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February is Black History Month and in Austin, Black history is everywhere. From Austin's iconic East Side to Black historical monuments. Though normal celebrations are still not as prevalent due to COVID-19, here are a few ways you can celebrate Black History Month and make a difference in the community.
Visit a Black art exhibit
While there are countless Black art exhibits you could choose, consider visiting Deborah Roberts: I'm, a collage exhibit that deals with growing up and forming your identity as a Black child in America. In her work, Roberts, who is a lifelong Austin native, combines a range of tones, textures, hairstyles, features and clothes in the hopes of creating a "more expansive and inclusive view" of Black culture. I'm is on display at The Contemporary Austin Jones Center.
At the Blanton Museum, visit Diedrick Brackens's Darling Divined, an exhibit that combines intricate woven tapestries with the complexities of having a Black and queer identity. His work features weaving techniques, fabric choices, colors and symbols that were all chosen deliberately to interlace diversity and tradition.
Peruse the George Washington Carver Museum
Celebrating scientist, artist and intellectual Dr. George Washington Carver, the Carver Complex is made up of the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center and the Carver Library. In its original location, it housed the very first library in Austin. After the building was moved to its current location on 1165 Angelina St., it was renamed in honor of Dr. Carver, who brought pride to the community. Now, the museum features four exhibits and is always free of charge.
Walk along Six Square
Texas' first and only recognized Black cultural district lives here in Austin, named for the six square miles that used to make up the "negro district." Now a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of East Austin's Black culture, Six Square is bordered by Manor Road, 7th Street, Airport Blvd and I-35. More than 80% of Austin's Black population lived within those six miles by 1930, where communities were built, churches erected and Black businesses flourished. Six Square is home to the Carver District, Huston-Tillotson University and Victory Grill, which is still slinging comfort food.
Support some of Austin's many Black-owned restaurants...
Speaking of Victory Grill, whose motto is "nourishing the soul since 1945," the restaurant and music venue is older than most Austinites. Victory Grill's threshold has been graced by big names during its time on the Chitlin' Circuit: Billie Holiday, James Brown and B.B. King all performed there during its heyday.
And beyond Victory Grill, there's so much more. Spice up your routine by grabbing some Ethiopian food at Aster's Ethiopian, a decadent breakfast sandwich from Bird Bird Biscuit, or for the vegetarian, head to Sassy's Vegetarian Soul for soul food like you've never had it before.
...and Black-owned businesses
If you can buy it, you can almost always buy it from a Black-owned business. The Black Makers Market features an array of Black artists and businesses all in one place. The market is virtual for now, so browse the Black Makers Market Instagram page for where you can shop. And if you're looking for other businesses to support, shop skincare from Divine Luxury, get your reads from Black Pearl Books, shop sustainably from Treasure City Thrift and even get aesthetically-pleasing baby toys from Austin Nature Works.
Attend ASALH's Black History Month virtual festival
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History's festival will feature a month's worth of virtual content centered around its theme, The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity. The festival features plenty of free events centered around the Black experience with guest speakers and chances to connect. The headline event will center around finding roots in African American history with speakers Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.
Learn about Black history by attending the Texas State Park Rangers virtual series
This month, the Texas state park rangers, in conjunction with the Buffalo Soldier Heritage Outreach Program, will debut another virtual Black History Month series, unfolding Black history in the great outdoors and as it pertains to conservation. The program aims to put Black voices in a space where they haven't been heard in the past, with programming that tells the story of Bessie Coleman, Black soldiers after the Civil War and Black firefighters.
There are countless ways to celebrate Black history in Austin so if you are able this February, take the time to recognize the achievements of the Black community in our city.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."