THIS IS OUR HOME IT IS NOT FOR SALE, A Documentary Film by Jon Schwartz


This Is Our Home, It Is Not For Sale is the 60-year history of an archetypal American neighborhood, Riverside in Houston, Texas, which experienced the classic syndrome of integration, real estate blockbusting, white flight, and regentrification common to virtually every American city.

The film's title comes from that era of racial transition when whites, pressed by real estate agents to sell to blacks, prominently displayed signs proclaiming: "This Is Our Home, It Is Not For Sale"--words that would be swallowed in almost every case as white owners stampeded and property values collapsed. Years later, that dictum remained just as timely and relevant to Riverside's affluent black community as they continued to protest various social and institutional encroachments into the area.

A black couple stands in front of a large modern style house.
DESEGREGATION. Architect John Chase and wife Drucie standing in front of the house he designed and built when they moved into the previously all-white neighborhood of Riverside in "THIS IS OUR HOME, IT IS NOT FOR SALE."
Photo Credit: Judy M. Youens

For thirty years, Riverside was the cultural center of Houston's Jewish community, who came to settle here upon being barred from other elite areas of the city by the existing "gentlemen's agreements." A viable community, Riverside seemed to have a stable future as a residence where white upper and middle class families--both Jewish and gentile--lived harmoniously together. But a series of unforeseen factors brought unexpected change.

This change was heralded by four sticks of dynamite which rocked the home of the Jack Caesar family, the first black family to break the color barrier and move into Riverside. This well-publicized bombing plus wide-spread blockbusting by real estate agents accelerated the racial transition. Middle and upper class blacks replaced fleeing whites into the area.

As such, Riverside emerged as one of the leading minority communities in the U.S. For upwardly mobile blacks who had found the good life here, their status quo was threatened by: 1) the expansion of two universities into the area; 2) the construction of a freeway displacing the western edge of the neighborhood; 3) the placement of a county psychiatric hospital within the neighborhood; and 4) the reappearance of white home buyers into the area.

A white woman stands in front of a house next to a sign that reads: This Is OUR HOME IT IS NOT FOR SALE.
A DEFIANT SIGN FOR A PROUD NEIGHBORHOOD, Riverside resident Cherie Bourgin stands next to the sign, which had been displayed in front of her home in 1964 as a means of promoting a racially balanced community in "THIS IS OUR HOME, IT IS NOT FOR SALE."
Photo Credit: Judy M. Youens

The poignance of the re-enactment of resident responses, despite role reversals and a changing cast of characters, serves to evoke a deeper appreciation of the meanings and values we attach to home and neighborhood and of the forces that threaten those values. That a neighborhood with a sense of community faced crises, changed, and yet retained the same view the very nature of people, who, despite their differences, share many of the same hopes and aspirations.

Brimming with history, replete with social and political issues, the Riverside story is above all a human document. For Riverside is a neighborhood that speaks not just of history and issues, but of the intangible rhythms, spirit, and dreams of the people who have lived there.


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