GPISD Board Adopts Resolution to Address Racial Equity

NEWS RELEASE

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On the June 22 called meeting of the GPISD Board of Trustees, the Board made a bold statement to address issues of racial equity in our community.

By an unanimous vote, the Board adopted a sweeping resolution that commits the Trustees and the Superintendent of Schools to taking action. The resolution calls for equity and cultural bias training as well as the formation of a Racial Equity Committee comprised of Board-appointed community members and at least two Board members.

“This resolution is about action,” said Board President Aaron King. “Our Board is committed to modeling behaviors and practices that will ensure we’re part of the larger solution for our students, their families, our staff, and community.”

The resolution states the Board stands in solidarity with its students and community to declare that the lives of black students and black people matter. It goes on to clarify that this declaration “does not negate the commitment to serve all students but rather reaffirms the Board’s commitment to addressing the disparities and inequity of different student groups.”

Also noted in the resolution is previous action taken by the Board in December 2019 to approve an African American Studies course to begin in the fall of 2020. Grand Prairie ISD is among the first group of districts in the state to offer this course.

The full text of the resolution may be found on the GPISD website at www.gpisd.org.

For more information, please contact Sam Buchmeyer, GPISD Public Information Officer, at (972) 237-5380 or by email at sam.buchmeyer@gpisd.org.

Editor’s Corner – World Weary and Confused: The Crazy Times We Live In

Well, crap. Just when the “ordinary world” was emerging again, my county (Tarrant) has made it (basically) a law that people who go into any business must wear face masks.

Of course, it’s up to the store owners/managers to ask patrons to leave if they don’t have protection, but from what I have seen, most folks have been cognizant about the state order and have complied, whether it be a bandana or a cute Pikachu face mask. And I have also seen some pretty offensive masks. We can’t leave out the rebels! Fortunately, most of their messages are directed toward the virus, as in, “F*ck COVID.” But I have also seen political messages on some masks that make me sigh with exhaustion.

Where do these people get their energy to keep this constant stream of hate going? Whether it’s COVID or race relations, people have to be tired. I volunteer for the local NAACP and they are saying, “We are just tired.” So am I.

I call it, “world weary.” Even keeping my parameters (no voluntarily watched TV news) has lost its luster; it seems that I’ll hear about news one way or another, whether I want to or not. Yes, I am depressed.

I do have a couple of college degrees in psychology, but it’s rather hard to diagnose or help yourself. We are too close to our thoughts, feelings, biases, etc. to point out to ourselves what the heck is up. The best giveaway for me personally is isolating myself, not doing anything I used to like to do and sleeping a lot, as an escape. No, it’s NOT my first rodeo. I experienced suicidal depression after the birth of my daughter (postpartum depression). Obviously, I didn’t carry out my plan (or did I? I could be a ghost writer! Haha…total Dad joke).

With basically zero income right now, getting constant calls from, “I’m determined to get blood from you, Turnip,” and a depressed spouse, I’m not surprised I’ve gotten back into that black pit o’ depression.

Confusion also adds to these feelings. Who to believe? Expert X is saying one thing and Expert Y is saying another. I hate to disrespect our Federal Government, but….WHAAAAAT? One thing on Monday morning, the opposite on Monday night. I wish people would quit lying (or twisting the truth) to us. I feel like Austin Powers in that scene where he gets stuck in a golf cart, trying to turn around in a narrow hallway. Bump, bump, bump.

It IS in my control as to how long I stay down here in the pit.. Hopefully, I will start to feel more balanced soon, after walking the local track every day, eating healthier, blah, blah. I don’t feel like doing any of it. And I can’t help but wonder if there is more to the story that the general public is not privy to. I just read that 90-something percent of the COVID tests are giving false positives. But is that true? And if it IS true, what does that mean for the general population?

How are you feeling about this stage of the pandemic? What are your coping mechanisms?

