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COUNT US IN Women in Numbers
A CHAT WITH Natalie Green
TAKE NOTE Black Woman-owned Businesses in Austin
SEE HER WORK Calligrapher Stephanie Bernard
BEFORE & AFTER The Hill of Life House
POINT OF VIEW #SayHerName
I AM AUSTIN WOMAN Sara Osburn Light
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Natalie Green photo courtesy of Natalie Green. Stephanie Bernard photo by XX. Before & After photo courtesy of Stephanie Bernard..Sara Osburn Light photo courtesy of Sara Osburn Light.
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CONTRIBUTORS This month, we asked our contributors: What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken? A PUBLICATION OF AW MEDIA INC.
VOLUME 18, ISSUE 11
Photographer, “Changing the Narrative,” Page 38 • Loves summer in Texas • Loves swimming pools and swimming holes
• Loves summer evenings with friends
Biggest risk he’s ever taken: Skydiving (and the risk was worth it!)
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Writer, “#SayHerName, Breonna Taylor and the Hidden Victimhood of Black Women,” Page 54 •H as seen Beyoncé in concert five times, but only once in a Beyoncéinspired costume • Hates suspense so she reads the ending first
• G ot lost in Rome for hours but it was okay because she had gelato
Editorial: Kathryn Freeman, Sabrina LeBoeuf, Sara Osburn Light, Hannah J. Phillips, Courtney Runn
Biggest risk she’s ever taken: Choosing midcareer to quit her job to get another graduate degree
Art: Rudy Arocha, Kylie Birchfield, Madilyn Biscoe, Andrea Calo, Ryan Davis, Natalie Green, Adam Moroz, Courtney Runn, Jessica Wetterer INTERNS
Delilah Alvarado, Ariana Arredondo, Katya Bandouil, Kylie Birchfield, Alecs Franco, Jocelyn Jasso, Trinady Joslin, Nica Lasater, Mackenzie O’Connell, Evelyn Williams, Jennifer Xia
KYLIE BIRCHFIELD Photographer, “Profiles of Risk,” Page 47 • Volunteered for Austin City Limits Music Festival
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• Tried out for Disney Channel twice
•U sed a press pass to shoot a concert with top Christian rap artists Andy Mineo and Lecrae in San Antonio Biggest risk she’s ever taken: Taking a flight to Pheonix alone despite a fear of traveling solo
Austin Woman is a free monthly publication of AW Media Inc., and is available at locations throughout Austin and in Lakeway, Cedar Park, Round Rock and Pflugerville. All rights reserved. To offer feedback, email email@example.com. For submission information, visit atxwoman.com/jobs. No part of the magazine may be reprinted or duplicated without permission. Visit us online at atxwoman.com. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 512.328.2421 | 7401 West Slaughter Lane, Austin, TX 78739
SABRINA LEBOEUF Writer, “Women in Numbers,” Page 18 • Learned to dance flamenco in Spain • Markets podcast made by University of Texas students • Geeks out over film history Biggest risk she’s ever taken: Traveling across Europe by herself
ATXWOMAN.COM | 11
FROM THE EDITOR
Eight months ago, we chose the theme of risk for our July 2020 issue, not knowing what an apt topic it would be in our current reality. The past months have been defined by risk: health-care workers fighting tirelessly against COVID-19, restaurant and small-business owners staring down their bottom lines and, now, protesters choosing to cry out against injustice despite an ongoing pandemic. This season is ripe with risk; each day comes with new questions, new information, new potentially life-altering decisions. The women featured in the following pages personify courage and resilience as they follow their passion and callings despite personal and professional cost. Dr. Hemali Patel was among the first wave of volunteer doctors to fly to New York City to care for COVID-19 patients. Selena Xie, president of the Austin EMS Association, has led her team of medics through changing emergency protocol and medical training for protests. Beyond the women who have risked their health on behalf of others, I also think of the many women in this issue and past issues who jumped without knowing where they would land. Our cover woman, Natalia Sylvester, has emerged as a leading voice in Austin’s literary scene and her books have received national recognition, even though she was originally deemed “not American enough” by the publishing industry. She pushed through opposition to make her voice heard. Natalie Green, also featured in this issue, left a successful job on Wall Street to pursue nonprofit work and adopt a child as a single mother. As I’ve worked on this issue and talked with many of these women, I’ve been inspired by their unwavering embrace of risk. I originally envisioned this issue as predominantly focused on pandemic-related risk, the dominant story of 2020 so far. Since planning this issue, our nation has erupted in a long-overdue conversation on racism, police brutality and white privilege. There is inherent risk in living in a Black body in our country today. We’ve seen that play out time and time and time again as Black men and women have been murdered and abused. On page 54, Kathryn Freeman addresses the additional risks Black women must face daily and the sexism layered within racism. I’ve seen this quote in Glennon Doyle’s Untamed circulating on social media and it has looped in my mind: “If I want to know how I’d have shown up in the civil rights era, I have to ask myself: How am I showing up in this civil rights era?” We often wonder how we would react in the face of extreme circumstances or historical events. We wonder what we would risk. Now, with a raging pandemic and social-justice movement sweeping our country, we know. The women in the following pages are worthy guides, leading the way.
12 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
Photo by Madilyn Biscoe.
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Can’t get enough of this issue? Check us out at atxwoman.com. Self-care for Black Women Advocates: As police brutality dominates the news cycle, the burden of education and advocacy is falling on Black women. Austin Woman talked to three local women on the necessity of self-care for Black women working in advocacy roles and what it looks like to rest and pursue joy while navigating trauma.
Altatudes: In the early hours of June 1, Alta Alexander woke up to a nightmare. She received a phone call around 3:30 a.m. that the barbershop adjacent to her boutique was on fire. She rushed to her store to find everything inside a total loss. Thanks to the women in her community and the support of the city, she’s starting the process of rebuilding Altatudes.
Austin Advocacy Organizations Led by Black Women: If you’re looking for advocacy organizations to support, we published a list of organizations founded and led by local Black women. From nonprofits committed to fighting the Black maternal mortality rate to organizations combating the school-to-prison pipeline, these groups are addressing systemic racism from a variety of angles. On page 22, you can find even more local Black woman-owned businesses to support.
WIN THIS! Running by Natalia Sylvester This month, one lucky Austin Woman reader will win a signed copy of our July cover woman’s new novel, Running. After noticing the daughter of a candidate standing on the side of a stage during the 2016 presidential election, writer Natalia Sylvester wondered what it would be like to grow up in the world of politics. Her subsequent novel follows 15-year-old Mari as she navigates finding her own voice during her father’s presidential campaign. To enter to win, follow us on Instagram @austinwoman and stay on the lookout for the giveaway announcement. A winner will be chosen by the end of the month. Read Sylvester’s cover story and more about Running on page 38.
