03 Apr, 2015

for me, everything is here: friends, family, health, doctors…

Sehba Sarwar
03 Apr, 2015

Most of the interviews I’ve undertaken for my project have been with friends and family who were born in spaces other than Houston. For the next month until my 9 May installation/performance, I’ll post conversations with friends who were born and/or raised in Houston. During one such visit, my friend René P. Rodriquez jumps in with responses even without my what is home? questions posed to him:

Houston is home. But it’s not that way for most people. But for me, I have history. I went to the same elementary (Looscan), junior (Marshall), and high school (Jeff Davis) as my dad. When Dad went to Jeff Davis, it was mostly white— Kathy Whitmire, Kenny Rogers — went there. When I was there, the school was a mix of Hispanic and black.

And I’m proud in a way, but I don’t know anything else. The only way for me to know something else is to travel and visit. But for now, everything is here. I have had the desire to explore outside of Houston, but I don’t know. I would always keep coming back to this city. And it is crazy that I’m the first person on your blog who was born and raised in Houston. A lot of people say that there aren’t many people like me, but then you do start talking to people and find out that they are from here.

For me everything is here: friends, family, health, doctors. I’d be afraid to go somewhere else. But then, I have a partner who probably doesn’t want to be here.

And I know I’m in the minority in this city. When I think about people moving into this city, I think of diversity. I’m a people person. I’m all for growth. From the neighborhood that I come from, we knew we wouldn’t go to college unless we paid for it ourselves. Recently, I saw a photo on msn.com of our skyline and I was so proud of it.

If you still go by my neighborhood, Northside, it’s still the same. (Those of us from the neighborhood refer to Northside or Near Northside as just Northside. Nowadays, when you say Northside people think of the north side of town, like 45N and the Beltway, but those of us from the neighborhood know what we mean.) The biggest change is the housing and the people — and the ethnicities. There are new housing structures, but mainly the neighborhood is the same.

For me, the whole city is home, but I enjoy going back to Northside. It’s familiar. The housing and the rail and all of that is — wow! But that doesn’t erase the history of the neighborhood. It just adds to it. And I believe that it (the neighborhood) won’t change. Not everyone will be pushed out and it will be a mix.

I was 10 or 11 years old when the Moody Park riots happened. It was scary. I remember standing on our front porch and seeing the sky red from the fires. And I was glad to be home. My mom still lives in that house. They bought the house when I was a baby. I used to play baseball there. But after the riots, I didn’t go back (to Moody Park). And when I did, it was the first time in a long time. After the riots, my friends and I hung out in our front yards. We didn’t talk about what happened in Moody Park. Everyone knew of it. It was something we experienced together.

It was about the ‘hood, living in Northside. After I left the first time, I went back to live in a garage apartment and I enjoyed it very much. But I haven’t lived there since 2001.

I came out to my good friends in high school. And word got around. I was ready for it. I had already been through so much. I wanted to see who my real friends were going to be. I had a difficult time from ages 16 to 23 and I had to leave “home”. It saved my relationship with my parents. The goal was to leave the nest and now I enjoy going back. It’s home. My family accepts me and my partner. They were there when I found out I was HIV positive in 1988…when doctors told me I had 10 years to live. I’m now coming up on 27 years…

A project like this makes me proud of where I come from; I’m a proud Houstonian. I’ve never done this before, you know. No one has asked me these questions. I’m proud to be part of your project. — René P. Rodriguez

This conversation is part of my What Is Home? project.