The De Luxe was once a Lyons Avenue monument, a thriving African American cinema during the days of segregation. Fifth Ward was well known for being a place of business, entertainment, and life. My neighbor "M", who hangs out at the corner all day, tells me stories of his childhood, of the main thoroughfare, Lyons Avenue, being the place to be. Men and women would dress up and walk the Avenue as they visited The Deluxe for a show, danced in the nightclubs, and dined at the restaurants at Jensen and Lyons Avenue.
As desegregation happened and African Americans left Fifth Ward, the economy shrank and businesses, including The De Luxe, went under. Crime, drug use, and violence rose as people and businesses fled. The De Luxe had a short lived revival as an art gallery in the 70s, but since then, The De Luxe has loomed over Lyons Avenue, a haunted house, gutted and overgrown, waiting for a renaissance.
The non-profit I work for, The Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation (FWCRC), has partnered with the City of Houston and several government and non-governmental agencies to restore Lyons Avenue to the brilliance it possessed in its heyday. They have been renovating and building houses, apartment complexes (including the apartment complex me and my teammates currently live in), and common spaces like parks in order to bring life and commerce back to the Fifth Ward.
Today we participated in the groundbreaking of the De Luxe Theatre. The once-empty building will be transformed into a multi-purpose arts center for the neighborhood, creating space for performances, galleries, and meeting spaces, and maybe even a library.
|Setting up for the Mayor|
|My housemate Caleb surveys the gutted De Luxe|
|My office buddy Krystal, housemate Charlie, and me|
I volunteer for a pretty dynamic non-profit. It's easy to forget in the day to day computer work, grant writing, and office details that the organization I work for is helping transform this community, offering hope and sustainability to a neighborhood with a rich culture and beautiful people.