14 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
Self-care picture by Courtney Runn. Altatudes picture courtesy of Alta Alexander.
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From serving at-risk communities to cheering on patients, Texas women continue to fight against COVID-19. BY SABRINA LEBOEUF ILLUSTRATIONS BY JESSICA WETTERER
47 Kelly White and Julia Spann, the CEOs of Stop Abuse for Everyone (SAFE), kept the doors of their shelters and sexual-assault clinic open to those in need. Throughout the pandemic, they have kept and increased in-person services to help Austinites facing violence and/or abuse. According to KXAN, SAFE reported an increase in calls about child abuse and domestic violence in March and April, with a 47-percent increase in parenting-related calls.
20 Since stay-at-home orders were initiated in March, Austin nonprofit Dress for Success says it’s experienced a 20-percent increase in calls. The nonprofit helps unemployed women find a job, offering career-development tools, professional clothes and networking opportunities. To continue assisting its new and existing clients, the nonprofit is raising money by selling T-shirts. So far, they have raised more than $5,000.
Texas Woman's University created the AssistHer COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant Program to distribute $1 million across 100 woman-owned small businesses in the state. The awarded businesses range from nail salons to boutiques to architecture firms. Seven of the awarded businesses are located in Austin.
50,000 62 Since stay-at-home orders, front-line workers in Texas have been exempt from staying at home and are contributing to the community by providing health-care services, stocking grocery stores and driving public transportation. According to the Texas Tribune, in 11 of Texas’s most populated cities, 62 percent of front-line workers are women. 18 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
Three San Antonio nurses channeled the power of K-pop to cheer one of their COVID-19 patients, Esther. The nurses saw that Esther’s favorite band BTS lifted her spirits, so the trio created a BTS dance video on TikTok. The video went viral, reaching more than 50,000 views.
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Africa New Life’s U.S. director of strategic partnership shares her journey of leaving a Wall Street job to pursue nonprofit work and solo mothering. BY COURTNEY RUNN
Children have always captured Natalie Green’s heart. At 6 years old, she was ready to financially sponsor a child during Ethiopia’s famine crisis. In middle school, she started researching and writing papers for school on adoption. In college, she volunteered with Young Life and her first job after graduating from the University of Texas was teaching elementary school. At 30, as she stared down her next decade, she came to a crossroads. Should she stay in New York City at her stable Wall Street job, or pursue her lifelong passion of advocating for children? She took the risk, moving back to Austin to fundraise for three years before joining Africa New Life, a nonprofit led by Rwandans that supports children educationally, physically, relationally and spiritually. As the U.S. director of strategic partnerships, Green now splits her time between Austin and Rwanda and, for the first time in several years, she’s spending her summer in Texas because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Though separated by an ocean, her heart is still in East Africa. Amidst the national conversations surrounding racism in the U.S., Green sees hope for her birth country in her adopted country. “Rwanda is a witness to the world of reconciliation,” Green says. “And the work that I’ve seen and the powerful redemption and life and reconciliation I’ve seen in Rwanda gives me hope for our country.” Austin Woman chatted with Green about taking career risks, her love for Rwanda and her journey of becoming a mom as a single woman. Austin Woman: Normally, you spend the summer with your sons in Rwanda. What has it been like staying home this year because of COVID-19? Natalie Green: I recognized this a few days ago that I’m definitely grieving not going this summer. It puts you up close and personal to the heart of the work. And then I’m able to take that back with me to the States the whole year to advocate and to bring people along on the journey. 20 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
AW: What are you missing most about your Rwandan summers? NG: Community. There’s something really special about Rwandan culture and East African community. The whole village concept is so true; it’s not just an expression…There’s always someone interacting with my children and I don’t have to worry because Jude is with me and I look across the room and someone is holding Hayes. AW: What first drew you to the country? NG: My first touch point with Rwanda was in 2002. I had moved to New York City right after 9/11 and my church was involved with Rwanda. My pastor had been on a vision trip and he came back and gave us the opportunity to sponsor a child from Rwanda. …[I] had this flashback to 1984, when I was very aware of the Ethiopian famine and I was 6 years old and I wanted to sponsor a child. And at the time there was a lot of televangelism corruption so [my parents] were very leery of doing it. We didn’t do it at the time, and it was understandable the concerns they had, and now fast forward all this time and I’m sitting there going, ‘I can do this.’ So, I sponsored a little girl in 2002. Because of my career, I didn’t have much vacation time and it was a very intense job on Wall Street. But, in 2007, I had the opportunity when I was shifting roles to take a month off work and go to Rwanda and I met that little girl and it was very, very impactful to me. It was sort of the moment where time stood still for me…When I got back, I couldn’t stop talking about it and I couldn’t stop sharing about it. It was such a significant time for me to analyze, what am I passionate about? What do I want to do in my life? What makes my heart beat? What do I want my career to look like? AW: How did you go from starting to ask yourself those questions to taking the leap of quitting your job to pursue nonprofit work in Rwanda? NG: It was hard to walk away because I loved New York City and it had gotten in my blood and honestly, I thought, “I could stay here forever.” And that was 50 percent exciting to me and 50 percent scary…I really wanted to have a family. Here I was, 30, and I was a little afraid that, if I stayed, I wasn’t sure where I would have time to meet someone with the career I was in. I hadn’t met anyone up until that point so that was the [reason it] was scary to stay, but then scary to leave was I had a very significant stability with income and my job. It was a really fun season of life to get to travel, to have so many life experiences. And to be in New York City in my 20s was magical. [I knew if ] I was going to take this leap of faith into this other career, that it was giving up as well [as] gaining so many profound things at the same time. AW: You took the risk of leaving your job and then you started considering another significant life change. When did you start seriously pursuing having kids as a single mom? NG: If I got to 35 and I had not met a man to start a family with and be married to, then I still wanted to have a family and have children. I think my work magnifies this for me, that I was with children and loved them and had always loved them and had always wanted to be a mother…I went through the process trying to find an agency in Texas that would work with me. It was an interesting thing because there are several agencies that are well known that people really like and believe to be above board in their ethics but they would not work with me because I was single and that was really disillusioning to me because it was a form of discrimination and I felt that. I knew at this point in my life I had a stable job, stable income and a stable community of people that were excited to come alongside me as a village. I was finally introduced to a woman in Houston who owns a small agency and she is just an incredible woman [who] said I'd love to walk alongside you in the process… [My adopted son] is biracial. His heritage is actually East African…[so the agency] thought of matching us together. They knew his heritage would be
We have to silence the critics.
