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Moving images and archbishops on death row

By Shawn Badgley, Fri., April 2, 2004

News/Print

The Austin Public Library's Austin History Center has received the Texas Library Association's 2004 Project of the Year Award, which "recognizes projects that best exemplify the highest levels of achievement in Texas libraries over the past year and that result in improved library services for communities." In the case of the AHC, that project is "The Blue Bellies Are in Austin": Readings From the Travis County Slave Narratives, and it's a documentary based on 1930s interviews with Travis County residents who lived during the emancipation featuring archival photographs and readings of slave narratives. DVD and VHS copies of the film – a collaborative production among the AHC, the AHC Association, and the ProArts Collective – are available at the library nearest you... Sticking with the talkie tip, you might have caught the Texas Book Festival and its chair, Mary Margaret Farabee, on Dr. Detine Bowers' Common Ground (Time Warner cable access channels 10 and 16) during the past month. If not, don't worry: The shows will be re-aired in the coming months, and Bowers says more TBF-based programming is planned. Check www.commongroundinstitute.com for updates... The 11th annual Austin International Poetry Festival is gearing up for its April 15 Anthology Launch at Barnes & Noble, hosted by Barbara Youngblood Carr. Look for more in the Chronicle as the festival approaches, and see www.aipf.org for anything else you need... A week before, on Wednesday, April 7, Barnes & Noble Arboretum hosts Margaret Atwood for a reading and signing of her Oryx and Crake... Finally, an update on the Suzy Spencer-Texas Department of Criminal Justice showdown: Back in late 2003, TDCJ denied Spencer interview access to Tracey Tarlton, the former BookPeople employee who pleaded guilty to the murder of Steven Beard and testified against Beard's widow, Celeste Beard Johnson, in exchange for a 20-year sentence. Though the interview with Tarlton would have been Spencer's second for her upcoming St. Martin's Press true-crime book, at the time TDCJ cited "current media guidelines" that did not classify authors as journalists (long story short: News/Print, December 12, 2003 ). In the end, however, Spencer won out – after a massive grassroots letter-writing campaign and the threat of an ACLU lawsuit – and, after getting her interview with Tarlton, she pushed her luck and requested a second interview with Celeste Beard Johnson. After initially denying her, Spencer says the TDCJ "changed their mind," and she might have Archbishop Desmond Tutu to thank for it. Nobel Laureate Tutu and Texas death row inmate Dominique Green finally met face to face on Wednesday, March 24, after a lengthy and reportedly inspiring correspondence. But for Spencer, it meant something different than it did for Tutu and Green: "They knew I'd throw a fit," she says, because the esteemed Tutu – who doesn't necessarily fit the TDCJ's guidelines in his own right – is making the rounds on his American book tour.

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