Booker T Hodges

Recent Articles

How to be a community activist: just show up

While speaking at a local college, I was recently asked a question by a student that I felt I would answer publicly. I was asked what does one have to do to become a community activist and how do you maintain your integrity once you become a community activist. The student also reminded me that this column is 10 years old this year — boy how time flies. The next column will showcase the highlights and history of this column over the last 10 years. Now, onto the question. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Special education: stories from a parent’s and a teacher’s perspective

We are sorry that it has taken us this long to publish the second part of our special education column but we had a hard time deciding which stories to publish. We found many of the stories that people shared with us to be disturbing and we did our best to pick the best stories that were representative of the majority of the stories that were reported to us by both staff members and parents who are involved with special education institutions. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Is special education used for kids who simply misbehave?

In this column I will be discussing the results of a one-year investigation that we conducted surrounding special education in Minnesota. The opinion of HIT investigators and myself is not included in this column. We began looking at Special Education over a year ago when a parent who was concerned that their child was being mistreated and not receiving their appropriate level of special education service contacted us. Once we started the investigation we realized that we had walked into a minefield and that special education was, as one person put it, “Americas worst kept secret.” In this column we will attempt to present all viewpoints and give you the reader an idea of the complexity surrounding this issue. So, let’s see what people had to say. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Poor MPS test scores show leadership’s lack of commitment to students

 

“We exist to ensure that all students learn” is the mission of the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS). Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson states on the MPS website that she believes “more strongly than ever that our top priorities lie in narrowing the achievement gap and offering all of our students a high-quality education that prepares them for college or a career.”

All of this sounds great, but by the time you get through reading this column you will realize that those are just empty words. In this column I will discuss the 2011-2012 MPS test results. These results have been swept under the rug by the so called “Leadership Council” and their representatives. In 2010, when the NAACP called for parents to remove their kids from Minneapolis Public Schools some people thought that they were going overboard. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Park Board leaders, NAACP claim progress

Some employees find workplace still hostile 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Since MSR’s January 5 exclusive article on racial discrimination against current and former Black Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) employees, MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller, Board President John Erwin, and Minneapolis NAACP President Booker T Hodges have met several times and developed a process to address the issue of “inconsistency” in discipline matters. Whether this process and other measures will satisfy disgruntled employees remains to be seen. The MSR article, “Black employees call Mpls Park Board a ‘toxic’ workplace,” reported that after receiving numerous calls from current and former Park Board employees, Hodges initiated an investigation. The NAACP determined that Park Board supervisors used performance reviews “to systematically target minority employees to terminate them from their jobs” as well as moving longtime Black employees “to less desirable positions.”

Following that investigation and MSR’s story, nearly 80 past and current employees received letters inviting them to set up a time to meet with Miller on their concerns. A MPRB spokesperson explained that these meetings were not “grievance hearings,” but simply “meetings.” Even though the individual could bring anyone they chose to the session, no one else was allowed to speak on their behalf as might be the case in a grievance hearing. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Letter to the editor: Mpls NAACP calls for an end to all discrimination in Minnesota

 

 

The President of the United States recently took a stand on the issue of gay marriage that seeks to promote equality for all in our society. We would like to address the prevailing thought that the African American community is somehow anti-gay and opposed to the president’s stance on gay marriage. We would hope that members of our community would not use against those in the gay community the same discriminatory, religious, and/or baseless moral arguments that were used to justify slavery, Jim Crow, and racial segregation against people of color. African Americans know more than any group in the history of civilization what discrimination and hatred can do to a group of people. Discrimination is discrimination no matter how you describe it, and we would encourage all members of the great state of Minnesota to stop discrimination in all forms against all people. Continue Reading →

Filed under: ,

Laws to ‘protect’ veterans may actually cost them jobs

 

 

I would like to apologize to all of you for being gone so long, but we have been conducting some very intense investigations that have required a tremendous amount of time and resources. In this column I will discuss the results of a recent 7 1/2-month investigation. Almost a year ago, one of my friends (I will call him Joe, though he could be a man or a woman) returned from serving his third tour overseas. Joe contacted me about how difficult it was for him to find a job. I was stunned and I didn’t believe him at first. Continue Reading →

Filed under: ,

Mpls Park Board says ‘climate’ change is underway

 

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Since the MSR’s January 4  article “Black employees call Minneapolis Park Board a ‘toxic workplace,’” Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) officials say they have already undertaken significant changes to the organization’s “internal climate” and there is more to come as “we…acknowledge and address our shortcomings.” Some workers fear the changes will be superficial and fail to go far enough. MPRB board and staff recently received an environmental and organizational analysis interim report by a local consulting team. The report, originally scheduled to be completed and released in April, confirms the findings of a six-month Minneapolis NAACP probe into employment conditions at the Park Board among Black employees. “Unfortunately, many of the deficiencies and issues noted are not new but have been present for years,” admits MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller in a January 25 cover letter to the report. The 11-page report identifies current issues that “require immediate attention by everyone in the entire organization… It is not an overreaction to describe the MPRB as demoralized internally — where employees across racial and ethnic lines feel stymied in their ability to effectively meet job responsibilities.”

The reports recommendations include developing strategies to address culture issues, building a strong human relations department, reinstating a diversity council and strengthening and supporting the community outreach department. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Black employees call Mpls Park Board a “Toxic Workplace”

 

 

NAACP acts on numerous complaints from workers and customers
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

A six-month Minneapolis NAACP investigation into employment conditions among African Americans at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has found “systemic areas which the Minneapolis Park Board must address to remedy the concerns of our organization and those who come to us seeking assistance,” according to a December 23 letter from Branch President Booker T Hodges to John Erwin, park board chairman. The letter was prompted by “over 60 complaints from Minneapolis Park Board employees and over 100 customers’ complaints in addition to those employee complaints.”

In a series of meetings with the MSR in recent weeks, African American employees have described the current Park Board workplace as one where a “toxic” atmosphere of fear and retaliation is pervasive, where Blacks feel “disrespected” and “humiliated,” and where those who speak out against perceived inequities are targeted and punished for being “militant.” These Black employees feel that due to the lack of diversity in upper management, including the human relations department (see sidebar), there is “no one who looks like us” and no one willing to address their concerns. Black employees also report several firings and reprimands based on “trumped-up charges” and on a double standard in applying policies to Whites and Blacks. These employees say they do not trust their union representatives to address their concerns or to support them in resolving disputes with their employer. As a result they feel isolated and “bullied” by their superiors. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Council on Black Minnesotans must be saved

 
Its potential influence at the legislature is exactly what our community needs now
 
In this column we will discuss the recent issue surrounding the Council on Black Minnesotan’s (CBM). The mission of CBM according to their website is to ensure that the needs of all Minnesotans of African descent are clear to the policymakers who impact their well-being by providing equal protection of the law and guaranteeing that this community receives and has access to state services and programs.
In other words, the CBM’s main purpose is to advocate for policies that protect the interest of African Americans in Minnesota and to inform the community about those policies. The CBM is set to disband in 2012 as the legislation that created it will sunset. The CBM has been in existence since 1980. The H.I.T. started examining the CBM in detail after there was a serious conflict that had taken place at one of the board meetings. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , ,