Eastside Community Organizations
All the consensus-building in creation can't obfuscate the fact that things work differently on the Eastside. Austin may seem incestuous to central-city liberals surprised to run into friends and allies over margaritas, but that's only because, in the majority culture, we're used to segregating our pursuits; there is a time and a place for business, another for politics, another for pick-up games of basketball. Such is not the traditional norm on the much more organic, if less "organized," Eastside; the church, the school, the workplace, the early-morning breakfast or Sunday dinner, the fishing expedition, and pub crawl have all been legitimate venues for political decision-making and debate.
Which is to say that the following list should be used with caution as a roadmap. On the Westside, you would not likely encounter a civic leader in any venue other than in their own organizations; the fact that many Austinites know Brigid Shea personally is held to be singular. On the Eastside, it's not unusual for just-folks, far from "activists" in the Westside sense, to know Gus Garcia, or Paul Hernandez or Ron Davis, or even Jo Baylor (though not Eric Mitchell). So this directory is only one vantage point of the entity called "Eastside politics."
The following is roughly organized into broad-based activist groups, neighborhood associations, churches, media, and other institutions. Key groups and players in the list have annotations; contact information comes from several printed sources and, largely, from the Austin Public Library's organization file. If we have the wrong information, we sincerely apologize beforehand.
- Mike Clark-Madison
Black Citizens Task Force, Dorothy Turner, 926-5271
Turner has had an interesting role on the East Side; her assertive stances and rhetoric used to allow her to play good cop/bad cop in tandem with mainstream black leaders like Wilhelmina Delco, Bernice Hart, and Charles Urdy. With the passing of that old guard, the BCTF has been left without much of a portfolio, and such acts as Turner's ringing endorsement of Eric Mitchell over Ron Davis have diminshed her credibility as a independent progressive voice.
Central East Austin Community Organization, Inc. (CEACO), 1715 E. Sixth, 472-5575
El Concilio de East Town Lake Citizens, Edward Rendon, 1705 Haskell, 478-3897
At present, the de facto hub of the long-lived fiefdom of Eastside legend-in-his-own-
time Paul Hernandez. El Concilio is the only substantial presence in East Austin politics with roots in 1960s-70s up-against-the-wall radicalism, as expressed by the confrontational, liberationist Brown Berets. Over the years, the trilateral relationship between El Concilio, the pre-existing Hispanic establishment (the "Clique"), and Anglo Austin has been extraordinarily complicated, to the point where many activists simply give the Hernandicistas a wide berth. After several notable street-level successes (the relocation of the Aquafest boat races) and electoral near-misses, El Concilio reached its mainstream apex in 1991 with the election of Hernandez ally Marcos de Leon to the Travis County Commissioners' Court. It's been downhill from there, with internal disputes, personal problems, suspicions of ethical sloppiness, and most recently Hernandez' protacted recovery from a stroke, sapping the coalition's strength. The renewal of interest in the Holly Street Power Plant - located in the heart of El Concilio's most secure domain - has breathed some life into the group.
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 85,Cynthia Valadez, 94 East Avenue, 78701, 477-1224
Las Mujeres de East Austin, Jane Haney, 3100 East Fourth, 473-2028
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Austin Chapter, Jeff Travillion, 1704 East 12th, 476-6230
(NAACP Community Development Resource Center: 2209 Rosewood, 477-5541)
The local chapters of the big national civil-rights associations have done good work and given structure to Austin's minority politics, but are not nearly the major presence in local affairs that LULAC and the NAACP are in other cities. Both are well-connected to statewide politics; the local NAACP was the home turf of Gary Bledsoe, perhaps the state's most important black activist until he was sacrificed to the Republicans as reparations for the Kay Bailey Hutchison mess.
Residents United Corp., Della Green, 1801 East Fourth, 474-5190
A two-time candidate for City Council, Green has built her rep as the voice of Austin's public-housing tenants; she's also been active in a number of more ephemeral Eastside groups with less visibility across I-35.
Save Our Neighborhoods, Inc., Aronetta Jo Cash Baylor, 1101 Navasota, 459-5163
Despite her rep in progressive circles as some sort of sideshow freak, Austin's most visible black conservative has an Eastside pedigree - the daughter of longtime Kealing principal and Midtown Live proprietress Selena Cash, a grande dame of black Austin if ever there was one - that gives her more credibility than one might suspect. Save Our Neighborhoods, though, is a confusing concept, since most of the precincts around her sizable landholdings in the Rosewood triangle are pretty far from saved. Look for Jo Baylor to be a major player in Eric Mitchell's scheme to reinvent the East 11th/12th Street Corridor, and the concurrent sotto voce push to "upgrade" the neighboring residential areas out of existence.
