Of the couple dozen or so photos I took Saturday at Emancipation Park, this one at right is the only really good one. The couple on stilts and their young companions, all arrayed in 19th-century finery, walked around the grounds, posing for pictures with people attending the celebration of Juneteenth and the newly gussied up park. It was a mighty hot day for such accoutrements, with temperatures around 95F/35C and the customary Houston summer humidity.
By design, this weekend's Grand Reopening of the park coincided with Juneteenth Weekend. Juneteenth has special significance in Texas, since the Emancipation Proclamation arrived in the South via Galveston on 19 June 1865. Here's an item proposing making Juneteenth a federal holiday. (Thanks, Mo Cortez.)
The New York Times apparently considered the park's reopening worthy of coverage. Excellent. It's that and more. (NYT has a paywall, but you get limited free views per month.)
Along with the reopening of the splendidly refurbished park, Emancipation Avenue got its official debut. The air was all abuzz with expectations of an economic revival along the former Dowling Street corridor, preferably without a lot of big chain stores and fast-food joints. For longtime Inner Loopers, the challenge now is not to "dead-name" Emancipation Avenue, which is no longer named after a Confederate general.
Click the Read More link to see more photos of slightly less quality.
While I did get to walk around the grounds, my main reason for dropping by was to help out at the Harris County Green Party's table inside the spiffy new Cultural Center. Major props to Bernadine Williams, my former county co-chair, for arranging that table. A few of us Greens informed visitors about the party and promoted the HCGP Black Caucus, which Bernadine is facilitating. This proved to be an excellent approach for spreading the word about the Greens among the mostly African American crowd, in this traditionally African American neighborhood.
Reactions: Generally Positive
Bernadine also took care to ask visitors what political issue or issues are most important to them. This is something the Green Party likes to think it does well: listening to people. While quite a few of us are really good at expressing our opinions, we tend to place less emphasis on listening to others' and are less adept at it than we should be. Listening to voters' concerns was a big part of Jill Stein's exploratory tour in 2015, before she announced her candidacy for president.
Those to whom we talked and listened, by and large, agreed that neither major party is working for them, and that our nation needs other choices. During the four hours I spent there, not one person indignantly defended the Democratic Party, the default political home of African American voters in the South since the 1960s and in other parts since the New Deal.
In the Black Caucus handout that she created, Bernadine placed "Reparations to African-Americans and Native Americans" first among the positions the Green Party supports. "Universal Healthcare" lies just below that. I was pleased to see that our table was placed right next to that of Health Care for All Texas, since Greens tend to be passionate about that issue.
Greens can certainly distinguish themselves from the major parties—and most of the minor ones—in their party's support for reparations for African and Indigenous Americans. We can debate about what form those reparations will take, and at what cost, but mere apologies for centuries of slavery and genocide are not enough.
The question of reparations brought to mind the HCGP meeting in 2001 (IIRC), at which a guest speaker addressed the topic. We were using the phrase "reparations for slavery" in those days. The Greens gathered in the library that evening for far from unanimous, but a majority were in favor of recompense for the descendants of the millions enslaved or killed, and of those subsequently impoverished through state and federal policies.
Regarding our African American neighbors, it's much more than slavery, of course. It's the millions who didn't survive the Middle Passage. It's the never-realized promise of 40 acres and a mule. It's redlining. It's school segregation. It's discrimination in employment. It's mass incarceration, mostly for drug offenses, for buying and selling drugs supplied by the white establishment.
Revival Eventually—without Gentrification, Please
Also near our table in the corner of the room were two tables staffed by one woman named Mackenzie (sorry, didn't get her last name): one for Project Row Houses and one for Emancipation Economic Development Council.
The Times piece linked above reflects locals' misgivings about what shape a revival of Houston's "Black Main Street" might take. The quote below is about the park itself, but it could easily be applied to the redevelopment efforts along Emancipation Avenue. These people have seen what passes for "growth" in other neighborhoods: affordable older homes bulldozed and replaced by $400,000 lofts, locally owned businesses giving way to CVS and Mickey D's, etc.
Initially, there was some skepticism in Third Ward about the renovation, especially given the influx of wealthier, often white residents who have been filling up new townhouse developments over the past few years, attracted by the relatively cheap home prices and proximity to downtown.
EEDC's central aim is revitalization without corporatization. I salute the group for making that its mission. Its affiliated organization, the Emancipation Community Development Partnership, will be responsible for studies and implementation.
Make it work EEDC. Use that Kinder Foundation money for all the good you can squeeze out of it. Then we can move on to reviving some other neighborhoods, like Bernadine's Sunnyside.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.