Category Archives: Third Ward

3RD WARD HIGH BY:Adrian R. Richard

‘’She said ‘Moe-Yo I didn’t know that you rap, I remember you singing way back at the Jack Yates’’
-Big Moe
 

November 2010-When people hear the name Jack Yates first thing that comes to mind is the basketball team. “Those boys are raw,” one of the fans said. Now that Yates has been all over the news because the principal is under investigation a lot of people talk down on Yates and feel that Yates should close down. Until you actually walk the halls of Yates you find out that this school has much to offer students, some will actually be surprised at how talented and gifted these students are.
The second black high school in the city, Yates Colored High School was established on February 8, 1926. The school was located where James D. Ryan Middle School is now at 2610 Elgin. The school was named after a highly respected minister, considered to be “The Founder of Freedom’s Town” the late Reverend Jack Yates. He was the first black pastor of some of the first black churches originated in Fourth Ward in Texas. Reverend John ‘Jack’ Yates changed the history of the freed slaves in so many ways and was well respected by everyone in the community.
The school opened with seventeen teachers and six-hundred students with James D. Ryan as the first principal and remained so until his death in 1941; William S. Holland followed after him. Some schools in the Third Ward area were named after the former principals of Jack Yates High School. In September of 1958, due to overcrowded conditions Jack Yates Senior High school later moved to its present location 3703 Sampson Street.
“Oooo Ahh Third Ward High,” scream the cheering fans and alumni at the basketball championship game. Yates gets plenty of recognition because of the national state champ’s basketball team, but once you look pass all of that and get a closer look, Yates has a one of a kind communications program. The Magnet School Of Communications has opened so many doors for students in the magnet program. Some students even have the opportunity to work at the Houston Chronicle their senior year, interview celebrities or take a trip to Washington D.C and get a closer look at the president and or the White House.
The Magnet School of Communications which some would call a school within a school focuses on three areas Media Technology, Photography, and Journalism. This Magnet program was established in 1978. This program has let the students have the privileged to take pictures around third ward and showcase them in the Museum of Fine Arts every year, take a closer look behind the camera or in front of the camera. This Program has helped students know what they want to do in life and give them the tools to go far. Some students even have the opportunity to get a job as a newscaster or at least be an intern. Roland Martin, a newscaster for CNN went to Yates and still today he gives back to his alma mater.
For the past ten years, the photography teacher and his students walk through Third Ward and take pictures. MFAH and Yates partnered up and have given the students an opportunity to show their work in the museum. Eye on Third Ward is what they call the exhibition; this project began in 1995 and is still going strong today. These students have so much talent in their work. This project has been ranked as one of the museum’s most admired and successful educational initiatives.
Every time I walk the halls of Jack Yates it takes me back to my freshman year there. I can remember it like it was yesterday, before attending yates I made the Varsity cheerleading team and was ecstatic to say that ‘I go to Jack Yates High’. All I heard when I told everybody that I was going there was “Why Yates?” “You would be better off at Lamar or Bellaire.” I couldn’t believe that everybody was against Yates like that and made me feel that I was going to the worse school ever. What people don’t know until they go to Yates is that this school gives students so many opportunities to go far in life, all the students have to do is want it and try to get it.
Many well-known actress or celebrities went to Yates and are proud alumni’s. Debbie Allen a professional actress, Phylicia Rashard, some know as Claire on The Bill Cosby Show went to Yates. Just to name a few more Monica Lamb, former WNBA star and the late Johnny Bailey, former NFL football player for the Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams also went to Yates. These people have proved Yates students are talented and can be whatever they want to be.
My freshman year I couldn’t wait until football season because I loved my school and has so much school spirit. I was nervous when I walked down by the football field and found out how big the stadium was and how many people loved Yates.
“We are the lions” yelled the captain of our squad. “Ready? J-Y”
“Oh you better know this cheer and can do it in your sleep because this is our home cheer and the alumni’s will know if you mess up.” Oh great that puts more pressure on me that I already have at the time of cheering my first game. I couldn’t wait until the band started to play ‘NECK!’ so I could calm down just a little bit.
While other schools have homecoming king and queen, Yates has a Mr. and Miss Jack Yates pageant. The students Junior year, get to run for Mr. and Miss Jack Yates and show the student body why they should vote for them and show them their talent that no one knew they had. This campaign runs for at least two weeks and following the campaign is the pageant. This pageant has been a tradition of Yates for many years and the students enjoy doing this every year. After selecting Mr. and Miss Jack Yates of the next school year, doing homecoming week all the students dress up in their formal wear and go to the coronation where Mr. and Miss Jack Yates is crowned.
The news media has been all on Yates this year especially when the basketball team scored 170 against Lee. This little issue turned into a big mess all on TV. Also the news media had been on Yates with the big fight that broke out this school year. As an alumnus of Jack Yates I am displeased as how everyone is treating my alma mater. Yates is not a bad school whatsoever as outside people would think it is. It’s the students that go to the school that makes up what it is but the school as a whole is not bad. You can go to Bellaire or Lamar or even Westfield and you can see that they have the same problems that Yates does but the difference between them is that people just don’t talk about it or you don’t see every news media rushing to that school to get the inside story. No matter how many times the basketball team wins a state championship or how many times the photography class showcases their wonderful work at the Museum, people still have something bad to say about this school.
As alumni of Jack Yates I feel that nothing should change about the school. People shouldn’t judge Yates as a whole or think of Yates as a bad school because what they heard from other people or what they saw on the news. Every school has problems but it seems like the media is always targeting these majority African American Schools all around Houston.
For 83 years strong Yates has been a major force in the Third Ward. Jack Yates is a historical marker in third ward and deserves the recognition. So many people doubted Yates and are fighting today to close Yates, but what people don’t know is that Yates has very strong alumni since the beginning that will not let that happen. “If you cut me right now I will surely bleed crimson and gold.”
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Journey Into The New Frontier: University of Houston by Anthony Tran L

Address of University of Houston
Houston, Texas 4800 Calhoun Rd.

January 2004–Tick, tick, tick, tick. Ding dong, ding dong. Chime, chime, chime. Striking at 7 o’clock evening, the old dusty grandfather clock can be heard all over the Celeste Amour Play Theatre. As the last couple dressed in fine garments settled down in some soft indigo cushioned seats, every light except for the stage lights were turned off and the music from the Astre Symphony softly faded away in the wind. Upon the middle of the stage, a young female actress in her mid thirties, wearing an old traditional Japanese kimono, Zori style sandals, and a Momoyama hair style announced that the play “New Space” will commence. Her extravagant dress full of elegant designs of flowers in shades of pink, violet blue, and soft fire, made her the show for the moment. As she left the stage towards her left as if gliding on water, the dark red curtains began to rise off of the floor.

For Scene 1, the first day of school, I mean college, I feel like a butterfly still inside of it’s cocoon. An interesting mix of emotions of a nobody and a somebody overwhelmed me as I encountered this new space. As Freshmen entering place of profound mystery and knowledge, a mutual feeling swept us from under our feet. I felt like a small lost rat in an enigmatic maze, but luckily I had a gray flimsy map of the entire campus given by my sister.

