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African Leadership Bridge, Pratham Austin, Mexic-Arte Museum, Hispanic Culture in Austin, ACL at 40

Michael Barnes

SCHOOL 1: Takalani Malivha, a South African student of economics and psychology at the University of Texas, has an fresh take on Austin. “It’s amazing how it’s all woven together,” Malivha says. She credits, in part, the university and its diversity for this relative geographic and social cohesion. Malhiva was among the guests at a film showing at the State Theater for the Austin-based African Leadership Bridge, which creates opportunities for outstanding African students. Yves Mafolo, from Kinshasa, Congo studies finance and accounting at Oklahoma State University, while John Kidenda is looking a development strategies at Harvard University’s JFK School of Government. Kidenda carefully explained to me development options and how a successful project might not work in another locale and culture. Currently, he’d like to increase infrastructure and bring down electrical rates in his native Kenya. Though still small, this Austin nonprofit thinks big.

SCHOOL 2: This is what Austin nightlife needed. A Bollywood dance-off competition, staged by Pratham Austin, with celebrity participants such as Austin City Council Member Bill Spelman, KXAN News reporter Sophia Beausoleil and HomeAway’s Matt Curtis. The party at the AT&T Center included a systematic keynote address from Vijay Goradia, a Houston businessman and founder of Pratham USA. Goradia related to more than 600 guests how he first encountered the Pratham system for eliminating the astronomical levels of illiteracy in India (100 million of 210 million children). Pratham Austin is one of 15 American chapters who raise money and awareness. And, obviously, have a fun along the way.

ARTS: Has it really been 30 years? “I remember a cold, cold warehouse,” says Martha Cotera about Mexic-Arte Museum’s first location, which, if I’m not mistaken, was in the old American-Statesman production building downtown. “But there was lots of beautiful art, which we immediately started to collect.” About 500 Mexic-Arte supporters filled the banquet room at the Four Seasons Hotel to salute the three decades that the museum has linked Austin to Mexico. At the Gala de Museo, Guadalupe Marin was honored for lifetime achievement in the humanities and Santa Barraza for the visual arts. Aside a huge, tiered, decorative cake, Astrid Hadad performed in an enormous outfit that echoed Frida Kahlo‘s treatment of calla lilies.

HISTORY: Gauging Hispanic influence on Austin’s scene. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “There was a time during the pre-Civil War hysteria of the mid-1850s when all Mexicans were expelled from Austin. And for more than a century after that, social and political isolation kept Mexican-Americans and other Latinos at a cultural arm’s length from other groups in the city. Many believe that the achievements of Austin’s Hispanic community still are not widely understood, respected or recognized. That is changing fast, like the city’s demographics.”

MUSIC: “Austin City Limits” at 40. Taken from Peter Blackstock‘s story in the Statesman: “About 40 minutes into “Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years,” a two-hour special that airs at 8 p.m. Friday on KLRU, Emmylou Harris is onstage with Willie Nelson, singing his timeless American classic “Crazy.” Midway through, Harris steps back from the microphone as the focus turns toward Nelson and his legendary battle-scarred acoustic guitar, Trigger. As he strokes and bends out an exquisitely lyrical solo, the camera gradually draws in on the guitar, finally showing nothing but well-worn wood, vibrating strings and those magical 81-year-old fingers. Stretching for nearly 30 seconds, the shot exemplifies what has made “Austin City Limits” a national television treasure.”