What color do you bleed?

Orange, right? (Good answer.) Or are you telling me you bleed maroon?

There’s really only one way to find out. Donate blood between November 23 and 26 at any of the community blood centers in Austin, Cedar Park or Round Rock, or at three campus locations, and make sure to tell them which team you’re bleeding for – UT or Texas A&M.

Every donor receives a commemorative t-shirt while helping to save at least two lives. Plus, donors can enter to win a pair of tickets to the UT vs. A&M football game on Thanksgiving Day!

Send this link from the Blood and Tissue Center to anyone you know who is the slightest bit competitive about the Longhorn/Aggie rivalry and urge them to donate a pint of blood.

Sat Nov 22: Save Reagan High Rally & March

Save Reagan High!

Save Reagan High!

I’m not sure this is posted anywhere online, but I wanted to help spread the word about this event. I’ve spoken to people who believe very strongly that closing Reagan High is not the answer. If you feel the same way, I hope you’ll come out for this event.


Save Reagan High Rally and March

Host: Stand Up Chapter of Reagan High School

Date: Saturday, November 22, 2008
Time: 4:30pm – 7:30pm

Texas Capitol
11th Street
Austin, TX

Phone: 512-450-1880
Email: teubanks@austinvoices.org

Reagan High School is facing possible closure by the state at the end
of this school year. If Reagan closes, this will be the second high
school closure in AISD, only a year after Johnston High School . On
Saturday, November 22nd from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Texas Capitol,
students will be the teachers as they inform state legislators,
teachers, pastors and other community leaders about what Reagan needs
to stay open. Following a gathering at the south steps of the State
Capitol, students will march with signs and banners to the Texas
Education Agency to call for the students of Reagan to be supported
and for Reagan High School to remain open.

The rally is hosted by the student-led Stand Up Chapter of Reagan High
School. Stand Up is composed of 100 current high school students who
work to improve education in Austin through student leadership
chapters at individual campuses.

Student organized this rally and march from the state capitol to the
TEA building to show northeast Austin ‘s passion and determination to
keep one of its community schools open for the next generation to
attend. The rally will showcase some of Reagan’s pride and honor with
performances from the Reagan band, poetry, and student speeches from
both current and past Reagan students. State Representatives Donna
Howard, Dawnna Dukes and Eddie Rodriguez will also be speaking about
how Austin can support the Reagan High School community.

This is an opportunity to speak out for the students of Reagan and to
support Austin schools!

For more information about the rally please contact: Tim Eubanks at
(512) 450-1880.

We are not just thinking about the current Reagan students, but the
next generation of Reagan Raiders. Will they have a school where they
can show pride in their community? For me this is about the future as
well as the present. Its time to take a stand!

Announcing our YouTube channel…

I’m such a follower. But we have a few videos related to the next issue, and uploading to the ‘Tube is so much easier than uploading to WordPress. Plus, I need the self-gratification that comes with mastering a Web application and gaining new “friends” and “subscribers.” (I wish I were joking.) Please check out the channel, subscribe, befriend me, etc.

Last night I posted this video about Nicki Swann. She was on a couple of local TV newscasts lately because she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Nicki isn’t your average breast cancer patient, though (and if that’s insensitive to say, I apologize – forgive my clumsiness with words at the end of a long day).

Nicki is one of those women who do everything right – she exercises like a fiend, she eats organic and vegetarian, she steers clear of anything remotely unhealthy (save the occasional cupcake with sprinkles) and she is vigilant about seeing a doctor when something seems wrong. Her health is her calling card, so to say. And yet, this 24-year-old neuroscience grad student was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer earlier this year.

Not your usual breast cancer story, if there is such a thing. In talking to Nicki for a while and especially in reading her blog, I learned a lot about her and her approach to the disease. More than that, I learned a lot about how some of the small things about the disease can affect a young woman in a big way.

I asked what I always ask for GivingCity: “How can we help?” I think you’ll be surprised by her response.

Why giving Thanksgiving groceries can be better than giving the cooked meal

Pitch in and buy some groveries for these working-poor families

Pitch in and buy some groveries for these working-poor families

Last year I attended El Buen Samaritano’s Thanksgiving event, newly titled “Hands for Hope: Thanksgiving Basket Event.” Ivan Davila allowed us to write about it in our first issue.