With misdirection, a person can really get lost. That happened to me and my new acquaintance, sporty Jordan with a confident look on his face. I went to my first class in the Roy G. Cullen Building and on the entrance steel door of the classroom hung a note about a room change. Not freaking out so I could impress the girls, I asked the guy next to me if he had this class for first period and sure enough, we both did. Racing against time, we both took off in a rush and gave each other a helping hand. We introduced ourselves and exchanged our past history to become better friends and allies in this new space. Entering into an auditorium where the lecturing has already begun, we thought it was the right class. Sitting on the rough carpet, I asked the person next to me what class this is and he told me, “We’re in politics.” I said thanks and I told Jordan the bad news and we took off again.

Jordan then asked an old energetic lady under a tent if she could help us find our Math class. She told us the same building as before, but in a different room. We went into the room she told us to go, but an English class swept our feet from the ground. A young female student told us the math class we’re looking for was the right room number on our schedule. We missed a good portion of notes as 20 minutes had already passed by.

My Psychology class open Scene 2 in Agnes Arnold Auditorium 2, which surprised me because approximately 400 students took seats. The 400 bodies of 98 degrees magnifies in the auditorium. To make matters worse, it felt like an oven used for roasting a 5lb turkey, stuffed with you know what because the air conditioner malfunctioned. The old pudgy professor lectured and cursed a lot about life which made the class fun for the most part. Time quickly passed by and class ended. From the corner of my eyes, I saw my coworker, Raul. Always with those sleepy eyes and yet a genius at Math, I went up to him to the other side of the auditorium and greeted him. We chatted for a while and parted because by stomach growled like a starving man at Christmas dinner. After eating at the Satellite, I left to find my next class in no sense of rush.

After the long break, Scene 3 paved the way to my English class in the Agnes Arnold Hall not too far from the Satellite. At first, I thought another tribulation was at hand because there on the doors hung a note about some other English classes, but a teacher, sage and unwavering, helped me out. As I entered the class, I saw computers on each seat for every student, a grand table in the center, and a wide white screen to illuminate clear-cut images from an image projector that hung on the ceiling. A regular English class with all these hi-tech equipment installed seemed odd and too exaggerated to me. With an office-like atmosphere and a place to hold a council meeting, this was just too overwhelming, but I felt really important as if a VIP. By the way, I met this blonde haired, gentle blue eyed, girl named Kelly in my English class and we have lots of things in common.

My History class ushered me into Scene 4 in Agnes Arnold Auditorium 1, which wasn’t that far from my English class. Life at college never ceased to amazed me as another auditorium again was capable of holding roughly 400 students. The professor had little helpers called TA’s or teaching assistants handling out outlines and a syllabus for us 400 students. Let me emphasize, tons of dead trees for 400 students. She lectured the first day of class and we took notes about every important historical event that might be useful to study for tests or quizzes that we might take in the near distant future. Fate would have it no other way, I made another friend. This was Chris’ 2nd year at University of Houston and he said that life in college is going great because he has easy class time management and an easy degree to study on.

Act 1 gave us an insight about things to come, and the full spirited community. Act 2 emphasized the location with the potential of drawing in different race, gender, height or size because of its infrastructure, colors, mood, atmosphere, and tone of a particular area. A student might go into a building where it has a cool breeze from an air conditioner and sit down on a wooden light brown coated bench with a tint of light from the ceiling. Another student might stay outside where it is warm and not too hot. A zephyr coming from the west caused leaves and little lovely peddles of a myrtle falling towards a smooth old gray concrete bench. Hiding under the tree’s arm full of leaves from the sun’s ray, you give a smile and the world smiles back right at you. The University Center Satellite by far exceeds my expectations of college luxuries and comfort.

Stationed at the Satellite were about 5 restaurants very closed by and it was very hard not to be picky what food you wanted to eat. There were also tables, chairs, stools, couches and a television set in the lounge, 3 computers, a pool room, a study hall, and of course a nice luxurious restrooms in the Satellite. Walking from my class towards this underground facility feels like I’m entering a night club at night, but in the afternoon. As I passed through those doors at the entrance, I have entered into a whole new world filled with a force of human invigoration. I’m always entertained by what I see or hear because I let myself be engulfed in the sea of lively people and of their thoughts. From a delicious personal-pan pizza hung gooey cheese and a mint of roasted pepperonis that caused me to indulged into my own little world. While sinking into a cushioned seat, I can only be shocked and awed. The continuous smell of fast-food can make a person hungry for some more even after a combo meal of a personal-pan pizza, a medium sized Sprite, and 3 long juicy bread sticks dunked into some sauce. Well, of course that’s just me.

Taking a huge gulp of the aroma around me and then exhaling it out, I turned my heat to the left and looked at the people around me. I zoomed in and out at certain people that looked interesting and I gazed upon a cute girl in the distance. Looking at my watch, the time told me to get my butt off and let the next person enjoy their peace at my seat on the far corner of the Pizza Hut that’s making their daily revenues and greetings. I took all of my belongings and headed towards the men’s restroom. I sanitized my hands carefully for 30 seconds with warm water, squirted a pink gooey substance ( liquid soap, don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression here) and dried them with soft white paper towels. Quite a journey for the first day of my college life and the end has not yet come to terms. As an image was taking shape in the mirror, a toilet flushed rapidly in anger or in anguish when it went down. Going through a different pair of doors to exit, I reentered back into reality. Passing by people, a squirrel on the ground searched endlessly for a decent meal so it can rip it up and swallow it whole in one gulp. At that moment 2 things came to mind: Food and the cartoon show Pokemon.

Once again the dark red curtains dropped from where it hung and the technician dimmed the light, enough so that we can see. Appearing on stage between the curtains was a young male actor in his mid thirties wearing a uniform in the 1700s. Old, yet with classic of traditional grace of honor and royalty, he tapped the small silver glittering bell in his left hand thrice to get attention.

His loud and florid voice spoke, “An intermission my Lady and my Lord.” With those words to say, he left the stage towards his right, walking slowly and calmly with confidence.

The Astre Symphony begun playing a soft tune from the piano, then the strings, and moments later the whole Symphony was in unison.

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Guandi Temple: What religion are you? by Tri Hoang

2089 Milby St.
Houston, Texas 77003

January 2004–In many ways religion does not matter to me unless someone wants to discuss or preach me their beliefs. I get extremely annoyed by claims that “God” will grant you salvation if you are righteous, and condemn you if you are sinful. I say this to not to offend anyone but to acknowledge that there are people of different religious beliefs, and we must respect them for whatever they may believe in. As for me, I’m a Buddhist and one that believes that there are many gods, not just one all-powerful one. The Buddhist religion is also split between two beliefs. The first is the belief that gods watch over the people, control the weather, and fight against the evils. The other belief is in the enlightenment of one’s mind and body through acts of righteousness and the fulfillment of self-happiness. I have been raised to respect higher beings shaping the world. I was raised to go to temple and pay my respects through lighting incense and murmuring chants. My religion, like many other religions, is part of a customary routine that everyone follows. For instance, going to church/synagogue/temple to reassure yourself of your religion.

