A Nice Sign of the Times, as Booker T. to Remain, Ya Know, Booker T.
Can you call off the dogs if you’re one of them? Too deep for me. Anyway, I admit that I was very upset when I heard that the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts might be renamed, if that's the right word. Looks like that is not going to happen.
I spoke today with businessman Nash Flores III, who has been the prime mover in the whole fund-raising and rebuilding effort that has transformed this storied but benighted downtown public high school into the gleaming showplace it is today. And Flores told me there is no way the school will ever be anything but Booker T.
Joyce Foreman, on her blog, first called attention to this issue; we then snapped the photo of a new sign installed on the side of the recently completed new wing of the school, calling it the “Nancy Hamon Arts Magnet.”
Later, I spoke to a group of Booker T. alums and said I didn’t think Nancy Hamon, the philanthropist who gave the school $10 million, had anything to do with the district's decision. I said my impression was that her role in the community has been generally progressive, that she’s not at all show-offy and that she probably had nothing to do with the signage issue. My guess was that this came from the plutocrats behind the development of the nearby Arts Distict -- specifically, the Dallas Performing Arts Center, a sub-division of Soviet-scale public-arts mausoleum.
Flores, whom I have known for many years, called to tell me in his inimitably nice way that I must be smoking my shower curtain. He said the big shots behind the Arts District are thrilled to have Booker T. there, especially now that it looks fancy too, because it’s a high school and therefore houses young people. Unlike the rest of the Arts District. He didn’t say that. I did. But I can see it.
I just hope the young people are safe.
He said the school will be called Booker T. Washington in big letters. The Nancy Hamon Arts Magnet sign came down about a week ago. He said when it or something else goes up, the words “Arts Magnet” won’t be part of it. It’ll be the Nancy Hamon Building or Wing or something.
Flores, by the way, is the scion of the family for whom Floresville, Texas, was named. His forebear, Francisco Flores de Abrego, was a member of one of the founding families of San Antonio. He lives in the Park Cities. His daughter went to Booker T.
I happened to see him years ago when he was being dragooned by the Dallas Landmark Commission. He wanted to set up a trailer on the parking lot behind the old Booker T. building to serve as a temporary office for the fund-raising campaign. Members of the commission peppered him with questions about whether the trailer would be “historically appropriate.” He was very diplomatic.
As I remember, he said he did not think that the trailer -- one of those construction-site things -- would be historically appropriate at all, but it would be temporary. Being Nash Flores and not Jim Schutze, he did not say, “What is this? Like, an I.Q. test or something?”
You have to hand it to anybody who is willing to navigate the muddy waters of Dallas City Hall in order to accomplish a grand goal. The rebuilding of Booker T. is an enormous vote of confidence in the city as it really is, as opposed to the city some plutocrats want it to be. It’s great that the name thing is going to be resolved.
So I am hereby calling myself off. Some day I may even teach myself to sit. --Jim Schutze