HOUSTON — I have been appalled by the recent right-wing assault on Texas Southern University, the nation’s second largest historically Black college.
There have been multiple attempts to degrade the university, led by Bush crony Gov. Rick Perry. Perry attempted to throw the university into a conservatorship status, but that was thwarted. TSU President Priscilla Slade was subject to a lawsuit mounted by Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, which ended in a mistrial. None of the right-wing malarkey has stuck, but it has set back the university by damaging its reputation, and this has resulted in lowered attendance and support.
Nevertheless, TSU’s world famous John T. Biggers Art School held an exhibit recently that demonstrates the importance of this fine university.
“Homecoming: The Third Biennial TSU Art Alumni Invitational” spit in the eyes of the university’s detractors. It consisted of over 40 works by 30 artists who are graduates of TSU’s fine arts department. These artists have been featured in art institutions such as the Galveston Art Center, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and many are represented by major galleries.
Many works featured working people in various work situations.
Unabashedly political, one painting by Cedric Franklin titled “What If Rice Was One of Us?” portrays Condoleezza Rice with a bared back showing intricate scars, presumably a result of the lashings that African Americans receive routinely from racism.
Another painting titled “Staring at the Sun,” by Robert Pruitt, depicts an African American woman wearing a white dress with elaborate scientific and mathematical equations and diagrams on it, symbolizing the possibility of advancement through knowledge.
“Into the Light,” by Shunshieva, shows an African American man riding a bus, perhaps going to work or to school. The painting depicts the progress that has been made by African Americans and will be made in the future in spite of the racist attacks from right-wingers.
TSU has a wonderful history, with many distinguished alumni including former congressmembers Barbara Jordan (the university has the collection of her papers) and Mickey Leland. It also has a collection of the documents of slaves in Texas.
In the 1960s, TSU was prominent in the civil rights movement in Houston. More recently, its health sciences department has done groundbreaking research on the racial disparity in the provision of health services in the U.S. It is not hard to see why the Bush cronies would make it a prime target for attack.