SUNNYSIDE TEXAS ... Possibly Houston's least gentrified area.
The oldest African American community in South Houston.
This area started as a place for enslaved Africans to settle. The people slowly began building their own community. One in which they could have pride in.
As a little husky boy, with pants squeezing around my thighs, and cuffs not quite meeting my shoes, I spent most of my time in SunnySide and South Park. I attended South Wesley AME Church on the corner of MLK and Airport.
Driving in our non air-conditioned 1970's Pontiac, with the red, white, and black striped seats. With the scorching hot seatbelt buckles, staticky 1360am playing on the radio (sometimes 90.9 ktsu), and the constant squeaking of shocks holding on for dear life.
Descriptive and evocative, YES.
BUT what stood out to me as a young child was STRENGTH AND PRIDE. The elders of the community could be seen outside in the scorching sun, sweat rag on their shoulder, reading glasses hanging from their noses, with a water hose in tow. They would be manually watering (that's right, none of that sprinkler system jazz) their prized green grass, and their precisely overly populated flowerbeds. Or sitting under their car-porch, in their best "house gown", fanning themselves, awkwardly staring into the street at the slow passing vehicles. Awaiting that ever-so friendly and mandatory Southern honk of the horn.
Sunday's were filled with families overly dressed in layers of "winter wool", in TEXAS unforgiving heat. Sometimes with the stench of re-ironed musky Sundays Best. That familiar melody of stockings rubbing together, followed by a heal clunk, almost singing a tune of "swish clunk...swish clunk". The familiar smells of "CHIMMY CHANS", the long lines to enter the flea market. The occasional uninvited (but welcomed...as a kid) interlude of chopped and screwed music, during a quiet benediction.
JOY was there! The glee of knowing that, "WE OWN THIS", would flow through the air.
Even then you could feel the pull of change coming, BUT the steadfast hold of the elders, was POWERFUL! The kind of power your mom possesses within her eyes and a stern stance. NO WORDS WERE NEEDED, BUT YOU KNEW NOT TO MESS WITH THEM.
I could feel the generations of pride while completing this self-portrait assignment for class. I even had the chance to meet two powerful sisters, SUNNYSIDE HISTORIANS and LIFE LONG RESIDENTS (B and A...Don't wanna use full names). They spoke of such pride of old Sunny Side. They also mentioned their fear of their community being erased by the foolery of greed a.k.a. gentrification. IF there are more folks existing in the area with B and A's enthusiasm, them "fat cats" and their briefcases have no chance!
Always remember... "SOUTH SIDE...WE ROLL ON CHOPPAZ!"