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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When Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he would rescind business capacity limits and a statewide masking mandate on Texas Independence Day, he framed it as a step forward. "With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny," he said during a press conference at a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock.
But some local restaurants and bars, which have been caught in the regulatory crosshairs since Texas' first positive COVID test 364 days ago, have chosen to ignore Abbott's overture. Instead, they will continue to maintain pandemic precautions once the executive order takes effect next week, citing a desire to keep their staff and patrons safe.
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(AUSTIN, TEXAS) Austonia has hired Claire Partain as a reporter covering Austin FC, the MLS expansion team that will be Austin's first major league sports franchise.
Partain is a former sports editor for the The University Star, Texas State University's daily newspaper. She edited, covered sports, produced podcasts, and hosted a pre-game TXST football tailgate live series. Partain has been freelancing with the company since January, prior to accepting a staff position.
A native of Fairfield, Texas, Partain grew up playing youth soccer. In her high school years, she played alongside her mother in what was then called the Freestone County Hispanic Women's Soccer League.
Claire's coverage philosophy: "I like to bring out the humanity of sports, and I want to make this the most accessible sports coverage possible."
She notes that soccer is the predominant sport for young people. "It's a global sport, and we're more connected to the world than older generations."
That approach fits the team's already visible presence in Austin, says Austonia CEO Mark Dewey. "Austin FC has established itself as a leading Austin brand, one that stands for a more unified Austin community, a bigger global presence for Austin and fun. Austonia shares those values."
Partain's soccer coverage begins immediately, with her free, hosted text service—Austonia FC. For updates, special access and inside info, all moderated by Claire, sign up below.
Austonia is the city's independent, free, locally-owned and all-digital source for Austin news, information and entertainment.
Connect with Austonia through its daily email newsletter and text updates, @austonianews Instagram feed, @austonianews and @austinist Twitter feeds, @austonianews Facebook page and its website austonia.com.
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