Temples are places of holiness and salvation for many Buddhist followers. They pray under certain gods hoping for good welfare and blessing from the gods. Recently, I have been going to a temple near the University of Houston, next to I-45. The temple can only be seen if you drive carefully and on a course to it, because it block by run down buildings close to the highway. As you arrive at the temple, to the right you’ll see the pavement parking lot with patches of grass growing on top. Surrounding the temple are steel bars protecting it from intruders during the day and night. Across the parking lot are the temple gate and a circular pond of goldfish behind the gate. A 12-foot statue of a goddess made of clay and painted pure white stood on the edge of the pond looking toward the gate. She is holding onto a tall slender vase pouring water from it.

The temple has three buildings: the main temple building, a cafeteria/kitchen building, and another building for storage. The temple grounds are paved in cement and on the border of the temple grounds are trees and bushes planted near the steel bars. After passing the circular pond you reach a short stair leading up to the temple’s main doors. There are three doors on the front side of the temple: the main large doors, and two smaller side doors.

The temple is highly decorated with red and gold. On each side of the stairs statues of Chinese gods, all made from clay and decorated in white hue. On the porch are green plastic tables and white chairs for the many people to sit on during holiday events. To the left and right side of the main doors are large golden circular Chinese emblems. To the left of the door is a showcase of photographic pictures of monks chanting for ceremonies. On the right is another showcase of old newspaper clippings of stories involving temple monk doing miracles. The temple’s main doors are composed of hardwood, painted with a black background and a painting of a Chinese general dressed in a metallic scale armor of the old Chinese empire.

As I enter the temple, the custom of taking my shoes off is necessary to show respect. About ten feet from the doors is the first altar of Buddha and two gods to his sides. The Buddha statue is sparkling gold and wears a golden sash across his chest diagonally and around his waist. His hands are in the praying/chanting fashion. The altar itself is well decorated with long red candles, a red tablecloth, and a giant golden bowl in front of the statue used for placing incense, and beautiful flowers with long stems in white vases. To the right side of the altar is a copper bowl shaped gong used for meditation. To the left and right of the center altar are smaller altars in tribute to different gods that bless for good fortune. These are decorated very much like the center altar but with less grandeur.

The largest altar lies in the back tributes to three gods. The god to the left side of the altar bares a very dark face, and is dressed in a golden scale armor shimmering of colorful jewelries. The middle god has a bright red facial expression, a long black mustache, and is dressed in a golden scale armor covered by a green robe with multicolor jewels. The god on the right has a skin-textured face wearing a Chinese style robe with hues of orange, green, and red. This god holds a red pouch with Chinese lettering on the pouch. Three bowl-shaped pots hold incense, each pot representing each of the three gods. This, altar, too has two smaller altars to the side of it of more different gods. All altars are decorated on a red background with golden borders. Finally a table on the left side of the temple wall used for fortune telling, a woman’s main attraction.

An old story of how those three gods became gods started thousands of years ago when three powerful men ruled China. The middle god, Quan Cong, was once a very distinguished general whom many people had respected. He had made a brotherly pact with two other generals. He was the second oldest of the two. When the oldest became the king of China, he became a loyal general to the king. All that knew him respected his loyalty and sternness. He was not easily persuaded into temptations or emotions. The god on the left, Quan Binh, was once a master thief. He met Quan Cong one day and out of admiration became his follower. Chau Xuong, the god on the right, was the son of a former general. Chau Xuong was an illegitimate son and follower of Quan Cong. Quan Cong was lured into a trap setup by the king of a neighboring nation and his head was chopped off. The neighboring king ordered Quan Cong’s head be presented before him. Upon seeing the gruesome head of Quan Cong, the king became crazy and later died. The people of the kingdom started seeing the spirit of Quan Cong’s headless body searching for the person who had killed him. Quan Cong’s restless spirit terrorized people by stripping people’s head from their bodies. His spirit finally met a monk, and the monk taught him that the people he killed will look for him for revenge. After hearing the reasoning of the monk, Quan Cong’s spirit rested in peace. Quan Binh and Chau Xuong also died with Quan Cong. People started to realize that it was important to pay their respects to Quan Cong and his followers. Quan Cong’s personality and his followers’ loyalty became the basis of loyalty and honor for men. They became gods to the people that had worshipped them, and are place in many temples.

During important Chinese holidays, men and women wander into the temple grounds speaking to the monks and praying with them in moments of silence. They pay their respects to the gods by lighting incense, saying a little prayer and placing the incense into an incense bowl filled with sand. After paying their respects, usually women ask the wise monks for their fortunes at the table to the left of the temple. With the strong incense smell filling the room as more people light incense and pray, one eventually adapts to the smoky smell and the murky streams of smoke coming from the incense. On religious days and Chinese New Years, the celebrations become a festive time for people of all ages.

Chinese New Year celebration starts with the dancing of the lions. The lions are made of colorful cloth and flexible bamboo. The lions require two youths to operate. One of the youth plays the tail of the lion while a more talented youth plays the head of the lion. The youth that controls the head must be expressive as he operates the head of the lion. Opening and closing the mouth and eyes of the lion requires training and friendship of the partners. Usually there are two to four lions performing. They perform to the beating of drums, moving and dancing to the beat of the music. The youth must work in unison to move like a real lion’s body.

As they perform, long fireworks are lit and loud explosions fill in the excitements of the audience. Monks come and go during holidays because there is no place for them to live in this temple, but they travel back and forth from their monastery. They may make trips to other temples in Houston. There are caretakers of the temple doing the job voluntarily. As I said, this temple has a cafeteria and people donate their cooking in a huge potluck so the children and hungry adults can eat after the celebrations. Most of the time the food is vegetarian, made to look like meat. For instance, meat stuffed eggrolls become cabbage stuffed eggrolls and barbequed pork becomes barbequed tofu. Tofu is a main ingredient of most of the vegetarian dishes served at the temple. The taste and flavor of the meat look-alike is unnoticeable to even the best of chefs. Many people just come and pay their respects and leave, similar to my family, because we don’t need such excitement. However, when we have little kids in the family it is hard to resist their happiness. The importance of the celebration is for people to enjoy themselves in their accomplishments or failures.

The temple shows how important a place to worship can be for all people. Different religions do not mean that people do not share the same desire to believe. Different religions allow people to express themselves in the multicultural environment of the world. Some religions are too expressive and some are hardly noticeable. Sometime I think of religion as the destruction or the unity of the people as the effect of how people act. So it matters not what religion you are, but by the way in which you choose to express yourself as a representative of the religion.

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The Chinese Star Restaurant: Sweet & Sour Parking by PJ Holmes

4725 Calhoun, Houston, TX, 77004
Phone: 713-741-0702

January 2004–Like a pimple, the Chinese Star insults the eye of passers by everyday on Calhoun Road as students go on the hunt to acquire the ever elusive creature commonly known as the parking space. The white decrepit little shopping center which houses the Chinese Star is oh so conveniently located adjacent to the student parking lot occupying an area which could house another twenty to thirty spaces. Sweltering under the mid-day sun for forty-five minutes searching for a parking space I quickly pounced on the little eyesore. “This is ridiculous! The parking lot goes all the way around this little insignificant shopping center, which contains just another dime a dozen Chinese restaurant. They should just pave it over and expand the parking lot,” I had fumed to myself during one of many quests for a parking space only to lose a prospective spot to a cut throat student dashing ahead and robbing me of my elusive treasure, but my derogatory attitude towards the Chinese Star came to an about face on a fateful Tuesday afternoon.

