would like to congratulate
THE HOUSTON LESBIAN
on the formation
of their organization
and to thank them and
for their support in gaining
The G.P.C. Endorsement.
The MAY 3rd PRIMARY
is coming up!
Volunteers are needed.
Call Cham Dallas
Paid for by
Debra Danburg Campaign Committee
P.O. Box 7241, Houston TX 77008
Charles Blanton, Jr., Treasurer
THE BIG PICTURE
I wish to take issue with a statement made by
[Houston Police Department] Chief B.K.
Johnson in his interview with Janice Blue and
Gabrielle Cosgriff. ("I'm a Crime Fighter: B.K.
Johnson Takes a Hard Line/' Breakthrough
March 1980). Johnson tells Blue and Cosgriff
that his "infamous statement" in November of
79 was taken out of context by reporters. He
also says, "There was a helluva lot that went on
in the statement that was made." Being the reporter that asked the question, let me relate the
full text of then Assistant Chief B.K. Johnson's
Question: Chief, if in fact the civil service
promotional system has not discriminated
against blacks, how do you explain the fact
there are no black officers on the force higher
than the rank of sergeant?
Answer: I can't answer that question. I
don't know what goes on in the mind of the
black as far as studying, the ability to take a
test and score well-of knowing what he's supposed to be doing.
That was his complete answer. Although
Johnson let it stand, Assistant Chief Tommy
Mitchell tried to soften it with some qualifications. He said that because there are so few
blacks in the department, they faced an overwhelming number of whites in the competitive
For example, one black candidate competes
against 50 white officers for a captain's rank.
It's not good enough to come in third. The
black candidate must beat them all. Tests are
only good for a year. Say only two captain
ranks come open during the year. The black
number three is out in the cold, and must take
the test over again against another field of
mostly white competitors. To steal a line from
"Leader of the Pack": "You get the picture?
(Chorus) Yes, we see."
My compliments on the interview and
Dave's (David Crossley's) incredible pictures.
Metro News Service
I am writing this not to make a political point,
but for personal reasons. I have always considered Breakthrough my paper and I could not
keep quiet while ex-Dean Calvin Cannon was
portrayed as some kind of feminist hero to my
friends and community.
First, let me make clear that I am happy
with his work with the community to bring the
Judy Chicago exhibit here. Moreover, I do not
believe that the particular cause or manner of
his firing at this time was justified.
However, let us keep a little perspective. My
perspective, unfortunately, is a bitter one. This
is the man who initially refused to consider me
for a full-time teaching position for which I was
fully qualified because I was married to another
faculty member. He offered as a mitigating explanation his similar action with another wife
whom, he said, he had persuaded to withdraw
her application for an unrelated position. She
would be angry, he said, if he considered me
after dissuading her. Ex-Dean Cannon's then
policy of hiring quite a few highly qualified
wives to teach part-time, yet refusing to consider them as fulltime employees was hardly sex-
neutral in a context where men overwhelmingly
predominated in the faculty and [neither]
women (nor minorities) were . . . seriously recruited. (As early as 1974 I offered him information on rosters of women and minorities in
various disciplines which he never utilized.)
After I expressed my belief that it was
illegal to exclude me from consideration, I was
in fact given a set of interviews. The result was
that a faculty committee voted to hire me 5 - 2,
but ex-Dean Cannon vetoed that decision so
high-handedly that the letter of protest which
committee members sent included one signer
who had in fact opposed my candidacy.
Fortunately for the University, the other
candidate was also an excellent woman scholar,
so the students did not suffer from this man's
I offer my personal experience as, unfortunately, typical of much of the ex-Dean's
actions. Unfairly axed? Perhaps. Noble and fair-
minded? Not likely.
What an honor that Houston was where The
Dinner Party became liberated from its crates.
There was no disappointment as it was shown
the way it was intended encased in blackness
illuminated for us to feast on.
So my disappointment is great when I write
about Judy Chicago, the creative energy behind
The Dinner Party, and her abuse of the women's community in attendance at the session
called "Sexuality or Iconography: The Dinner
Party Plates" at UH/CLC on Sunday March 9.
We who had organized the panel realized
that we were taking quite a risk by not structuring ourselves in the manner that people have
come to expect from panels: the typical patriarchal assemblage of experts in linear procession. What began as a very exciting process
ended with Chicago literally walking out on us
because her agenda wasn't ours.
We invited the audience (who were actually
on stage with us) to express individual views of
their sexuality as the Dinner Party plates purposefully heighten our vaginal awareness. Some
women talked about their fear of the plates being broken as they fear their bodies being invaded. A woman spoke about having never explored her vulva and all its parts. Women were
spinning off, in process, spiraling, exciting one
idea that moved like fluid to the next-trying
on the feminine.
Chicago, who apparently distrusts process
unless it is under her charge and tutelage, became angry that women were calling it theirs,
owning the piece (as they were owning and reclaiming their bodies and history). She refused
to stay for the weaving of the Houston tapestry
of feelings and ideas because permanent housing for the piece was on her agenda. There is no
issue here regarding the importance of housing
The Dinner Party, but first we needed to have a
relationship with it, to begin to make it ours.
We were reclaiming and owning ourselves
through what she and the other wonderfully
gifted individuals have given us.
What Chicago doesn't realize is that she is
part of us, we have all created this moment in
history that creates a Dinner Party. Chicago's
elitist conception of her art puts her apart from
us, as if she is leading us, standing as an idol before us. I am excited by the piece because it
celebrates women; I love it. After struggling
with my disappointment in Chicago, I now love
that the Chicago idol was smashed for me on
March 9. Feminist philosophy has no idols; we
I would like to express my deep appreciation
for the efforts you have made and the support
you have given both to The Dinner Party and to
me personally. When I saw the lines of people
moving slowly through the exhibition, I felt
gratified that the many years of work by me
and my colleagues were not in vain. Thank you
for helping bring The Dinner Party back into
public view. Thank you for proving that the
human spirit can transcend the prejudice and
bigotry of an age. Thank you from me and
from all the people who worked on The Dinner
It's taken me long enough but it is my pleasure
to renew my subscription. It has been two years
since I've moved from Houston; a friend gave
me a subscription to Breakthrough and I continued it out of nostalgia. Now, I find it a welcome addition to my understanding of what is
happening with the women's movement reflecting not only the local Houston scene but events
of national significance. Further, not only is
the content and format much better than
when I first knew of it, but also it comes out
regularly. PAT O'BRIEN
Thanks for the coverage of "Blowout" (February 1980) and "The Invisible City" (September
1979) in Breakthrough.
It's super to have full transcripts published
of hard-biting documentaries.
Director of Programming
1728 Bissonnet • Houston 77005 • 713 527-8522
Meet Marilyn French, author of The Bleeding Heart
and The Women's Room April 15 7-9 p.m.
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