Since 2012, I have been through and through a proud Houstonian. This wonderful city and its citizens have shaped me into the man I am today, and I consider moving here the best decision of my life. My dog Ollie and I live in a part of town, Sharpstown, that is considered by many as an afterthought. But Sharpstown has changed my life and the way I see the world.
Under social construct theory, Sharpstown has an Advantaged past and a Deviant present. I want to do my part to serve my neighborhood and create a future where Sharpstown becomes a Contender.
Sharpstown began as an Advantaged neighborhood. One of the first master-planned communities, it was developed in the 1950s by Frank Sharp and was nationally recognized as the largest subdivision in the United States. 59 highway intentionally veered off course to take the inhabitants of large homes into their city jobs, and in their free time these citizens could enjoy an air-conditioned mall and municipal golf course. Suburban paradise went unabated for thirty years.
Then, the 1980’s happened.
Houston experienced rapid outer expansion and the Advantaged white middle-class families which comprised Sharpstown moved further out to new developments like Sugar Land. As property value and perception of safety decreased, immigrant families moved into this neighborhood because of its location and affordability.
Currently, 75% of the population are non-white and do not speak English at home and 44% of families in Sharpstown survive on less than $25,000 a year. Parts of Gessner have rival gang factions endangering and traumatizing the lives of children and elders. Many apartments are not up to code and undocumented immigrants live in fear.
The abandoned buildings, under-performing schools, and lack of income generation leads to a breakdown in the community and an increase in crime and addiction, creating what on the surface seems to be a Deviant community that should be written off.
But I know the truth about Sharpstown. Because I live and work here. The truth is that Sharpstown is a neighborhood filled with good people who work hard, love their families, and serve their God.
These children of families who moved here in the 1990s are now coming of age and entering college and the workforce. Sharpstown is beginning to see a wave of empowered young men and women who are passionate about awakening their community to a higher level of intellectual, spiritual, and civic consciousness. They are pushing past the oppression of their Deviant label and reaching to become more than society tells them they are.
As a counselor at Sharpstown International School, I get to talk with aspiring activists, advocates, politicians, doctors, businessmen, philosophers, and artists. They are inspired to do great things and it is an honor for me to have a small part in their journey. I know they will reach their goals because they talk about hard things, they ask for help, they work hard, and they are humble and kind.
As these new Contenders make progress toward education and income equality, Sharpstown directly benefits because the quality of the environment and community we live in gains new tools and resources as well as new advocates.
This new generation of Sharpstown residents will inherit the strengths of our community--the things we already do well--while reshaping our identity as Contenders and pushing us to be an inspiring agent of change in the city of Houston.