Residents of the historic Third Ward community in Houston, Texas have held rallies and Town hall meetings to express their frustration with the U.S. Postal Service about their plans to close the Southmore Station at 4110 Almeda.
According to a U.S. Postal Service announcement that was sent out last month, the Southmore Station would move to a location that has "yet-to-be-determined" within the same 77004 -- ZIP code; a move that residents are not in support of at all.
The Post Office, which has been designated a historic site in Third Ward, is one of six Post Offices in the city of Houston that are scheduled for relocation. The other sites that are slated to be moved are: Greenbriar, Julius Melcher, Medical Center, Memorial Park and University.
At a rally held this past Thursday, angry protestors came out in full force to speak out against actions they believe are attacks on the elderly and on the Black community as a whole. The rally was organized by National Black United Front National Chairman Kofi Taharka, who told attendees that community residents were not given proper notice about the relocation.
"The Post Office has the ability to send information and touch every household in our community. How is that you have several of our elders and many more within our community that didn’t even know this Post Office was closing?," said Taharka. "Many of our seniors don’t have email addresses. There is something really wrong with this picture."
Residents complained that they have already felt they were under attack, after the U.S. Postal Service moved all of the P.O. Boxes out of the Southmore Station Post Office before this relocation announcement was discovered.
Sandra Massie, who is affectionately known by many as the "Mayor of Sunnyside," came out to show her support for the Third Ward residents, because she aggressively had to fight to stop the closure of a Post Office in her Sunnyside community not too long ago.
"We are calling on our members of Congress to stand with their constituents to keep this Post Office open," said Massie. "There is an ultimate plan to undermine the Black community in moving these Post Offices out of the community. It has historical value in this community and we won’t stand for it being closed."
Newly-elected District D City Councilman Dwight Boykins, also attended the rally and told the residents of the community that he planned to stand with them to demand the Post Office not be moved and find out more information from Congressional leaders as to how this can be stopped.
"It’s a coincidence they want to go down Almeda," said Boykins. He was referring to the fact that the U.S. Postal service has plans to relocate the Southmore Station and the Medical Center location on the other side of Old Spanish Trail.
The historic site, where the Post Office is now sits, has a special place in the hearts of the Black residents of Third Ward, because it is the place where students marched from Texas Southern University’s campus to perform the first sit-in demonstration in Houston. Those Black students challenged the segregated lunch counters at Weingarten Supermarket in 1960 and now there is a Texas Historical Commission marker at the site that commemorates the non-violent protests that helped integrate public facilities.
Taharka told attendees that the comments period had been extended and he passed out a petition encouraging people to collect signatures in order to protest the Post Office relocation.
Residents were not made aware of the potential changes concerning the Post Office, until U.S. Postal Service officials made a presentation to the Houston City Council during a public comment session last month.
After the issue surfaced at City Hall, U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and other elected officials requested a meeting about all of the potential relocations and were instrumental in making the U.S. Postal Service extend the public comment deadline by two weeks from its original deadline of January 3rd to January 17th.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee held a Town hall meeting, this past Saturday at the Judson Robinson Community Center, to speak out against moving the Post Office and indicated her desire to have it remain at the current site.
The room was overflowing with community residents, concerned citizens and postal officials, who gathered to discuss to controversy surrounding the Post Office relocation plans and the importance of the Southmore Station. Attendees spoke passionately about the significant historical aspect of the Post Office in the Third Ward community.
"This Post Office is unique and this is a fight we cannot lose," said Congresswoman Jackson Lee. "This is a fight for our seniors, businesses and families. For safety reasons, our senior citizens don’t want important documents to come to their home."
District I Councilman Larry Green, District D Councilman Dwight Boykins and U.S. Congressman Al Green were in attendance and promised to work with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee to address this issue.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee made it very clear that she would be working with her constituents and the Postal Advisory Committee to make sure these Post Offices do not close.
U.S. Postal Service Houston district manager William J. Mitchell was in attendance and admitted publicly that he was not even aware the land was a historical site and assured the audience that that his recommendation would be taken into consideration when officials in Washington D.C. ultimately decide.
Sandra Rybicki, U.S. Postal Service real estate specialist, stated that if the decision was to relocate the post office, there would be two options considered: 1) Identify an existing location within close proximity or 2) Sell the facility and lease back a portion for the retail presence.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee indicated that U.S. postal officials indicated that they have jobs that are vacant and not being filled, as well as business opportunities and has asked postal officials to come into the neighborhood and let the community know about them. Postal officials indicated they would be work closer with the community to educate them on these opportunities.
Most importantly, community residents were instructed to write letters to the U.S. Postal Service by January 17th. Postal officials promised to send out postcards to community residents that will list the criteria that will be used to determine the relocation of the Post Office.
Written comments about any or all proposed relocations should be submitted to: Sandra A. Rybicki, Real Estate Specialist, U.S. Postal Service, Southern Facilities Service Office, P.O. Box 667180, Dallas, TX 75266-7180.
The Houston Forward Times will keep our readers informed about any decisions being made.