United East Austin Coalition, Sabino Renteria, 1511 Haskell, 478-4767
Sabino and Lori Renteria were staunch allies of Paul Hernandez through one of El Concilio's brighter phases, the successful organization in the early 1980s of the Guadalupe neighborhood, a case study in Eastside self-empowerment. Since then, the Renterias have gone their own way and moved down to Holly Street (where Lori heads the neighborhood association); the United East Austin Coalition has been very active in the struggle over the power plant.
PODER (People Organized in Defense of the Earth and her Resources),Susana Almanza, 55 N IH-35, 472 9921
EAST (East Austin Strategy Team),Ron Davis, 5403 Chevy Circle, 78723, 928-4498
So sad about Ron. After having built up a near-impeccable reputation for good works and common sense, and after having forged the strongest bonds in memory between Eastside and Westside progressives, Ron Davis forgot that Austin doesn't have single-member districts and blew his race against Eric Mitchell in spectacular fashion. Not much has been heard from him since. Both EAST and PODER came to prominence (the latter, into existence) during the battle over the now-defunct Govalle tank farm, and held down the minority end of the SOS Coalition.
Multicultural Action Project, Akwasi Evans, 1154-B Angelina, 499-8713
Black Voters Action Project, Charles Miles, 6448 Hwy. 290 E. #H-102, 78723, 451-6600
Two Eastside publishers branch out into direct action. For Evans, MAP is his primary local vehicle for this quest, though its impact has never been that substantial. The BVAP appears as sporadically as has Miles' paper, the Capital City Argus, but is seen as a key endorse-ment for candidates come election time.
East Austin Economic Development Corp., 1010 E. 10th, 472 1472
Central East Austin Business Owners Assoc.,Laura K. Culin, 2415 E. Fifth, 477-7339
East Austin Business/Community Assoc., Paul Rosa, 905 Shady Lane, 385-4600
Capital City Chamber of Commerce,5407 N. I-35, Suite 304, 78723, 459-1181
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,815 San Jacinto #203, 78701, 476-7502
The Eastside business organizations tend to be rather fluid in their constituency and goals. Of the two chambers, Cap City (representing black businesses) is more deeply rooted in the Eastside than is the Hispanic Chamber, which is dominated by key Hispanics in mainstream Austin business, and often echoes the Greater Austin Chamber itself.
Barrio Unido Neighborhood Association, Frances Martinez, 1105 E. Third, 474-5359
Both of these associations, along with several others, form the foundation of El Concilio de Town Lake Citizens (see above).
Blackland Neighborhood Development Corp., Charles Smith, 2005 Salina, 472-6882
One of the most pleasant and inspirational of Eastside neighborhood stories, Blackland has managed to survive and thrive, on its own terms, despite massive encroachment by commercial development, gentrification in neighboring French Place, and rapacious land gobbling by the University of Texas.
Blackshear Residents,Ora Lee Nobles, 2008 East Eighth, 472-1880
Central East Austin Buena Vista Neighborhood Association, Hortencia Rangel, 2909 East Third, 385-5022
Chalmers Courts Residents Council, Maureen Douglas, 1801 East Fourth,
Clifford-Sanchez Neighborhood Association, Darlene Ephraim, 1702 Clifford, 495-9610
East First-Holly Street Neighborhood Association, Lori Renteria, 1511 Haskell, 478-4767
The Gardens Neighborhood Association, Dionichio Sanchez, 906 Chote, 385-1258
Glen Oaks (Rosewood Village) Neighborhood Organization, Elizabeth Snipes, 3000 Kuhlman, 476-9548
Govalle Alliance for Survival, Aliecia Garcia, 4702 Gonzales, 385-7431
The acronym GAS dates from the tank-farm battle, but the Alliance is still intact as Govalle's neighborhood association.
Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp., Amelia R. Rios, 1113 East Ninth, 479-6275
Guadalupe Association for an Improved Neighborhood (GAIN), Delia Sifuentes, 1104 East 10th, 472-1307
Both the Guadalupe groups are descendants of the original Guadalupe Area Neighborhood Association (GANA), founded by Lori and Sabino Renteria as part of what is now El Concilio. The neighborhood's battles against the presumed-dead Bennett mall will go down as a watershed event in the history of East Austin; to explain the details and meanings therein would take a book.
Greater East Austin Neighborhood Assoc., Michael Monreal, 1909 Willow, 478-1452
Maple Creek Organization, Raydell Galloway, 1914-B East 12th, 477-0542
McKinley Heights Neighborhood Association, Lamar Kirkven, 1311 Harvey, 477-0868
MLK/Airport Boulevard Sector, Edna O. Rhambo, 1810 Miriam, 476-2268
MLK/Eleventh Street Association,Gussie Houston, 1313 Cotton, 478-2283
Our East Side Neighborhood Association, Nola M. Chase, 1174 Graham, 476-0484
Robertson Hill Neighborhood Organization, Donna Shepherd, 1178 San
Once Austin's premier black neighborhood, Robertson Hill is quickly becoming multi-racial a la Guadalupe. After being nearly invisible for years, the association has been reconstituted under the leadership of Shepherd, the area's most vocal activist.
