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AUSTIN — The Texas NAACP is urging African Americans and their allies to turn out en masse – big time – at its Legislative Advocacy Day on April 4 to help beat back several legislative bills that will harm, hinder or setback much of the progress African Americans have made in the past few decades. Those bills if passed will have the most devasting impact on young Texans of Color – Millennials and Gen-Z Texans — by diminishing and decreasing their educational, economic, political and workforce opportunities, Texas NAACP leaders say. 

“Make no mistake, these bills are anti-Black and anti-Latino,” says Gary Bledsoe, President of the Texas NAACP. “We’re talking about everything from the continuation of suppressing voting rights to eliminating programs in Texas colleges and universities that help recruit, retain and support African American students as well as other students of color. 

“The intent of state leadership in pushing these bills is to establish a permanent underclass of citizenship for Black and Brown people without regard to a person’s talent or education.” 

The Texas NAACP Advocacy Day will be April 4, 2023. Bledsoe and other Texas NAACP leaders are asking people from across the state to gather in Austin at the Texas AFL-CIO building at 9 am for an orientation before walking to the Capitol to meet with lawmakers and gather on the Capitol grounds. A press conference will be held at 2:30 p.m. in the Speaker’s Committee Room at the Capitol. The group is expecting a large turnout.  

Several bills already have been filed promoting anti-DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) initiatives – including a budget rider — that would hinder and eliminate initiatives that recruit and retain African American and Latino professors and employees at Texas public colleges and universities. Those measures also would hurt the ability of public colleges and universities to recruit, retain and support African American and Latino students in college and those who are headed to college. Black students already are significantly underrepresented at Texas flagship and selective universities, such as the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and others. Also, Hispanic and Black faculty already are disproportionately underrepresented at major public universities in Texas. 

Current DEI policies were helping to level the playing field. Younger Texans of Color will see the doors that helped many others obtain an education and career, slam shut on their futures, says Shevann Steuben, president of the Texas NAACP Youth and College Division.”  

“The stakes couldn’t be higher for young people,” Steuben says. “Targeting CRT (Critical Race Theory), DEI, or voting rights, will put Black and Brown young people at a disadvantage for the foreseeable future and impede the progress of our state. This attempt to erase or diminish our progress and identity harms all Texans. This is about today — and tomorrow.”  

Public schools again are under attack because of legislation that is pending that would transfer money from public schools to private schools via a voucher program Republicans have labeled, “Education Savings Accounts.” Most students in public schools are Black and Hispanic. Along with Asian students, they represent the largest enrollment in public schools. In the past, our interests have aligned with the interests of rural Texans, including rural Republicans who have opposed vouchers, and we are trying to keep that alliance this time around. It will be tougher because of Gov. Abbott’s campaign to pass vouchers.  

Also, Republicans are signaling they aren’t finished with voter suppression, with several measures that would continue limiting the voting rights of Blacks and Latinos.  

Bledsoe is emphasizing that the state’s economy could be hurt by bills that decrease the talent pool of graduates, harm the reputation of its colleges and universities, or close opportunities in the public workforce. He notes that as taxpayers, Black and Latino Texans are helping to pay for public schools, colleges and universities, and state agencies. As such, they are deserving of a fair share of those services, so policies aimed at including them are just plain fair. 

“We intend to show up and hold our lawmakers accountable,” Bledsoe says. “We can’t afford to stay home and let this generation and the next be irreparably harmed.  We’re looking at the potential elimination of so many initiatives that have helped level the playing field for African Americans and other People of Color.” 

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