SCHOOL: Record crowd turns out for sorority alumni club’s 75th anniversary. Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded in 1908. The local alumni chapter, Beta Psi Omega, came later in 1938. Saturday at the Hilton Austin, BPO toasted its 75th anniversary with a sparkly gala that drew a record 850 guests. As noted before, this club includes some notable Austinites, such as former State Rep. Wilhelmina Delco, current State Rep. Dawnna Dukes and United States Treasurer Azie Taylor Morton. My hosts included the irrepressible Toya Haley — always a face you want to see at any function — as well as foundation president Susan Johnson and chapter president Brigid Roberson. They helped explain where the money they raise will go, including scholarships named for Delco, a special arm of AIDS Services of Austin called Women Rising, and Project Green, which purchases and stores school supplies needed by kids at Oak Springs Elementary. (I hope it’s not inappropriate to say that the Hilton has rarely seen so many gorgeous women gorgeously draped.)
CLARIFICATION: While including Azie Taylor Morton among the Beta Psi Omega notables, it should be noted that she passed away in 2003.
CHARITY: Fighting illiteracy half way around the globe. I knew nothing about PrathamUSA. The group, it turns out, wages war on illiteracy in India, which, according to one speaker at the Sheraton at the Capitol, is home to half the world’s illiterate children. Pratham is a mammoth schooling program known for its ultra-low overhead and effective programs. Anyway, the charismatic chairwomen of Saturday’s event Poonam Tripathy and Swapna Reddy assured me that this year’s Pratham gathering doubled in size over last year’s. They hoped to raise $100,000, partly through a Bollywood dance that included none other than Austin City Council Member — and ultimate good sport — Mike Martinez. (He admitted to me he was sore in places he didn’t know he had.)
SPORTS: Once neglected, Wooldridge Square Park once again a gem. My Life story today in the Statesman: "The woman stands upright on the first step of the bandstand. The camera catches her in profile, dressed in summer whites, plunged in full sunlight. A gossamer veil billows from her wide-brimmed hat. The year, according to one Austin historian, is likely 1915. The place is unquestionably Wooldridge Square Park, one of the city’s four original public squares, transformed from an informal dump into a pristine urban retreat in 1909. For decades after this photograph was taken — the bandstand was added in 1910 — the bowl-shaped park served as an outdoor venue for concerts, a gathering place for children and a launching pad for statewide political campaigns. Then it began to disintegrate." http://shar.es/i2rmO(Proud of this piece.)
LAW: 9/11 From the fog of war to scorching clarity. My Insight story today in the Statesman: "President George W. Bush’s aides recall that, during three days in September 2001, they emerged from the fog of war to a sense of scorching clarity. On Tuesday, from the stage of the LBJ Presidential Library auditorium, Karen Hughes, Karl Rove, Clay Johnson and Eric Draper used blunt, concrete words to recall minute, personal details from the 9/11 crisis. They revealed nothing groundbreaking, and didn’t address the wars overseas or other controversies that would follow. Yet the minutiae were, for two hours at the library, riveting. Colors, shapes, faces — even the position of the sun — shaped their memories." http://shar.es/i2r7Z(Always something thought-provoking at the LBJ Presidential Library.)
FOOD: One way to raise money to battle AIDS. That would be food. Our friend Nina Seely informs us that a raft of notable Austinites are hosting Dining for Life through the Dining 2 Give program at Trento out on Loop 360 on Monday, Sept. 16. Her family Italian eatery is offering speciality wines and a Red Ribbon Bellini, all to help AIDS Services of Austin. Some familiar names on the list of hosts include dance man Greg Easley, Tribeza publisher George Elliman, PR wizzes Kevin Smothers and Brenda Thompson, nonprofit guru Alex Alford and jeweler Nak Armstrong. Songs will be provided by Ginger Leigh and Courtney Sanchez. (Grazie.)
BUSINESS: Some Austin fast food firms do the right thing. Reported by Gary Dinges in the Statesman: "In the booming Texas economy, restaurants have been an especially bright spot in recent years. From August 2010 to August 2012, the industry added 82,000 new jobs, according to the Texas Restaurant Association. But those jobs typically don’t pay much. Many front-line employees such as cashiers start at the federal minimum wage, which has been set at $7.25 per hour since 2009. Austinites who work at fast-food restaurants, on average, make more – $8.83 – but that’s still far below the city’s median hourly wage, regardless of industry, which sits at $17.12, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The discrepancy prompted thousands of workers in more than 50 cities nationwide, including Austin, to walk off the job last month, calling for their pay to be bumped up to $15 per hour. Long before plans for those protests were hatched, some local fast-food chains were already offering higher-than-average wages." http://shar.es/i2p9W(The payoffs for everyone seem obvious.)