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Texas Filmmaker Seeks Justice From Energy Giant
Lone Star Power Pages
BEAUMONT- As Texas filmmaker and activist Ricky Jason labors to bring the tragic and true story of the late James Byrd to the movie screen, the award-winning director has been quietly fighting a personal struggle for justice over the past two years.
Jason is embroiled in a case involving CenterPoint Energy and one of its employees who allegedly pushed him, verbally assaulted him with racial slurs, ignored signs on his fence, trespassed, violated his sovereignty as a taxpayer, home owner and invaded his privacy by jumping the fence to get a gas meter.
“We just want them (Centerpoint) to do what’s right,” Jason said. “Our hope is that the truth is told and justice will prevail in my case.”
An attorney is representing Jason as the case is reviewed and makes its way through the court system.
Undaunted by the worries, challenges and uncertainties of the case, Jason presses on with his public project and crusade to tell the human side of the James Byrd Story.
Three white men who were members of the “Confederate Knights-Ku Klux Klan” dragged Byrd to death in Jasper, Texas.
Jason’s film on Byrd has been shown in various cities in the U.S. and abroad and has won numerous awards including the Texas Black Film Festival 2008 Award for “Best Texas Film”; AFI Dallas 2008 Choice Award; and the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival Best Socio-Political Documentary. It also premiered at the San Diego Black Film Festival, Won the Best South Africa Award and received the Houston Peace and Justice Center Appreciation Award.
Jason is no stranger to fighting for justice from the courtroom to death row, the soft-spoken Jason has been a tireless activist working to get the message out for those human beings that society has neglected, tossed aside and thrown away.
His film work and dedicated civil rights efforts are respected among colleagues that include Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, International Peace figure Nelson Mandela,actress Susan Sarandon, music mogul Russell Simmons, Oprah Winfrey, comedian-activist Dick Gregory, Sidney Portier, Martin Luther King III, Stevie Wonder, Nation of Islam leader Hon. Louis Farrakhan and David Atwood, who heads the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
His struggle against CenterPoint Energy began in 2006, after an incident with an employee who claimed one of Jason’s dogs attacked him after he got into the yard. He filed a complaint against Jason that resulted in a warrant for his arrest and time in custody.
According to the Jefferson County Clerk arrest warrant issued for Jason, Center Point Energy employee Kevin Calhoun, who is White, made statements to police that he first spoke with Jason at his door about collecting a gas meter.
At the time, Jason was not in arrears on a bill and the meter was not activated or connected since Jason’s home is heated and cooled by central heating and air.
Jason, who battles several medical problems, said he did object to him getting the meter, but asked him to come back at a later time.
At the time, Jason’s home is surrounded by a large eight-foot wooden privacy fence and on the fence two signs are clearly posted that warned visitors “No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog”.
The report indicated Calhoun ignored the request and shortly after speaking with Jason who went back into his home, and jumped the fence and went after the meter, despite seeing two German shepherds in the back yard.
Jason heard a commotion came outside and discovered the man hitting the dog repeatedly with a pipe wrench. He then went into the home and called 911.
Police did not listen to Jason who dialed 911 to report the incident and charged him with unlawfully and intentionally, knowingly and recklessly caused bodily injury or threatened another with bodily injury by letting the dog loose on Calhoun – Calhoun had told police in his statement that he observed Jason walk toward the dog and then he heard a chain drop before and was immediately attacked by the dog and told police he wanted to file criminal charges on Jason for “letting the dog loose to attack him.”
Jason was also injured his foot when allegedly pushed by Calhoun after Jason tried to help him. As Jason assisted Calhoun, the man cursed Jason and uttered racial slurs.
World-renowned activist Dick Gregory said CenterPoint should do the right thing in this case.
“This brother fights for human dignity on a daily basis. He is not violent, but is on record time and again standing with the peacemakers of the world for human rights, dignity and justice.”
As the case continues wind its way through the justice system, Jason hopes that the two-year ordeal will soon be settled and put to rest so that he can clear his name and go on with life.
Historical Marker Honors Black Philanthropist
By Darwin Campbell
Lone Star Power Pages
ABILENE- She was described as unselfish, devoted to others and a women with dreams and high standards during a time in American history where equality for Blacks was not a top priority in society.
Eugenia Pickard lived and portrayed the kind of example that inspired many in the Black community and now her legacy is being honored for the ages with a Texas Historical Marker.
The dedication and placement of the marker will be in the Woodson Center for Excellence, which is part of the Abilene Independent School District.
Woodson Center for Excellence is an alternative high school for at-risk students. It offers two programs, Bridges and Excel.
Pickard is known for her philanthropy and for her efforts to make improvements in Abilene's minority neighborhoods.
She was born in Georgia about 1877 and moved to Texas in the early 1900s and settled in Abilene.
During her life, she acquired and owned several properties and made them available for no rent to poor families with children.
She also provided places to play to African-American children who had no public parks because of Jim Crow Segregation Era.
Pickard, who died in 1945, left $5,000 to the city of Abilene in the hopes of providing for a new school for black children. The funds were insufficient for a school and went toward a library. – That library honors her today.
The building, which at one time was a high school for black students during segregation, houses the Eugenia Pickard Library.
The Rev. Andrew Penns, a member of the Taylor County Historical Commission, said Pickard's legacy should not be forgotten. He also used the event to encourage more African-Americans to share community history and work to preserve it in Abilene.