After an hour and a half of down blocks, running front kicks, and punches all in the ever so comfortable climbing stance in Karate class on the second Tuesday of the new 1003 school year my newly acquired friend Richard, who I had met in my Karate and Archaeology classes, convinced me after our strenuous lesson over the Chayon Ryu style to dine in the Chinese Star for lunch that day. Richard was a senior and had attended the University of Houston for three years and was eager to “teach me the ropes” in the alien world of college life, and the very first lesson was in fine dining. Also joining us for lunch was the lovely Nancy who I had also met through Karate and have eaten lunch with every Tuesday and Thursday ever since. Karate was held in the Hofheinz Pavilion on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 in the morning located on the exact opposite side of the campus as the Chinese Star. My already low opinion of the Chinese Star gnawed at me incessantly upon the realization of the never ending death march I would have to undertake in order to reach our destination. My cracking and crunching knees from the hour and a half of having them bent in the climbing stance throbbed while the noon day sun bombarded us with its unending, sweltering heat. Under normal circumstances such a walk wouldn’t bother me in the least bit, having been in football most of my life I had grown accustomed to much harder training and more difficult walks or runs, but having been practicing my form and technique in Karate with my muscles aching from an eternity of stretches, kicks, and endless stances walking with bent knees on the hard wood floor of the basketball court; the thought of having to go so far out of my way and eat at the Chinese Star put a damper on my day to say the least. After what seemed to be the longest and most painful ten minute walk of my life with my muscles aching and the sweltering August sun pounding its heat down upon our backs we finally reached the infamous bane of my college parking experience…The Chinese Star.

Like a true gentleman, Richard opened the glass door and motioned Nancy and I in, and upon entering the quaint establishment I was immersed into the flood of people crammed into the restaurant. Students, teacher assistants, and even professors were all crunched together in this hole in the wall! The room pulsated from the sheer booming of the crowd’s conversations. The restaurant was a living mass of people eating, talking, and ordering their food. The aroma of freshly fried rice and sizzling chicken, pork, fish, shrimp, and vegetables danced in my nostrils tantalizing the senses. As I took my place in the line leading towards the door to order my food my eyes were treated to a menagerie of images and objects to gaze upon. To the left of the “order line” is a counter swathed in a plethora of different classical Chinese décor from blue porcelain turtles, to wood carvings, and a forest of potted bamboo plants each for sale with a tiny white price sticker. To the right was the main dining area with a great many tables of both round and rectangular design scrunched together covering the area like a wood floor leaving just enough room for a person to squeeze between cracks of chairs. On the wall there were a few prints of classic Chinese paintings from what looked to be the Song Dynasty, if my memory of Chinese art history serves right, as well as a rather lovely portrait of a young Chinese girl with her hair up in two cute little buns and with a beautiful green dress flowing from her shoulders down to her feet almost sparkles in its brilliant aged glory as she sits and watches the diners from the fading portrait. On the far end of the wall near the corner leading to the front of the eating place was a great plaque of a Crusade style English Knight. On both sides of the carved image of the knight were actual morning stars. The long wooden handles were held in place by the plaque and the long foreboding chain simply hung loosely at an angle from the top of the tilted handle with the spiked ball dangling maliciously from the end of the chain. This unique and odd quirk in the décor of the other wise strictly Chinese atmosphere was an interesting contrast for the otherwise unified artistic and aesthetic theme of the little Chinese eatery.

For lunch I had ordered the General Tso’s Chicken; Richard and Nancy each got the Special of the Day which was beef with steamed vegetables, rice, and an egg roll. We found a recently deserted table and quickly took our place amongst the crowded mass and began to churn our own waves in the ocean of conversations taking place in the restaurant. While Nancy and I waited patiently for our food Richard indulged us with a little history on the Chinese Star. As it turns out I wasn’t the only person who had despised the Chinese Star for occupying potential parking spaces. A few years before I had come to the University of Houston the Chinese Star almost meet a grisly fate when it was to be paved over to expand parking for the university. Word of the delicatessen’s plight soon reached the masses and the fraternities, sororities, faculty, and even a VERY large number of Alumni cried out in protest against the loss of this jewel in the rough of the parking lot. Through the efforts of these concerned peoples the Chinese Star was saved from almost certain demise preserving it for future generations.

Soon I heard the dainty cashier call out, “number 67”, and I scurried to the back of the restaurant to claim the prize of my patience, a steaming hot plate of fried chicken smothered with spices, Thai red-peppers, and drenched in an abrasive red sauce, all served with a bowl of fried rice. My nostrils burned and singed before I could even take a bite of the steaming hot piece of chicken covered in a VERY spicy Thai red pepper sauce held warily between my chopsticks. The overpowering flavor of the chicken danced on my tongue, and lured me in with a sweet flavor but then blitzed with the robust spiciness’ of the Thai pepper. Much to my surprise the food was absolutely breathtaking and remarkably cheap. I savored each bite of the meal, each word of our conversations, each aroma, and each little piece of art in the restaurant from the tiny blue porcelain turtle statues to the various renditions of the Buddha. Like a sponge I engrossed my self which each miniscule experience my mind and body could handle, but soon my body gave way with the distinct signal of a swollen stomach that I couldn’t handle even the tiniest bit more.

For a long time we all sat at the table, Nancy rubbed her dainty stomach, Richard leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, while I finished the last few drops of my tea. We all then gathered our belongings, tidied our tabled and headed towards the glass doors with swollen stomachs and a smile of satisfaction on each of our faces. Now once a week on either a Tuesday or Thursday I sit at a long table close to the middle of the room with Richard, Nancy, and now Ariel and Tamara, Nancy’s friends and mine too now, drinking my iced tea and eating my General Tso’s Chicken with my chopsticks; simply relaxing and enjoying the feeling of unity in this little bit of Nirvana. Being a freshman and not knowing anyone at UH I felt out of place and alone, but some how that little Chinese restaurant made me feel at home and not just a student of a university, but instead a member of a community of people who attend, teach, and work at the University of Houston. This inconspicuous little hole in the wall called the Chinese Star must be the best kept secret the University of Houston has to offer. Like a geode, the Chinese Star is the gem which rests inconspicuously in the center of the rocky inhospitable parking lot of the University of Houston.

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Beall Village by Yan Zhang

I moved to Houston in August, 2009. Before I came to the United States, I learned that Chinese students have a nomadic moving routine during their time at the University of Houston. Initially they move into Beall Village, at the end of their first year of study they usually move to a nearly house on Wheeler Street. Eventually most Chinese students move to Lantern Village on the west side Houston. During the time that they live in Houston and they learn a lot from the American life and somehow change themselves as well.

N. Macgregor Way @ University Oaks Boulevard

A wooden “Beall Village” sign on the green island was surrounded by a “U”-shaped drive way welcomed visitors to the two “H”-shaped buildings. Colorful flags fluttered in the wind in front of the green and white building facade. In the lobby, two or three seniors sat around a fire place on comfortable old sofas with checked cloth coverings. Five yellow sparrows were singing in a cage. A couple of potted plants were growing in the corner. This is what I saw on my first day at Beall Village.

