Longtime Austin publisher and civil rights activist Akwasi Evans has died. He was 71.
"Akwasi had a wonderful spirit. He was a fighter," said Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion, adding that Evans had been dealing with health issues. "He worked really hard to make sure that the East Austin African American community was represented and that it had a significant role in the development of Austin. He was one-of-a-kind and will be sorely missed."
The Commissioners Court held a moment of silence after Travillion announced his death Tuesday morning.
Evans, who grew up in Kentucky and attended an all-black school before desegregation, was inspired to become an activist after attending a march led by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.
After moving to Texas, he founded NOKOA: The Observer in 1987. The progressive weekly newspaper was created to "give voice to Central Texas' political activists involved in challenging and changing antiquated laws, customs and ideals that unjustly oppress or suppress people because of their skin color, religion, sexual choice, gender identity, age, size or income."
He had also been the host of a weekly radio program called The Breakfast Club on KAZI 88.7 FM.
"He was an outstanding member of the community," said Tommy Wyatt, his former KAZI co-host, "very likable and very dependable."
Wyatt publishes The Villager, a weekly newspaper where Evans worked before starting NOKOA.
"Activism doesn't mean you have to go to a march or a rally all the time," Evans said in a video published on YouTube in 2007. "You could sit in a classroom by a think tank and work on solutions. It doesn't mean that you have to be in the street complaining; it means that you have to do something – whatever it is – to address the issue that you feel is not being satisfactorily or correctly addressed."
In 2017, Evans published an online statement saying the paper was struggling financially, and the NOKOA website is no longer active.
Memorial services have yet to be announced.