This month, during Black History Month, Austin continues the tradition of celebrating the city’s rich cultural history and diversity.
It’s been well documented that our local African-American population is hard-pressed to fit into mainstream Austin culture. The City of Austin’s African American Quality of Life Initiative revealed in 2005 that black citizens lacked opportunities enjoyed by other ethnic groups and not much has changed. The irony is that Austinites prefer to see themselves as free from prejudice and yet, here we are, still struggling to create an inclusive climate for all cultures.
One positive development is the City Historic Preservation Office’s year-long survey of East Austin, which recently commenced. The survey will involve public meetings, researching, photographing and documenting residential and commercial structures and other historic resources in the area to determine the potential for historic landmarks worthy of preservation as well as potential boundaries for historic districts.
Preserving history is one way Austin can build a true identity mirroring its ethnic make-up. Another is to continue the tradition of celebrating the city’s cultural history and diversity during Black History Month.
The George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center has a full schedule of programming, and the festivities begin Feb. 1 with a community sing-along. A panel discussion, “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memory in Austin” will be held Feb. 4, and on the same day, the exhibit “From the Grounds Up and Growing Carver,” opens.
The schedule also includes an Evening with Toni Tipton Martin on Feb, 5. Mommy, Daddy and Me Book Club is slated for Feb. 6, followed by Black History Month for Kids with crafts and storytime on Feb. 13. Folktales Literary Society discusses “Grant Park” on Feb. 19. Also on that date is “This Little Light of Mine: The Legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer” film screening and discussion. A lecture and discussion on black mural art in Austin is Feb. 25. Legacies of School Desegregation: A Community Educational Event is Feb. 27, and Feb. 28 a black history concert celebrating black composers is scheduled.
The largest observation of Black History Month is the annual African-American Community Heritage Festival on Saturday, Feb. 27, 1-5 p.m. at Huston-Tillotson University. The free event will feature former lead singer of Shalamar and R&B chart soloist, Howard Hewett. Indigo Soul artist Chris Hayzel, and local artists will also perform. Festivities include a kid’s zone, arts and crafts, a health and education fair, food vendors and more. The family-friendly community celebration began in 2000 to note the contributions and achievements of African-Americans. Founded by State Representative Dawnna Dukes, it dovetails with HT-U homecoming.
There’s a nationally-known African-American trailblazer who now calls Austin home that deserves special recognition. University of Texas men’s head basketball coach Shaka Smart has his first Longhorns team playing a dynamic brand of ball. His success on the court and involvement in the community make him a most welcome addition to Austin. The Longhorns have five home dates in February and tickets are available.
Don’t forget, early voting for the upcoming election begins Tuesday, Feb. 16 and runs through Friday, Feb. 26.