Councilman Michael Kubosh, slayer of red light cameras and next to Sheila Jackson Lee the most tireless self-promoter on the local political scene, has an idea. Kubosh believes the time is right to pay homage to three of Houston’s finest daughters by renaming 10 blocks of Midtown’s Hadley Street: pending Council approval, this nondescript stretch of office buildings, townhouses, and parking lots will be forever known as Destiny’s Child Lane.
Hadley Street just happens to be headquarters of Matthew Knowles’s Music World Entertainment, the very outfit that gave us our homegrown hip-hop version of The Supremes. Mr. Knowles is pleased. “Councilman Kubosh has been very supportive of all our efforts,” he told the Houston Chronicle. Kubosh has organized an invitation-only meeting of government officials and business leaders to discuss the plan. I wasn’t invited, but I’d love to go, if only for the sheer entertainment of hearing a roomful of middle-aged white guys opening up about what Destiny’s Child means to them. Perhaps there will be impromptu singing. And maybe a few grateful tears.
Why “Destiny’s Child Lane”? Sure, on the surface it seems less about honoring a groundbreaking Houston music group than scoring a little media face time for a guy who may be contemplating a run for mayor. And if the Music World Entertainment website is any indication, following his very nasty and very public split with his daughters, Matthew Knowles has been reduced to renting out his Rolls Royce and appearing as a motivational speaker at symposia hosted by the extravagantly monikered life coach Stormy Wellington-Jones, so his support for this project appears to a be a slightly desperate attempt to revive a flagging music career.
None of that matters. Destiny’s Child isn’t just from Houston; Destiny’s Child is Houston. Like Beyoncé, Kelly, Michelle, and—at least for a little while—LaTravia, LeToya, and Farrah, we are survivors, and we’re gonna make it. We worry about paying our telephone bills and our automo’ bills, and who among us doesn’t eschew the company of triflin’, good-for-nothing brothers, preferring to chill with ballers? Like the Children, we stand on our own two feet: this is a city full of honeys who makin’ money and mommas who profit dollas.
Besides, most of the stuff around here is named after dead white guys, which is almost a slap to the face of the flourishing diversity that makes this the Next Great American City. Think about it: The Wortham Center and Jones Hall? Both named for dead white guys. The George R. Brown Convention Center? Dead white guy. The Nolan Ryan Expressway? Living white guy, but if he keeps eating all that red meat, it’s only a matter of time. Hobby Airport. The Johnson Space Center. Westheimer Road. Dead white guys all. True, Mickey Leland has a federal building named after him, Barbara Jordan has a high school, and, down in Denver Harbor, a stretch of 69th Street carries the name of war hero and civil rights icon Marcario Garcia, but the ledger is way out of balance. When it comes to honoring local heroes, white guys rule. And that needs to change.
There’s another consideration. Matthew Knowles has intimated that Destiny’s Child Lane is only the beginning, that rechristening Hadley Street will open the door to a panoply of tributes to Houston music legends, perhaps a Walk of Fame, something that will attract busloads of tourists and generate bushel baskets of revenue for local businesses. Mr. Kubosh has suggested that Destiny’s Child Lane could do for Houston what Elvis Presley Boulevard does for Memphis. Namely, bring in the rubes.
This is crazy talk, of course. There’s no way the Child will ever be as big a draw as The King, and it’s hard to imagine tourists making their way to Midtown to be photographed next to, say, Lyle Lovett’s star on the Houston Musicians Walk of Fame. Folks aren’t going to line up at trashy kiosks to buy kitschy paintings of the girls, or Officially Authenticated sweat-stained scraps of Beyoncé’s dancewear (scratch that last one: the world is a creepy place, and there probably is a market for sweaty Beyoncé memorabilia).
Destiny’s Child Lane may not be a surefire tourist draw, but at least it’s an attempt. And we have to do something to raise our profile. In the current issue of Texas Highways, Houston ranks 36th in a surveyed list of the most popular travel destinations in Texas. Thirty-sixth. Galveston ranked 15th. Waco, which in my experience has road work and Baptists and not much else, ranked third. We were beaten out by places you’d sort of expect, like the Hill Country and Big Bend State Park and Austin, and places that defy belief, like Alpine and Abilene and Amarillo.
We finished eight spots behind Possum Kingdom Lake. I’ve had some dealings with possums. They are exceptionally unpleasant creatures. To imagine that they’ve taken control of a lake and managed to establish some sort of monarchical rule gives me the willies. Knowing that said body of water, populated by those disturbing, baby-handed marsupials, one of whom may be wearing a crown, is a significantly more popular vacation destination than our Xanadu on the Bayou, is simply beyond the pale.
We’ve got to do something to improve our image. We can’t be beaten by the possums, not anymore.
The problem with Destiny’s Child Lane is that it’s small thinking. This is a town of bold notions, a town of big ideas. Why stop at a measly 10 blocks of sidestreet? There’s a name out there that’s begging to be changed, the oldest and biggest honorific in the city, memorializing the deadest, whitest guy of all. “Houston” is a name out of the past, and it has to go. We need a name that reflects the fresh, new, shiny city we’ve become, a name that fills people with wonder and the tingly thrill of adventure and mystery. We need a name that reflects the excitement and vibrancy of our 21st century world.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Beyoncé, Texas.
It’s an idea as big and as bold as the city itself. Sure, it would require adjustments – the Beyoncé Independent School District takes some getting used to, and the Beyoncé Livestock Show and Rodeo doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue – but think of the upside. As a long-suffering Cougars fan, I see a huge recruiting advantage: What blue-chip high school superstar wouldn’t want to matriculate at the University of Beyoncé? College Football Playoff, here we come!
Beyoncé is everything we aspire to be: Daring. Successful. Popular. Rich. Sparkly. And hopeful: Beyoncé is wed to Jay-Z, Jay-Z, and she still sings songs about how great it is to be married. Isn’t that the kind of can-do spirit, the kind of unbridled optimism that we want to honor here? Of course it is.
She is a mesmerizing figure, a cultural icon. Kevin Allred, a graduate student at Rutgers University, is teaching a class this semester entitled “Politicizing Beyoncé: Black Feminism, US Politics, & Queen Bey.” The class is packed. Never mind that Allred, tank-topped and heavily tattooed, looks less like an academic than a minor character on Jersey Shore: do you think any professor, tattooed or otherwise, would be able to fill a classroom with a semester on Sam Houston? And if talking about Beyoncé fills a college class in New Jersey, what would naming our city after her do for us? It would be like the Super Bowl every single day.
It’s a new era, my friends. And we need a new name, not just for one lousy street, but for the whole dang place. Beyoncé, Texas. It’s time for a change.
Those possums don’t stand a chance.