More than two dozen community members gathered for an emergency rally in support of Larry McKinzie, a long-time educator facing potential termination by the Houston Independent School District. Chants of “We’re fired up; we can’t take it no more” echoed through the crowd, reflecting their determination to stand with McKinzie.
McKinzie has been a beloved educator within the HISD system for nearly three decades. However, he is not just known for his commitment to education; he is recognized for his tireless advocacy for the quality education of Black and Brown students and teachers.
During an HISD school board meeting on June 22, McKinzie voiced concerns about transparency and accountability within the district. He shared the home addresses and names of family members of one of the Board of Managers and mentioned protests at his workplaces.
The district interpreted these remarks as threats and notified McKinzie by mail that a proposal to terminate his employment was pending before the board. However, McKinzie maintains that his words were misinterpreted and simply wanted the board to be more transparent with the public.
“They are accusing me of threatening the board of managers,” McKinzie said. “They are coming in to work acting like they are not public officials. At the time, they didn’t have email addresses or telephone numbers. I should be able to communicate with them if they represent me.”
In response to McKinzie’s actions, the board claimed that he had violated several district policies, including respecting colleagues and supervisors and adhering to established norms of behavior for the district and community as defined by local, state and federal laws.
Supporters of McKinzie at the rally emphasized the importance of speaking out against injustice and protecting those who advocate for the community. Terry Collins, a National Black United Front (NBUF) member, said, “People are afraid to speak out because they fear their jobs will be in danger. They are using Larry as an example to scare us into keeping quiet, and we can’t let that happen.”
Arthur J. Smith, a Fifth Ward community activist, shared his experience with McKinzie’s support. In 2017, Smith was physically assaulted by an off-duty police officer for a property dispute. During his ordeal, McKinzie stood by him, helping to draw attention to his case on social media and garnering community support.
McKinzie remains steadfast and determined to fight for his position and the values he believes in. He expressed gratitude for the support he received during the rally and emphasized that he is in the process of presenting character witnesses during his hearings.
“I’m under attack. They are trying to fire me completely, but what this rally has done is give me more energy because I’m fired up,” McKinzie said. “As long as I’m doing right, God’s going to take care of me.”