Face Masks To Be Required in Tarrant County Businesses Beginning Friday

61M4dTyfhHL._AC_SX425_Face coverings will be required in all Tarrant County businesses, the county judge announced Thursday, mirroring measures taken across the state amid a “massive” spike in COVID-19 infections.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said the countywide executive order will go into effect at 6 p.m. Friday. The order will be in effect through 6 a.m. Aug. 3 and also applies to outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more.

Read the Executive Order in its entirety HERE.

Read more and see videos at NBCDFW…

[Editor’s Note: Yes, it’s basically a law for all citizens and store owners in Tarrant County to wear masks in public. Businesses have been encouraged to refuse service to patrons who are not wearing face protection.]

Dallas-made “Illegal” short film director Edgar Arreola elaborates on the project

Article 2 of 2 by Stacey Doud

***Spoiler Alert***

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The 24-minute short film, “Illegal,” which was written, directed, produced and brought to life by a cast and crew that reside in Dallas/Fort Worth, premiered on Facebook and YouTube on Friday June 12.

The story is about a fictional Hispanic man, Felix Martinez, who allegedly stole over $500 in gaming merchandise for his son’s birthday and was arrested because he took the goods out of the store because he was allegedly going to get a credit card from his wife, who was in a car in the parking lot. He did not speak English, nor did his wife.

The body of the film is set in the jury deliberation room, where six people had to decide Martinez’s crime and punishment, which could include deportation for him, but not necessarily for his children, who were both born in the United States.

edgararreola20203Director Edgar Arreola, whose acting credits include Guillermo in Sicario (2015) starring Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin; and proudly working beside Tom Hardy in his latest release, Capone (2020), directed by Josh Trank; as well as roles in 2 Guns (2013), featuring Golden Globe winner Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, and Edward James Olmos. Other projects include Machete (2010) and Machete Kills (2013) with Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, and with Kevin Sorbo in Walking Tall: Lone Justice (2007).

Arreola, who has lived in the Dallas area for 30 years, shared his take on Dallas, as well as the film.

“Dallas is my home. I have made my acting career from Dallas. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, but then I came to Dallas because everyone was [very different] in LA. The funny thing is that my whole career I have made from Dallas. Aspiring actors think they need to go to LA to get work. That’s not true. My career has probably been slower to develop than some people in LA, but I’m not in a big rush,” Arreola said.

“After I read the script [for Illegal], as weird as this may sound, I was attracted to the ending. I like it because I want people to feel a bit frustrated, which could lead to conversations and discussions about these issues. The script itself was good, but what drove me to directing it was the ending.

“I am all for people having their own opinions and to build up their own ending. It’s a very personal choice because we can all have different points of view. I think every person, regardless of color and status, is always going to have a different perspective as to why this should/should not happen or why this did/did not happen. That was something that really impassioned me to direct the film because as I was reading it, I was already visualizing what I wanted to do.

“As far as me relating to the script [as a Mexican American], I probably had a connection to about 20-30%. I was making my mind up as I was reading. I was trying not to get personal with it, but to stay objective, so what happened in the film was for the sake of the film. I tried to detach myself from it in certain ways. I’m not going to say that some things didn’t made me mad or whatever, but you have to disconnect yourself and put your personal feelings to the side as a director, producer or an actor.

“The actors that we had were amazing and it was very easy for me to direct them because we were all professionals. They knew exactly what the perspective was from our end, as in from behind the camera’s point of view.

“The cinematography was amazing, too. I had a wonderful cinematographer. From the minute we started production, this guy was reading my mind. Sometimes we would have discrepancies, and I would say, ‘I want this done because this and that,’ and he would totally understand where I was coming from,” Arreola explained.

This short film was Arreola’s first directing job, though he has co-directed in the past. He also offers acting classes every Wednesday evening at his studio in Garland. For more information about classes, visit http://earrtistic.com/.

Local filmmakers make short film about racism and perception

Article 1 of 2 by Stacey Doud

***SPOILER ALERT***

IllegalLogoThe 24-minute short film, “Illegal,” which was written, directed, produced and brought to life by a cast and crew that reside in Dallas/Fort Worth, premiered on Facebook and YouTube on Friday June 12.

