A powerful and striking 1/8-mile-long street mural with the words “Black Towns Matter” was my Sunday drive discovery as I followed a meandering route in Houston that I had not taken before. My canine companion Foxy and I made many discoveries on the morning of August 16, 2020 and as we entered Houston’s historic Independence Heights neighborhood, we came upon the monumental yellow and red lettering painted on the asphalt of Link Road between East 33rd and 34th streets.
The “literally on the street” mural first appeared on the morning of the community’s Juneteenth celebration on Friday, June 19, 2020. Organized by unofficial mayor Tanya Debose, the executive director of the Independence Heights Redevelopment Council, it was painted by students from the University of Houston, architects, and volunteers who mapped out the slogan’s letters on Thursday, June 18, 2020. A central element featuring a colorful chalk-and-paint portrait of George O. Burgess, the first mayor of Independence Heights, was supposed to be added on Friday morning, but rain washed away those plans.
Independence Heights first came to be in 1905 when black families began migrating to the area, and later — with its population of nearly 600 residents — became the first incorporated African American municipality in Texas, according to the City of Houston website. It was annexed by the City of Houston after being dissolved as a city itself on December 26, 1929.