By: Crystal LaShan
THIRD WARD-Despite Mayor Turner’s quick knockdown of the Historic District Ordinance, several residents of Third Ward wanted to express their love of Third Ward and what it truly means to be a citizen of The Tre.’ Councilwoman Dr. Carolyn Evans – Shabazz beamed with pride as her residents, one by one, spoke about the importance of the spirit of Third Ward to remain a mainstay in the heart of District D. This is the district that Councilwoman Carolyn Evans – Shabazz affectionately calls the “District of Destination” because it is the center point of Houston where you can start to access all areas of our great city.
In the 1800s, much of what was Third Ward, the present-day east side of Downtown Houston was what Stephen Fox, an architectural historian who lectured at Rice University, referred to as “the elite neighborhood of late 19th-century Houston.” Ralph Bivins of the Houston Chronicle said in 1837, Houston, Texas, was incorporated and divided into four wards. The Southeast Ward was named Third Ward, and over time this area became an important center of African American-owned businesses and a hub for Black culture.
Third Ward originally comprised the area east of Main Street and south of Congress Street. After the Civil War ended, formerly enslaved people from Houston areas began to move into Third Ward. At the time, African Americans were forced to live on the outskirts of the ward, but as Whites moved to the suburbs, Blacks began to purchase property in the heart of the community. In 1872, influential African Americans led by Reverend John Henry “Jack” Yates raised $8,000 to purchase four acres of land that would become Emancipation Park, the first park for Black Houstonians and home to the annual Juneteenth Celebration commemorating the liberation of African Americans from slavery in Texas.
Between 1910 and 1930, the African American population in Third Ward exploded from 22,929 to 66,357. As a result of the rapid population growth, African American-owned businesses increased along Dowling Street, which became the area’s leading business corridor. Dowling Street has since been renamed Emancipation Street, but for many years firms were disappearing. In the last five years, Emancipation Street reawakened with the restoration of Emancipation Park, new businesses popping up and down the street, and Luxury residential apartments are taking over. It is important that long-time Third Ward residents are included in this growth. We must protect the heart and soul of Third Ward, the people and places that have stood the test of time and have added to the culture of this great place.
According to Councilwoman Dr. Carolyn Evans – Shabazz, “Property values have significantly increased and continue to soar, and most venues can be quickly accessed within minutes, traffic considered. Along with inflated values, comes high taxes and a great concern regarding gentrification. Providing affordable housing throughout the district is, therefore, key to giving people who want to live in District D the opportunity to do so.” Councilwoman Evan – Shabazz made suggestions to residents who want to remain in Third Ward, and how they should seek out organizations such as Change Happens or the Houston chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. The latter offers opportunities for Houston residents to learn how to take advantage of city of Houston grants that assist first-time homebuyers in achieving the dream of home ownership. Councilwoman Evans – Shabazz believes, “Many Third ward residents are not homeowners because they believe it isn’t in their budget or maybe they just can’t get their credit in order, but these programs are meant to help you step by step to achieve the goal of owning your own home.”
As a Third-Ward resident, it is exciting to report the opportunities the NAACP first-time homebuyer program offers. They recently completed the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) workshop to begin their process. NACA is a non-profit community advocacy and homeownership organization. NACA’s primary goal is to build strong and healthy neighborhoods in urban and rural areas nationwide through affordable homeownership. NACA has made the dream of homeownership a reality for thousands of working people by counseling them honestly and effectively and enabling even those with poor credit to purchase a home or modify their predatory loan with far better terms than those provided even in the prime market.
The NACA homeownership program is our answer to the huge subprime and predatory lending industry. NACA has conclusively shown that when working people benefit from a prime rate loan, they can resolve their financial problems, make their mortgage payments, and become prime borrowers. NACA’s track record of helping people with credit problems become homeowners or modify their predatory loans debunks the myth that high rates and fees are necessary to compensate for their “credit risk.”
Starting in 1988, NACA has a tremendous track record of successful advocacy against predatory and discriminatory lenders and providing the best mortgage program in America with $10 billion in funding commitments. NACA is the largest housing services organization in the country. It is rapidly expanding by growing its existing 30+ offices, headquartered in Boston, MA, opening many new offices nationwide, and expanding the services it offers its membership. NACA’s confrontational community organizing, and unprecedented mortgage program have set the national standard for assisting low- and moderate-income people to achieve the dream of homeownership.
Councilwoman Dr. Carolyn Evans – Shabazz has committed to partnering with existing organizations to make Third Ward residents more aware of the opportunities to remain in Third Ward, whether they are a homeowner or renters. She wants Third Ward to keep the soul and culture of the people she grew up with as a student of Third Ward High, also known as Jack Yates High School Class of 1972. As Addison Aitch, one Third Ward resident said, “Third Ward is stepping out of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church on Sunday morning, picking up a chicken dinner from Frenchy’s after you leave Jack Yates on a Friday afternoon, and hearing the TSU Ocean of Soul practice their routine for game night.”
For more information about NACA, you can view their website at www.naca.com. Also, you can contact the local chapter of N.A.A.C.P. at https://www.facebook.com/NAACPHoustonBranch/ or www.naacphouston.org. You can get Change Happens at https://www.changehappenstx.org/. Taking the time to access and utilize these resources can make a difference in all Houston residents’ lives, especially Third Ward residents.