Decibel: Capitol Coffee Talk feat. Girls Girls Girls!

Get a preview of the Texas Legislature’s upcoming Special Sessions with hits like “One More Day of Summer Vacation,” “Kleenex: One Box Per Child,” “That Sounds Like A Song,” and more!

Musical improv troupe Girls, Girls, Girls joined KLRU’s Judy Maggio and KUT’s Ben Philpott for this special (session) coffee talk. Watch the video below:

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The Tarnished Violet Crown

The kaleidoscope of colors at sunset across the hills west of Austin is why our city is sometimes called “The Violet Crown”.  On a clear day, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. It’s one of many things I treasure about this wonderful place we call home. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with Austin, but just as we must face tough conversations with the people we hold dear, it’s high time to talk about racism. Austin prides itself on being progressive and welcoming, but people of color often don’t feel welcomed here, at all.

“It’s not truly a violet crown if everyone doesn’t have a chance to prosper”, Huston Tillotson University President, Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette told the packed audience attending a Leadership Austin Engage Breakfast, I moderated recently. She and AISD Superintendent, Dr. Paul Cruz took the stage as the Co-Chairs of the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities. It’s a long name. But some say the city has a long history of marginalizing  African Americans and Latinos.

Leaders on the task force tackled five main areas where inequities often bubble to the top: education, real estate and housing, health, finance and criminal justice. Task force members proposed ideas and solutions to at least begin addressing institutional racism and inequities in Austin. There are no magic bullets. These are just the first steps in a marathon that still needs thousands more runners heading for the finish line. The only thing you’ll need to train for that marathon is a big dose of self-reflection. Dr Cruz told the group, “Typically we  look out the window and say that’s what needs to change. But take a look in the mirror and say, what am I going to do to change that?”  

I see a middle-aged white woman when I look in the mirror. I consider myself lucky because I had  parents who fought for civil rights and educated me about deep-seated issues of race and inequity. Yet, I don’t know really know how oppression and discrimination feel. I’ve never been marginalized because of the color of my skin. 

Here’s what I DO know. We can’t start solving racism unless we each do our part. We must listen intently with open hearts and minds and do some serious soul searching. Small steps can make a big difference. Perhaps it’s as simple as hiring someone who doesn’t look like you or attending a service at an African American church.      

Dr. Burnette told the Leadership Austin audience, “ We all need to be agents of change. As long as you stay in your comfort zone, you won’t experience the magic.”

Let’s face it, wouldn’t it be magical if all the colors in the violet crown burned brightly and prospered?      

Get the the 70 page final report from the task force now

We Are All Newtown

It’s exciting to experience celebrity driven SXSW events. But during the more than two decades I’ve covered the festival, I’ve often found the most memorable and meaningful moments are not the high profile ones…they’re the ones that touch your heart. 

Last week was one of those “moments” that will stick with me for a lifetime. I had the honor of leading a panel following the screening of  “Newtown” by Director, Kim Snyder.

This is a difficult documentary to watch. We all remember that terrible day, December 14, 2012, when a troubled young man opened fire on first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 20 children and 6 educators were killed. This film follows the families of the victims and the lingering impact on them, the teachers, emergency workers and the entire community. While heartache is front and center, so is hope. 

Mark Barden’s son, Daniel, was one of the first graders gunned down in Newtown. When the panel members met for dinner, prior to the screening, Mark and I started chatting. He’s an accomplished guitar player and we discovered we had several common friends in the music business. He talked about playing Austin’s Saxon Pub in the 1990’s. For a little while, it felt as if I was just sharing a meal and music stories with a new friend.

As we all watched the film together at the screening, the emotions overwhelmed me. It’s one thing to view a gripping piece of work on your computer in the comfort of your home, and quite another seeing it on a big screen in the theater, sitting in front of a father whose heart will be forever broken. When the film ended, the entire audience was silent as everyone in the auditorium soaked in the collective trauma and grief of “Newtown”. 

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook, many people, including President Obama, pushed for tougher laws dealing with guns. Stricter measures passed in Connecticut but not on a national level.

But Mark Barden still has hope. It would have been much easier for this loving husband and father to grieve the loss of his youngest child in private. Instead, he’s touring the country with this compelling documentary. He’s on a mission to help ensure no other parent endures the senseless loss of a child to gun violence. 

So as you trek from venue to venue, searching for the ultimate SXSW experience, don’t forget to wander off the beaten path, you may just make a discovery that leaves an indelible mark on your heart.

Newtown premieres on Independent Lens Monday, April 3, 2017 at 8pm on KLRU-TV

Decibel amplifies stories and issues important to Austin

KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, is proud to announce our first television special from Decibel, our new News & Public Affairs initiative, premiering on-air and online on Feb. 25 at 6:30pm and re-airing on March 2 at 7:30pm.

Immigration reform is a top priority from the White House to the Texas Capitol. As a sanctuary city, Austin is at the center of the dispute. Decibel amplifies the human stories behind the heated immigration debate and brings you a close look at who might get caught in the red tape.

This 30-minute news magazine begins with an in-depth look at the experiences of an undocumented student at the University of Texas at Austin who is part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Decibel follows him through current events – from the Inauguration to recent protests and testifying at the Senate Bill 4 hearing.

Decibel also examines how the travel ban impacted people in Central Texas; those who were born here and those who immigrated. This segment includes how Austin’s Muslim community is reacting to the current policy changes and how future measures could affect them.

About Decibel:
Decibel amplifies stories and issues important to Austin by listening to the community and encouraging dynamic discussions. It is the new News & Public Affairs initiative from KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, taking an in-depth look at the stories that impact our community and welcoming engagement from everyone. Participate at, where we’ll share our stories, our interviews and our diverse community conversations.

About KLRU-TV, Austin PBS
KLRU-TV, Austin PBS is dedicated to telling stories that entertain, inspire and change our lives. KLRU highlights what makes Austin unique—whether music, arts or public issues — by creating and distributing award-winning original content. KLRU produces several series including Austin City Limits, Arts in Context, Central Texas Gardener, Civic Summit and Overheard with Evan Smith. As a nonprofit educational organization, KLRU also prepares children to succeed in school and creates lifelong learning opportunities for all. Find out more at