Many Chinese students at the University of Houston choose to live in this neighborhood for their first year in Houston. It is convenient in located and not too expensive. At first, I did not like it at all. The outside of the building seemed clean and new. But inside the building, I felt like I was living in a dormitory building in China. The interior seemed cramped and not well maintained. In the lobby, there was a strong almond cookie smell all the time. The paint in the hallway was half faded and dark. New Chinese students choose this building as a temporary living space before they find something more satisfying.

Most Chinese students lived in a high-rise before coming to United States. The high-rise I lived in is made of reinforced concrete. There are 10 apartments on every floor. My apartment is a 500-square-foot apartment of one bedroom and one living room on 14th floor facing east. The grey painted walls give the rooms the only color they have. There is other decoration. In summer, every morning I can see the Oriental Pearl Television Tower which is the symbol of Shanghai. The orange sun rises behind the high-rise complex beside the Yangzi River which divides Shanghai into two parts. Every night I can open the door of the balcony and enjoy the wind. Crowded and multicolored night scenes are the most memorable features of Shanghai although it is the evening breeze that I miss the most.

For most Chinese students living in Beall Village is their first time to live in such a low building, which in China always stands for an old building with a dirty interior. But when Chinese students open their apartment door in Beall Village, they are surprised to find a decent interior and a view into a green landscape. Other surprises await them outside. The Bayou comes by the Beall Village. Beside it there is bicycle path, with team cycling events when the weather is good. The riders fly through the space between the trees. Then they disappear into the woods. People take their dogs for a walk along the bayou. It is a huge surprise to Chinese students that such a soft landscape is such a dominant feature of Houston.

Wheeler Street @ University Oaks Boulevard

After one year of study, Chinese students want to widen their social circle. They want to make friends with more people. Hence, some choose to move to the University Oaks neighborhood which is adjacent to the university and not far from Beall Village.

My friend, Fang and I were invited once to the home of an old couple who live in University Oaks. The place matched exactly what I expected for the traditional American house. The living room was connected with the dining room, with a fireplace in the center. A chandelier hung from the ceiling. A typical open western kitchen was next to the dining room. Two ovens warmed soup and rice. The owner welcomed us. We felt a softness when we stepped on the wood floor without shoes. We talked about American life and American values.

“What is most important for an American?”

“Time?” “Religion?” Fang and I began to guess.

“Yes. But it is not the whole answer. For Americans, time, competition and the individual are the most important things. Americans do not like to be late. For them, time is money. They will go to a party ten minutes early. If you can be thirty minutes early and help host, they think you should. Chinese will arrive five minutes late and the host will not let guests help them at all. Americans like to compete, which matches our passions of sports. Because of the importance of competition, Americans adore their success in sports and business. They even judge the quality of a film or book according to its sales. But the most important thing for an American is the individual. This may be the most important difference between China and the United States. It is even expressed in difference between the way people are named in each society. Americans put the first name in front of the family name because they think the individual is more important than the whole family. Easterners put their family name first name because they think of themselves as members of a community first. It takes a long time but after moving to Houston foreign students begin to understand the differences between their home country and their new home.

After living in Houston for six months, one begins to find that there are surprising differences between things that one imagines would be similar, for example buildings with similar functions have vastly different identities in China and the United States. Normally a house with backyard and a swimming-pool communicates luxury in China. Mention the word “house” and the first impression of Chinese people is the Baroque-style house with a gabled roof and closed fencing. They always think of housing for very wealthy people.

My friend Ray lives in a two-story house on Fiesta Street, which is two blocks away from Beall Village. I went to her house with several friends to celebrate the Chinese New Year. We began by putting some firewood into the fireplace and building a fire. It was 12:30 p.m. Yao took out the Hong Kong flour and water. We stirred and mixed it with yeast. Dough rose from palm size to basin size through Yao’s kneading. Andy minced the pork, cabbage and green onion. They were marinated for the whole morning in a source made from salt, Chinese pepper, mashed garlic, pepper, sesame-seed oil, chili oil, soy source and ginger juice when all these were ready. We began to make dumplings together. Such an occasion with a sense of family and community is popular among Chinese students. Walking inside this neighborhood, people can feel its kindness. Such houses in the United States which can offer a gathering space for Chinese students are nicer and make them to feel like their home, and they are not only for the very wealthy but also for middle class people.

Another example: in China, thousands of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants line the streets. Some people consider them a classic case of foreign cultural influence and homogenizing globalization. Yet these buildings and the presence of their façades on the street are different in different places. In Houston, a KFC is a real fast-food restaurant. The bread and meat are ready and employees just heat them in the microwave. The Drive-thru in KFCs is common but staying for a meal and a relaxing conversation is not. In contrast, KFCs in China are comfortable locations to relax and take your time while dining. The seats beside shop windows are full of people all the time. Most people eat and chat in an easy way. Because of the huge population of China, it is not normally easy to build a big restaurant. But many students choose KFC as the location of a party or discussion group in Shanghai. No doubt KFCs in China use the same logo and typical colors but they are not the same. The real fast-food restaurant in China is a narrow space without seats sometimes, selling dumplings. It is hot at summer night. Friends go to food stalls near the street for an icy beer. Such food stalls work like an outside bar with simply chairs and tables.

Renwick Street @ Gulfton Street

Driving on Bellaire Boulevard is a collage-like experience. Bellaire is the main street of Houston’s Asian district and Asian stores abound. Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese stores define the street. The street names on road sign changes from English into Chinese. Parking in one supermarket, there are three or four languages surrounding me. None of them is English. Many Asian dialects are spoken here. In the Dunhuang Supermarket I even heard of the Shanghai dialect, my own way of speaking with family. This supermarket is a place to meet friends. I met Yao and Andy in the supermarket. We are all students at the University of Houston. I went there after the Chinese New Year, which is on Feb. 14th. Dragon decorations were hung on the top of the supermarket. Daffodils, the traditional Chinese flower, were used inside. Lantern Village is next to Bellaire Street. Chinese students regard it as one of their final destinations for moving after obtaining their own cars.

Lantern Village is in a district where all the apartment buildings are exactly the same. The buildings are rigid boxes. The streets are narrow and gridded like military buildings. Compared with other parts of Houston, this residential area feels harsh and anonymous. However, there are a lot of amenities including swimming pool and casino game room. After a few semesters, in the United States Chinese students begin to think about things other than study and friends. They start to care about entertainment, convenient shopping and so on.

Lantern Village is designed for young wording men who are not interested in social interaction. After work they retreat into their apartments. I prefer an architecture which provides more successful places to gather and talk.
Next year I am going to stay in Beall Village or a house near Wheeler Street, where there is a possibility of getting together with other people. The gathering space for the University of Houston is the University center. A simple space with several chairs and a swing is the gathering space for Beall Village. A big tree surrounded with lawn chairs stretches itself in the backyard. In fall, one can sit under the tree, talk with neighbors and watch the sunset. At this time of year the flowers on the trees are in bloom filling the air with their perfume.

During the time I lived in Beall Village I began to see how people are nice there. After I finished signing a contract with the apartment manager, everybody present welcomed me. “Welcome to Beall Village!” A skinny, freckled old lady, Maria, took her cart and showed me around the building and my room as well. “You can get a clean towel in the laundry room next to the stair well. If you have questions or want to chat, I always stay in the lobby downstairs.” At the same time, I found that strong almond cookie smell is because Maria always puts cookie in the lobby to share. Whenever I get to the lobby, I can find cookies and candy.