What makes this event so different from other Thanksgiving meal events is that instead of ladeling out the turkey and all the fixins on Thanksgiving Day, El Buen gives away all of the groceries you need to make a Thanksgiving meal at home. What is that important?

El Buen’s mission is to help working-poor, Hispanic families achieve self-sufficiency, but also to help them assimilate to U.S. culture. For example, in Hispanic families, the wives and mothers traditionally take on the cooking role. Because El Buen hands out groceries not meals, it allows the women to maintain that role in the family, while at the same time exposing her family to a new tradition – turkey leftovers.

Okay, they get to learn about Thanksgiving and gratefulness and gravy, too. This is a great way to share a little of what you have with a family that could sure use a break. Consider donating to El Buen to help them meet their mission on 900 families helped this year.

$20 will provide a family with the necessary trimmings to prepare traditional Thanksgiving side dishes.
$25 will provide a family with a turkey.
$45 will provide a family with a turkey and the necessary trimmings to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Pizza Capital of the World

For a brief but proud period in its history, Austin celebrated pizza. 

The November 14th issue of the Austin Chronicle had a cover story titled “Indie Pizza,” in which the newspaper’s food writers tasted and rated some of the local pies. The cover photo featured a slice that looked as if it definitely could have been made by a local independent pizzeria.

Then on Saturday, November 16th, while many Austinites sat at home reading about pizza, other people got out and delivered two events that made this day part of pizza history. And both events served a good cause for the community.

In celebration of their business’s 20th anniversary, the proprietors of Mangia Pizza sought to break a new world record for the longest line of pizzas ever laid crust-to-crust. The Mangia team had set up hundreds of tables snaking though Zilker Park, and on those tables they placed pie next to pie to form a trail of pizzas that exceeded 1,000 feet.

According to Fox 7 News, the folks at the Guinness Book of World Records declared Mangia’s achievement the longest of its type. Consider that if those same pizzas were strung up the side of the Empire State Building, they would be close enough to smell from the 86th floor observatory, which rises 1,050 feet over Fifth Avenue.

Fortunately the world record pizzas weren’t shipped to New York, but were boxed up and sent to feed the hungry at the Austin Area Salvation Army, which always needs volunteers to help with its service to the community. 

As the record-breaking Mangia activities ended, another pizza-themed event began, a couple of miles southeast of Zilker Park, at the Home Slice Carnival-O-Pizza. Sponsored by Home Slice Pizza, which serves it New York-style, this was the third annual such carnival and it raised money for Keep Austin Beautiful, a nonprofit that promotes environmental stewardship and has opportunities for volunteers who want to help beautify Austin.

The carnival offered a raffle, pizza, Nintendo contests, an eating competition, live music, beer, a modest midway (see photo below) and prizes including free pizza for a year, a motor scooter with helmet, and a large jar of jelly beans. 

Modest Midway

Early Saturday evening, the carnies took apart their booths and packed them away for the next event. They ate a last slice, perhaps not realizing that for one day only, as the local media turned its attention to pizza, as Austinites baked and aligned a new world record, and as pizza attracted the masses to separate events, Austin had become the Pizza Capital of the World.

Here’s a preview of a feature story about black Austin for the next issue of GivingCity

We had a photo and video shoot earlier this week for a feature we’re working on for the next issue. Torquil’s posted a few photos on his blog. I think he really likes them. Thanks to Owen Laracuente for the photos and Randy Hinesfor the videography, and to Chris Jones for conducting the interview.

I’m excited about this story. Here’s where the idea came from. A few weeks ago, Mando Rayo told me about the East Austin Economic Summit, an annual meeting of stakeholders for East Austin during which they discuss economic opportunities and concerns. While there, he interviewed Jeff Clark, owner of the Studio East Barbershop on East 12th Street in Austin. Jeff’s a small-businessman, a father and husband, and an East Austin resident, and I’m not sure he’s impressed with the progress occurring in East Austin. I think he summed up his point of view by saying, “We need more walk,” that is, as opposed to talk. You can watch Mando’s video here.

So the story of East Austin intrigues me, mostly because it seems like we’re not hearing enough from East Austin residents.

