Houston proudly celebrates a true pillar of its historic district
Houston, TX — "Family does not necessarily mean blood relatives," said Queen Elizabeth II, "but often a description of a community, organization or nation." Indeed, from the Queen of England to 3rd Ward's Queen — spreading love reflects a royal touch.
Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8. The original Queen Elizabeth was born a day before, on September 7.
As for queens being born in September, the Queen of Pop (Beyoncé) was born on September 4. Third Ward's Queen was born today, September 13. Of course, instead of England, these two queens come from Third Ward — "the city's most diverse black neighborhood and a microcosm of the larger black Houston community."
At the heart of Houston's historic district sits the city's first public housing projects — The Cuney Homes. And because Texas Southern University and the University of Houston are "both across the street from 'The Bricks,' " the Cuney Homes reign as the "heart" of the city.
Nannie Mae Turner's the "heartbeat."
Greatness is defined by service
When a disciple asked Jesus of Nazareth about greatness, he answered: "the greatest among you shall be your servant."
Unsurprisingly Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, embraced the spirit of service. After all, King's mother — Alberta — instilled such values in him. Today marks "Queen" Alberta King's 118th birthday. Perhaps a birthday says more about someone than a mere day of birth.
On cold nights, Queen Nannie served warm meals to strangers. As if by instinct, she mastered the art of helping lost souls find hope, if not themselves.
"Never, ever give up hope, baby" remains her mantra. "Never."
Our family once attempted to start her a mini-restaurant business. But within weeks, it became clear the Queen — stamped with the heart of a prophet — had no interest in making a profit. Children formed lines around her iconic 3200-Truxillo apartment.
"We might be broke," Clifton mumbled, "but the Queen still gonna feed us."
Before the world called him George Floyd, Perry and his little brother (PJ) played Nintendo with me in her 3317-Alabama living room. She fed us all.
While seated on her back porch with A-Roc, I first heard the "smallest guy with the biggest heart" rap urban poetry. Today, he's known as 3Pac.
En-Jo, one of the toughest Brickboys, insisted "call me Maurice 'round Ms. Nannie." His literal golden smile still shines in my memory.
A lasting legacy
"Most of the social activism from the African American community grew out of Third Ward..." reads U of H's website, "the cradle of the city's civil rights movement." Yet 3rd Ward's Queen's lasting legacy boils down to one word: Love.
Love is a verb, not a noun. Hence love is service. Love is sacrifice...
...In short, 3rd Ward's Queen's legacy embodies Queen Elizabeth's royal insight:
Family does not necessarily mean blood relatives, but is often a description of a community, organization or nation.