This talk is based upon an investigation into processes and illustrations of gentrification in a section of Third Ward, a historically Black neighborhood in Houston, Texas. This work is based on archival data, ethnographic observations, and conversations with present and former Black residents/artists in Third Ward. Gentrification within Third Ward acts as a “territorializing force” that crosses, traverses, and submerges existing Black geographies, bodies, and spatial practices. These embodied territorializations help to produce a new racial landscape. Willie Wright suggests that the works of Black residents/artists serve as a nonviolent medium through which they create and highlight Black spaces throughout the community, contest processes of gentrification, as well as profess alternative and more democratic forms of development via Black spatial imaginaries.
Willie Jamaal Wright is a Ford Foundation predoctoral Fellow and a doctoral student in the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include Black geographies, Black radicalism, counter-cartographies, and spatial theory.
The Eldorado Ballroom was the visual and spiritual symbol of the Third Ward community for many years. It occupies the second floor of the massive Eldorado Building (1939) and was owned by African American businesswoman Anna Dupree (1892-1977), who wanted to establish a community entertainment venue for black social clubs and other groups in the Third Ward. Until it closed in the early 1970s, the ballroom hosted countless blues and jazz performances, weekly talent shows, and sock-hops. It was reopened in 2003 by Project Row Houses and once again serves the community and Houston at large.
Artwork by Autumn Knight from Organized Love: Ideas on Non-violence at the African-American Library at the Gregory School (in Freedman’s Town/Fourth Ward)