“Our Kids Only” — Halloween Edition

While most kids are spending this evening (October 30th) finishing costumes to wear to school tomorrow and most parents are out frantically searching for a last-minute bag of candy to pass out tomorrow night, the families of Candelight Plaza in Northwest Houston are currently out and about trick-or-treating one day early — their exclusive, annual custom that is fueled by a history of prejudice and perpetuates a sentiment of segregation.

Before anyone launches in with their “you don’t know because you don’t live here” (I’m a Midtown Queen now) and your “this is the way it has always been”s, let me say up front that I grew up in this neighborhood and the fact that it has always been that way is paramount to the problem.

For those of you who don’t know where Candlelight Plaza is, it is the tiny neighborhood between Ella and Shephered, spanning the three blocks north of Shepherd Park Plaza and south of Acres Homes (where Mayor Sylvester Turner hails from), just north of the I610 loop. A predominately and historically White neighborhood, this community is known for it’s extensive Christmas lights displays, landscaping competitions, rapidly rising home values, and it’s close proximity to “rougher parts of town” — one to the East, across Brinkman St. (an extension of Independence Heights) and Acres Homes to the North; both historic Black communities, the former now a predominately Hispanic area — which lends to their justification of this pre-Halloween night out.

When my family first moved to the neighborhood, we were surprised when the streets unexpectedly filled with children the day before Halloween and the doorbell started ringing with wide faces ready for treats — we hadn’t gotten the memo. So we quickly put a costume on my 2 year old sister, threw some candy in a bowl to leave on the porch, and hit the pavement. While walking around we started asking other parents why everyone was out a day early, thinking perhaps it had something to do with not being on a school night or weather related. We were told “this keeps the big kids away so its safe for the little ones to be out late. It’s our little tradition.” I was a teenager at the time and didn’t think much about what was really being said.

The next night, Halloween proper, we looked outside and the neighborhood was dark. No porch lights on. No candy out. But kids? Oh yes. But these were not the kids who lived in Candlelight Plaza — these were the “big scary kids” we were warned about the night before. Only, most of them weren’t so big. Or scary. Just little kids in costumes, buckets and bags in hand. But they did have one unifying feature, and I’ll let you put that one together yourself. Kids from the surrounding, poorer, neighborhoods were walking around the streets of Candelight Plaza looking for candy just like those the night before, but were turned away by locked doors, darkened porch lights, and lifeless streets. Needless to say, we turned our porch light on and showered any child with Skittles who made it to our front door.

I’m not entirely sure what I am hoping to do with this post, other than to say loudly that there is a clear discrimination problem going on right under our noses that directly involves children, and just as I am not okay with it, I know that most people who hear about it won’t be either. My mother was a poor kid who went to more affluent neighborhoods on Halloween looking for candy with her brothers and sisters to have one big night of fun — and when I think about this, I think about her and my aunts and uncles. It saddens me to imagine them piled in my grandmother’s car, pulling up to Candlelight Plaza only to find that they were unwelcome and unwanted. It saddens me to imagine a young Mayor Turner crossing south of Pinemont to find the same — and worst of all to know that this will happen to so many little kids and families tomorrow night.