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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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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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