celebrated. Immediately, from the moment we finalized his adoption and were able to get his passport, we were off to East Africa and that’s been our journey ever since of this back and forth. He’s very proud of that. AW: After adopting, what led you to adding to your family biologically? NG: I’ve always had this desire—in addition to adoption—to experience pregnancy if I could and labor and delivery and have a baby naturally in that way. I didn’t know if I could or not, so I decided to try through IUI…I went through this process with my doctor and conceived and was able to carry and deliver my son in the summer of 2017. So, Jude became a big brother to Hayes and again my family and friends—the whole concept of it takes a village—were so supportive of the process. Both of these processes are sort of outside the box for some people, just the fact that I’m single and then adopting and then single and conceiving on my own with the help of science. I knew that there would be some criticism to it, but people didn't really criticize me. I found that more people were very supportive. People knew me and they knew my heart and so they were excited to come on this journey with us. So now I have this 7-year-old and almost 3-year-old. AW: What have been some of the challenges of parenting as a single mom? NG: I see the work that I do as such a blessing to our family, and yet there are moments I want to be home with my kids. There’s a tension that lies right there. So many of the statistics about single motherhood are really about unexpected pregnancies. They’re not about planning this. That’s why I refer to it as solo mothering. I don’t feel like I’m single mothering. I don’t feel like I’m part of the single-parent statistics where I started out with a spouse, a husband, and sharing the responsibilities and also the finances and time. I went in knowing I would need to be creative with the resources at hand whether that’s time or finances.
Photo by Natalie Green.
AW: What gives you the courage to chase after dreams even when they might seem “unconventional?” NG: We have to silence the critics. There’s always going to be people who don’t agree with things and maybe things we’re doing [seem] out of order or just not the cultural norm. But at the end of the day, that’s not the voice I’m listening to. I’m listening to God and I care about those who are closest to us doing life with us and they know my heart. ATXWOMAN.COM | 21
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up of more than 15 area growers from Fredericksburg, Texas and Stonewall, Texas. Visit the website for stand locations and hours to get your pre-picked, ready-toeat produce.
Fredericksburg, Texas hoffmanhaus.com This luxury bed-and-breakfast is nestled on 3 1/2 beautiful acres right in the heart of Fredericksburg, Texas. You can feel secure with contactless check-in and plenty of space to relax outside and still be socially distant from other guests. You’ll almost forget that you’re
within walking distance of all of the attractions, restaurants and shops. And with locally curated amenities and a breakfast basket delivered to your door in the morning, you’ll leave feeling pampered and refreshed.
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WOMEN to WATCH Our pages are full of stories of Austinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most engaging, empowering and successful women, and this section is specially designed to provide you access to even more incredible role models and success stories. Be part of this amazing group and share your story with thousands of women. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512.328.2421 for more information. PHOTOS BY ROMINA OLSON
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WOMAN to WATCH
MARA KARPEL PSYCH O LO G IST
28 | SPECIAL PROMOTION
Photo by Fox Aguilar.
ith a lifelong desire to help others find meaning, psychologist Mara Karpel guides the way in overcoming the challenges of living a joy-filled and passionate life. She is the author of international bestseller The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality & Joy at Any Age and host of the radio show, Dr. Mara Karpel & Your Golden Years. “In my profession, as well as on my own journey, I’ve discovered that when we listen to our heart’s whispers, we find the passion that serves as our North Star through life’s bumpy trek,” says Karpel, who has a doctorate in psychology, has been in practice for more than 28 years with adults of all ages and is a contributor to Thrive Global and the Huffington Post. She is also the passionate living motivator for Compassionate Austin and offers telehealth consulting to assist individuals in reconnecting with their passion and purpose during these uncertain times.
WOMAN to WATCH
BARBARA U. REYES FOUNDER OF VIP-CAR SERVICE
arbara U. Reyes founded VIP-Car Service to provide safe transportation services for women. All drivers attend a training orientation, pass a criminal background check and driving record check, provide a valid driver’s license and have full-coverage insurance. The Women’s Program contains all women drivers and passengers and will be offered throughout Texas by the end of 2020. Reyes is also a residential-sales and commercial-leasing realtor of 15 years. She also works with investors and flips houses. She loves to give back by volunteering her time and efforts to mentor new agents. During her free time, she loves to spend time with her son, four daughters and seven grandbabies. She loves reading selfhelp books, long drives, mini spontaneous vacations to the beach, camping and drive-in movies. She loves God and her family with all her heart and is proud to be her children’s mom. vip-carservice.com
ATXWOMAN.COM | SPECIAL PROMOTION | | 29 ATXWOMAN.COM 29
WOMAN to WATCH
FO U ND ER O F T HE JOY FU L L BA DAS S ACA D EM Y
s the founder of the JoyFull Badass Academy, Janifer Wheeler empowers business leaders to maximize people and profits by prioritizing joy, empathy, equality and inclusion. Her continuous cultural improvement (CCI) model integrates the Joy|Money Matrix with 25 years of corporate and public-education training expertise. Wheeler revolutionizes personal development by facilitating innovative experiences. Most recently, she launched The D&I Department, which provides consulting and education for small to midsize businesses that want to implement diversity and inclusion practices but don’t currently have a budget for a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) team. She is a member of the Austin LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce and Amazing Women Leaders. She’s also a chapter ambassador for Polka Dot Powerhouse and a Google-certified facilitator of #IamRemarkable. As an international, award-winning speaker, game developer and certified DEI consultant, Wheeler encourages every human to unleash their soul’s badassery and invest in more JoyFull living. janiferwheeler.com
30 | AUSTIN SPECIAL WOMAN PROMOTION | ATXWOMAN.COM | JULY 2020
WOMAN to WATCH
SARA LEON Photo courtesy of Korey Howell Photography.
