While Trump Divides—Biden Unites / RIP Shepherd Manson B. Johnson II / Updated COVID-19 Information

The murder of George Floyd has sparked nearly the entire nation into action, including his hometown of Houston. He grew up in the 3rd Ward, the same part of Houston where I live and am proud to represent in the Texas House. His murder has motivated people from all walks of life to protest against racism. Not just in Houston, but in cities across the world like Paris and Tokyo, and in small towns like Wimberley and Eagle Pass, Texas. Millions of people—from activists to law enforcement officers—are trying to work together to make things better. Instead of working with them, President Trump stands apart stoking the fires of division.

People hold up signs in front of Houston City Hall as they join George Floyd’s family in a march on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle Staff Photographer

In stark contrast, on Monday Joe Biden listened to Black Community leaders at a church in Wilmington, Delaware. President Trump went to a church on Monday, too. However, he did not go there to listen. Instead he had a group of peaceful protesters tear-gassed and moved out of the way so he could take the short walk from the White House to the church, to pose briefly in front of the church with a Bible for a photo op.The next day, President Trump did another religious photo-op, and tweeted about building the wall. On Tuesday, Biden gave the kind of heartfelt speech a president should give, empathizing with the pain and anger many Black Americans feel right now, showing the power to unite people. He put fourth real solutions, not just slogans.

Biden speaking with people in the streets of Wilmington. Photo from Joe Biden’s Twitter page. May 31, 2020.

Now, we must push for real solutions that address systemic racism and better the lives of all Americans. In 2017, I was proud to pass the Sandra Bland Act that requires law enforcement officers to receive more de-escalation training, requires additional data collection on police stops, and puts in place a complaint/compliment section into each ticket, as well as reform measures to make our jails safer. Last year, I followed that up by passing HB 4468, which did more to make out jails safer and increased the availability of places for people to be diverted to.Despite the progress we have made, more needs to be done, including provisions of the original Sandra Bland Act that did not make their way into policy such as: prohibiting arrests for non-jailable offenses, outlawing pretext stops, and reforming our racial profiling statute.

I had the pleasure to go on two radio shows this week to discuss this important topic. On Wednesday I was on Houston Matters on Houston Public Radio (Click here to listen). On Thursday I was on the Source on Texas Public Radio (Click here to listen). Also, on Thursday I asked the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) to put implicit bias training into basic training for police officers by rule so we don’t have to wait till next year’s legislative session in January to make progress. 

Before session begins, I will be looking into new policies that have been proposed and developed in the interim. Including at ideas championed by advocacy groups, and suggestions made by President Barack Obama. On Monday, President Obama wrote a post highlighting criminal justice reform policies that he would like to see including polices from his report on 21st Century Policing, many of which were included in the original Sandra Bland Act as filed. His post can be read by clicking here. Additionally, Joe Biden’s campaign has developed a set of policies that can be viewed by clicking here. There are also simple polices we can urge police departments to put in place now such as requiring officers to intervene when they see another officer doing something wrong.

Biden has shown during the last 2 weeks of protests and ongoing pandemic that he has the ability to lead and unite us. While Trump threatens and tries to tear us apart.

RIP Shepherd Manson B. Johnson II

The following is an excerpt from the Houston Forward Times Story about the passing of Shepherd Manson B. Johnson II. You can click here to read the entire story.

“Shepherd Dr. Manson B. Johnson II, the dynamic leader and teacher of Holman Street Baptist Church in Houston’s Third Ward, died on May 31, 2020 from complications of COVID-19. He was 71.

For more than 40 years, the Shepherd Teacher was instrumental in pastoral ministry and community leadership that elevated Third Ward’s prominence politically and economically. A sharp dresser distinguished by his beard and handlebar mustache, he also directed Holman Street’s advancement in membership and impact. The church and its associated nonprofit, the South East Houston Community Development Corporation, Inc. (SEHCDC), own more than two dozen parcels in Third Ward.

“The last time I talked to him, he was working on a project that dealt with health care and housing on the campus. He was applying for tax credits and I signed his letter,” [State Representative Garnet] Coleman said. “We go back working on those types of projects to the Third Ward Redevelopment Council, which he chaired, and the original Third Ward plan in 1992 for housing and revitalization which continues today. That was the predecessor to the Old Spanish Trail-Almeda Corridors TIRZ (the tax increment reinvestment zone) and the Houston Southeast Management District — and that was the beginning of change in the Third Ward. He continued to do that work on his campus and created the village around the church.””