About the same time, I discovered Michael Lofton and the African American Men and Boys Conference on Docubloggers. Michael is a social entrepreneur who created the conference in response to what he wanted for his own teenage sons. The success of the first conference was phenomenal, so much so that AISD asked him to create a similar program for its students. This man has so much data in his head, and he’s tied it all together to create a stirring message about what’s going on in African American Austin.

Then I remembered Gator and The Cipher. I don’t get out a lot, so I hadn’t really heard of this organization before I saw them at last year’s MLK Day of Caring. When I saw them, I immediately filed them under the “Who Knew This Was Austin?” category. Wow. Gator has a compelling story of his own, leading up to his co-founding this nonprofit organization. It’s a testament to the power of creativity and culture, and how introducing these concepts to young people can set them on a positive path.

The Cipher uses hip-hop to help young people express themselves, but there are other forms of music with a much longer history in Austin that black Austin helped create. I’m not talking about all the alt-country junk promoted to within an inch of its life by our visitors bureau, I’m talking about Jazz and Blues, and there’s one man who’s made it his life’s work to tell people more about the rich history of these music forms – Harold McMillan of the nonprofit, DiverseArts. Harold lives in Clarksville but has lived in Austin more than two decades since when he came here for his master’s degree. Think he doesn’t have anything to say about East Austin?

So I prayed to the scheduling gods, and they created a slot during which Michael, Gator, Harold, Owen, Randy, and Torquil could all meet. Then Torquil called The Driskill Hotel, which graciously let us create this content in their Jim Hogg room. We got Chris to pose the qusetions, and then we just let Michael, Gator, and Harold tell us everything they could about the election, East Austin, gentrification, high school drop-outs and more. And we recorded, shot, and videotaped the whole interview, just to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

What they told us in no way tells the whole story about black Austin. That’s way too complicated for just three men to explain. But I learned a lot. I’m not sure what I can do personally to help East Austin beyond supporting the residents and their efforts to maintain their community and culture.  Mostly we wanted to offer another opportunity for their story to be told.

I hope you’ll take a look at the story, photos, and video when it comes out next month.

Sam learns he could grow up to be president

Of all the things anybody is going to say about the election and Barack Obama, I’m sure this is the least relevant. I don’t care.

I kept Sam up tonight while his dad put Olivia to sleep because I wanted him to see the election. He’s 4 1/2 years old. I know he didn’t care, really, and didn’t understand. I tried to explain it to him.

I said, “Sam, do you know why it’s so important that Obama won?” He continued to stare at CNN all in red and blue and he shook his head, “No.” I said, “Because Obama is black.” Sam blinked and furrowed his eyebrows. “I mean, his skin is a different color. Didn’t you notice that?” He shook his head no.

I said, “Well, it’s not really ‘black,’ like the color. But people call his skin color ‘black’ because he’s considered African American. Half African, half American.”

“I’m from America,” he said.

“Yes, and you’re considered ‘Hispanic,’ because you’re half white and half Hispanic.”

And he looked down at his arm to look at his skin. He looked confused again, and I knew what he was going to ask. So I said, “It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. That’s the thing. Before Obama was elected president, before tonight, it did matter what color your skin was. But now it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that you’re half Hispanic. The thing is, now you could be president someday.”

He looked back up at the TV quickly. I said, “You know how people had signs in their yards for Obama, and we counted them the other night? When you grow up, they could have signs in their yards saying, ‘Williams.’ They could say, ‘Vote for Sam Williams for President.'”

This made him smile big. And I said, “You could run for president – or Micah or Jason or Katie or Zane or even you sister, Olivia, could run for president. And you could win.”

He kept smiling. He said, “I’m going to tell my teacher tomorrow. I’m going to tell her that I could be president someday.”

“Yeah, tell her. And tell her, so she better watch what she says to you!”

“Yeah!” he said. “Because I could grow up and be president!”

A few minutes later, he told me he was tired and started walking to bed. I told him to lie on the sofa and just finish watching with me, and he did. His dad and his sister were asleep now, so it was just us. And he was fighting to stay awake. As we watched John McCain walk out to give his concession speech, I told Sam that it was official – that Obama had really won.

“Good, Mommy. So I can go to sleep now?”

“Yes, little boy, go ahead and go to sleep.”