P R I N C I PA L AT S A R A L E O N & A S S O C I AT E S L L C
or 30 years, Sara Leon has been representing Texas public-education systems. As the founder of Sara Leon & Associates LLC, Leon and her team have become a trusted source of legal counsel for school districts across the state. From ensuring school districts can provide lunches to needy children during the COVID-19 pandemic to planning for the return of in-person instruction in the coming months, Leon and her talented group are among a small group of professionals who champion the tireless work of all Texas schools. The firm is regularly called upon by school districts across Texas to navigate the legal challenges associated with employment and discrimination issues, taxes and bonds to finance new school projects, special education and, most recently, COVID-19 complexities. Sara Leon & Associates LLC is certified as a woman-owned Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) by the state of Texas. saraleonlaw.com
SPECIAL PROMOTION | |â&#x20AC;&#x201A; 31 ATXWOMAN.COM 31
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amantha Thiry is a family nurse practitioner with a mission to change health care. As a childhood cancer survivor, Thiry knew from a young age that she would dedicate her life to advancing health. She founded Happy Body ATX in pursuit of helping others achieve wellness the best way possible. With more than 10 years of professional nursing experience, Thiry has worked with world-renowned facilities and providers to develop a skilled level of practice that integrates Eastern and Western worlds of medicine as well as advanced medical technology. She recently published "Supplements, Hormones and Evidence" to educate women on safe, effective hormone therapy and cancer-preventive supplements. She develops an in-depth understanding of your biochemistry, mental health and personal preferences to formulate an ideal plan that will have you raving to your friends about how healthy and confident you feel. Â
32 |â&#x20AC;&#x201A; SPECIAL PROMOTION
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SEE HER WORK
Calligrapher Stephanie Bernard shares the inspiration behind her woman-centric art collection. BY COURTNEY RUNN
34 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
Photos courtesy of Stephanie Bernard.
hile watching Tiger King alongside the rest of the country, Stephanie Bernard started sketching on her iPad. As the lines took shape, a new project was born. While a pandemic might have blocked creativity for some, it provided the time and space for Bernard to finally tackle dream projects. “[The Mujer collection] wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the stay-at-home order,” she says. The collection, based on her own self portrait sketched during quarantine, features five other women in her life. Delicate swirls and lines form the outline of each woman, but the figures’ faces are intentionally blank. “I wanted to highlight the complexity of a woman in general,” she says. “The whole reason for the Mujer collection is to empower women as they’ve empowered me in my life.” Her aunt noticed an additional layer of meaning in the abstract faces. In the Dominican Republic, faceless dolls are a popular toy and souvenir, representing the diversity of cultures present in the country. “The dolls are faceless because the Dominican woman has no one face,” Bernard writes on her Etsy shop. While unintentional, or maybe subconscious, she sees this cultural tie as another way to honor her Latin roots through her art. In another nod to her heritage, each portrait has a Spanish title, named for a quality she admires in the woman featured. “If I’m not having a good day, I look at one of those six women and I have to choose, ‘Who am I going to be with? Who do I need?’” she says. “If I need ‘Ambitious,’ I might put her on my desk and remind myself there is a reason that I am inspired by other people in my life and [the art] just being close by keeps me going.” A second Mujer collection is already underway and, in June, Bernard launched a new collection of Black Lives Matter T-shirts. Feeling financially powerless, she created the shirts to collectively raise more money than she could donate alone. 50 percent of each sale goes directly toward an organization that her social-media followers vote on and is then matched by a friend’s company. In one week, Bernard says she was able to sell enough shirts to donate $7,500, calling it the “most meaningful thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Bernard launched her business, Ivelisse Designs, in 2018 after reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and feeling the conviction to live a more artistic life. She started with calligraphy, focusing on the wedding industry, but with her recent collections, she’s giving herself the freedom to expand artistically. She has a notebook full of ideas; now she just needs more time.
Photos courtesy of Stephanie Bernard.
I feel most alive when I’m doing something that’s meaningful.
ATXWOMAN.COM | 35
BEFORE & AFTER
HILL OF LIFE
Look inside a newly renovated subterranean concrete home. BY COURTNEY RUNN
36 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
living room before
Photos by Andrea Calo.
he Hill of Life House was a once-in-a-career opportunity for Sara Hadden. How often do designers get the chance to reimagine a completely concrete subterranean bunker for modern life? The bunker was Austin’s first (and likely only) of its kind, sunk into The Hill of Life off the Barton Springs Greenbelt and obscured from sight. Originally built in 1984 to accommodate the owner’s dueling paranoia and desire to throw parties, the space was a time capsule of the ‘80s says Hadden, the project’s lead designer. With personal ties to its original builder, the new owner bought the property to pay homage to its history while providing a much-needed refresh. Renovating the bunker was a two-year task and the owner has continued to commission Hadden and her team at CG&S on projects since its completion. Hadden has worked at the design-build firm since 2014, drawn to its all-encompassing structure. Instead of hiring separate architects, interior designers and carpenters, customers can hire CG&S to for an all-in-one experience. The underlying challenge for Hadden with this project was the thick, concrete walls encasing wiring and eliminating natural light. “You never start a project or model and think, ‘Hey, what am I going to do with this roof that has 5 feet of dirt and concrete?’” she says. While the walls were rearranged and more lighting was added, the original terrazzo tiling stayed, as did the property’s iron gates. “We went in and remodeled it and made it up to date, but we still honored the existing conditions as much as we could,” she says. “There’s beauty in everything.”
dining room after
master bathroom before
master bathroom after
Before photos by Andrea Calo. After photos by Ryan Davis.
living room and kitchen after
ATXWOMAN.COM |â&#x20AC;&#x201A; 37
38 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
NARRATIVE In her new novel, Running, author Natalia Sylvester explores diversity, representation and the power of using your voice against the backdrop of a presidential election. BY HANNAH J. PHILLIPS | PHOTOS BY RUDY AROCHA SHOT ON LOCATION AT EAST AUSTIN HOTEL
Natalia Sylvester grew up with a wild imagination, writing her first stories at an early age. Studying creative writing and journalism at the University of Miami, she dove into the world of magazines and newspapers after college but remained fascinated by fiction’s unique ability to foster empathy. “Fiction allows the writer to ask questions and imagine answers that maybe aren’t accessible to facts alone,” she says.
Working in the media, Sylvester often thought about the story behind a story, perceiving the truth in an emotional way but limited as a journalist to the evidence she could corroborate from sources. Delving into fiction allowed her to rebalance that power by giving voice to the more subtle details that she felt deserved to be seen and celebrated. With her third novel out this month, she is continuing to explore how empathy offers a holistic worldview and why representation is the key to finding your own voice.
