Home > Uncategorized > Reflection on Day One, Houston, TX

Reflection on Day One, Houston, TX

Our visit to South East Houston was incredibly eye opening for me. I was surprised at the strength of cultural influences that dominated the area Juan Perras works in, conceptualizing for me the demographics and statistics that once casted an apathetic shadow on my perception of the community. The area seemed so far away from my home, but hesitate to say so due to the awareness that my “sheltered” lifestyle most likely encourages me to do so. How could I have missed this? Why have I been so unaware? And why has my life looked different? These thoughts flooded my mind as we were taken to our fist stop on our toxic tour. The image of a community bike trail in the foreground, car incinerator facility in the background, and piercing crashes and sirens flooding your ears from the smashing of steel and countless massive trucks continuously moving and working, an image I can only imagine much like a properly functioning bee-hive. My bike trail doesn’t feel like this. My park doesn’t sound like THIS. They deserve better.

I presume that Juan Perras’ view as a community activist is much like mine, only colored with memories and history of what it’s like to actually experience that environment on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. This must only lead to an understanding that is much more passionate than the young student who grew up only experiencing the benefits of what this community is paying for. White guilt. I know the word, and I shook its hand that morning, but separating my thoughts from it that weekend was no easy task. I was continually struck by the daunting truths that continued to reveal themselves to us through Juan’s words, our conversations, and most significantly, through what we saw. The lack of zoning laws, history of Magnolia and Manchester, infrastructure change from downtown Houston to Harrisburg, lack of insurance available to the community, lack of sidewalks, trash, smells, culture, deed restrictions, residential tax base, leukemia rates, asthma cases, Bush’s legislative decisions, Texas’ refusal to implement Federal laws, lack of solutions, abandoned homes.

Collectively, these facts speak to the area we witnessed, but they enabled me to better understand the concept of nature that most likely holds true for the community residents in South Houston. The term “nature” flashes an image in my mind of a luscious mountainside lined with evergreen trees, birds’ songs filling the silence, and a crisp, chilly breeze filling my chest and brushing my face. For me, that’s a desirable environment that is only a road-trip away. But for this community, it’s most likely closer to their view of Heaven. Reality, for them, perhaps requires a hope, simply for fresh air, a sidewalk with an empty skyline, and an evening free from the calamity of clashing steel. However, in their case, a nature that is much less attainable. My thoughts only conclude, that’s not fair.

Not only did our tour conceptualize the injustice for me, but also stamped names, and life, to the numbers and words that only scratch the surface of reality. This is real, and lives are at stake. You can tell me there are 10,000 cases of children with asthma, but I don’t understand that until I sit down and stare 1 in the eye.

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