Gregory Library Watch

Preserving working class Black history

Houston Chronicle covers (up?) our issue

On Sunday November 14, the Houston Chronicle ran a short piece about the Gregory Library. They were responding to a press conference we called on Saturday November 13, which marked the one year anniversary of the facility.

Here is the photo and the complete text of the article:

Critics accuse library of selective history

Activists say story of poor blacks excluded


Nov. 13, 2010, 10:23PM

A handful of activists from Freedmen’s Town spent the first anniversary of the African American Library at the Gregory School voicing concerns about Houston’s first black history and culture library.

Timothy O’Brien, a historian with Gregory Library Watch, a group established in January to monitor the activities of the taxpayer-funded public library, said the building at 1300 Victor excludes certain historical information.

Activist Lenwood Johnson said, for example, the library won’t archive stacks of documents he has from a 15-year effort to save Allen Parkway Village housing.

Long-standing tension between community activists and elected officials is stunting the growth of the archival collection, they said.

“It’s all political,” O’Brien said. “You go in that Freedmen’s Town room and the timeline on the three walls stops at 1954.”

The building, once Fourth Ward’s Edgar Gregory School, sat vacant for almost 30 years. Transforming it into a library took years of struggle and cost more than $11 million in federal grants, as well as library and city construction funds.

“Now it’s become this archive where all the people in the neighborhood, African-Americans, are not welcomed,” O’Brien said. “They don’t want to hear the low-income black history because it indicts the African-American politicians,” he said.

At least one historical researcher applauded the library’s efforts.

“Before they were beginning to open, they were getting people to bring their history so they could exhibit it,” said Debra B. Sloan, historical researcher for R.B.H. Yates Museum.

The library does need more visitors and more collections, she added.

“There isn’t enough old history,” she said. “I have tried to get people (in the community) to talk to (the library), but they don’t want to. … Maybe it’s too painful.

“They would be willing to take anything anyone gives them. This is the best we can get right here.”

Library visitors such as Gregory School alumnus Charley Earl, 66, said documents are scanned every day.

“If you bring it, they will scan it and put it in the archives,” he said. “Maybe not on … display, but from what I gather that’s going to change. They’re going to take stuff down and put other stuff up.

“A lot of history was lost,” he said. “It’s hard to get a lot of those old documentations.”

Here’s the link where you can read all the comments:

Houston Chronicle story link.


November 21, 2010 Posted by | Press Conference | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acting Chief of Police McClelland attempts to ignore cover up

On March 18, 2009 Acting Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland attended a community meeting at St. James UMC in historic Freedmen’s Town. Chief McClelland did a fine job ignoring the residents complaints about racial profiling and harassment of African Americans by his police force.

McClelland has been working for and often justifying a racist police force for 32 years now so it must come very naturally for him to ignore citizen concerns about the police department. (Remember his role in setting up Quanell X? one account is here.) In front of a packed church McClelland claimed that he “would not tolerate” unprofessional behavior by his department. So we asked him to address his lying Inspector General’s office particularly Lt. Thomas Hartnet who is doing his best to cover up our complaint against the African American Library at Gregory School. What did McClelland say in response to our question? NOTHING. Instead, five minutes later he left the building. Seems not only does he “tolerate unprofessional behavior” he actively covers it up.

Here’s the complaint we filed with him this morning:

Charles McClelland
Acting Chief of Police
Houston Police Department
1200 Travis Street
Houston, TX 77002

March 19, 2010

RE: Complaint re: Lt. Thomas Hartet, Inspector General’s office

Dear Chief McClelland,

Last night you came to my church, St. James UMC in Freedmen’s Town. You claimed that you would not tolerate “unprofessional behavior” of your policeman yet when I specifically mentioned my complaint against the Inspector General’s office (a section of the police department) you not only refused to address it, you left the building.

Here is my complaint, which I have also attached as letter, which is signed and dated.

On February 4, 2010 I filed a complaint about discrimination at the African American Library at Gregory School in Freedmen’s Town with Karlinda Kirkwood of the Inspector General’s office. Your complaint system itself is designed to cover up complaints because:

1) There is no record of the complaint provided to people who file them.
2) The inspector general’s office never contacts the person who filed the complaint to tell what, if anything, was the result of their complaint.

