His own man

Sore losers say the white establishment bought and sold Ron Price. Don't believe it.

Of the original 13 Pearl Guards, 10 are now in college, and two are in the Marines, Price said. The other boy quit the Pearl Guards and moved out of state.

"I can see my work--it's beautiful," he said. "I don't have to give you rhetoric on a radio station. I can show you my work--a transformation of young African-American men's lives."

Price's highly visible efforts with the Pearl Guards brought him name recognition in South Dallas--and the stamp of legitimacy that ultimately made him a contender for Gilliam's seat. Because if ever a candidate has established his genuine concern for DISD kids through tangible accomplishments, it's Price.

"Why shouldn't the black community have a young, African-American role model?" Price asked me. "Kathlyn Gilliam is 66. That's a generation gap. I know the kids' slang. They cain't talk Ebonics and no think I don' know what they talkin' about. I understand every gang sign, every gang paraphernalia and color; I understand what it means if you're wiggling your pinkie. And now I can use the benefits of that understanding to help kids get out of the condition they're in."

Gilliam's supporters exposed their true agenda on election day, when South Dallas witnessed a wave of political activity such as I'd never seen before.

As Ron Price dispatched a handful of Pearl Guards to stand by the South Dallas polling sites and distribute pushcards, Gilliam unleashed an army--dozens of teenagers and adults, including elected officials Thomas G. Jones and John Wiley Price.

B.C. Foreman, Ron Price's campaign manager and president of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, was appalled by the ensuing ugliness. He claims Gilliam's minions ripped up Price campaign signs and knocked pushcards out of the Pearl Guards' hands.

"When it was just the kids, they got along fine," Foreman says. "But when the adults came, that's when it got nasty. People were cursing at the boys. We said if they knock the pushcard out of your hand, pick it up. If they tear it up, let them; we'll come by and replace it. It wasn't a good day for kids."

Although the outcome definitely was.
"It probably changed the whole city of Dallas," Foreman says. "No one likes to lose, but it seems like a group of them all do the same thing and come to the aid of each other, and they threaten newcomers.

"But all you had to do was break the chain. We broke it, and it's going to happen more and more. You'll see changes coming now."

Longtime DISD trustee Yvonne Ewell sounded a bit grumpy late last week when I inquired about her new colleague, Ron Price. "I haven't had any reasoned observations of him," she said.

I pressed her. "He's an affable man and seems to be open to learning," she said. "Everybody's an optimist till they hit hard reality. Having a fresh spirit and believing things can and will get better--that's a part of being new."

I asked Ewell what qualities made for success on the board.
"Legitimacy--a sense of authenticity and integrity," she said.
Does Price have it?
"It's too early to know," she said.

Well, I wanted to find out. So last Thursday, I drove to Price's tiny, three-bedroom frame home on Jamaica Street, just south of Fair Park.

At the height of the crack menace in 1991, this was one of Dallas' nastiest neighborhoods. I came here to talk to Price's mother, 55-year-old Devorah Israel, who'd come up from her country home near Tyler to provide moral support and home cooking during her son's campaign.

A pot of beans simmered on the stove as we spoke, its earthy smells spreading to the living room, the only truly civilized space in what can be accurately described as a bachelor's pad.

It was here, Israel explained, that on her regular visits to see her son, she'd often lay pallets on the floor for members of the Pearl Guards who temporarily lacked a home. She'd iron their clothes, trying to straighten the wrinkles in borrowed blue suits. She'd feed them, talk to them, give them a place to bathe.

I was curious how she'd responded when Price informed her he was running for Gilliam's seat. But I had it all backwards.

"I told him," Israel said. "I had a vision--God told me to tell him that. When the Lord first revealed that to me, I just mentioned it slightly to him. And he listened. Because he always listened to what I had to say."

The vision wasn't something she actually saw, she explained. But God told her to tell him "he could do more for the kids on the school board than he could anywhere else.

"I knew there was gonna be a battle," she added. "But I knew God was with him."

Price's mother was responsible for her son's strict upbringing. While growing up in Spanish Harlem in the early years, and later in Garland, Ron attended Pentecostal and Baptist churches with his family. Back in those days, black Pentecostals didn't drink, go to movies, or even wear makeup.

They made up for their abstemiousness in other ways, preaching a message of racial reconciliation that rubbed off on Ron Price.

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