Meet the 11-year-old student-athlete named Houston going viral for large mural in downtown

Erica Simon Image
Saturday, February 18, 2023
Meet 11-year-old named Houston going viral for a mural in Houston
Who better to put Houston on the map than a boy named Houston? ABC13 met with the 11-year-old student-athlete whose image is turning heads in downtown.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If you've been in downtown Houston lately, you may have noticed some larger-than-life murals on the sides of buildings and businesses. The little boy depicted on a bike at the corner of Prairie and Main has gone viral, and inspired people of all backgrounds.

ABC13 tracked down the little Third Ward legend.

"How do you feel seeing yourself on the side of a building?" we asked. The 11-year-old Houston Atlee said, "Good. Like, I'm on Google. I searched myself up in math class."

Atlee may be soft-spoken and humble, but he has every reason to brag. He makes all A's and plays basketball at MacGregor Elementary School in Third Ward, where ABC13 caught up with him.

Months ago, a German artist wanted to paint one of the boys in The Shape Center's after-school program. They all got their photo taken, and of them, Houston was chosen.

"I would have never imagined my son, my son, Houston Atlee, would have been picked to be on that, to shine a light," his mom Shavonne Leon said.

And shine a light he does. The cool part is, this image includes something Houston loves to do - ride his bike. He goes all around Third Ward on it. To his Granny's house, his school, and Emancipation Park, where he plays sports and volunteers. To many, this mural humanizes a demographic that too often is villainized.

"It's always something negative. Somebody's getting robbed. Somebody's getting shot. Somebody's stealing something or something negative. So, to have a positive with Black children that's coming up, it's always great," passerby Reggie said.

"There's a lot of young men in Third Ward that don't have positive role models or avenues that they can use to be positive. When they pass by that picture, hopefully that would let them know there is hope. There are dreams," Leon continued.

Houston's image is part of a bigger United Nations mural project across downtown Houston to promote green energy, human rights, social equity and education. Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis helped conceive and spearhead the "Big Art. Bigger Change" initiative.

"Instead of just putting up, do something about climate change. What we try to do is use art to lure people into the conversation," Ellis said.

While Houston only has to worry about what a typical 5th grader has to do right now, he knows what his mural represents.

"It's talking about how you can be happy as a Black boy and not hate," he said with a smile.

This will not be the last time we see Houston Atlee on the big stage. Math is his favorite subject, so the sky's the limit in STEM. Not only that, but he tells us he'll grow up to play basketball at the University of Houston. No matter what your race or religion is. No matter what you have going on in your life, he hopes you walk by him and smile.

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SEE ALSO: Meet the Oakland creator using augmented reality to bring Black history to life

Damien McDuffie created an app that uses AR to make historical Black Panther Party murals around Oakland an educational and immersive experience.