After I contacted the inspector general’s office again, they told me that on February 9, 2010 they “referred the complaint to the department,” that is the Houston Public library system.

After several weeks passed and I finally got a letter from the library, which did not address the complaint, on February 24 I spoke to Lt. Thomas Hartnet who told me to “work with the library department.” I explained to him that before I filed a complaint with his office I had already filed the same complaint with the library complaint system and when they refused to address it I filed the complaint with his office.  Lt. Hartnet assured me if deputy director of the library Meller Langford did not address my complaint he “would investigate her.” My neighbor Mr. Lenwood Johnson and then met with Ms. Langford on March 2, 2010 at the African American Library at Gregory school and she again refused to address my complaint.

On March 2, I again telephone Lt. Hartnet who now changed his story and said that he would refer a new complaint against Meller Langford to the Houston Public Library Director Rhea Lawson.

On March 3 I filed a complaint with Karlinda Kirkwood of the Inspector Generals office. As per your department’s usual method they did not contact me.

On March 16 I called Lt. Harnet and he said that my complaint was referred to Rhea Lawson on March 5 and “it took a while for inter office mail to get it there.” When I asked why he did not investigate Meller Langford like he said he would, he denied that he told me that. When I asked him what would happen after the library again ignored my complaint he claimed, “You know the answer to that Mr. O’Brien.” Actually I do not work in the Office of the Inspector General and I do not have any idea what if anything they will do when they refer two separate complaints to the library and they do not address them.

Lt. Harnet’s lie to me about what he would do to prosecute my complaint is unprofessional behavior. Your Inspector General’s office is involved in covering up the discriminatory behavior of Houston Public Library employees against me on January 20, 2009. Almost two months have passed and your department refuses to carry out its duties.

Because you stood in my church last night and said you “would not tolerate unprofessional behavior,” I want to know what action you will take to address this matter. The police department works for the taxpayers and should not be involved in covering up malfeasance by city employees.

I request that you address this matter immediately and contact me in writing describing what actions you have taken to address your Inspector General’s office, particularly Lt. Thomas Harnet’s lack of professionalism and failure to discharge his duties in my complaints against the African American Library at Gregory School and Meller Langford, deputy director of the Houston Public library.


Timothy J. O’Brien, Ph.D

March 19, 2010 Posted by | police | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Library administrators involved in cover up


February 16, 2010, Freedmen’s Town – Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Lawson and Roosevelt Weeks, Deputy Director of Library Administration are involved in a cover up of an investigation by the Houston Inspector General, (a division of the Houston Police Department) for discriminatory practices at the African American Library at Gregory School (“AALG”).

In January, 2010, a patron with a doctorate in African American history attempted to access some public documents at the African American Library only to be denied by librarian Nicolas Castellanos. The documents, like all materials at public libraries, are for patron’s use. After a complaint through the library system resulted in a coverup by Deputy Director of Public Services Meller Langford, the patron filed a complaint with the Inspector General. The Inspector General revealed today that they referred their investigation to Dr. Lawson’s office over a week ago. Lawson’s office claimed today that they “never received it,” and the Inspector General’s materials “got lost in the mail.”

At no time did Lawson’s office attempt to complete the Inspector General’s investigation into the discrimination by African American Library staffers. Nor did they attempt to actually discern if they even received the complaint, instead they went right to cover up mode. Now that the adminstrative complaint procedures have been revealed as a sham, legal options are being considered.

In the meantime, the AALG continues to waste over $400,000 per year in salaries for nine staffers to sit around and read the sports pages, play on facebook and otherwise waste taxpayer dollars because the library, designed as an archive, has less than 12 linear feet of archival material and offers nothing to the surrounding low income community or any City of Houston residents. The AALG has few if any customers. The 23,000 square foot building was rehabbed at taxpayer’s expense of over 10 million dollars and now sits as an example of wasteful city government practices.

Timothy J. O’Brien, Ph.D
for Gregory Library Watch

February 16, 2010 Posted by | media, press release | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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