Bagby Park, Houston

“Did you ever want to go back; go back, to you and me?”

The lament is palpable as Kam Franklin belts out a feeling that is so common, so relatable that anyone with a pulse and a couple of stories of love or loss can easily manufacture how that applies in their own lives. This week’s musical selection includes The Suffers singing “Midtown” from their first (self titled) LP. Aside from being a huge fan of the Gulf Coast Soul outfit Franklin plays center stage within, all who hail from the wonderful streets of Houston, the idea of returning to something called to me.

How often do we memorialize times in our lives? How often do we put a positive spin on where we have come from? That great job you had that nearly killed you. That picture perfect relationship that stole a part of your soul because in reality, it was a toxic mess below the surface? How often do we bolster that ill behavior by putting a portion of our lives on a pedestal?

Remembering those events in a way that drives us to try to recreate them can be hurtful to our own development. At best, sometimes we are able to remember our pasts as a fair evaluation of the progress we have made since those moments. We can appreciate what they were by the personal development that we are led to through them.

So the challenge stands to recall with purpose, not to necessarily recreate.

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Bagby Park received the benefit of a revitalization after the City of Houston throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s tried to rebrand the area of Midtown. Up until that point, Midtown was perplexed by scores of corporate employees throughout each week checking out to their suburban homes as the clock ticked to 5pm each Friday. Midtown, specifically, between Houston’s Downtown skyline and a world renowned Texas Medical Center plays host to a few museums for an Arts District hosting family activities, churches, bars, but most notably closed businesses and a homeless population. The closer you are to the Downtown side, the more aware you can become of a very different way of life. Most businesses that shut down for the weekend create an even greater and significant effect of a near ghost town. The people that one would see had a reason to be Midtown.

That narrative is gradually changing, over a period of decades. High rise housing and business development are taking place. Midweek happy hours make way for more Midtown adventures over the weekend. As someone who is not an expert, but has spent time trying to learn about the needs of Houston’s homeless, my hope is that the  development is not at the cost of gentrification. At this point, Houston has provided answers for these needs through a multitude of services rendered by interfaith charities, many of whom are positioned in the same Midtown area.

Soup Kitchens, Social Services, Counseling, Rehabilitation. This is also a part of the Midtown that I have walked through more recently. Maybe, just maybe, this allows affected individuals to recall better days and provide access to programs that are resources towards a new start. Grounds by which to launch upward from.

I am not so unaware to think that homelessness or even food instability are conscious choices. True “hand ups” require not only desire to leave the streets, but opportunities and determination to see things through. If you are interested in learning more about these things, I am more than happy to provide you some resources on the matter as well as contact information for some wonderful organizations focused on identifying  and addressing the needs as they arise.

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I grew up listening to Hip Hop. I was fascinated by the clarity of sound and lyricism of my favorite MC’s. Rap paints pictures and tell stories that I otherwise couldn’t imagine seeing in my lifetime. It is equal parts celebration of expression, stories of struggle, and at times accountability through the points of view of the rapper. There is a sarcasm and ego involved in rap that other music fails to satisfy for me.

I think it may have been 6th grade that I tried writing a few rhymes of my own. I’ve always felt musical, though somewhat directed to country and rock as a kid; due in part to the radios of my parents. Yet I began following the beats around my school lunch tables, crafting rhymes without the need of a pen and paper. Some of them struck iron, many only struck a flat chord. Over the years, I quietly honed this skill. I enjoy the looks of surprise across people’s face as I turn upside down the perception of what a rapper may look or sound like. At this point, this is at best for me a quirky party trick.

In 2016, there was the equivalent of a Pep Rally held at Bagby Park as The University of Houston was set to take on The Oklahoma Sooners at the Advocare Kickoff. The event at Bagby was scheduled to include a concert with Houston Rapper Paul Wall. Before Paul was going to perform, a few local DJs were spinning tunes and hosted a freestyle contest for a group of maybe 4 contestants chosen from the crowd.

I made the lucky cut of participants that day. The beat dropped, and as someone who doesn’t shy easily in front of a crowd, I stood to deliver.

Bagby

I didn’t get a record deal that day. I didn’t even get an iced “grill”, a style made popular in Houston. But I left that stage with sideline tickets to the game, a huge smile across my face, and as the winner of the competition. Also, @paulwallbaby , if you feel like making that grill happen, I am totally game.

That truly was a great day, but now I am back to you and me.

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