Early Monday morning, Ms. Beckham welcomes me inside. But when she notices where I’ve parked my car, she signals to me to park in front of her home.
When I step inside, I ask her why she invited me to move my car.
She shakes her head. “It’s not safe… those young men… “ And she clicks her tongue.
I had noticed two or three men standing outside, close to where I was initially going to leave my car and we had just nodded hello to each other. Once we go inside, I ask her again about what the men are doing outside, but she doesn’t want to say more. Certainly, during my own movement through the neighborhood, I’ve noticed how many people sit outside and the number of police cars that circle the streets.
Once we get comfortable on the sofa, someone else knocks on her door. Ms. Beckham welcomes her friend Edward inside and introduces us to each other and we begin talking about the neighborhood. Things have changed a lot, they tell me.
“This neighborhood used to be the Harlem of Houston,” Edward says. “There was music, stores, restaurants. Always something happening. But over the years, things began to decline. More drugs started coming in. And the black community was pushed out…”
After our morning together, I walk with Edward back to his home, a duplex around the corner. Inside, multiple family members reside and there’s little room to walk.