ATXWOMAN.COM | 39
hile imagination might be commonly described as selfreliant, Sylvester often reflects on the external forces that shape early development. Born in Lima, Peru, her family moved to the U.S. when she was 4 years old, first to Florida, then to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and then back to Miami when she was in middle school. “It’s hard for me to say primarily where I’m from because that idea of where a person’s from has never felt like it can be fully encompassed in one place,” she says. “As an immigrant, migration was still very much a part of my life because we were moving from city to city, state to state, and not only that, but I had this weird awareness that I couldn’t remember my birthplace in Peru.” Sylvester’s imagination developed against a constantly changing backdrop as she pursued a sense of home during a childhood defined by movement. She recalls grappling with a growing suspicion that her “home” might not be as attached to her as she was to it. “I grew up being aware that my mom was always working on our immigration paperwork,” she says. “It was such a long process, and I could see how it weighed on her, always going to the mailbox to see if it had come back with some error.” Today, she views much of her work as an interaction with what it means to belong, a theme she traces throughout her second award-winning novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home. Inspired by her early teen years in the Valley, Sylvester says the story is her way of revisiting those memories. She refers to her experience in the Valley as “the years that really count, the years that shape you.” Moving back to Miami meant leaving friends, crushes and her volleyball team behind in Texas. “It crushed me. There was this longing that stayed in me for years and years,” she says, noting how her characters mirror that same aching retrospective. “They move because they have to, but they each carry a deep sense of longing, wishing they could go back, but knowing that maybe it’s moved on without you and you’re left stuck somewhere between here and there.” Sylvester weaves that tension throughout the novel, moving beyond the political borders of states and countries to reveal a broader theme. Blurring the boundaries between the living and the dead, she uses physical borders to reflect and amplify the emotional and spiritual barriers her characters cross in order to build a life together. “For me, it was more about the invisible spaces, which came out of my experience growing up watching the women in my life—my mother and my grandmother—make so many sacrifices that seemed to go unseen and unheard,” she says. Forsaking tropes of the fetishized trauma of immigration, Sylvester instead paints a full picture of the people and life she remembers from her childhood in the Valley—both the struggles and the beauty. “That gets so overlooked when we only see those communities in the way they hurt, and not the way they live with everyday joy and pain,” she says. “We don’t get a true picture of it unless we see all of it.”
40 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
...I was not the kind of American they wanted to see. Publishers initially opposed Sylvester’s commitment to creating fully dimensional immigrant characters. As she sought to publish her first and second books, she wrestled again with her childhood dream of belonging, this time manifested in the overt and covert power dynamics of the publishing industry. A 2019 Publishers Weekly survey reported that the industry is 84-percent white, giving one group extraordinary power to determine which stories are read and who gets to tell them. Reflecting on her own childhood, Sylvester realized the damaging impact this lack of representation had on her imagination as an aspiring writer. Books and movies portraying only a certain type of person subconsciously conditions society to lend exclusive validity to that one experience. “When I was little, the first stories I started writing were about white people with character names that were nothing like my own or my family,” she recalls. “It’s harmful because it shapes our imagination to believe that stories about white people are the only ones deserving of our attention.” Sylvester argues this representative disparity damages every imagination, regardless of race. Over time, readers of color learn to see their stories as less worthy—a belief Sylvester unknowingly perpetuated in her early writing— while white readers lose important opportunities to empathize and lend credibility to a perspective other than their own. The cumulative effect of homogeneity can manifest subtly but has long-lasting effects. During the submission process for her first novel, Sylvester received resounding praise for her writing style, but, since the novel is set entirely in Peru with Peruvian characters, publishers consistently asked for more “American” characters. “That’s really code for white,” Sylvester says. “because I’m American, but I was not the kind of American they wanted to see.”
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42 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
Confronted with this jarring realization, she quickly recognized a need to resist certain expectations of Latinx writers in the U.S. market. In her mind, the first step toward change is telling her stories, but that alone is not enough to change the power dynamics of how those stories are marketed and who they are told for. The submission process for her second novel cemented this impression, with publishers requesting more dramatic stories of border crossings instead of the everyday lives of the immigrants she sought to portray. Sylvester pushed back, arguing that these more mundane moments add to the full humanity of a character: A person is not defined by one moment of crossing a border, but by the daily decision to keep crossing countless cultural barriers in order to carve out a home. “I always try to ask, who is this story serving?” she says. “If you’re only going to portray marginalized people in ways that you can’t see their full humanity, you’re just reinforcing stereotypes that frankly harm and can even kill people.” Recalling the widely circulated video of Amy Cooper, a white woman, calling the cops on birdwatcher Christian Cooper—knowing full well police might harm or even kill him as a Black man— Sylvester notes how white stories are so pervasive they can even be weaponized in the collective cultural imagination. “The worlds we create in our stories have the power to shape how we interact with each other,” she says. “We can either harm or protect one another, hurt or celebrate one another. Stories are powerful in both ways.” Sylvester hopes her own stories will not only celebrate but empower her readers. She feels privileged to have a voice in a largely white-led industry, but that sense of power spurs her to create more space for other Latinx writers in the market. In addition to engaging with local writer groups and events, Sylvester regularly works with the Texas Book Festival, volunteering, moderating panels and advocating for more voices of color in the industry. The festival’s executive director, Lois Kim, says Sylester’s “voice is strong and true, and her activism is really tied to her writing. Writers need to be selfish with their time, but Natalia is always generous in giving back to the literary community and to making Austin a better place for everybody.” Navigating the power dynamics of the publishing world only strengthens Sylvester’s mission to help others find their voice, but the work can be exhausting. “Each time you push back, you have to calculate whether this will take opportunities away or whether this is actually the real work,” she says. “The problem is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it.”
Clothing courtesy of Estilo, 2727 Exposition Blvd., estiloboutique.com. Yellow pants and jewelry, model’s own.
ATXWOMAN.COM | 43
Sylvester explores this dynamic in her third book, Running, slated for a July 14 release. Her first foray into young-adult fiction, the book follows 15-year-old Mari as she finds her voice during her father’s presidential campaign. During the 2016 election, Sylvester noticed the daughter of one candidate standing just off stage during a TV spot. “I started writing from her point of view and exploring what it’s like to have her support be assumed and taken for granted by her family,” she says. Reviewing her initial chapters, Sylvester’s agent pointed out that she was writing young-adult fiction and Sylvester kept writing the manuscript with kids like Mari in mind. The perspective lent new purpose to her work. “There’s something really wonderful about all the possibilities a person contains at that age,” she says. “When we’re younger, we are still in this process of beginning or becoming, and I think that’s incredibly powerful.” Tracing Mari’s journey to self-empowerment and activism, Sylvester explores questions of power and privilege throughout the narrative. Mari steps into her power, but not without acknowledging her own privilege. In many ways, her heroine’s journey mirrored the questions Sylvester was asking herself after the 2016 election: Namely, what power do we have as individuals to enact change? In writing young-adult fiction, Sylvester faced the added challenge of wrestling with the question of how to delineate a growing awareness without imposing on the character. “I didn’t want to sound like I’m preaching or underestimating her,” Sylvester says. “It became a way of holding those in power accountable while staying true to what a 15-year-old would feel is her power and powerlessness.” Mari’s journey had to be both internal and external, reflecting the world around her. Revolving around a particular election, Sylvester wanted to explore what it means to use your voice even if you can’t yet vote. We don’t suddenly become people that matter when we turn 18, she argues, and voting is not the only way to have a voice. Only by the time Sylvester turned 17 had both her parents become U.S. citizens; for years, they lived in a country without the ability to vote on policy. “From day one, kids matter and human beings matter, so our youth deserve stories that celebrate and enable them to step into that power,” Sylvester says. “If they don’t feel it or have access to it, that’s our responsibility.” Launching the book during an election year—and in the wake of recent protests against systemic racism—Sylvester hopes her readers of all ages will examine their own circles of influence, their own responsibilities and potential to make a difference. “I see Running as a journey to what happens when you’re creating your own identity and having a personal awakening to what your beliefs are,” she says. “...It’s a story I hope will continue to have life long after this election as people think about how we’re wielding power in our choices—whether in the ballot box or beyond.”
