Writers in the Schools (WITS) Writer To Present at Houston Public Library

Posted February 21, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

An Afternoon with Mignette Patrick Dorsey 

as part of the Houston Public Library “An Afternoon With” Author Series

Saturday, February 25 | 1 PM

Henington-Alief Regional Library

WITS writer and award-winning journalist Mignette Patrick Dorsey will discuss her book, Speak Truth to Power: The Story of Charles Patrick, a Civil Rights Pioneer, which tells the story of the author’s father. Charles Patrick’s quest for justice in segregated Alabama on the eve of the civil rights movement represents a telling instance of the growing determination of African Americans to be treated fairly; it was part of the broadening and deepening stream of resolve that led to the widespread activism of the civil rights movement.

Students Respond to Civil Rights Exhibit Tonight at the Menil

Posted May 19, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Dan Budnik photograph, The Menil Collection

WITS invites you to The Watchful Eye Reading, at 7PM tonight at the Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross. Writers in the Schools (WITS) has developed a unique program (initiated with the support of The Menil Collection in 1989) in which students visiting the museum write poetry and prose inspired by the work on view. WITS is one of many community nonprofits commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the Freedom Rides through the Freedom Now Project, Houston’s effort to retrace the Civil Rights Movement through educational programs and initiatives. At this event, The Watchful Eye, students will read their work inspired by the photographs in the Civil Rights exhibit The Whole World Was Watching. Award-winning journalist and author Mignette Patrick Dorsey will deliver the keynote speech. Following is a poem written by Brittany who tells us what courage is in her own words.


I am very brave

Who or what can

Stand in my way?

I am fighting for my rights.

I know right from wrong.

I am a black man

With a lot of power and

Might in my hands and

Yes, I have many worries.

I might not be understood

But I know my place in this

World. My eyes hold a lot of

Things. My future is in my

Dreams, and I’m happy to

Know where I stand.

By Brittany, 12th grade

FREEDOM RIDERS Premiere on PBS/Channel 8

Posted May 16, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) is a part of an amazing yearlong community initiative, called the Freedom Now Project, to remember and preserve the history of activism in Houston.  Our city has many important stories about civil rights organizing and change.  This year WITS is one of several organizations dedicated to educating and inspiring students about the art and writing of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

We hope you will set aside time tonight, Monday, May 16th, for the Houston PBS/Channel 8 premiere of FREEDOM RIDERS, a 2-hour documentary about the more than 400 black and white Americans who risked their lives to bring about change in the United States.

WITS students are being motivated in powerful ways by the stories and photographs of Freedom Riders, many of whom were young people.  They are imagining what it may have been like to stand up and do the right thing at a crucial moment in U.S. history.  Here is a poem written by Maya, a 4th grader, about the power of joining forces with others to bring about change.


I am marching down the street.

It’s night, and I am singing with

people all around me.

It’s cold, but I don’t notice

because I am trying to find my

way to freedom. I am letting

my soul take flight like a bird.

My arms are linked to the sky.

Voices ring in my ears as we

sing our way to heaven.

by Maya, age 10

On Thursday at 7 p.m. a group of WITS students will read their original stories and poems about the Civil Rights movement. This free event, The Watchful Eye, will be held at the Menil Collection, and the public is welcome to attend.

“The Whole World Was Watching” Exhibit Opens this Saturday

Posted March 4, 2011 & filed under Notebook.


The Whole World Was Watching, a photography exhibit tracing the Civil Rights Movement, opens this Saturday at the Menil Collection and The African American Library at the Gregory School.  The collected works from Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil portray a vivid and haunting  account of what it meant to be an African American living in the turbulent South, fighting  Jim Crow segregation. Reverend William Lawson, a forerunner of Civil Rights activism in Houston, will speak on the Menil bookstore deck; other highlights include songs by Heritage of Zion Quartet, music by Tierney Malone, and exhibit tours.

What: The Whole World Was Watching: Civil Rights Era Photographs from Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil

When: Saturday, March 5 through September 25

Where: Receptions 2-4 p.m. at The African American Library at the Gregory School; 4-6 p.m. at the Menil bookstore.

Cost: Free and open to the public

Additional info: The Whole World Was Watching launches “Freedom Now Project,” Houston’s commemoration of  sit-ins, marches, and boycotts that changed the social landscape of the South and help shaped the history of  the Civil Rights across the country. WITS joins other nonprofits  to present a variety of educational programs, lectures,  activities, and events leading up to and extending beyond the May 16th  premier of the PBS documentary Freedom Riders.

For more information, visit the Freedom Now website and follow the conversation on Facebook.

Erasure Poem

Posted February 15, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Walk alone

Cannot turn back

will you be satisfied?

Can never be satisfied

horrors, brutality

can never be satisfied

cannot vote

no, no

not satisfied

some have come fresh from narrow jail cells

with that

go back

go back


go back

go back

can and will be changed

face the difficulties

my friends

a dream

created equal

transformed into an oasis of freedom

By Monica, 9th grade

With words from “I Have a Dream” by Dr. M. L. King

Where Are We Now: Mignette Dorsey

Posted September 17, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Mignette Dorsey will discuss and sign her newly released book, Speak Truth to Power: The Story of Charles Patrick, A Civil Rights Pioneer, this Saturday, September 18,  3 PM at The African American Library at the Gregory School, 1300 Victor Street.  The story is based on Dorsey’s father, Charles Patrick, a civil rights leader from Alabama whose case against a white police officer propelled his fight for social justice in the fifties.  This event is free and open to the public.

About the Book Speak Truth to Power: The Story of Charles Patrick, a Civil Rights Pioneer

The story of black WWII veteran Charles Patrick begins in Birmingham, Alabama, December 1954. An argument with a white woman over a parking space leads to a savage beating administered by her police officer husband and two other cops. After agonizing soul searching, Patrick accuses the officers of assault before a racist judge and then waits for justice—or death. Expecting his own demise, Patrick instructs his brother to support his family, but is shocked when the officers are abruptly fired. He is even more stunned when they are rehired to the dismay of Birmingham’s white and black citizenry, the white-owned press and politicians.

With white citizens writing fiery letters in support of Patrick, black citizens rallying at the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, coupled with a barrage of well-placed front-page news stories, Patrick’s persistent quest for justice with one white and later two black attorneys pays off. Two of the officers are fired, followed by an F.B.I. investigation and federal indictment of the trio. The case also prompts policy changes to the Birmingham police force and city commission, while laying an early foundation for the Civil Rights Movement that ensued later. Speak Truth to Power offers a rare look into the workings of the 1954 press, the city polity and unheralded civil rights attorneys — before Rosa Parks’ brave stand. Most unusual, however, is that it unveils racial unity as early as 1954.  – University of Alabama Press

About the Author

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Mignette Y. Patrick Dorsey is the youngest child of Charles and Rutha Patrick. She is a journalist and writer, former city of Houston spokesperson,  and former journalism teacher. Currently, she is adjunct professor at Lone Star College-CyFair  and an active member of the Houston Association of Black Journalists. Dorsey is completing a screenplay based on her father’s story. For more information, click here.