ACC celebrates renovated, revitalized African American Cultural Center

Austin-American Statesman: ACC celebrates renovated, revitalized African American Cultural Center

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz - American-Statesman Staff

Monday, June 18, 2018

The renovated African American Cultural Center can now display artifacts without concern for their security.

The center is seen as a place to foster cross-cultural appreciation during turbulent racial times.

Austin Community College has completed a renovation of its African American Cultural Center, and a celebration Monday showcased the center’s artifacts as well as palpable enthusiasm about the need for cross-cultural appreciation during turbulent racial times.

The center has existed for years at ACC’s Eastview campus, offering movies, financial aid advice, motivational speakers, various books and periodicals, mentoring, and a place for quiet contemplation.

The renovation enclosed the roughly 850 square feet and added doors that can be locked, thus making it much easier to install valuable artifacts and other exhibits on spruced-up walls and shelves without concern for their security. The cost was nominal because ACC employees did the work, said Molly Beth Malcolm, executive vice president of campus operations and public affairs.

“It’s long overdue but very welcomed,” said Randy Stripling, a semiretired actor, Marine veteran of the Vietnam War and, at 70, one of ACC’s older students. “A place like this will offer comfort and safety, as well as being a repository for educating people.”

The current exhibit is an eclectic sampling that includes 1955 and 1961 letter jackets from the old Anderson High School, a once-segregated building just across the street from Eastview that now houses the Austin school district’s Alternative Learning Center. A sizable collection of black-and-white photographs documents the Little Rock Nine, a group of black students who in 1957 integrated Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas under the protection of the 101st Airborne Division.

“This center has tremendous potential,” said Roland Hayes, its director and a history professor, pointing to stacks of books, framed documents and other materials in his office that can now become part of rotating exhibits. Hayes teaches a course in which students research people, places and events that figured in the history of blacks in Austin.

Marvin Douglas, a 92-year-old retired firefighter, said he hopes the center will become a place where people of diverse backgrounds can come together to discuss difficult questions. One he posed, in reference to the Ku Klux Klan: “How in the world could you let a group of people with sheets on their heads run wild?”

There are questions relating to the current era as well, with neo-Nazi groups posting racist propaganda at the University of Texas and Texas State University, and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Va.

“This is an important time in our history for building bridges,” said Nelson Linder, president of the Austin branch of the NAACP. “This center is a way to become educated.”


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