AUSTIN (KXAN)— There have been growing concerns about Austin changing, and some Black Austinites are questioning whether there are enough spaces dedicated to their culture.
In fact, many have expressed their neighborhoods just aren’t the same anymore. Some blame gentrification and even the fact Black neighbors have been pushed out to the outskirts of Austin with the rising cost of living and equity, among other things.
The City of Austin has an African American Cultural and Heritage facility that’s been shut down for years because of the pandemic, undergoing renovations.
“We were a little bit lost,” long-time Austinite and Program Coordinator Florinda Bryant said.
Its grand reopening was on Saturday at noon. The facility is located at 912 E. 11th St. on the historic east side.
“It’s worth fighting for and fighting hard for,” Bryant said. “I think that to a large degree, African Americans have been responsible for retaining our own stories and telling our own truths and our own history for a while…when people come here and access a resource [we want to make sure] that it’s the top of the line that they’re getting the same opportunity that other cultural centers in the city have.”
Some of renovations are expected to provide more collaborative spaces for the community.
“We previously had what we call the dance studio, now it’s the creativity studio,” Bryant said. “We’ve taken out the dance floor and put in a more versatile floor so that more people are able to use that space…We’ve gotten carpet replaced, we painted…we got new elevator.”
Bryant said the facility saved her life by giving her a place she could go to feel safe and seen. She hopes through new and old partnerships, it can do the same for others.
“You can take dance classes, you can come here for athletic classes,” Bryant said. “We also have African arts classes…yoga. And we also have ‘Home Girls Healing,’ which is a community processing group…We’re focusing on mental health this year as well.”
According to the city, the space is really about art and creating an environment where Black people can come to reconnect with their cultural identity. The city said it also provides people the opportunity to learn more about their roots and history in Austin.
“It gives you an opportunity to be creative, to…know what you’re creating is worth something,” Bryant said. “Knowing that this is a legacy, not only in the past, but that you’re a part of what it’s going to be in the future.”
Austin’s Economic Development Department spearheaded the renovations.
The facility said its open to community feedback, so that people get the most out of the facility.