44 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
EAST AUSTIN HOTEL East Austin Hotel is a locally owned, operated and loved boutique hotel nestled in the heart of the bustling East Austin neighborhood just five blocks from downtown, a 15-minute walk to the Austin Convention Center, one mile from the Texas Capitol and less than two miles from the University of Texas. There’s plenty to see and do within walking distance of this East Sixth Street hotel. Guests can lay their heads to rest in the 75 midcentury Danish-inspired rooms with luxe-to-less offerings, from European-style rooms with shared bathrooms to poolside suites complete with balconies perfect for enjoying a morning coffee. Special amenities include a sparkling pool within a lush courtyard, custom robes, towels and linens and deluxe Palo Santo-scented toiletries. Sip international libations in rooftop bar The Upside and feel transported to the tropics at Pool Bar. eastaustinhotel.com
ATXWOMAN.COM |â&#x20AC;&#x201A; 45
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In a tumultuous season of pandemic, women on the front lines are leaning into risk and leading the way forward. BY COURTNEY RUNN | PHOTOS BY KYLIE BIRCHFIELD
The cancelation of South by Southwest on March 6 was Austin’s canary in a coal mine. In the 116 days since, the city has been plunged into pandemic, protests, police brutality and polarization. Collectively, the city shares one overarching narrative but every Austinite has uniquely faced countless choices and risks, from the benign to the deadly. People were suddenly faced with the question, what is worth the risk of contracting or spreading a virus without a cure? For every person, that answer has been different:
For some, protesting racial injustice alongside thousands was a worthy risk; for others, a painfully lonely stretch of isolation was enough to send them seeking community despite a lingering virus; for many, reviving the economy or the simple desire for normalcy outweighed the risk of contagion. Choosing whether to face risk is a privilege many don’t have. On the front lines of COVID-19 and racial injustice, risk is inherent to the job. Countless leaders and essential workers are making pivotal decisions and sacrifices; for them, risk isn’t a question, but a calling.
ATXWOMAN.COM | 47
48 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
At Thanksgiving, Dr. Hemali Patel heard about a new virus
across the world. Her sister’s friend had been traveling in Wuhan, China and returned with stories of a disease in the city. By December, Patel started seeing media reports about a novel coronavirus, but she wasn’t concerned. In early March, Seattle emerged as a COVID-19 hotspot, alerting her that it could be a more concerning threat than she realized. On March 9, Italy announced a country-wide lockdown. A few weeks later, Patel was supposed to be on a plane to Kenya for a Dell Medical School conference; instead, she flew to New York City. She landed in the city on Thursday, April 2, and by Saturday morning she was serving on a COVID-19 team, managing patient admissions and discharges. She and her colleague in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School were among the first wave of health professionals to volunteer in New York’s overwhelmed hospitals. Patel spent a week working at NYU Langone Health. She arrived at the hospital by 7 a.m. and left by 6 p.m., changing in and out of her scrubs as soon as she entered the hospital and showering immediately after getting back to her hotel. She was given one N95 mask and a face shield. “I work in the hospital all the time and I’ve never been so vigilant and aware of germs before,” she says. Walks to and from the hospital were “eerie,” without the normal cacophony of traffic and city commotion. The best way she could describe her week is “controlled chaos.” Though her surroundings were grim and the work risky, she felt calm, which she credits to the comradery of her peers and the support of the city. Patel is quick to hail nurses as heroes for tending to patients for longer stretches of times and risking exposure but feels a disconnect with deeming her own actions heroic. “None of us think of ourselves as heroes,” she says. “I think we’re just doing what feels right to us and we’re fortunate enough to have these skills that can be utilized at a time like this and we just feel like it’s the right thing to do.” Patel returned to Austin armed with information from her time in New York. She shared what she learned with her team at Dell Seton Medical Center and via a virtual town hall with Travis County Medical Society. Despite gaining more knowledge in New York, she says the entire experience has been “shaking” as a medical professional. To rely on observational and anecdotal medicine instead of concrete, evidence-based approaches is not what she’s trained to do but has become necessary to fight a virus still being researched. “I think accepting that uncertainty and being able to be fluid and dynamic and change with the situation is probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself during this time period,” she says.
Accepting that uncertainty and being able to be fluid and dynamic and change with the situation is probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself during this time period.
