On Thursday, October 30th, Dr. Eric Tang, Assistant Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at the University of Texas, spoke to LCCE’s neighboring association at the Community Engagement Center (CEC). It was the first lecture to jump start a Community Engagement Dialogue series hosted by the CEC for all Austin community members.
Dr. Tang has published multiple essays on race and urban social movements and is currently researching the past and present of racial segregation in Austin, Texas. His lecture focused on the declining African American population in the Austin area. Dr. Tang sparked a conversation amongst the multiple generations present at the lecture, bringing forth a conversation of early Austin and how it has transformed today. The biggest issue concerned how current transitions have caused African Americans to migrate out of the Austin area.
Dr. Tang showed statistics for other major cities, such as New York, San Diego, Chicago, and Washington D.C. These cities have also experienced a decline in the African American population. Curiosity beamed through the audience, asking the question, “why is there an increase in population growth but a decline of African American groups in cities that are culturally and socially progressive?” Theories jumped around the room, including gentrification, job opportunities, and the percentage of college students moving to these cities and driving older residents out.
The interactive lecture was a success in getting community members involved with issues and impacts in their hometown. Academic Advisor for the School of Social Work and audience member at the lecture, Alexis George, felt that Austin’s history and the people who live in it should be embraced more in order to keep populations from moving away.
“I would love to see a collaboration within the community to remind and teach the new generation of the history of Austin and who calls it home.” Alexis says, “Many people who moved away, feel erased and disconnected to the new Austin.”
Overall, the lecture sparked ideas, opinions, and the involvement within community members. LCCE Assistant Vice President, Suhitra Gurura, felt the goal of the lecture was reached well.
“For me, the highlight of the evening was the interaction among generations in that room and the clear wish of our students to learn from their elders in the community,” says Suchitra, “It was clear to me that this sort of forum is something that folks have been waiting for, and I’m excited that we all were able to provide it.”
The next Community Engagement Dialog will be in January 2015. Follow us on Facebook or the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement News blog for more information on attending future lectures.