Conjunctural Insurrections – “Aside From the Sign…”

This photograph was taken at the intersection of La Branch Street and Wheeler Avenue (the 1400th block), in Houston’s Midtown[1] neighborhood. The geometric fitting of lumber, nails, and brackets create a skeletal structure unto which fiber cement siding will be applied in the final stages of its development. In the bottom left corner of the scene are two Latino laborers, one of whom is out of frame. In the backdrop, we see a sliver of a grey high-rise – confirmation of the condos to come. In the bottom center of the image a beleaguered sign makes a literal gesture to the vivacity and worth of real estate – “Live Investments, Inc.”.[2] Here, in the Bayou City, real estate matters.

The second image is of the George Floyd mural located at the Scott Food Mart (3341 Winbern Street).[3] Created by Donkeeboy and Donkeymom, the site was chosen because the corner store is located parallel to the Cuney Homes, the public housing apartment complex in which Floyd was raised. Since its erection, the mural has become a site where visitors from across the city pilgrimage to honor Floyd with offerings (e.g. flowers, balloons, signs, and potted plants).

In the final photo, we are introduced to an undeveloped lot across from the mural where residents lounge, liaise, and take in libation under the canopy of shade trees. In the foreground of the image, a sign reads “Black Lives Matter”.[4] Behind the sign a black bin overflows as a plastic garbage bag hangs from a tree. Seen elsewhere in the frame is the Cuney Homes, a wood frame house, and an expanse of dirt compacted by years of communal use. How do you read this image? Is it stewardship or municipal neglect? A black bag or strange fruit? Affect: amorous or ominous? Is the lilting shade, rather than a representation of relief, the dim encroachment of gentrification, militarized police, and new neighbors upon the Third Ward?


[1] My use of italics is meant to call into question the legitimacy of a name or definite article.

[2] Live Investments, Inc. encourages potential buyers to invest in its luxury flats and become “the first to live here”.

[3] You are encouraged to map the distance between the immature high-rise and the site of the George Floyd mural, two locations that were once part of a homogeneously named community – the Third Ward.

[4] Due to the limits of WordPress, I could not place “Black Lives Matter” in both Helvetica font and inverted commas, as desired and in order to motion to work of the artist and designer, Virgil Abloh. If possible, it would have been a gesture to his use of font and grammar as signifiers that name. It would have also been an acknowledgement of the sardonic nature of the naming and implanting said sign amongst deserted and worn property.

Willie J. Wright, Assistant Professor, Geography and Africana Studies, Rutgers University

For more on Antipode’s “Conjunctural Insurrections” series – an experiment to amplify voices often unheard and invisibilised in politics, daily life, and academic discourse – see