The story is about a fictional Hispanic man, Felix Martinez, who allegedly stole over $500 in gaming merchandise for his son’s birthday. He did not speak English, nor did his wife, who was out in the parking lot, allegedly holding the credit card to pay for the merchandise.

The body of the film is set in the jury deliberation room, where six people had to decide Martinez’s crime and punishment, which could include deportation for him, but not necessarily for his children, who were both born in the United States.

Producer Justin Kenyon shared some of his thoughts about the film.

Justin Kenyon“[The film’s reception is] so far, so good. Looking at the analytics, it looks like about 3,500 people have watched it so far. There’s a lot of conversations, especially about systematic racism and prejudice and stuff like that. That’s kind of why we decided to release it when we did. We wanted to inspire the people that are unsure about a lot of the stuff going on and give them a clearer understanding as to where a lot of these movements are coming from,” he said.

The idea was presented to Kenyon by Andy Trusevich, who would later become Executive Producer, in May of 2019, and Kenyon and his team started writing in late May or early June.

“We hired on a screenwriter because I’ve written plays, but I’ve never written a screenplay. It was a great process. We hired on Natasha Paris. I basically took the original idea and just ‘word vomited,’ and she wrote down everything I was saying, and we just kept workshopping it for a good two or three months because we filmed in August. We wrote it very fast,” Kenyon said.

“Andy Trusevich is an attorney, so he’s had a lot of insight in terms of legal issues, especially the systematic issues within the judicial department. So, when he came up with the idea and I heard about it, I thought, ‘Wow, this is incredibly relevant.’ I’m super passionate about the judicial system and the flaws within it,” said Kenyon.

“Felix Martinez [the man on trial in the film] was based on, “kind of like a group or an idea of a lot of people that face things like that. Especially, given that we live in Texas, not everybody speaks fluent English. While I was writing the film, I had an incident almost exactly like it, but being that I was an English-speaking white person, I didn’t have the trouble that [Felix Martinez] had,” Kenyon explained.

“I was at Lowe’s and I grabbed a grill, and I talked to the cashier because I needed to get more building supplies. So, I was just taking the grill outside to set it down for a second, so I could go grab the other stuff and bring it to the cashier because I didn’t want to block people’s way. Then [the employees] got onto me, saying, ‘You can’t leave with that grill!’ I was like, ‘Oh, my bad. I was just trying to keep it out of the way.’”

How differently would that have gone if a black or Hispanic person did this?

“That’s a lot of the points we make [in the film]. Say Felix wasn’t actually stealing; that he was actually just going to his car for his wallet. Had he been confronted, he could have said, ‘I’m just going out to the car for my wallet.’ But he couldn’t communicate [because he spoke Spanish].

“Morality is also a big question that everybody’s asking. I saw something recently about the looting and all that. I thought, ‘Stop condemning them for looting and ask them why they felt compelled to do all that.’

“I think [rapper] Killer Mike said it well. I can’t remember the exact words, but it’s basically making a point: They’ve been taken from for so long that they’re [#BLM] basically showing [non-blacks] first-hand, ‘This is what it feels like to have things taken from us.’ It’s like large corporations. Turning it into a metaphor, I think it is very symbolic and it works because [the big box store] Target, in their next stage [after the riots], are saying, ‘We’ll stand with you, yada yada.’ So, it works.,” said Kenyon.

He also believes that the COVID pandemic contributed to this climate of unrest.

“I think the reason, other than it just being ‘enough is enough,’ people are glued to their phones. They’re not busy working. They’re not doing other things because a lot of people were unemployed during all of this. So, everybody’s paying attention,” he said. “I think we need to pay attention because too often, we have been busy and had other things going on in our lives, and so we can’t address these issues because we have more pressing issues going on. But now, this [COVID/Floyd] IS the pressing issue,” Kenyon concluded.

“I think the film was relevant a year ago but is especially relevant now. The big point and the reason that we released it at this time is that we [producers], being myself and Lauren Lamb, were skeptical about the film because we are both white. It almost didn’t seem like our place [to release it], but given the current movement and everything else, and [minorities] saying, ‘It’s time for white people to step up not necessarily to ‘take the mic,’ but and stand with us and fight back against a lot of these systematic issues because they were all created by white people, so it’s up to white people to help fix it.

