The year was 2008, the day Nov. 4. In awe, my family and I watched the results of the election come in. Then as a family we made the decision to drive to one of the historic black neighborhoods in Houston.
We started at Scott and Wheeler in Houston’s Third Ward. This was the home of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, an historic, politically active and community-minded church. This was the birthplace of not only famed singer Beyonce Knowles, but also Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins and Conrad Johnson to name a few. It is also the site for Emancipation Park, a place reserved for the annual Juneteenth celebration, to commemorate the date—June 19, 1865—that Texas slaves finally received the news from Union soldiers that they were emancipated.
On that night in 2008, students quietly marched in awe. Cars occasionally honked to celebrate the news. In the twilight, the raw emotion and tears were replaced with silence. It was a proud, thoughtful, contemplative silence.
America’s first African-American president.
That night, there were no shootings. There was no concern about safety. There was no question of the optimism about the future. You had the sense that everyone thought that Sam Cook was right about change and the civil rights marchers would agree that we did overcome.
Six years later, that same neighborhood is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. With the recent spate of shootings on campus, academics and the promise of 2008 are being overshadowed by a trend that suggests that Texas Southern University has a problem with crime and safety.
On Friday, the Texas Southern University campus was shut down for several hours after the shooting death of a first-year student. Police report that this is the third shooting in three months. In the wake of the Oregon campus shooting, news has spread like wildfire about campus safety, begging the question “what is at the root of campus unrest across the nation?”
This isn’t the climate that I was familiar with and this wasn’t the campus that I saw that night on Nov. 4, 2008.