The Roots of Gun Violence in Houston

Tears in the Bayou

Directed by Rico King (2017)

Film Review

This documentary is about gun violence in Houston’s African American Third Ward. Houston, the fourth largest US city, is home to more than a dozen multibillion dollar companies. It also experienced 4,194 murders between 2003-2017.

The film begins by tracing the history of Houston’s once thriving African American community with its strong African American businesses. Beginning in the1980s, the Third Ward collapsed economically, with the loss of good paying manufacturing jobs and many small businesses. As in many other cities, as men lost their jobs, more and more households were headed by single mothers supporting their families on low-wage caretaking jobs. And growing numbers of teenagers and young adults turned to drug dealing to help their families put food on the table.

The film profiles numerous local gang members, families of young people killed by gun violence, religious leaders and community activists and organizers.

For me, hearing gang members describing their own individual experiences was the most valuable part of the film. They talk at length about their parents being continuously away from home (at work) and having nothing to show for it; their own inability to find work; the pressure and stress of providing for their families through drug dealing, hustling, stealing and even armed robbery; their regard of fellow gang members as “family”; their genuine fear of being out on the street unarmed; and their horrific experience of recovering from multiple gunshot wounds.

Although the filmmakers cite research regarding the direct correlation between poverty, lack of economic opportunity and death by gun violence, none of the solutions the film proposes to to address the main underlying problem. This, in my view, is the documentary’s major weakness. I was also disappointed that they failed to address the Third Ward’s high rate of youth suicide – which apparently is even higher than the rate of death by gun violence.


5 thoughts on “The Roots of Gun Violence in Houston

  1. I couldn’t even watch half of this. It is bad enough what is going down in certain areas in Houston and other areas of every city in Amerikkka that has a large Black population and what is going down is of course, ALL done by design. It also saddens me to hear Black people describe themselves in the most horrible manner possible. I cannot, nor will I sit up and listen to the “N” word either spoken by Black people in reference to themselves or in the form of ‘rap’ music continuously. As bad as our situation is, we don’t need to take up the most derogatory term that was used to describe us by the whites. I refuse to condone the continued use of that word by listening to it. I don’t use it in my everyday dealings and I am damn sure not going to hear it constantly being bandied about in this video.

    I understand that they have got to keep the shit real for the camera or be perceived as weak, punk ass bitches, but, still, it just don’t set right with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Indeed, Shelby. It’s very concerning to see that kind of internalized racism constantly glorified, especially by young people – especially after learning about the role of US intelligence in creating and popularizing the gangsta rap industry. Looks to me like a really cynical and dangerous form of mind control.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Houston’s my backyard, so to speak (freaking huge metro area), so I was initially intrigued by this film I’d never heard about (I don’t watch TV much anymore–too much Dump exposure gives me a headache).
    I’m a bit disappointed, though, because I thought “wow, finally somebody’s talking about Houston and some issues that need to be dealt with.” But it seems there’s exposure, but no hint how to fix the underlying problem? Damn, I wanted to hear what the community and/or filmmakers would say about solutions or changes to make to save lives and improve things.

    Things definitely need improving in the Third Ward, and all over where you’ve got broke, desperate people just trying to live. I read “Invisible Houston” a while back (and reviewed it). It had a ton of great info on how gentrification and such changed things, and I put it down going “what the hell is anybody going to do to make things better for the people who can’t afford to move and can’t set up a business because the neighborhood’s been ravaged by freeway construction and zoning?”

    That book was written in the 1980s and I have YET to find another book about Houston that gives any hint as to changes or improvements made.

    It’s a damned shame, like handing someone a fixed deck and wondering why they never get a winning hand. Shameful.

    It’s good that these people had voices and were allowed to be heard. I might just watch for that. Maybe it’ll inspire more solutions to the big problems. Gotta start somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

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