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s the country fixed its gaze on New York’s mounting cases, Selena Xie experienced the pandemic on the ground in Austin. As the president of the Austin EMS Association, she’s managed the city’s EMS response and led her team of medics through changing protocol. In mid-February, she was focused on the local elections and the budget ramifications for her team. She remembers talks with colleagues about the new coronavirus, but it wasn’t a threat to Austin yet. In March, when a city council staffer suggested they might all be working from home soon, they both laughed at the thought. The next day, Xie traveled to Florida for an EMS conference where, ironically, several people attending tested positive. The day after she arrived back in Austin, SXSW was canceled. Xie has remained in contact with paramedics in Seattle and New York to stay up to date with the best emergency protocol. At first, medics in Austin were only required to wear a surgical mask when making calls inside nursing homes. That quickly changed to require N95 masks and full gowns on every call. Xie estimates that since March, about one-fourth to one-third of all emergency calls have been related to a COVID-19 symptom. To avoid risking the health of both medics and concerned callers, a hotline was established to screen COVID-19 calls. If a caller truly did need medical attention, strict procedure was followed to minimize exposure. Her unit was well stocked, dipping into a stockpile of unused masks from Ebola preparations. Local furniture store Austin Couch Potatoes redirected its machinery to produce personal protective equipment and donated gowns to Austin EMS. Xie spends her day on the phone, constantly reacting to new information, mitigating rumors and keeping her team informed. At the end of one day, she looked at her phone log to see more than 50 calls. “It is true that many Austinites don’t know anybody in Austin who have had COVID-19 or have died from COVID-19 but that means the public health stuff is working so we should keep doing that,” Xie says. “...Us not having this huge outbreak is a sign of success.” (Since this interview, Texas has seen a spike in cases with a record number of reported cases and hospitalizations.) Xie became interested in EMS after volunteering with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. She’s now been in the field for eight years, a nurse for three years and the association’s president for a little more than one year. Becoming a medic immediately brings you to terms with daily risk, she says. With little pay and regular exposure to trauma, the turnover rate is high. “Being a medic is really hard,” she says. “You can go from one call where someone’s baby has died to literally 10 minutes later...you go take care of someone else who stubbed their toe and wanted to go to the hospital.” After a series of suicides several years ago, the unit established a peer support team and now offers access to counselors who specialize in PTSD. Xie is able to compartmentalize the more harrowing aspects of her job, which works for now, but she wonders what effect that will have on her in the future. “I think in a lot of ways we’re trying, but in some really fundamental ways, we’re failing our folks,” she says. COVID-19 has presented a new challenge to her team. Unlike the obvious personal risks associated with the job, her medics now have to grapple with spreading the virus to their families. The past few months have been a crash course in leadership for Xie as she’s adapted to new information while doing her best to keep her team safe. Apart from her full-time role as president, she also works part-time as an emergency-room nurse on the weekends, receiving the COVID-19 patients her medics deliver to the hospital. In late May, she prepped her team for yet another challenge: manning protests. While responding to emergency calls at a protest is like any other emergency call in protocol, Xie says the heightened tension and charged atmosphere can lead to mistakes. Take extra water, sunscreen and medical gear, she reminded her team, and remember that people have the right to film. “I’m glad to bear witness to everything that’s going on,” she says. “...Protesters wish they didn’t have to be there and wish that police brutality wasn’t real and I’m sure police also wish police brutality wasn’t real as well. But I’m glad to be able to help people.”
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I think in a lot of ways we’re trying, but in some really fundamental ways, we’re failing our folks.
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52 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
I’m ready for meaningful, positive, substantive, long-lasting, transformative change.
n June 4, Austin City Council convened for a virtual special session. The video call began like many other work Zoom meetings with repeated messages of, “You’re muted. We can’t hear you,” echoing feedback when members tried to use both computer and phone simultaneously, texting off camera and, most notably, disabled cameras. City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, the lone Black member of the council, closed the opening remarks from council members with an emotional plea to the one remaining disabled camera on the call: “We would be remiss to take one more minute of this meeting and not have our police chief not show his face. Chief Manley, I implore you…I want them to look at you when they [speak] and I want you to look at them. I implore you to please turn your camera on.” He turned on his camera and for the following 10 hours, Austinites called in to voice their frustrations, primarily addressing Mayor Steve Adler and Police Chief Bryan Manley. Throughout the many hours of personal testimony, Harper-Madison emerged as the defining voice in the meeting. She was often in tears, at times rocking back and forth as she listened, briefly turning off her camera when she was too overcome by emotion. But her vulnerability did not preclude her strength to offer what many have not been able to: duality and humanity. Before the meeting paused for a break, she admitted she was struggling to stay on the call, calling it “brutal and painful,” but asked her colleagues and listeners to remember Manley is human, too. She encouraged everyone to spend the break away from their screen, practicing self-care People took note of her comments—both holding Manley accountable to show his face and offering him grace after hours of calls for his resignation—leading Harper-Madison to tweet later that night, “Based on my notifications, I guess I made a little stir today.” “People can both be under fire and held accountable but remain human,” she says. “The fragility of humanity is unilateral...I certainly wasn’t looking for any gold stars, I was just trying to remind everyone kindness is free. It may not be simple; it requires effort, but it doesn’t cost you anything.” On June 11, City Council unanimously passed a series of resolutions targeting police reform and systemic racism, including a resolution authored by Harper-Madison to redirect police funds to social services and prohibit new officers from joining APD in the upcoming year. She says a lot of what was passed had already been in the works for months. She’s careful to not speak on behalf of her colleagues or assume their motives in passing the resolutions, not crediting the protests as the impetus for the unanimous support. But she hopes this is a sign of more to come. “I’m ready for meaningful, positive, substantive, long-lasting, transformative change,” she says. “...I listened to testimony that was gut wrenching and really difficult to listen to. I listened to peoples’ frustration and I listened to their anger and their demands for us as policymakers to do our jobs. I heard them holding us accountable and I take that very seriously.” On a good night, Harper-Madison gets nine hours of sleep. But on most nights, she’s averaging between three and five. She jokes her biggest discovery during this season is that she requires “virtually no sleep.” But she’s also discovered the power in asking for help and in indulging in those nine hours when she needs it. “Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to keep fighting,” she says. She’s taking her own advice, practicing self-care by playing with her kids, walking around her neighborhood, watching mindless TV, using deep-breathing exercises and talking to her therapist. She’s also been journaling to record this moment in her life and in the country: “I was in a cyclone. I was a part of that period of history in 2020 when we got hit by a global pandemic [and] we addressed—really addressed—systemic racism and white supremacy…I often think about my legacy and think about how, if I continue to fight, and I fight with honor and integrity, then I think history will be kind to me.”
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POINT OF VIEW
#SAYHERNAME, BREONNA TAYLOR AND THE HIDDEN VICTIMHOOD OF BLACK WOMEN BY KATHRYN FREEMAN
he killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery have consumed our nation and brought a long-overdue reckoning over the lingering effects of systemic racism and racial bias in police killings. Yet, even as there is renewed energy around conversations about racial justice, the murder of Breonna Taylor has received less national attention, despite occurring under similarly dubious circumstances. CNN headlines have screamed about the “George Floyd protests” as thousands have taken to the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd after watching former police officer Derek Chauvin place a knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. After Arbery was killed on a jog, thousands used the hashtag #IrunwithMaud on May 8 to commemorate his 26th birthday. Taylor’s death was not caught on camera. The police officers involved did not have their body cameras turned on when they stormed her apartment in the wee hours of the morning on a no-knock warrant. But there was no video footage of similarly galvanizing murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. The public does not need a video to have empathy and anger for the death of an unarmed African American man because, despite racial differences, the male is still the default in our patriarchal society. The dual forces of sexism and racism have combined to obscure the pervasiveness of police violence against Black women and girls.
