So writes attorney Maryann Overath from the threadbare trenches of the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP). Since their last fundraiser went belly up, Project staff has been doing a good bit of soul searching - questioning their own PR skills, yes, but also this: Is Austin in the mid-1990s still willing to pay the price for civil rights?
Unlike for-profit law firms, the TCRP works in areas where justice and fat commissions rarely coincide: free speech, employment discrimination, police misconduct, disability rights, voting rights, education law, and constitutional issues. In fact, the Project is the only outfit in Texas that regularly provides free legal representation to civil rights plaintiffs. Most lawyers would turn them down cold: There's no percentage in their day in court.
Many of the cases have a Can't Happen Here flavor, like the story of Osee Hubbell, who came to the Project after she was assaulted in her own front yard by a small-town sheriff's deputy. She was not under arrest at the time of the incident, nor was she being held for questioning. The 6', 225 lb., officer claimed he beat the 5', 100 lb. Hubbell in the face "for his own protection." When Hubbell reported the incident to the sheriff's office, the sheriff refused to take action or even write down her complaint. With the Project's help, Hubbell is now fighting to force her local government to listen to, and protect, its own citizens.
Reverend Maurice Walk-er turned to the Project, frustrated after a 10-year fight to change Del Valle's school board elections (though minorities constituted over half the district's population, the expense of running in an at-large system had effectively locked browns and blacks out of the process). With the help of the Project, Walker finally pushed single-member districts over the top last year. As a result, six minorities now sit on the Del Valle school board, including an Hispanic president, vice-president, and secretary.
But enough with the cuddly case histories. The TCRP has slated another fundraiser for next week - which means we've got a second chance to prove that we, as a city, do give a rat's behind about what's fair and what's not.
So write it down: Thursday, May 4, 6-10:30pm at La Zona Rosa. Your $10 donation gets you music by The Damnations plus a roast of Project director Jim Harrington, who'll come under major firepower from Jim Hightower, Garry Mauro, Sissy Farenthold, and Glen Maxey, among others.
And if you start to waffle, remember this: These guys are pulling some damn cold duty for all of us. They don't get rich, they don't get famous; they do it because they still believe. The question is, do we?
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? Finally got around to renting Sleepless in Seattle, Nora Ephron's hit romantic comedy of a few years back. Granted, it's a fantasy, but one scene seemed particularly off: Meg Ryan sits on a bench overlooking the darkened Baltimore waterfront. It's night and she's alone in a deserted urban landscape (nuts enough in itself), but is she even looking over her shoulder like any real-life female with half her Spaghettios would be? No, she's relaxed, beaming, taking in the stars as if she had every right to... as if she were safe or something.
Which puts us in mind of Take Back the Night, happening Friday, April 28, 6-10pm, at Shipe Park, 45th & Avenue G. Look for songs, speeches, and safety in numbers as women stay out after dark to rally against sexual assault (lousy weather sends the whole thing to Hyde Park Methodist Church).
If you've forgotten what it's like to sit unafraid under the night sky, here's your chance. It's not Sleepless, but it's a start.
YOUR DONKEY ON ACID: Just a reminder that Eeyore's Birthday Party is on for this Saturday (April 29, 11am-dusk, in Pease Park). The annual debauch still boasts a healthy dose of psychedelia and barely-there costumes, but you'll find tamer stuff, too, such as a special Pooh Corner for kids, open 11am-3pm. The party's free; concession sales benefit a slew of local nonprofits, including the University Y and others.
VELVEETA LAS VEGAS, JR.: Break out the Ritz crackers, Agnes. The world's cheesiest benefit is back and it's oranger than ever.
Now on round two,Viva Las Vegas!hits the Austin Music Hall this Saturday (April 29, 8pm-2am, 208 Nueces). Think tawdry as an art form: blackjack, craps, roulette, wheel of fortune, plus live music, live and silent auctions, and a repeat performance by Elvis.
Back, too, is the Love Me Tender Wedding Chapel, where couples take non-binding vows delivered by the King himself before filing for a quickie annulment next door. (In the market for something legal? Call first and they'll have a real JP standing by.)
Tickets are $5 in advance or $7 at the door, with proceeds earmarked for AIDS Services of Austin and the Capital Area AIDS Legal Project. Call 406-6114 for yours.
CHARMED: On a more civilized note, the Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus presents its annual "Rights of Spring" Garden Party & Reception (Sunday, April 30, 5-10pm at the Hancock Recreation Center, 811 E. 41st). Expect food, wine, music, and auctioneering, plus schmoozing with sympathetic politicos. The event's a fundraiser for the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, which'll preview its new "Focus '96" program at the party. For details, call 474-0750.
UNHAND THOSE TOMATOES, YOU FASCIST SWINE: The Political Asylum Project of Austin holds its annual plant sale this Saturday (April 29, 8am-5pm, at 3804 Avenue H). Stock up on herbs and greenery for your garden at prices that beat the local nursery's with a rubber hose. Proceeds will help P.A.P.A. provide legal aid to political refugees who've faced a lot worse.
A NOVEL APPROACH TO FUNDRAISING: Amy's Ice Cream and Mangia Pizza are throwing a party to celebrate the opening of their new joined-at-the-hip digs (Sunday, April 30, noon-4pm, at 3500 Guadalupe). There'll be free ice cream and pizza for all, though it's also billed as benefit for Christopher House. Why not drop by and see how they get your money?
SHUT IT DOWN: Finally, a group called the Mayday Memorial Coalition invites you to join Workers Against Wage Slavery, a march and general strike scheduled for Monday, May 1. The march leaves at 1:30pm from the corner of Comal & Cesar Chavez, and ends at 3pm with festive insurrection at Republic Square (Fourth & Guadalupe).