Every morning when I leave this building and pass by the gate, the older residents greet me sweetly. At night, I leave the commuter bus and say goodnight to the uniformed driver with saggy stomach. He replies to me in a shrill but kind voice. As the iron gate of the parking lot moves slowly, an old man in a white T-shirt turns to me and waves his hand. I can see his grin though only three or four street lamps are flickering. There are always families gathering in the backyards between parking lots and buildings. Sometimes they do not really say anything. They just look at me and use eye contact to say hello. After I leave, they usually go back to their conversations again. It is my neighbors who make me feel that living in the Beall Village is similar to living at home. Although it is not usual, some Chinese students stay at Beal Village even four or five years after they graduate. Now I am wondering if I will be one of them someday.

A World Apart: University of Houston meet the Third Ward by Simone Ashby

The air smells like spring, a combination of an earthy smell, dog poop and freshly mown grass. My nose starts to tingle as my allergies set in. This is a small price to pay in order to be outdoors.

Often, in Houston, I feel completely disconnected from the elements. Every space I can think of is temperature controlled and insulated from the world. This is a completely new phenomenon for me, because there is not such a rigorous use of air conditioning in Trinidad, where I am originally from, even though our climates are similar.

I walk westward on Elgin Street, which runs along the northwestern border of the university. It is usually used as a traffic artery, ferrying students onto the campus as they zoom by in their cars on the way to class.

The bounds of campus are pleasant and provide what I expect from a university. Banners displaying students at play and work hang from rows of old fashioned street lamps in a Victorian/Edwardian style. The walking paths are well kept and the landscaping lush. There is even a whimsical art installation with chairs of varying sizes, some too tiny to sit on and some ten feet tall. Across the parking lots I can see the pristine lines of the rectilinear buildings that house the academics. The buildings are various shades of brown, from rust to tan.

Approaching the northeastern edge of campus, I see a sign carved in granite, announcing, “Welcome to the University of Houston Campus.” But this sign gives me a sense of foreboding because I am going in the opposite direction, and I can already see the sharp divide between what I am leaving and what I am going towards. I have never crossed this line before and might have turned if I did not have to write this essay.

My first difficulty comes when I try to cross at the intersection of Elgin Street and Scott Street at the border. I am now venturing into hostile territory for pedestrians. There is no crossing light. So I brave the traffic and cross at my own risk.

Safely on the other side now, the sidewalks immediately deteriorate. They are uneven, broken and in a few places nonexistent. As I correct my step after stumbling over the rough ground, the reduction in landscaping leaves my face vulnerable to the unmitigated rays of the sun.

Cars seem to slow and drivers give me puzzled looks as I walk around jotting notes in my bright blue notebook, snapping pictures feverishly. Then I look around to discover that I am the only person walking on this Sunday afternoon.

My curiosity is heightened by my sense of being out of place. I begin a studied observation of this section of Elgin Street. The houses that line the periphery are for the most part in a state of incredible disrepair. Dilapidated houses seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. Numerous houses have junk lying outside on their lawns, and scrap car parts piled into mountains in their front yards.

All of a sudden I hear the spinning wheels of bicycles behind me. Tu sh sh sh. Tu sh sh sh. Tu sh sh sh. This noise breaks my concentration. I turn around. Almost immediately I am filled with regret. I recognize the attire of the two men approaching me. They are dressed in black pants, white shirts, and ties, with backpacks sitting snugly on their shoulders.

“Hello, we are from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints!” They say.

“Hi,” I reply, trying to keep it terse so they will leave me alone.

“What religion are you?”

“Episcopalian.”

“Would you like to know more about Jesus?”

“No, I know enough about Jesus.” I reply, almost snickering to myself. This is sure to get rid of them.

They give me an incredulous look.

“So you do not want to learn more about Jesus from the book of Mormon?” They ask again, still looking puzzled.

“No, thanks, I’m good.” I reply as I turn away and quickly walk off.

They soon speed by me and I begin to feel a bit easier as they cycle so far into the distance I can no longer see them.

I slowly begin to get back into the rhythm of my walk. The uniformity of the dilapidation of the houses around me is strangely soothing. I look at them one after the next after the next trying to pick out the differences in their deteriorated conditions. One has wood rot, another has not seen a paint bucket in 20 years, the next has broken windows. To find a house that stood out as being worse than the rest is a hard feat but there is one that has stolen a place in my mind.

A huge oak tree tilts over the front of this house. That was what it reminds me of. Like the tree, the house looks as though it has been uprooted from its foundation, shaken and carelessly placed back onto the land. By some miracle it is still standing. The whole building is askew; it is as if some otherworldly force is keeping it from collapsing on itself. The structure is a humble single-story bungalow covered in wood shingles with flaking paint and rusted corrugated metal sheets where one would expect to find windows. At first I thought that this must be one of the many abandoned houses that I had seen in the neighborhood. On closer inspection, and much to my surprise, an old but fairly well maintained bicycle with fresh mud and grass on the tires is perched on the side of this precarious house, suggesting that it is occupied.

I continue down the street in a daze, astonished by the condition of the houses. Suddenly I am wrenched from my thoughts by a man’s voice calling to me.

“Hey! Hey!” he calls.

I ignore him, more than a bit put off. I hate when strangers talk to me on the street, especially since I had fended off the cycling Mormons not more than a few blocks before. Also, the look of this man is disconcerting. He is a shabbily dressed, severely overweight black man with a T-shirt that was once white but now looks a few washes short of its original condition.

“Why don’t you check out the hospital over there?” he continues, in broken English.

I decide to fight my instincts to ignore the man and listen to what he has to say.

“Are you taking pictures for school?” he asks.

“Yes,” I reply. “I am an architecture student at UH.”

“Look over there!” He then points to the Riverside General Hospital and, with pride, shows me the hospital’s campus.

“That building is the Houston Negro Hospital College of Nursing,” he goes on. He then proceeds to go through all of the hospital’s iterations and the uses of the different buildings on the hospital’s campus.

There are two buildings of note on the Riverside General Campus. These buildings stand apart from the majority of the other buildings that I have seen on Elgin Street because of their age and the permanence of their construction. The Negro Hospital College of Nursing is the oldest building on the lot, built in the 1920s when buildings were not the ephemeral constructions of today. The College of Nursing is constructed out of brick and rendered in white plaster. The windows on the building’s front façade seem as though they have been carved out of a solid form, giving it a durable look that is associated with much of 18th- and 19th-century European architecture. The second building is the new Riverside General Hospital, an unremarkable but well maintained single-story red brick building with a green canopy announcing “Emergency Room.”

These buildings are the prize at the end of what had been an emotionally and physically exhausting journey for me. I can see they are something special. Not knowing much about Houston’s history, since I am not from Texas or even the U.S., I did some research. I found out that the Negro Hospital, or Riverside Medical as it is now called, provided healthcare to the poor black residents who have lived in this area for the last 90 years, beginning in the time of segregated healthcare.

