To some, Fifth Ward, Houston is the heart of the ghetto. Good things can come out of the ghetto, including people like Keith Downey, a proud 1980 graduate of Kashmere High School.
“The role of the 21st Century man of color is to be open to accepting new ideas other than what was traditionally followed. Being able to listen and adapt to the ever-changing world around him. Understanding that he is a role model that many look up to and he as a black man has a responsibility to uphold.”
Mr. Downey’s postsecondary academic career includes Prairie View A&M University and the University of Texas-Arlington, where he majored in Architecture. Mr. Downey has designed churches in the Dallas and affordable housing for low-income families in New York.
Following college, he went to the Big Apple. Mr. Downey worked on Broadway and Park Avenue where he became a successful architectural designer for 27 years and a Senior Construction Project Manager for the City of New York. He designed affordable housing in Harlem and Spanish Harlem, the Bronx, and Brooklyn.
He received the New York City Parks and Recreation Capital Team of the Year Award in New York City in 2011-12 for helping to rebuild parks around the city in Brooklyn and Queens. This impressive resume Includes the first handicap/able-bodied playground for children in Queens New York.
Mr. Downey returned to his hometown Houston to help the community where he was born and raised, his beloved Fifth Ward. He amorously states, “I love the people of Houston.” In his absence, Houston wasn’t far from his heart. Everyone he met, soon knew of his rich heritage and love for the Lone Star State.
He is the Community Council Chairman of ProUnitas Inc.; a system based non-profit organization in Houston that is community driven within Kashmere/Trinity Gardens. ProUnitas coordinates health, mental health and academic services for the students within the Kashmere Feeder Pattern. Even though Mr. Downey is the Chairman, he has a community council of individuals who are stakeholders. They meet every month addressing issues such as Community Beautification, Safety and many others that affect the lives of our children. They come together to form the village that enhances the lives of the students in our schools.
He believes that to achieve positive student outcomes, we must work together. Collectively we are stronger. Together we will get it done. Mr. Downey returned to his alma mater (Kashmere) as a mentor to another generation. He also mentors at Jack Yates High School.
Mr. Downey is married to his lovely wife Roshida of 20 years, a father of 2 daughters Aysha and Syeda and a grandfather to little Isaiah Edwards.
He has been known to serve breakfast to the homeless in churches around Houston and also stand up for various causes from fair minimum wages for fast food workers to helping to address safety issues with the railroads in the community. He assisted the Positive Black Male Association of Houston (PBMA) on Christmas Eve by donning a Santa Claus suit. He stationed himself on the outside of the Harris County Jail for the children who were visiting parents and loved ones who were incarcerated.
Some of his accolades include being chosen by the ProUnitas Board of Directors as Volunteer of the Year for the 2016-17 calendar year and Positive Black Male Association of Houston’s Man of the Year for 2017. Lastly, Mr. Downey has been chosen by the Houston Chronicle as one of twelve Houston Heroes for 2017.
Mr. Downey’s motto is, “If WE remove I and ME and replace it with US and WE, just imagine where WE will be.”
Photo credit: Keith Downey