Rosewood-Zaragoza Advisory Committee, Willie Drisdale/Rev. Will B. Southerland 2800-2808, Webberville Road, 476-4732
Swede Hill Neighborhood Association,Mike Tolleson, 1007 East 16th, 476-1413
Likely the only predominantly white association on the East Side - reflecting the tiny neighborhood itself, of mixed culture since its turn-of-the-century inception - Swede Hill and neighboring Robertson Hill promise to be the next battleground (after Guadalupe) in the incipient commercialization of the Inner Eastside. The threat du jour in Swede Hill is a proposed hotel at the confluence of MLK and I-35.
Claude W. White Neighborhood Association, Maggie W. Demps, 1808 Ulit, 472-4238
ARRIBA, Romeo Rodrigues, PO Box 126571, 78711, 479-6397
ARRIBA, which focuses more on feature topics, shares the Hispanic newspaper market with Cathy Vasquez-Revilla's La Prensa; the latter would be here as well, except that it's published in South Austin and reflects the latter area's somewhat different perspective.
Austin Sun, 6448 Hwy. 290 East, 78723, 467-2881
The new kids in town, this offshoot of the successful Houston Sun has introduced splashy graphics and color work into the East Side newspaper scene, but has yet to find an editorial niche between the homey Villager and brash Nokoa.
Capital City Argus, Charles Miles, 6448 Hwy. 290 East #H-102, 78723, 451-6600
Seldom seen west of I-35, but a must-read during election season when Miles expounds on local candidates. See Black Voters Action Project under "Activist Groups."
KAZI 88.7 FM, Michael Coleman, 8906 Wall Street, 78754, 836-9544
Yes, that Michael Coleman. The former sportscaster, with help from some aggressive members of the board, intends to help Austin's oldest community radio station (founded in 1982) realize its potential as a voice of the black community.
NOKOA-The Observer, Akwasi Evans, 1154-B Angelina, 499-8713
The passionate and quirky Evans has always aimed to speak for a broad range of Austin progressives, not just African-Americans. Evans is furthering his political involvement with the Multicultural Action Project. See "Activists Groups."
The Villager Newspaper, Tommy Wyatt, 1223 Rosewood Avenue, 476-0082
Austin's longest-lived and most persistent black community newspaper.
This is by no means a complete list of Eastside churches; the following are well known and have political impact, but there are many, many more congregations that play a part in the Eastside scene. To be conversant in the basics, though, here's the ones you have to know:
Cristo Rey Catholic Church, 2110 East Second, 474-6386
Dolores Catholic Church, 1111 Montopolis, 385-4333
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rev. Marvin Griffin, 1010 East 10th Street, 478-1875
Located in the mostly non-black Guadalupe neighborhood, Ebenezer's looming presence took on unpleasant symbolism when it became involved in the Bennett mess (the church owned a large portion of the land that would have gone to the mall project).
Grant Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1109 Chicon, 472-2827
Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church, Rev. N.W. Bacon, Jr., 1801 Pennsylvania Avenue, 478-7578 (Dial-A-Prayer: 478-5304)
Locked in perpetual rivalry with Ebenezer as the Austin black church, GMZ seems to appeal to a slightly glossier crowd.
Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1610 East 11th, 472-3741
Austin's leading black Catholic church, allied with the now-defunct Holy Cross Hospital.
Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, Reverend M.C. Walker, 3401 Rogge Lane, 928-2401
One of the oldest churches in Austin, formerly located, as the name implies, in Blackland.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, 1206 East Ninth, 478-7955
Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 5909 Reicher, 926-2552
Probably the largest Catholic church serv-ing the Eastside, though Austin's Catholic congregations are often more socioeconomically diverse than the Protestant ones; one can find Eastside Catholics at churches in Central Austin (St. Mary's), South Austin (St. Peter the Apostle), and even Southwest Austin (St. Catherine of Siena) as well.
St. James Episcopal Church, Rev. Bill Miller, 3701 East MLK, 926-6339
Probably the only really prominent Eastside church that's not Baptist, AME, or Catholic.
Black Arts Alliance, Micheale Bocknite, 1157 Navasota, 477-9660
Huston-Tillotson College, Dr. Joseph McMillan, 900 Chicon, 505-3000
St. Joseph Grand Lodge AM and FM of Texas (Masonic Lodge), M.J. Anderson, Sr., Grand Master, 1017 East 11th, 459-5443, 477-8909