My friend Gordon talks about his sense of home as we drink tea and sip smoothies just a few blocks from his house in Freedmen’s Town, where he and his wife Christine hosted my 2012 VBB production:
Feeling at home for me is to not have feelings of anxiety and feeling that I am safe and secure – that wherever I am physically or within my own head, everything is okay. That I can relax, that I can — metaphorically and literally — take my shoes off and stay awhile. I can also feel at home in a room with the doors closed – just being in isolation. Being at home doesn’t necessarily mean being in Houston, my birth home, but that I am okay.
Houston is home in that familiarity is one part of feeling secure, which is important to me. The Third Ward, which is located near the epicenter of downtown, was where I grew up. This neighborhood makes me feel at home although I haven’t resided there since 1972. My mom still lives there, which is my current connection to the area.. If she leaves the area, I don’t think I would see this area of Third Ward as a place of maintaining permanent roots.
Strangely enough, I can feel at home even as far way as Delhi, India, where I’ve been three times – even though it’s a crazy place to be! I’ve gone on a Gandhian study tour years ago that ended in Delhi. We started in Mumbai, and took a train and bus to Delhi with stops in various villages along the way. On my second trip, I went for an auspicious Jain anniversary, and I was invited to stay in homes of family members of several Jain Samanis. And the third time, I went for an Anuvrat International Conference.
Fourth Ward is where I currently reside, but when I was growing up, Fourth Ward was another planet in that I had no familiarity with this area at all. These office buildings that we see today were not here and the Sheraton Hotel on Louisiana Street was the demarcation line between the Fourth Ward and downtown. Even to this day however, having grown up there, the Third Ward is home. I went to elementary school there at Dodson Elementary and also to Ryan Junior High – both exist today in name. I attended Stephen F. Austin High School which was close in proximity but on the East End.
The reason I live in the Fourth Ward is more related to circumstance – and not moving to the Third Ward is more about economics these days. If I had a dream choice, I’d move to the Sixth Ward (which is even more expensive that properties in the Third Ward) close to MECA and the East End would be second. I am drawn to the Third Ward, always because of the demographics, which is a part of what makes me feel comfortable. Fourth Ward/Freedmen’s Town is not my ideal neighborhood because it is growing to a point where the infrastructure of the neighborhood is being over stretched by the sheer number of people being crammed into this neighborhood of narrow and. one-way streets. Fourth Ward is gone, in the same way of the original peoples of this area. I didn’t grow up with this history and the history of Freedman’s Town that remains is “heralded” with plaques along one side of the road, which is a travesty. The true history is held on to by a generation that is aging and will soon be gone. When they pass, Fourth Ward as “Freedmen’s Town” is simply another reality that is relegated to the memories of those who care.
I’m raising multi-racial children now. My daughter is being taught and groomed in both cultures of her own DNA. She knows her Mexican side and the Black American side – which is simply an extension of who we are as a family. Black people (among our own) are acknowledged as multi-racial and although this cultural pride should always be foremost, that should no impact on how society relates to my daughter. She is being raised up to be among the best and brightest – from child to adult.
These kinds of questions help me reflect and visualize some of the experiences I’ve had and that I rarely if ever think about any more. In the end, I think home is important but having the feeling of home is more important. What used to be home could change, so you have to find home within yourself. —Gordon Anderson
This conversation is part of my What Is Home? project.