On Alabama St., two historic worlds just an intersection apart
Houston is home to oil and gas, home to opportunity, and most of all, home to diversity. To find this, you just have to take a casual stroll to Midtown.
If you turn right on Wheeler, you’ll see dozens of large, aged trees shooting up into the sky on Cullen Blvd. Trees on one side of the street are beautiful; they flourish with health and color. They thrive under the sunny rays. These trees are so extraordinarily beautiful that they practically inspire goodwill.
On the other side of the street, equally tall trees exist, though their recent exposure to the winds of Hurricane Harvey has stripped them of their leaves and their color. Their branches seem decrepit, close to falling apart. These trees, in contrast to their neighbors, display the stark disparity of inequity.
Through a certain lens, the same effect can be observed while driving on Alabama St., out of the Third Ward and into Montrose. It can be easy to make assumptions about the people who live on either side of this street.
The folks who live on our side of Alabama live in the Cuney Homes, an apartment complex built by the Housing Authority in 1938. Many of the residents are African-American. Young kids playfully ride their bikes down the streets of the Homes at all hours of the day. This area feels like it came alive from the pages of history books, like it carries the burden and heartache and victories and memories of its residents.
Cars line the sides of those streets, and men and women socialize, laugh, talk and play with their children. On the weekends, especially on Sunday mornings after church, you can see young people in this small park looking happy, busy and joyful. The culture bursts forth from the very cracks in the pavement.
Not too far down that very street the homes look stronger, larger, more expensive, and more likely to appear in an episode of Modern Family in a wide shot. Just as many assumptions can be made about the people who live in those neighborhoods.
The people who live there are wealthier. They are more likely to be educated. The children here are more likely to be playing on one of the many baseball fields in some little league competition in the area as opposed to riding their bikes around the neighborhood unsupervised. Young parents walk with their children, their purebred dogs leashed and running ahead of them. I can’t say that a lot of the folks who live on this other, more enriched side of Alabama St. are not ethnically diverse. In fact, they likely boast more diversity than Houston’s mostly African-American Third Ward.
Houston is home to oil and gas and its affluence. Houston is home to residents who are living chapters of history books. Houston is home to Alabama St. and all of its stories.
I hope that one day you get to walk underneath them, these beautiful trees. But I also hope that you never forget that, often just across town or perhaps just a street away or just around a corner, you realize that there are landscapes so rich in the culture of their own people; that there is an enormous sky, sliced apart by the branches of trees strong and healthy or bare and colorless.
Opinion columnist Mia Valdez is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at [email protected].