Jan 18, 2022 - News

New podcast examines Black Austin

Exalton and Wilhelmina Delco, left, are interviewed in their home by Richard Reddick and Lisa Henderson, right, for the podcast Black Austin Matters. Photo courtesy KUT.
Exalton and Wilhelmina Delco, left, are interviewed in their home by Richard Reddick and Lisa Thompson, right, for the podcast Black Austin Matters. Photo courtesy KUT.

"Two things I like to do in private: chicken and watermelon," Austin civil rights organizer Chas Moore says on a new podcast. "Being in Austin ... it's just a conscious thing I have about not wanting to do that in front of white people."

Driving the news: The poignant admission comes on "Black Austin Matters," a new KUT podcast hosted by Richard Reddick and Lisa Thompson — UT professors who talk with other Black Austinites about their perspectives on the city.

The first episodes of the show involve interviews with organizers that bookend the modern Black struggle in Austin.

What they're saying: "A lot of people will look you straight in the face in this community, 'Oh there's not discrimination in Austin at all. I have Black kids that go to my school, or there are Blacks who work in my business,'" Wilhelmina Delco, the first Black person elected to the Austin school board, in 1968, and who later served as a state representative, tells Reddick and Thompson in the initial episode.

"Yes there is, but there are certain ways it's expressed that people won't share with you."

  • The interview with Moore, founder of the Austin Justice Coalition, is a view into the life of a Black activist.
  • "I wake up everyday thinking this is the day we'll end white supremacy. It is a disease, and I'm fighting for a cure," he says.

In the frank interview he talks about the challenge of transforming white sympathy into action.

"Yes, this is about police brutality, but also about economic brutality. If you really care about Black lives and you have a house on the East Side, sell your house at a fraction of the cost you bought it for," he said.

  • "These people come to the march, they have their Black Lives Matter shirt on and then go back to their colonized house on the East Side and wonder where all the Black people are."
  • "People need to go beyond what's cute to say at the brunch," Thompson chimes in.

Between the lines: Moore also addresses tensions within organizing.

  • The Austin Justice Coalition, founded in 2015, and the NAACP, whose current director has led the chapter for decades, have differed in their organizing approaches and their relationship with police.
  • "I don't want to become that old head, that old gatekeeper who just can't get out of the way," Moore says on the podcast — without naming the NAACP or its leader. "Black men in particular have that really bad. You have this Black man who started an organization and leads it for 30 years. Somewhere in there, I guarantee you, you lost that passion, that thing that makes you want to go. I'm not there yet, but I feel it. I'm tired constantly."
  • When he was starting out as an activist, "older, more established organizations didn't want to give me a seat at the table."

The interviews are funny, too, and intimate.

  • Moore says he's a banana pudding person — people would fight over his grandmother's version — a fan of the TV show Frasier and a sneaker collector.
  • He likes Tommy Want Wingy, the Salt Lick and La Barbecue — but don't get him started about Franklin's.

The observation about eating watermelon in front of white people leads the hosts to join in.

  • "Oh sure, surveillance, I know what you're talking about," Reddick says.
  • "If there's a fruit bowl for a professional thing, I'll just get all the watermelon out and look at everybody," Thompson adds.
  • "They're like, 'Look, it's happening,'" says Reddick. "People don't understand, right? We have to go through a conscious thought process about that. We don't go there and just eat it. 'What am I sending out in the world when I do this?'"
  • "The Black vegans are very upset right now," laughs Thompson.

The bottom line: Reddick tells Axios that as "a more-or-less Austin native, I've seen the stories of Black life of Austin vastly overlooked."

  • "The stories exist — they're uplifting, inspirational and universal — but we only tend to hear the extremes. Our concept is to share what matters to Black Austinites, from all walks of life and identities. There are many ways of surviving and thriving in this community, and we want to bring those stories to a wide audience."

The big picture: The story of race relations, in Austin and across the country, is often mediated through white voices in the media, and the new podcast, told through Black voices in conversation with each other, leads to a candid accounting.

How to listen: New episodes of "Black Austin Matters" drop the first Wednesday of each month on KUT.

  • Of note: There's also robust programming, involving everything from book reviews to real estate, about Black Austin on KAZI, 88.7 FM.
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