Explore the Right to Assemble in Central Texas

A student is arrested at a sit-in.

A student at a sit-in for the Gay Liberation Front is arrested in the UT Ballroom. Photo courtesy of the UT Archives.

Protests have been dominating the news. Between the Standing Rock protests and anti-Trump rallies that have cropped up in the wake of the election, images of marches and protest signs seem to be everywhere.

But how has marching for a cause impacted people’s lives here in Austin? And how can exercising that First Amendment change Central Texas?

This week, we want to have a discussion. We want to talk with you about how assembling for a cause has impacted life in Austin, and why you feel like protesting is or isn’t important. Have you marched for something? Has civil action impacted your life? Do you feel like protesting addresses the issues?

To help spark the conversation, we’ll be posting thought-provoking videos throughout the week.

The Snapshot: Right to Assemble gives a brief overview of protests in Austin that helped propel big social changes, from desegregation to recognition of LGBTQ groups.

Austin Revealed will present the stories of people who decided to personally take a stand against prejudice, from people who pushed back against segregation at Austin’s public pools to an in-depth look at the Chicano Civil Rights Movement here in Austin.

We’ll have more content throughout the week, so stay tuned! Tell us what you think about the right to assemble in the comments!

Students and educators discuss dropout crisis

Texas has ranked high in recent years for its low dropout rate, but there are still some students who don’t make it to the graduation ceremony. The Texas Education Authority reports that roughly six students out of a hundred don’t graduate. But what causes a student to drop out? In early December, students, educators, and community members joined together in Studio 6A to discuss that for a special Civic Summit taping titled Stop the Drop: Engaging Students in Their Futures.

The hour-long special delved into different aspects of the dropout crisis, including what makes students lose interest in school, what barriers prevent students from re-enrolling, and what adults can do to help motivate students to stay in school. Host Judy Maggio discussed solutions with experts and educators in the studio, and student host Ronald Elliot talked with student audience members about difficulties that kept them from engaging in school, and what adults did that either dissuaded or motivated them to pursue an education.

This Civic Summit was part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative. As an American Graduate station, KLRU is seeking a clearer understanding of the nature and impact of the dropout problem in our region, and is partnering with organizations working to increase graduation rates. You can find more information about the initiative by visiting: klru.org/americangraduate.

After Memorial Day Flood, BMX Park Almost Totally Rebuilt

The 9th Street BMX Park has been a community project since it was first built over 20 years ago.  What started as a single dirt jump constructed by local riders has grown into a whole series of jumps maintained entirely by volunteers.

“This was all flat, and there was one jump in the middle, that’s what we started with,” recalls Steven Tyler, one of the BMX riders to help construct the first jumps.  “You think, what happened, did these sprout out of the ground? No. That’s a lot of time spent digging out here, and a lot of credit needs to be given to a lot of people to have a place like this. People put a lot of work into a place like this.”

That group effort mentality is something Ty Bement instills in his students.  Bement teaches BMX lessons to those interested in taking up the sport.

“We talk about safety gear, how to push through jumps,” Bement says.  “Before we start any of that, we talk about how to use a broom and a water hose.”

The dirt jumps are constantly being torn down and reconstructed, but on Memorial Day, every jump was destroyed in a wall of water.

BMX Park Flooding

After Memorial Day, the 9th Street BMX Park was completely underwater. Photo courtesy Darren Drewitz.

“Everything was underwater. You could swim down here,” Bement recalls.  “That was a trail apocalypse for Austin.”

“It was racing through my mind, are they gonna rebuild it?” says Dakin Drewitz, a student of Bement’s. “Is it going to be the same as it used to be?”

 

After nearly four months and a lot of work by volunteers and community members, the answer is yes.  Most of the jumps have been reconstructed in the wake of May’s devastating flood, but this labor of love never quite wraps up.

“The dirt jumps are really never done,” Bement says. “They’re ongoing work.”

 

 

 

 

University-Bound Seniors Celebrated at College Signing Day

Higher-Ed bound students celebrate at College Signing Day.

Higher-Ed bound students celebrate at College Signing Day.

 

May saw Central Texas host its first College Signing Day, an event aimed at honoring high school seniors taking the next step into higher learning.

Over 400 students from 24 different high schools took part in the pep rally hosted by Huston-Tillotson University, where they pledged to pursue their higher education goals..

“It is a wonderful thing to be able to congratulate these young people on achieving their college dreams,” stated Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

For many students, realizing their dream of higher education is more than a personal accomplishment; it also serves as an inspiration for future generations.

“It’s not just them, it’s them being a role model,” said E3 Alliance President Susan Dawson.

Senior Delilah Miramontes echoed that mentality, hoping she can inspire those close to home.

“It’s such a big step for my family,” she said. “My parents didn’t go to college, and I know this inspires my little brother to continue.”

The event was tied to National Decision Day, a nationwide event meant to celebrate seniors for their post secondary plans.

Straus Re-Elected House Speaker

Representative Joe Straus will return to his role as House Speaker after a landslide win over Representative Scott Turner.

Turner has worked over the past year to curry favor with conservatives in order to unseat Rep. Straus as Speaker.  It was a campaign that led Straus to make veiled comments about Turner’s efforts to turn fellow Republicans against him in the vote for Speaker.

“Leading up to this day, a small number sought to divide us with misleading and personal attacks,” Straus said after being sworn in as Speaker. “But you can not effectively govern this House by dividing it.”

Straus garnered 127 votes over Turner’s 19.  This is the first time since 1975 that the House has held a contested vote for the Speaker of the House.