As I begin my return to campus it is almost as if my gaze is refocused. I start to notice something more than the shabby houses. I notice the spirit of the people. Many of the older people are sitting on their patios with age-worn faces that, strangely enough, bear looks of contentment. I realize I am judging a community by its houses rather than its people.

The walk back to campus seems to go quicker than my walk down the street because I am caught up in thought.

I think about how due to my sheer snobbishness I almost missed out on an education. Just because someone does not speak standard English does not mean that he does not have anything valuable to say.

I think about the sharp decline in the quality of the buildings on Elgin Street, west of the University of Houston campus.

I think how happy the people looked even though they are living in deplorable housing.

I think that although I share the same skin color with the residents of this historically black neighborhood, we share little else. My seemingly privileged upbringing in the Caribbean — weekend beach trips, well kept homes, summer vacations and mass consumerism — have made me more than a bit naïve to the reality of life as a poor black person in the U.S., and in some respects unable to relate.

By the end of my walk Elgin Street represents more than a physical boundary between extremes but a psychological one; it is a world apart from anything I have ever experienced.

The Red Line: Walking The University of Houston and the Third Ward by Natasha Ostaszewski

During my first three years studying architecture at the University of Houston, I didn’t have a car. Instead of driving around Houston for a break or a bite to eat, I would walk to the fast food joints that lined the outskirts of campus along Scott Street. I have since then bought a car, and have the option to drive to other areas, but to this day, I take the same walk. My friends and professors have told me that I’m exposing myself to danger. That Scott isn’t a place for a young woman. Still, I take the walk. It is a walk that enables me to experience two completely different worlds in less than an hour. A walk that exposes extraordinary inequalities. A walk in which I can explore the tension between the two sides of an unspoken battle. I cross the border constructed to separate the university from the Third Ward, the historic black neighborhood in which the school was built.

The University

Walking along the pathways of the University of Houston campus is much like walking the same road up and down, back and forth. I feel small. Strangled by the conformity. Alone. When I first leave the College of Architecture, I am almost immediately thrown into a wide paved street anchored by both the College of Engineering and College of Technology that tower over me as I walk the space between them. It’s not the architecture of each building that distinguishes it from its neighbor, but rather the black and red name posts. Made of stone or brick, they all seem a shade of gray, giving the walk through them a bleak and cold feeling. Even the attempts at green spaces in between and around the buildings seem uninviting – more for show than for use. There are rarely any students who take advantage of the open lawns or grassy hills. This street dead-ends into the main courtyard at the center of campus. I cut across the lawn on a path that has been matted by the hurried feet of many people before me who were in too much of a rush to follow the winding sidewalks. Students who walk alone seem too enthralled by the ground beneath them to look up and exchange a smile or conversation with the others who pass them by. The company of their shadow and iPod is quite enough, thank you.

At long last, I receive a friendly glance. We move toward one another in intrigue. I like him. He’s cute. He seems nice. He stops in front of me, and cocks his head as if to say hello. I reach down and offer an open hand to my furry little friend. My walks through campus are often interrupted by interactions with squirrels just like this one. I need this. Around my home in Argentina people live on the street. People who come to know your name. People like Federico. He helps me take the trash to the dumpster down the street whenever he is around. Maybe he is genuinely nice, or maybe he knows that I will always come back with our leftovers from lunch that day. I don’t care either way. I hate taking out the trash, and I appreciate his conversations and willingness to lend a helping hand in exchange for even the smallest amount of food. I appreciate the warmth and humanity of the exchange. My new squirrel friend is nothing like Federico. He takes one sniff of my hand and scurries away unimpressed by my lack of nutritional offerings.

stone towersgrass and streetmore towers

Leaving the courtyard, I take yet another sullen road. More stone towers. More unused landscape. At the end of this road is the new Science and Engineering Building. Many see it as a fresh of breath air since it is the first building to break to mold of the grayish architecture that has defined the university for so long. The bright red and white colors of the building attract many students to the building and the curved shape of the structure, which encases the courtyard and water feature, invites them to stay. But I can’t help to notice the orientation of the building. It is completely focused inward, and I must walk along the back of the building to get to Holman – one of the few streets that connect the university to the Third Ward. From here, I cannot experience any of the inviting qualities of the building – just the back side of the curve – a tall blank wall.

No Man’s Land

The block of Holman between Cullen and Scott is one of the newer areas of UH. Since the 1960s, the university has been expanding both in population and size, and in the 1980s an entire neighborhood was leveled for more parking lots and a few sport arenas, including Hofeinz Pavilion and Robertson Stadium. Entering this area of campus on any given school day is like entering No Man’s Land. This place barricades the university from the community that the area once was a part of, and enforces the seclusion of campus living from any surrounding humanity.

As soon as I cross Cullen, I start on my journey down this strip. I pass by the bus stop where a 47-year-old homeless man by the name of Joe Tall was murdered a few weeks ago without any cause or reason. I remember how fear had completely taken over the faculty and students after he was killed. For a few days, you could hear nothing but murmurs of the incident anywhere within the campus borders. “I’m constantly looking over my shoulder.” “It could be me next!” People left comments at the end of on-line new articles concerning the subject. “Keep the Third-Ward Thugs out!” “Build a freaking wall.” Students were too scared to go class. Now, people walk different, see different, and hear different when the sun starts to go down. The Religion Center on campus held a memorial service for Joe, but the sermon centered more on quieting the concerns and assuring the safety on campus than on the victim’s tragic death. In the Official Statement sent out by the university, Carl Carlucci (the Executive Vice President and Vice Chancellor for Administration & Finance for the University of Houston) boasted that UH has nearly 50 policemen, over 20 security guards, and 490 video monitoring cameras to protect the campus. He assured the students, faculty, staff, and news crews that precautions are being taken accordingly, and proudly asserted that “the university remains as safe and secure as most areas of Houston and safer than many” while placed in the heart of one of Houston’s oldest communities that has been plagued by crime for years.

As I pass the bus station, all signs of college life trickle away. There is more space between everything – the buildings, the trees, the students, the parked cars. There is nothing but cold pavement to fill the voids, until I am completely surrounded by empty parking lots and a line of parking meters not in use. I keep looking down to assure that I do not trip on the cracked pavement and uneven sidewalks, and I notice a growing amount of empty coke bottles, McDonalds wrappers, and discarded notes and test papers along the ground. I look up to see a billboard with the face of a cougar and bold red words that read “Spread the Red.” The sign marks the point where the sidewalk ends, and I am forced to walk in the street for a few yards before reaching Scott Street.

It is at this intersection that I feel aware of the schism between the two communities. There might as well have been a red line painted over Scott or a 20-foot-tall-wall surrounding the ocean of asphalt around Robertson Stadium.

seaofcarsred buildingoceanasphault

The Third Ward

As soon as I get to Scott Street, I feel an almost instant relief from my solitary confinement, and I am taken back to a place of familiarity and comfort. The air smells of fried food, car exhaust, and dirt. The bus stops are drowned in a sea of blue and white – a sign that the nearby Yates High School has let out. The children run and laugh and yell and play. Despite never having met me, they welcome me with tales of their day, and quickly share secrets of their friends while giggling and whispering to one another, “Shhhhh. She’s coming.”

