My family is from the small east Texas town of Seven Oaks. If you drive passed Livingston and blinked you will have missed Seven Oaks. Growing up, my grandmother would tell me stories about her childhood and would often take me to the place she once called home. Though the town is literally in the back woods of Polk County, my grandmother’s family owned the land in which they lived. In fact, my great uncle rebuilt their childhood home and now lives on the same parcel of land. Though no one in my family at the time attended college and some didn’t even have a high school diploma, they were smart enough to own and maintain more than an acre of land. There are similar stories of African American families owning acres upon acres of land during the days of segregation, but today that number is becoming non-existent.
The people that own land can change all aspects of life including education, business development, even the choice of elected officials. Many have become upset with developers in the old Freedman’s Town, Third Ward, and Fifth Ward because it seems as though they are erasing our history. It seems as though James Crow, III who is building condos and luxury apartments, is replacing old Mrs. Jones. How is it possible that these areas are becoming more and more gentrified?
The answer is simple; we no longer own the land. Instead of owning the land, we have moved to the lands (Pearland, Sugarland, Woodlands, etc.) and are renting instead of owning. While moving to the lands, we have allowed Mrs. Jones’ home to go into disrepair and are not paying the taxes on the property. Mrs. Jones along with her husband worked hard to pay off the property and now that they are gone, it seems as though no one wants to live there anymore. And thus the properties go into foreclosure, which allows for James Crow, III to buy the properties for much cheaper than the original owners paid for it in the 1960s and 70s.
As more African Americans move out of these historic communities, more schools will close and less quality businesses will open. Our community must do a better job at ensuring that our land remains our land. Generational wealth is about more than how much money you have, but about how much of it you pass to the next generation. If you do not have any land investments to pass on then expect your money to be gone within a few months of your passing.
Then it is our responsibility as the new generation to continue to ensure that our land is secured for future generations. Since the home we will inherit is most likely paid off, the only two responsibilities we will have are to pay the yearly property taxes, which are much cheaper than paying rent monthly, and to keep it up to code. Learning about land investments is a major step, but is much needed for our community to survive. Or maybe you will start owning land when Jack Yates becomes Midtown High and Phyllis Wheatley becomes East Downtown High. #ijs