“All the protests that I’ve gone to have been Hispanic, white and black, and everyone is standing in solidarity in the Black Lives Matter movement, and I think that is amazing. A majority of Americans aren’t [overtly] racist people, but one apple spoils the bunch, so we have to take care of all of the [rotten] apples,” Kenyon said.

“Everybody has some sort of imbedded amount of racism, and we talk about this unconscious bias. I went to school in a very white and Asian town, and I had so many unconscious biases, so when I got out in the world I thought, ‘I was so wrong and acted like a jerk.’

“In school, saying the ‘N’ word was okay, but when we left, I realized how much it wasn’t okay. I discovered that I had actually been part of the problem. When you are in your little ‘bubble,’ you don’t know. It’s our job every day to learn something new and go out of our way. My co-producer Lauren Lamb is really big on that. She’s been doing a lot of activism in terms of this. We need to grow and try to get better and unlearn our ideals and biases and educating ourselves,” Kenyon explained.

As for the film itself, the writers shied away from blatantly categorizing characters with political leanings.

“We tried to make the story and characters split down the middle as far as politics go. But we never actually said, ‘so and so is a Republican’ or whatever,” Kenyon explained. “We are leaving that for the audience to come to a conclusion based on how the characters speak and act. We are trying to unite all people and point out that we are all the same species, we are all human and we are all Americans. It’s kind of a metaphor for putting yourself in other people’s shoes.

“As for the ending, we wanted to leave the verdict up to the audience as well and let them decide. Once you see all the facts, you choose what’s right and wrong. You have your moral compass. It’s kind of a metaphor for America. Everybody has the things they want to believe, but at the end of the day, you are making your own decisions, and I wanted to help inspire people, no matter what they believe or what they were told to believe, that they have every right to do what is right in their minds.”

One of the main questions that the film brings up is can compassion ever really intersect with the law?

“[Juror] Anton makes really great points: the laws are not always right. Segregation was legal over 50 years ago. Slavery was legal a couple of hundreds of years ago. Laws don’t depict what is right and wrong because not all laws encompass the whole of society but tend to put certain people ‘ahead’ of other people,” Kenyon said.

“I guess the message is that nothing is black and white. Everything is a gray area. Everything is interpreted differently by different people, and every situation is unique. I think the issues with some of our laws is that they are very black and white. You’re either guilty or you’re not.”

No matter what the viewer’s verdict is, one must consider if the punishment fits the crime, which is a common question in the penal system today.

Part 2 coming soon!

Coppell ISD announces Lorie Squalls as new CMS North Principal 

PRESS RELEASE

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Squalls (Photo courtesy of CISD)

Coppell ISD announces that Lorie Squalls, current principal at Austin Elementary, is the new principal of Coppell Middle School North in the district.  

“I am thrilled to have Mrs. Squalls lead CMS North.  She is an experienced school leader who focuses on authentic relationships and collective engagement, which will serve her well in this new role,” said CISD Superintendent Dr. Brad Hunt. 

Squalls has served as the principal at Austin Elementary for the last three years.  She also has extensive experience as an administrator in her 21 years in education, having served as a principal, assistant principal, curriculum coordinator, digital learning coordinator, and as a general and special education teacher.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of CMS North and will work diligently to support its educators, learners and families,” Squalls said. “I look forward to becoming part of the ‘village’ at North and working together at this outstanding school.” 

Squalls received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Texas Southwestern and her Master’s Degree from the University of Phoenix. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Education at Dallas Baptist University.  

She replaces former CMS North principal Dr. Greg Axelson, who was named the district’s Chief Operating Officer in May.

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Grand Prairie NAACP holds rally to protest police brutality

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By Stacey Doud, EDITOR’S CORNER I attended a “Solidarity Press Conference” on June 7 that was sponsored by the NAACP in Grand Prairie (GPNAACP). Not only was it an assignment, but I am also an active volunteer for GPNAACP. “Why?” … Continue reading

Good Samaritan finds toddler alone on side of highway, works with police

NEWS RELEASE

GRAPEVINE, TX-Grapevine Police are working with Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) after finding a toddler alone on the side of a highway.  