We are still in the middle of a pandemic, so it is important that we still all work together to help slow the spread of COVID-19. If you are part of the population who has a high risk for severe illness please such as those 65 years and older, or who have an underlying health condition, please stay home as much as possible. If you do go out please practice good hygiene and public health safety measures when you do go out. Such as:

  • practice social distancing;
  • limit when you go out in public;
  • when you do go out wear a face mask; and
  • wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

There are people whose work requires them to go out to help us all stay safe, healthy, and fed. We can help those essential workers by staying home. If we work together, we can do our best to minimize the number of deaths by following the recommendations above and encouraging our friends and family to do the same.

It also needs to be noted that the COVID-19 modeling has been failry accurate on May 4th the model done by Columbia University predicted that the U.S. would reach 111,000 deaths by June 6th, as of June 4th we are at 108,211 deaths. The Columbia University model is now projecting 138,000 deaths nationwide by June 27th. So we need to stay vigilant and continue to practice good public health.

As our community continues to work to slow the spread of the coronavirus, I wanted to make you aware of some of the resources out there to help you through this difficult time.Summer Meals
From HISD: The Houston Independent School District will begin providing the Summer Meals Program for all children ages 1 to 18. This year, the meals will be distributed curbside to adhere to social distancing requirements.Beginning June 1, families will be able to pick up boxed student meals twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays at one of 71 designated schools across the district. Each box will contain a day’s worth of meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. Pick up sites will provide parents with multiple boxes — three on Mondays and four on Thursdays — for each child.

Boxes will be provided for all children in the vehicle at pickup. Children are not required to be present, but parents must have proof of enrollment in any school district (report card, student id, etc.) or birth certificate.

Click Here for additional info and locations.

CVS Health has opened up a drive thru testing site in our district at the CVS Pharmacy at 1003 Richmond Avenue, Houston, TX 77006. The drive-thru will be available to individuals who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, in addition to age guidelines. Patients must register in advance at CVS.com beginning Friday, May 22 to schedule an appointment.

Good news Houston, we now have the capacity to test anyone who wants to be tested. Houston’s two community based testing sites are now available to ANYONE who wants to be tested for COVID-19. You no longer need to have symptoms. However, you do need to call ahead. If you would like to be tested please call 832-393-4220 to be provided a unique identification code and directions on where to go.

Internet Access
If your family or a family you know is in need of internet access to help continue a child’s education, some of Houston’s cable providers are offering free internet for the next 60 days. Listed below are companies and numbers to call to help set you or someone you know up with internet access while a child (K-12 & college) may require an internet connection to continue their education.

  • SuddenLink 888-633-0030
  • Charter/Spectrum 844-488-8395
In addition to those companies Sparklight and Comcast are working with customers to waive late fees, defer payments, and avoid disruption in internet service. If you believe you are going to have difficulty paying your internet bill please reach out to your provider before the bill is due so that they can work with you during this difficult time.

Houston Health
The Houston Health Department is operating a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) call center for Houston residents needing more information COVID-19. Houstonians can call the center at 832-393-4220 to speak to department staff and obtain information about the disease or get their questions answered. The call center will open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Texas Workforce Commission
The waiting week for unemployment benefits has been temporarily waived, allowing the Texas Workforce Commission to pay your UI benefits sooner during this declared disaster. Additionally, For workers impacted by the Coronavirus, the Workforce Commission has waived requirement that one must be looking for work in order to apply for unemployment benefits.If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 7 a.m .- 7 p.m. Central Time every day including Saturdays and Sundays.

Census 2020:
While at home you can still perform your civil duty and fill out the 2020 Census online. It is important for you to fill out the census to ensure that our community receives its fair share of funding for SNAP, Medicare and Medicaid, infrastructure, public education, and more. Click here to fill out the 2020 Census Online if you have not already.

What To Watch This Week:
This week we have two videos. The first is of Joe Biden’s nationwide address on the George Floyd protests. The second is of a virtual town Hall President Obama held on Wednesday on policing and civil unrest.You can watch below or by clicking here to watch the Biden video, and clicking here to watch the Obama video.

Cartoon of the Week

Christopher Weyant Copyright 2020 Cagle Cartoons
Song of the Week
Our song of the week is “Walk With Me” by Martha Bass.

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