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The Voiceless From the Mouth of Babes

Historically race has played a major factor in marginalizing African Americans as well as other people of color living, in the United States. The marginalization of blacks began with slavery and can be seen across era’s thru historical movements like the abolitionist, Jim Crow, and the 1960’s integration movements. Still today black-households are disproportionately impacted socially, economically, and politically.

Essentially these communities as a whole lack the voice needed to obtain a level of equitability that would allow for their overall success within these systems. The Texas Freedom Colonies Project is unique by its on metrics because it provides an opportunity for those who once lacked a "voice" to be heard "loud and clear" on a digital platform.

Historic Sunnyside (Houston, Tx)

The Sunnyside Community is located in Houston, TX inside the 610 loop near highway 288. This superneighborhood is comprised of five neighborhoods:

  • Sunnyside Place
  • South Loop Industrial Park Area
  • Brookhaven
  • Sunnyside Court
  • Sunnyside Park

The community was established in 1912 by H.H. Holmes. By the 1950's the community contained a water district, a fire department, paved roads, and heating services. By the 1970's the community was annexed as part of the City of Houston.

Since its origin the community has held a population of 90% African American. The community still contains historic early framed houses, churches and schools.

Today, this once vibrant community is home to a vast amount of low income housing, crime, and high unemployment rate, which some have attributed to the economic decline of the 1980's. The community also suffers from a wide range of environmental concerns which has been linked to a former garbage incinerator, a land fill, and a salvage yard.

The Historic Sunnyside Community

Houston, Texas
Hurricane Harvey

For many people living near the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast line, August 25, 2017 will always be a day to remember. On this day, twenty-seven trillion gallons of water began to pour into the region as the category four hurricane, Harvey, traveled along the coast line (Zarracina, 2017). The havoc caused by Hurricane Harvey affected thousands of people living within the region destroying homes, and business forcing thousands to evacuate to shelters. This massive 1,000-year storm destroyed over 40,000 homes and caused over $150 billion in damages.

Social Vulnerability Race & Class

Disasters within themselves do not target communities of color and/or of lower income (Masozera, 2006; Bjarnadottir, 2010). The social characteristics within a community plays a primary role in the vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the lack of “capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of natural hazards (Wisener, 2003,11; Fothergill, 1999).”

There is a strong link between vulnerability, race and economic power which plays a major role in the marginalization of communities (Fothergill, 2003). A community that possess low social, physical, and economic stature will have a higher level of vulnerability placing the community at a higher risk of being impacted by a disaster (Van Zandt, 2012; Bjarnadottir, 2010).

Historically, research has shown that “low-income communities and communities of color don’t get the necessary protection (Bullard, 2017).” Which was clearly evident throughout Hurricane Harvey as the local and national media highlighted areas of Houston that did not contain a high minority population.

Sunnyside

About the Project:

Research Question: Were minority neighborhoods equally represented across the media before and after Hurricane Harvey made landfall?

Methods:

  • Interviewed 200 students at Jones Future Academy
  • The groups were divided into two sections (9th & 10th) and (11th & 12th)
  • Students were asked four questions, only three questions are analyzed for the purpose of this assignment.
  • Conducted a content analysis using counts to determine the frequency in which various words, phrases, and places were stated

Collaborative effort between Jones Future Academy, Texas Target Communities, The Institute for Sustainable Communities, and The Texas Freedom Colonies Project

Sunnyside, Houston

Question 1

  • What do you remember seeing on television before hurricane Harvey arrived?
  • Did anything about the media coverage bother or concern you?
  • Did anything make you proud?

Highlighted Student Responses

Question 2

  • Which communities or neighborhoods do you recall seeing on television?
  • Did coverage include your neighborhood?

Highlighted Student Responses

Question 3

  • What do you think causes some people to be heard and not others?
  • What can be done about that?

Highlighted Student Responses

Recommendations

Disasters will continue to impact these communities at inequitable rates until the problems within these communities are resolved. It is highly important that communities continue to pursue support and change from their Cities to prevent mass devastation like Hurricane Harvey from repeatedly occurring.

A Call to Action

How to Protect Sunnyside and other Historic Communities

There are many ways to provide protection and resources to communities like Sunnyside, Houston: Build a Disaster Recovery Network with an Emphasis on Freedmen Towns and encourage Preservation of landmarks within the region.

Hurricane Harvey impacted a large quantity of people from all walks of life. Those still filling the devastation of Hurricane Harvey are those living in predominant African American neighborhoods. These neighborhoods as seen throughout this content analysis rarely receive the attention they need leaving them devastated at disproportionate rates.

Conclusion

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