At approximately 4:30 a.m. a Grapevine Officer was dispatched to the 2500 block of South SH-121 near Hall-Johnson Road. A driver noticed a child, approximately two years old, walking along the shoulder. He stopped to help and called 911. 

Officers made sure the child was not hurt, but the child was not able to give a name or address. Police checked the surrounding neighborhood and found no signs of the child’s parents. No child was reported missing at the time, so the child was taken into custody by CPS.  

Approximately three hours later, Grapevine Police were able to locate the child’s parents. The family is now working with CPS to determine the next steps. Grapevine Police remain in contact with CPS, and the case is still under investigation.

Grapevine Police applaud the good Samaritan who saw the toddler along the highway and stayed with the child until officers arrived.

Tarrant County COVID Testing Information

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If you are interested in scheduling a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) test in your area, please provide your zip code to ensure you’re in the serviced area then click “Get Started” to begin the screening process. This screening tool is intended for persons 18 years of age or older. For questions about getting your child tested, please contact their medical provider.

Please visit CovidTesting.TarrantCounty.com for additional information

Editor’s Corner -Dallas riots: How does violence bring about peace?

Closed copyI went to downtown Dallas yesterday to take pics of the carnage after the non-peaceful protests the weekend before.

For those of you who are not aware, an unarmed black man, George Floyd, died when FOUR police officers held him down while he was handcuffed in Minneapolis, MN. One of the officers put his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, which may have led to his demise. All four officers have been fired (even the three that were non-white) and a Grand Jury will determine their fate. I know they’ll never work in law enforcement again, at the very least.

When I first saw the video, I thought that (ex-) Officer Chauvin, the cop with the knee on the neck (the practice of which has been obliterated from most police agencies across the country, but sadly and obviously, is still used at times), was an obvious murderer. Mr. Floyd can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe!” Yet Chauvin did not get up, nor did his fellow officers try to stop him.

Bland copyFloyd was under arrest for trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. He did resist getting into the police vehicle, falling down on purpose. But as far as I know, there was no prior resistance to the arrest except for Floyd quoting the NWA song, “F*** the Police.” I don’t know why it took four officers to subdue a mostly peaceful criminal. But then again, I could only see a few minutes of this event that unfolded in much more than 10 minutes.

Two autopsies were done, and both found that the manner of death was homicide. But the two reports were a bit different. The autopsy report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner claimed that Floyd died from a heart attack, noting that Floyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, was high on the drug fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamine.

The Floyd family had their own independent autopsy done which concluded that Floyd had died of “mechanical asphyxia,” which is basically the restriction of blood and oxygen to the brain, and is consistent with the knee on neck position.

Crowdus copySo why was I sent to downtown Dallas? This happened in Minnesota.

It is my belief that people were already on edge due to COVID, and when this happened, the anger broke loose all over the country. What I do not understand is why people think that violence is the proper response to violence. Dallas is thousands of miles away from Minneapolis. I do understand that colored people are sick and tired of police brutality directed at their race. As a white person, I can only understand on the fringe, though being a volunteer with the NAACP has taught me a lot. And it’s not like ONLY black people were protesting.

It was sad to walk down Main Street in Dallas and see the needless destruction. Very few pedestrians were walking about, but vehicular traffic seemed to be normal. So many businesses were boarded up and closed. It is my understanding that, despite the 7pm curfew, that downtown was preparing for more riots. A few protests were held just outside of the curfew zone in Dallas last night, but the biggest news was a protest in Arlington.

What is this world we live in? When will the Coronavirus cease to be a threat? When will people stop being on edge? When will violence about something that happened thousands of miles away stop?

I wish I could tell you. But in the meantime, stay safe and please express your opinions peacefully. Even George Floyd’s brother asked for peace. If he can rise above what happened, then we all can.