysses against obscenity charges, this provocative and educational exhibit will run through January 22, 2012. For more information: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/2011/banned/
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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 The founding pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Rev. Lawson is known for his inspiring and motivating messages. He will show you the way to turn your aspirations into action. Our other speakers include Bob Libal from Grassroots Leadership; Debbie Russell, longtime ACLU of Texas volunteer; Chandra Bhatnagar, Staff Attorney with the ACLU National office; Nsombi Lambright, Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi; James Aldrete, President of Messaging Audience & Presentation; and Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas. Through interactive workshops and discussions, they will provide helpful information on how to go from ideas to action. We will offer a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) workshop, open to all attendees, not just attorneys. Renowned civil rights attorney Al Bronstein will present on “How to Represent a Cause.” Sign up today at www.aclutx.org/annualmeeting. Tickets for the afternoon conference and workshops are $20 and include lunch. The morning membership meeting is free. This year, the membership meeting will be held at Houston Community College, 5601 West Loop South Freeway, Houston, TX 77081. As always, the morning business meeting is an opportunity for ACLU of Texas Card-Carrying Members to meet the Board of Directors, learn about policies, and hear stewardship reports. Any 25 members may place a matter on the agenda by submitting it in writing no less than seven days preceding the meeting. Additional matters may be placed on the agenda by a vote of two-thirds of those members present at the meeting. The bylaws of the ACLU of Texas require that resolutions adopted at the membership meeting shall be published in the next issue of the newsletter. Within six months after each membership meeting, the Board of Directors shall report in the newsletter any action taken on resolutions that were adopted at the membership meeting. ’
Annual Membership Meeting Agenda November 5 & 6, 2011 Community Activism: Be Our Eyes and Ears Houston Community College 5601 West Loop South Freeway, Houston, TX 77081 8:30- 9 AM 9 -11:30 AM
Coffee and pastries, networking Annual Business Meeting for CardCarrying Members 9:00 Welcome, introductions, review agenda and call for additional matters placed by members; President’s Report - Paul Asofsky 9:30 Executive Director’s Report - Terri Burke 9:50-10:30 Presentation of Annual Report 10:30-11:30 Q&A
11:45 - 12:50PM Lunch Award Presentations Keynote by The Rev. Bill Lawson 1:00-2:20 PM Plenary Training: “How to Develop an Effective Campaign Strategy” with Nsombi Lambright and Chandra Bhatnagar 2:30-3:50 PM Workshop: “Organizing 101 and How to Conduct Public Education Events” with Debbie Russell, Bob Libal, Lisa Graybill, and James Aldrete 4:00 - 5:00PM CLE (not just for attorneys) Al Bronstein, former attorney to Martin Luther King Jr., “How to Represent a Cause” 5:30 - 6:30PM Hilton Garden Inn, Houston Galleria, 3201 Sage Road, Houston, TX. Cash bar, networking reception with light snacks. Sunday, November 6, 2011 8:30 AM - 2:00 PM ACLU of Texas Board Meeting, Hilton Garden Inn, Houston Galleria, 3201 Sage Road, Houston TX.
Texas Legislatur e Civil Liberties Inde x Legislature Index Enclosed in this newsletter is an index that we created as an easy way for you to keep tabs on your state legislators’ votes in the fight for civil liberties this past session. While we were involved in the debate on many bills, we compiled this index using the 10 bills that were our top priorities. Check out the insert to see how your state senators and representatives voted. If you are not happy with what you find, call and give ‘em an earful. Or, if your reps had a strong civil liberties record this past session, let them know you appreciate it. A “thank you” goes a long way. ’
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The A CL U of T exas W el comes ACL CLU Te Wel elc New Staff Members Rebecca Robertson joined the ACLU of Texas in July as Director of Public Policy and Advocacy. She was previously a partner at the international law firm, Baker Botts, LLP where she co-chaired the securities litigation practice group and chaired the LGBT affinity group. She also helped found the firm’s pro bono committee and led the amicus team working on the landmark civil rights case challenging the Texas sodomy law, Texas v. Lawrence. She is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and Rice University.
Kirsten Bokenkamp joined the ACLU of Texas in June as Communications Coordinator. She has a background in international development, has served as a consultant for UNICEF, where she oversaw the implementation of a nutrition monitoring pilot program for the Malawi government, and has worked in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and in the U.S. on community-based development projects. Most recently, she was Director of the St. Elmo Neighborhood Project with the Austin-based organization, Foundation Communities. She holds a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition from the University of Vermont.
Gislaine Williams joined the ACLU of Texas in August to serve as Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator. She is a social worker and an experienced community activist. Her role will be to expand the ACLU’s reach across the state and to coordinate the local organizing efforts of our Community Action Network (CAN). Gislaine is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Social Work and Rice University. She enjoys talk radio, outdoor movies, desserts, and fighting for justice.
Monica Gonzales joined the ACLU of Texas as the new Headquarters Office Manager. She is a graduate of the University of Houston with a degree in accounting. Before joining the ACLU of Texas, she worked in the accounting department of a quantitative investment management firm. Impressed with this firm’s unique corporate culture and commitment to service, reflected in the donation of 50 percent of investment advisory fee profits to charitable and non-profit organizations, Monica developed a passion for philanthropy and human rights. “I knew I wanted to work for an organization that made a real difference in people’s lives,” she says.’
Moll atriot is playing in Aus tin until No Mollyy Ivins Ivins’’ Red Hot P Patriot Austin Novv ember In case you missed it last time, you have a second chance to see Red Hot Patriot! The hit play about lifelong ACLU supporter and journalist Molly Ivins benefits our work because of her legacy gift to the ACLU. Brought back by popular demand, Red Hot Patriot is showing at the Whisenhunt Stage at the Zach Theatre in Austin through November 13. Support the ACLU and honor Molly’s memory while enjoying a side-splitting and thought-provoking play at the theatre in the city she called home.’ For more information, http://www.zachtheatre.org/show/red-hot-patriot
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Famil y, F aith and F ebr ating the amily, Faith Frreedom – Cel Celebr ebrating Separ ation of Chur ch and St at e Separation Church Stat ate ’
Visiting with Terri Burke, Rev. Lawson, and ACLU of Texas Board Member Nancy Friedman after the event
Hundreds of people in attendence at Family, Faith and Freedom
Rep. Shiela Jackson Lee in the audience
When Gov. Rick Perry announced his close involvement with “The Response,” an exclusively Christian day of prayer, the ACLU of Texas thought it was important for somebody to host an alternative event that represented the diversity of our great state while celebrating the importance of the separation of church and state. Together with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, we co-sponsored Family, Faith and Freedom, an August 5 event that brought together Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, agnostics, and atheists and reminded those in the audience that constitutional values and diversity are our strengths. These pictures are from this great event at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Houston. ’
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