Local playwright launches virtual tour of Houston’s third neighborhood
Houston’s third neighborhood has been and continues to be a hub for the the rich history and culture of the city. As the “cradle of the city’s civil rights movement,” the neighborhood served as a starting point for social and political movements such as the struggle for desegregation and the right to vote. Third Ward is also home to important black-owned institutions such as KCOH, the first radio stations aimed at black listeners, newspapers including the Defender and The Forward Times, and in the banking industry with UNITY, the only black-owned bank in Texas. As Houston continues to diversify, the history of this historically black neighborhood is threatened by gentrification. But a Houston native thought it was time to step in.
In partnership with The Catastrophic Theater and Nine30 Productions, ShaWanna Renée Rivon spear Historical virtual tour of the third quarter–a digital platform dedicated to archiving and honoring the heritage of the neighborhood through a series of interviews, stories and historical narratives by artists, activists and community leaders.
The virtual tour kicks off with Jack Yates High School, named in honor of Reverend John (Jack) Henry Yates. In 1865, the former slave Baptist pastor moved to Houston and helped establish Emancipation Park, the district’s center, alongside other safe spaces for blacks in the Third Ward.
It’s a timeline that viewers can follow and listen to as Houstonians recount historical events in local black culture. Events include Houston’s first counter sit-in run by black students from Texas Southern University in 1960, the establishment of the historic Eldorado Ballroom club in 1939, and the founding of the community arts institution, Project Row Houses. Also included are several personal interviews with notable figures in the community, such as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Methodist Church, Keith L. Somervillevisual artist Brian Ellison and members of People’s Party II, the Houston branch of the Black Panther Party.
Multiple locations make up the Virtual Guide, touching many corners of the neighborhood and exposing viewers to its multi-layered impact on Houston. And although it focuses primarily on black history, the fight for racial equality is only the beginning of understanding the Third Room. “I thank Third Ward for being the heart of the culture of the city of Houston,” Ellison said during the documentary.
The historical virtual tour of the third district offers a poignant glimpse of the cultural richness of the district. “Some works [gentrification] done here erases a painful past, ”says Rivon in an interview with Ellison. It is against this erasure that the playwright fights through the documentary, proving that preservation, many times, has more impact than expansion.
Take the time to browse the Third Ward timeline and become a history buff of Houston’s iconic cultural hub.
To embark on the historical virtual tour of the third quarter, visit here.