The streets dance to the movement of cars stopping and starting. The drivers pause at any given moment to honk, wave and yell like Italian men on a relaxing afternoon drive through the neighborhood. You can never tell if they are happy or mad. In Buenos Aires, my uncle would drive me places that I needed to go, and I remember feeling terrified of getting in a wreck or getting shot before we reached our destination. He honked at the familiar faces, screaming some unfriendly salutation that for some reason was accepted and followed by an “Ayyy! Marioooo!” Or he would somehow manage to drive with his knee as he stuck half his body out the window shaking his fist and yelling obscenities at the jerk who just cut him off.

carspopeyesstudents

Maybe out of distraction, or out of excitement to get the other side, I cross the street, and barely avoid getting hit by multiple drivers, who chastise me with long-winded car horns. I look up to find an old man across the street laughing at me,

“Whoa now, little lady, them cars are bigger than you.”

I smile and confess my distraction to which the old man responded with more hearty chuckles, as he mumbles to himself and walks back to an area where his friends were waiting for him. I had wanted to go down the same street, but thought it would be strange to follow him after our encounter; so instead, I turn to walk along Scott for a while. This side of the street isn’t well groomed, and the sidewalk is infused with cracks, weeds, and trash, but it is a comfortable place to walk. The structures are all to the human scale, and each building is a different color and draws in a different crowd which gives them all a character of their own. The red and orange Popeye’s seems to be one of the most popular hangouts, as it always has people sitting and eating out on the stoop no matter what time of day. The little, white Navy Seafood store with the green roof a little down the street is never as busy but brings in a nice Sunday crowd after church. There are a few wood houses along Scott Street as well. At first glance, they all seem abandoned. They have broken windows, overgrown roots and weeds, and quite a bit of peeling paint. In fact, some of them are abandoned. The others provide a couple of university students some nearby, off campus housing. They all have jungle-like yards with a few trees and flowers that offer some shade as you walk by, as well as a nice change of scenery. Scott is even home to the Smith Neighborhood Library, adorned with some of the children’s construction paper artwork that is taped on the inside of the windows for a year-round display. Right next door to this is my favorite stop, Steve’s Café. It is a Vietnamese restaurant in the middle of a newly developed shopping strip, along with a college bookstore and a Subway. Each store is identified by its own color for the bars on their windows, as well as pictures and text of their latest specials plastered on the windows. Past the parking lot behind the strip is a fence that does not quite surround the playing field for Yates High School. Subsequently, Steve’s Café is one of the most popular hangouts for the high school students. I oftentimes come here to get some spring rolls to eat outside on the curb, and listen to their conversations. One time, there were two boys on the corner roughhousing talking about how that “fine ass girl at lunch was checking me out today,” while his friend sounded warning that the girl’s brother is in jail; apparently something the future couple has in common. Another time, a young girl was talking to her friends about how she had to stop going to the dance studio to help her mom out with the kids. Today, I can hear a girl tell her friends how she will probably drop out of school to start working to help pay the bills – “It’s not like I was goin’ to college or nothin’ like that.”

It’s absurd that this school, sandwiched between two universities, has such a high dropout rate – both Texas Southern University and University of Houston pride themselves on their community outreach programs. Once again, I look back across the street to see the emptiness of blank parking spaces that face these students. It seems that the reach went out a little too far, skipping over their closest neighbors.

Once I was finished with my lunch, I got up and resumed the path I had been following before my detour, and started to head down Holman towards the residential areas. I regressed into the world inside my head as I wandered down the sidewalk.

I love walking down this street because it reminds me so much of the block I live on when I go to stay with my family in Argentina. The houses are all a little decrepit, but are adorned with outdoor furniture and kids’ toys – a true sign of life and vitality. In Argentina, whenever I walk to the store for my aunt, I have to plan to be gone for a while. Everyone is always outside either sweeping the sidewalk, playing cards, or just chatting in the rocking chairs while they watch the children play. I am constantly stopped by the neighbors asking me how my mother is back in the states, if Guya (my aunt’s Great Dane) is still around, and if I’m married yet – which always leads to how their canasta partner’s brother-in-law’s coworker’s son is single, and how I should meet him. These walks are one of my favorite parts of my stays there, despite the multiple times my family members and I have been mugged around the area. You learn to be careful, but not torment yourself with fear. My aunt always says that you must strive to live, not survive – a saying that her neighbors all seem to live by.

housemorehousesporchmen

I am suddenly jerked back into reality as the old man that I had run into earlier called out to me, “You still out walkin’ around?”

I turn to see him sitting under a shed with a few other, older gentlemen, who were gathered around a checkers board and surrounded by a pack of dogs. I laughed and admitted to being distracted once again.

“Whatever gets you through the day. . . as long as you make it through the day” he laughed as he pointed to the spot where we had first met after my encounter with the moving vehicles.

“What are you doin’ ‘round here anyways?”

I told them that I was just walking, enjoying the area, and told them about how I was a student at UH who sometimes just needed to get out, which sparked some mixed reactions. Two men continued to talk to me about how good it was that I was studying at such a “fine institution.” Meanwhile the rest of the men grumbled to each other in the back and continued their game. Their reactions reminded me of many others I had heard from the community.

In doing a school project, I had gone to a few community workshops hosted by the Community Design and Resource Center and the Holman Street Baptist Church, who now owns many plots of land on Holman in an effort to revitalize the area, while staying true to the Third Ward. The Third Ward was where the black population moved shortly after slavery was abolished in 1865. It became the place where the newly emancipated population built their churches, their businesses, and their homes, and it soon after became the “center of black intellectual, cultural, and political life in the growing city.” Since the 1960s, many of the inhabitants began to move out to the suburbs, and many lots of land were sold for development. The MFAH is hosting a photo exhibition titled, Eyes of the Third Ward, that pays homage to the historical landmarks that were lost in sight of this development, and that looks to record other landmarks before they are torn down or decayed. During the workshops, many of the citizens shared stories of how developers had gone to their house to try and buy their property, and some remembered the days when the yards were filled with signs that read “Third Ward Is Our Home and It Is Not For Sale.” When the University of Houston was brought up, many citizens voiced their dislike. “I never would have thought that an institution could turn its back on an entire community if I hadn’t seen it myself.” To this day, they still fear the loss of their homes, their culture, their community.

UH is in fact still expanding. They have proposed a master plan that is to be implemented by 2020, that will remain within the same boundaries that it is in now, but will work on filling in the gaps with new buildings, more green spaces and more organized parking and pathways. The new plan sparked much controversy. Some students believe that there is still not enough parking, despite the mote of various parking garages at the boundary lines of the campus edges. Members of the community insist that shutting down Cullen and moving all traffic to Scott Street would only worsen the congestion that they already face daily. Other students complain that they would not feel safe living in housing so close to the edges of UH. Community members still see the University as a threat to their way of living – as a small city that isolates itself from the community in which it sits.

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As I start to walk back toward the school, I feel the atmosphere start to shift once again. I get farther from the voices, the laughter and the noise, and revert once again into the usual game of follow the leader that will take me back to my car. I pass by the bus station where Joe Tall was killed, and take a look at the students around me who still exude a sense of fear – fear of the danger that may come from the surrounding community. And I think about the community members who so openly shared their fear – fear of losing their home, culture, and community to a development that will them behind or vanished. And I wonder. How can two places that are so close to one another seems worlds apart?