'Black Austin Matters' Painted Across Congress Avenue In Downtown Austin

Jun 16, 2020

Parts of Congress Avenue were closed Tuesday as crews painted "Black Austin Matters" across several blocks of the downtown Austin street.

"Congress Avenue is a canvas of our city," Austin Transportation Department said in a tweet announcing the mural between Sixth and Ninth streets. "From marathons to marches, stories are made here. Some don’t have the chance to tell their stories so this morning we gave them the canvas."

Clifford Gillard, president of Capitol View Arts, an organization that promotes Black and Brown artists — primarily from East Austin — said the street mural is a collective work between his group, Austin Justice Coalition and the City of Austin.

Tenaishia Morris helps paint the mural along Congress Avenue on Tuesday morning.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

"In every metric that the city measures, Black Austin is at the bottom of it, and it's a serious problem," he said. "So we're trying to elevate that voice a little bit."

Gillard told KUT's Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon it took a week "full of hard work, going back and forth" for the mural to happen. 

Several cities nationwide have painted "Black Lives Matter" on major roads, including 16th Street in front of the White House.

The city said to expect closures as crews work on the painting.

Talib Abdullahi, 30, says he took a break from working at home to watch the mural being painted. To him, the gesture on the part of the city seemed significant. 

Last week, he led a bike ride across Austin – a tour of Black history that went west to the historic freedmen's colony of Clarksville, then all the way across I-35 to historically Black neighborhoods in East Austin, where he lives. 

The "Black Austin Matters" mural spans Sixth Street to Ninth Street in downtown Austin.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

As a Black Austinite, he says the city hasn't done enough to preserve those neighborhoods or at least stall gentrification that's priced out Black neighbors. 

The mural is a step toward a more tangible acknowledgment of the city's role in gentrification, but it's just a single step in a single moment.

"It is an interesting move, but at the same time, I welcome it," he says, "because I think the larger context is that the city is moving to try to do the right thing. And I mean, I think figuring out the right thing to do is going to take a long time."

This story has been updated.

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