The Duty to Give Back
Lend a Hand
When I moved to Austin, I almost immediately (within the first six months) connected with PODER, an Eastside environmental justice group, on issues affecting this historically marginalized part of Austin. Over the years, many successes have been achieved for the Eastside in terms of improving environmental quality and the overall quality of life. Unfortunately, now that the community is safe from toxic pollution and other environmental hazards, gentrification has reared its ugly head. While people should be breathing easier (literally and figuratively), the threat of being priced out of their own neighborhood has brought a new threat and heightened levels of stress and concern to Eastside families. Many leaders have professed a commitment to address the challenge gentrification, but none of us (including me when I served as a city council member in Austin) addressed in any measurable way.
Addressing Displacement on Austin’s Eastside
Since no policy or legislative fix has been attainable after more than a decade of community advocacy, my wife and I and a few close friends started the East Austin Conservancy (also known as Eastside Guardians). The purpose of the groups is to preserve the things that are being lost at a rapid pace on Austin’s Eastside as a result of gentrification (specifically, the displacement of long-time homeowners/businesses and loss of historic/cultural resources). Right now, Eastside Guardians raise a modest amount of money each year to help low-income families keep up with their property tax obligations. With more resources, we can have a much greater impact.
I offer I Saved My Soul Through Rock-n-Roll as a free resource and ask that if you as an individual or artist found some value in the story being told, that you consider donating to the group or hosting a fundraising event for the group. If there are bands from other cities who want to hold a fundraiser, don’t feel compelled to come to Austin. We can come to you (since that may be cheaper). But if you want to come visit our fair city and help show how rock-n-roll can help save an entire community, then come on down! I am sure we can pair you up with some local bands who are like-minded in their commitment to help the Eastside.
A Side Note
An earlier fundraising strategy that I pursued in support of Eastside Guardians was to go on a seven day bread and water fast. The organization had received a challenge grant of $25,000 and we were about a week away from the deadline for meeting the match. We were still $9,000 short of meeting the match. Since fundraising appeals had already failed, I had to try something new. I announced that I would be going on a bread and water fast until the needed funds were secured without really knowing what the response would be. I literally went 7 days without eating a real meal. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. It is as if I became in tune with the Universe in a very unique and special way. In the end, we raised $11,000. Thanks to all who stepped to help before any (serious) physical or mental damage was done!
I put my body on the line to try to make a difference through my “fast for homes and hope.” The book writing process for I Saved My Soul Through Rock-n-Roll was surreal and challenging in its own right. I suppose that in writing this book, I am bearing my soul for the Eastside instead of putting my body on the line for the Eastside (as in the case of the fast). I suppose the message is to use anything that you have at your disposal to make a difference. I make this appeal in that spirit, not for the sake of being opportunistic or to guilt anyone into taking action. If you feel moved to act, then please act!
The “Fast for Homes” Songlist on Spotify (featuring U2 songs) lists the song for each day of the fast that I used to draw inspiration and that I shared as part of my social media posts.