Late in the summer, I took a drive with my dog Foxy along a meandering route that I had not taken before. We made many discoveries on that Sunday morning, August 16, 2020, including an amazing 1/8-mile-long mural with the words “Black Towns Matter” in yellow and red letters painted on the asphalt of Link Road between East 33rd and 34th streets in Houston’s historic Independence Heights neighborhood.
The “literally on the street” mural 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.