Now that Houston has made history by electing its first African American mayor, Lee P. Brown, the nation’s fourth largest city is anxious to join other major metropolises in catering to black travelers. Houston is one of the South’s most diverse cities–about 18% of its 1.8 million residents are black.
The city is the home of the world famous Astrodome, the Johnson Space Center and the internationally renowned Texas Medical Center. Business travelers will find this relatively modern city rich with black culture and replete with new and historic enterprises to patronize. Following are just some of the city’s must-stops.
Newcomers will want to check out the Magic Johnson Theatre (713-692-4600), which just opened at the Northline Shopping Center, and the Ensemble Theatre, the largest black theater company in the Southwest (3535 Main St.; 713-520-0055), now in its new million-dollar digs.
Bayou Place, an entertainment and restaurant venue covering several city blocks, debuted last year. The complex is part of the city’s attempt to revitalize the downtown area. In and around the Bayou, you’ll find Aerial Theater (520 Texas Ave.; 713-230-1600) showcasing live music acts from classical to hip-hop to jazz, and the theater district, including Jones Hall (615 Louisiana St.; 713-227-3974), the Alley Theatre (615 Texas Ave.; 713-228-8421) and the Wortham Center (510 Preston St.; 713-237-1439).
After a long day of meetings, you’ll be grateful for Houston’s celebrated tasty Southern cuisine. If you’re in the mood for some of the best pepper steak and BBQ around, the downtown business crowd recommends This Is It (207 Gray St.; 713-659-1608), now celebrating its 40th anniversary. Popular among black politicians and business folk is The Family Cafe (2712 Blodgett St.; 713-520-8444), known for its Southern fare, including oxtails and peach cobbler.
If you’re up to traveling a few miles to Sugarland, one of Houston’s suburbs, for quality food and drink visit the recently opened Caffe Fresco, a Coffeehouse With a Fresh Twist (2623 Town Center Blvd.; 281-491-7800), owned by former NBA star Eric “Sleepy” Floyd.
During your free hours, you’ll find that Houston is a shrine to the arts, housing some of the nation’s best art exhibits. The largest collection of African American art, collectibles, dolls and home items in the Southwest can be found at the Black Heritage Gallery (5408 Almeda; 713-529-7900), also a favorite locale for pro athletes, TV personalities and community leaders. Purchase original works by Romare Bearden, John Biggers and others.
The Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore and Cultural Center (5309 Martin Luther King Blvd.; 713-645-1071) features a large collection of artifacts, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1001 Bissonnet; 713-639-7300) houses an impressive collection of African art.
If you have time for a thorough history of Texas’ African American cowboys, visit the Taylor-Stevenson Ranch and Museum (1822 Almeda Rd.; 713-613-9777). Round up for horseback riding, hayrides, on-site and traveling lectures, and tours of the Cowboy Museum.
In the evening, you can kick up your heels at Club Ambiance (5851 Southwest Freeway; 713-661-6829), a multiformat nightclub and sports bar where deejays spin the latest