On Sundays MLK Boulevard is the place to be. It’s named after Martin Luther King and it was originally named South Park Boulevard until 1977 when Houston’s city council decided to rename it in Kings Honor. Many states in the US have an MLK Boulevard, 70% of them being southern states. I can remember a time when I was in Austin, Texas and I saw that we were on MLK. I turned to my mother and said, “I didn’t know this our street came this far,” she laughed and said “No Austin has an MLK street too.” I had no idea at the time that King was honored in so many states by having a street after him. Houstons’ MLK runs through the south east region in a neighborhood south of 610 known as Southpark, which comes from the original name of the street.
On MLK there is always something for you to do, such as watch car shows, play basketball, football and even baseball games at the parks to stop and watch. The most common thing you see on the boulevard is cars. Not just any cars, but those who are very noticeable in a crowd. Some people call them show cars but to the streets there known as “slabs”. The cars have custom paint jobs, big rims, loud music, and tinted windows, most include all of the above. People really go to extremes with “slabbin out there ride” and on MLK Sundays they pull out the“slab” and cruise down MLK.
The cars are so flashy that there is no way that you can miss them on the road. One car in particular that I can never forget was a shiny, candy red, old school impala. It had the top cut off and the rims were poking out like sharp spokes known as 4‘s. We didn’t get to close because the rims were so sharp it looked like they would shred through the side of your car. There was one guy driving and a man in the passenger seat. They bobbed their heads as he swung the car from side to side and blasted the music so loud it was impossible to determine what song it was because the bass overpowered the words. A lot of Houston hiphop artist mention MLK and the lifestyle that goes along with it in their songs. Words like fo‘s (4‘s), candy paint jobs, slab, swang on em’ and bang( referring to the bass in the speakers), can be heard throughout the lyrics.
One of the most known places on MLK is Kings Flea Market. It’s a huge, old brown building with two stories filled with little shops that sale everything from clothes to jewelry, rims for your cars, stereo systems and much more. The shops are individually owned and usually worked by the owner or a relative of the owner. In the flea market you can find almost anything you need. I’ve purchased phone chargers and games and many of my friends have bought even more things. One of my friends in particular has become really cool with a guy who works in a cell phone shop there. She always takes her phones there, trades them for newer ones, or just sells hers and he gives her a fair price for them. They actually have a tattoo and barbershop there. I wouldn’t really trust it, but there are people who keep them in business. Sundays is one of the busiest days for the flea market as well. Many people come to show off there rides and sometimes there are even car shows. Others come to shop and watch the cars come through showing off and swanging as if they are going to hit each other.
One of my close friends can recall a time when he was watching a man swangin his slab down the boulevard and his poking rims sliced into another car’s tires. Of course a fight followed. My grandma always complains about the traffic on the street, and when cars come down intersecting neighborhood streets to avoid the traffic lights. “I wish these hooligans would stop speeding through here with that loud music,” she’d say disgusted. My street intersects MLK and is often used as a “swangin and bangin” ground for people and their slabs, and a way to avoid street lights. I can actually step outside in my driveway and watch the action take place. I always know when the Boulevard is going to be really hype because my street gets a lot of traffic. On Sundays I can hear the banging of music from slabs passing though at about five or ten minute intervals, about 2 or 3 cars at a time. Sometimes they pass through in groups known as “lines”. South Park is known for the hood famous Red Line. It’s a group of candy red slabs that show up to about every major Houston event and show off the slabs. Houston also has a green line, blue line, and orange line which originated from different areas in the city. The red line is saidto be the original slab line.
MLK also is home to one of south east Houston’s busiest parks known as South Macgregor. There is not one day where the park is empty. There are always groups of guys playing basketball or people in the pool, playing football, or running the track. On Martin Luther Kings birthday there is a celebration held at the park. People barbeque, sell snow cones and pop corn, rent moon walks and there’s even a stage for local artist to perform. Every time I go I always see a lot of people I know and I have a blast. Of course people bring out their nice cars and park them on the grass for people to look at and take pictures of. One year I attended the celebration and there was this guy known as Stupid Tim. He does really crazy things with his cars. He had a big RV that he’d had painted candy orange and it had poking rims, I wish I could’ve gotten a picture.
Another fun event on MLK is the National Night Out. Its an event hosted by the neighborhood Civic Club once a year during October. The civic club puts together this festive for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. They have raffles which gives the people an opportunity to win all kinds of gifts. Last year I can remember a someone winning a DVD player and a MP3 player. Free food face painting, and moon walks are available for the kids to enjoy. If you came to National Night Out you would probably catch me and one of my friends painting crooked hearts, butterflies and dragons on some child’s face, which is actually fun. Its nice to see the people of the neighborhood really enjoy themselves and I believe they are very appreciative of the event.
I always get excited to see what action is will be taking place each Sunday, especially if it’s a holiday weekend. There always familiar and unfamiliar cars and faces. There use to be a block party hosted on the boulevard after the Kappa Beach party in Galveston. When everyone was done partying at the beach for the weekend, they would come to MLK and party all night. The street would be completely blocked it made it impossible for anyone to drive down it. People would walk through the cars which where at a stand still in the middle of the street, drinking, dancing to loud music, and having “recreational” fun. It wasn’t a place to be at that moment if you where under the age of 18 I’d say. Over the years the Kappa Beach party died down, but the after party has not. They still have the Kappa Beach Party but instead of going to Galveston most people just wait to go to MLK to party.
On one of MLK’s hidden intersecting streets is Browncroft. It’s one of those “not so safe” areas you would see in a movie based on the ghetto. I’m not going release much information on that area, but there is a lot of “recreational” activity going on in that area that would be frowned upon. The housing on the street is far from luxurious. The raggedy Browncroft apartments stick out like a nasty, infected sore thumb. By every door frame is a leaky, rusted a/c unit that sticks through the front window. Some of the doors consist of burglar bars and some don’t, one can use the imagination to picture what activities take place behind excessively concealed doors. People hang out in battered old lawn chairs and watch as others walk and ride down the street. You’ll occasionally catch a few young guys tossing a basketball in a an old net less basketball goal hidden in the shade an old tree in the dusty, barely covered by grass front lawn of the apartments.
To some people MLK is just as street, but to others it’s a lifestyle. They spend weekend after weekend cruising up and down the boulevard getting into whatever it has to offer. Depending on how open minded you are it could actually be a really enjoyable place to kick it with friends or to meet new interesting people.