These days, when you read about Austin’s African-American community in the news it’s not usually a happy story. Whether discussing the city’s skyrocketing real estate prices and resulting gentrification in East Austin, or the dubious distinction as the fastest growing city in the country with a declining African-American population, there has been very little to celebrate. Huston-Tillotson, Austin’s only traditionally black university, sits in the midst of what was once a thriving community, but recently it almost seems like the ground is slipping away right under the historic buildings.
In what is hopefully the first of many investments in the University and surrounding community, Huston-Tillotson received an unprecedented gift when civil rights leader and philanthropist Ada Collins Anderson donated $3 million on Monday, June 23rd. The gift will help construct the Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center Center, which will provide mental and behavioral health services to low-income residents in the community.
While this is the largest donation Huston-Tillotson has ever received, Anderson has a long history of working to improve Austin. In addition to her dedication to Austin’s civil rights movement, Anderson helped found the Austin chapter of Jack and Jill of America. In 1982 Anderson was elected to the Austin Community College Board, making her the first African-American elected to a countywide office in Travis County. She has continued to serve her community in a multitude of capacities over the years, and her recent donation is welcome news both for East Austin and everyone who values diversity in Austin. Our city will continue to grow and evolve, but unless it can reverse the disturbing racial trend of recent decades it will largely do so without an African-American voice.
We applaud Ada Collins Anderson’s tremendously generous contribution and hope that it inspires others to step up and help preserve all of Austin’s distinct cultures and communities. Thus far Austin’s story has been rich and diverse, but without more bold actions it will be tough to keep it that way.