The dual forces of sexism and racism have combined to obscure the pervasiveness of police violence against Black women and girls. 54 | AUSTIN WOMAN | JULY 2020
The murders of unarmed African American men deserve attention, and their families deserve justice, but so do the families of Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Korryn Gaines, Kathryn Johnston and Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Conversations about police brutality and systemic racism must also include the stories and experiences of Black women. In 2015, the African American Policy Forum launched the #SayHerName project to highlight the vulnerability and the unique experiences of Black women targeted by police violence. The report included the names and stories of African American women and girls who had been killed by the police. The report also noted, according to a Cato Institute study on police misconduct, “sexual misconduct was the second most common type of [police] misconduct reported.” African American women are subject to both excessive use of force and sexual assault. In 2014, Yvette Smith was killed by a Bastrop County police officer within three seconds of opening her door after calling the police to mediate a dispute between two men at her home. In 2016, Austinite Breaion King was violently dragged from her vehicle and thrown to the ground by a law enforcement officer who cited the “violent tendencies” of African Americans. The same year former Oklahoma City police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted of sexually assaulting eight mostly poor African American women. Racist and sexist attitudes affect perceptions of African American women and girls, which make it harder for them to be seen and understood as victims. Studies have shown African American girls are often seen as more adult than their white peers by all other races and genders. Black women are not afforded the traditional protections of femininity because we are perceived as the Angry Black Woman or the Strong Black Woman or as sexually promiscuous. These myths about our attitudes or sexuality or anger or strength often obscure violence against African American women and girls and make our suffering more permissive. Despite our vocal advocacy for both civil rights and women’s rights, as neither white nor male, we are often left to bear the dual burdens of systemic racism and misogyny alone. Over the course of our country’s history, African American women have had to contend with both racism and sexism. Our country is much less familiar with the critical contributions of civil rights leaders like Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Height, Shirley Chisholm, Ella Baker and Daisy Bates. Feminist groups have marginalized us for our race and by some civil rights organizations for our sex. As Malcolm X once famously said, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” Last month, the Louisville Metro Council passed Breonna’s Law, a law banning the use of no-knock warrants and requiring police officers to always activate their body cameras when executing warrants. It is a fitting tribute to a woman who spent her life saving lives that her life will save lives, but she deserves justice. The officers who killed her under dubious circumstances should be fired and arrested for her murder. Breonna Taylor was worthy of protection. Black women are worthy of protection. #BlackLivesMatter, so fight with us, too. Kathryn Freeman is a local advocate, writer, lawyer and co-host of the podcast Melanated Faith.
SEVEN TIPS TO MINIMIZE DISTRACTED DRIVING BY CHELSEA BANCROFT
Keep your phone out of sight. It can be tempting to grab your phone when you see it light up with a notification. Minimize the temptation by putting your phone in your purse or in the center console where you can’t see it.
Plan music and entertainment ahead of time. Make sure your music, podcast or whatever other form of entertainment you want while driving is set up ahead of time. Looking down at your phone to change music can be just as dangerous as texting!
Use an app. While using an app to avoid your phone may seem counterintuitive, the DriveOff app helps minimize distractions while driving by displaying a screensaver and silencing notifications whenever you surpass 10 mph. The Drive Scribe app offers similar options and will even automatically send a text response to an incoming call or respond to an email while you’re driving.
Don’t drive drowsy. Driving drowsy can be almost as dangerous as driving drunk. Sleep deprivation has similar effects to drinking alcohol on your body. Believe it or not, according to sleepfoundation.org, being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05. (Legally, .08 is considered drunk.) Be sure to get a good night’s sleep before driving and never hit the road when you’re tired.
Don’t eat and drive. I am sure we have all been guilty of this at some point but eating and driving can be dangerous! According to driversed.com, your reaction time is lowered by 44 percent while eating. Eat ahead of time or pull over if you get hungry.
Limit the number of passengers.
Photo by Chris Mejia.
It’s no surprise that passengers can be a huge distraction. Limit the number of passengers in your vehicle, especially if you’re a new driver or easily distracted.
Put on makeup before or after. This is another dangerous habit many of us ladies are guilty of. Putting on makeup in the car absolutely takes your attention off the road and can be dangerous. Put it on before or wait until you reach your destination. It’s not only safer but, let’s be honest, it will look better too!
Chelsea Bancroft is the strategic-partnerships and social-media manager at Roger Beasley Mazda and a blogger at onechelofanadventure.com.
I AM AUSTIN WOMAN
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Mix 94.7’s Sara Osburn Light reminisces on Hippie Sandwiches and Mag Mud.
I moved to Austin in August of 1999 to attend the University
Photo by Adam Moroz.
of Texas. I mostly ate at the Scottish Rite Dormitory my freshman and sophomore years, but when my parents were in town picking up the bill there were a handful of restaurants we would go to: Shady Grove, Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard and, if we were feeling fancy, Z’Tejas or Eddie V’s. Sadly, two of the four are shutting down due to COVID-19 and with those closures go a little piece of my Austin heart. Shady Grove was always the first place I took an out-oftowner. It was where I took my stepdaughters on our first girls’ day on the town. It was where I had meetings, dates and family get-togethers. There was just something about turning into that bumpy parking lot and picking one of the rusty metal chairs to sit in that felt so authentically Austin
to me. Does anyone know if they are auctioning off those chairs? There was always a wait at Shady Grove (unless you wanted to eat inside which I never did), so to pass the time I would go check out the Keep Austin Weird T-shirts, telling myself that one day I would buy one. Now I wish I had bought one. I always ordered the Hippie Sandwich; I was never able to finish my water (the plastic glasses were huge); and I always confused first-timers when I told them the bathrooms were in the travel trailer. I think we all can agree that when you found yourself sitting under the Shady Grove tree on a weekday, life was good. If I was at Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin, then it probably meant that I was up late. It was my place to go when I was not done with the night. Do you know how many late-night discussions about boy problems over Mag Mud those walls have absorbed? Let’s not forget it was work to go to the Lake Austin Magnolia. First, you had to find a place to park. The parking was impossibly small, on a hill and not meant for big Texas SUVs. It was your lucky day when you found a spot. Then, you had to put your name on that list on the stand and wait in the parking lot for your name to be called. No matter the time there was always a wait. When my name was finally called, I always hoped they would seat me in the room on the right, but often I was seated on the left. The tables were sticky, the chairs wobbled and the mugs never held enough coffee, but it was home. We now know that Tumble 22 is taking over the Magnolia location, but I am still holding out hope that someone will come in and save Shady Grove. Please? Someone? If not, then thank you for all the good times.
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