In the Eye of the Beholder: A Museum Exhibition Review

ACCENT’s Web Content Editor, Angelica Ruzanova, gives us an in-depth look into Daniel Johnston’s “I Live My Broken Dreams” exhibition at The Contemporary Austin’s Jones Center.

Story by Angelica Ruzanova 

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Truth, deep-seated within each one of us, finds its own way of expressing itself. For the late Austin artist and musician Daniel Johnston, it manifested through personified ideas in his imaginary – and perhaps very real – scattered world. 

Upon my first visit to the installation located within The Contemporary Austin’s Jones Center museum on Congress Avenue active from September 11, 2021, to March 20, 2022, my friend and I overheard a gentleman admiring the hung pieces on the walls in awe. He was led by a guide and was in a rush, but it was clear how much every display meant to him. 

We later determined the visitor to be Johnston’s best friend, David Thornberry. Thornberry is also an artist and painted the Jones Center exhibition’s front entrance portrait in Johnston’s memory. The acrylic painting on 24″ x 30″ canvas portrayed Johnston in his McDonald’s uniform from his days working there in the 1980s. 

An art gallery filled with Daniel Johnston's work.
The gallery at The Contemporary Austin’s Jones Center featured the work of late Austin artist Daniel Johnston. Best known for his mural of a frog asking “Hi, How Are You?” Johnston was also a prolific musician with a distinct childlike voice. Courtesy of The Contemporary Austin website.

The guide leading Thornberry, Tori Sal, gave us insight into the museum’s collaboration with individuals and organizations who helped make the exhibit become a reality. 

“The Contemporary worked with the Daniel Johnston Foundation and collaborated with No Comply – the skating company downtown, as well as Vans and a lot of local businesses,” Sal said. “We worked with Austin Books and Comics to recreate this comic book in his style to celebrate him, and the mural on the side of our building was premiered on Daniel Johnston’s day.”

The collection of handwritten letters, poems and symbolic artwork showcase the progression of Johnston’s rugged fate, and the newspaper features with authentic cassette tapes are an exploration beyond merely make-believe worlds. The displayed work of the late songwriter and cartoonist is a deep dive inside the heart, mind, and soul of an intuitively-driven prodigy of outsider culture and underground music.

The Person

“Well it just goes to show that we are all on our own

Scrounging for our own share of good luck.”

Lyrics from “Grievances” in Daniel Johnston’s album “Songs of Pain.”
Daniel Johnston’s sketches portray common themes the late Austin artist used in his drawings. He frequently used satanic imagery, humans with cut-off limbs, and multi-eyed animals. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

The innate drive to create began early in Johnston’s childhood. His predominantly Christian household and the popular culture of the time sparked an interest to draw random sketches and recreate the likeness of various comic book characters in his notebooks.

Elements paralleling Vincent Van Gogh’s art style, Cubism, and recurring appraisals of John Lennon of the Beatles shaped Johnston’s style into what would become a proliferation of unfiltered thoughts inspired by his early idols. As a young student, Johnston began writing songs to amuse his classmate for whom he’d formed an unrequited love.

When Johnston moved to Austin in the early 1980s, the young artist would hand out homemade tapes, which were recorded individually on a portable recording device, to strangers and friends while working at a McDonald’s near the University of Texas at Austin. It was through Johnston’s method of making direct connections with people in Austin that he began recruiting a local audience. 

Daniel Johnston's musical instruments are arranged in a display in The Contemporary Austin's Jones Center.
The Contemporary Austin was able to acquire Daniel Johnston’s musical instruments for their exhibit “I Live My Broken Dreams.” With this display, the museum aimed to portray the eccentric artist’s workspace and influences. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

As word of his music spread, so did his cult-like following. Johnston’s childish-like voice accompanied by often sorrowful and sincere lyrics yielded a wave of national recognition for the alternative feel of his music, especially after it was featured on a 1985 MTV episode of “The Cutting Edge”. The title of his first song on television, “Broken Dreams” premiered in front of a live audience. Among his fans and supporters, Johnston was acknowledged as an inspiration to other artists and bands such as Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth, and Yo La Tengo. 

Johnston’s mental health began deteriorating around the time of his rise to fame. His unresolved love for his lifelong muse and trips in and out of psych wards undoubtedly made Johnston live his “broken dreams.”

The Art 

“The sun shines brightly on my soul

But, there’s something missing.”

Lyrics from “Mind Contorted” in Daniel Johnston’s album “Fun.”
Wild images from Daniel Johnston portray a sinister looking devil, a three-eyed dog from hell, a boxer with an erection fighting a many eyed monster are some of the many images drawn.
“Daniel Johnston’s Symbolical Visions” gives the viewer insight into themes he used throughout his art. Some images are graphic, some are dark and grotesque while others are occasionally cute, but they all allow the viewer to understand the artist’s mind. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

Johnston’s work is a deep dive inside a scattered mind.

One of my favorite pieces, “Daniel Johnston’s Symbolical Visions,” reveals so much about the inner workings of his often religiously interpreted delusions. Demon figures, bodies with cut-off limbs, void heads, and imaginative frog-like creatures with many (and I mean many) eyeballs are common themes in the work displayed at the installation. 

Every time I laid eyes on one of Johnston’s sketched pieces, the amount of detail enveloped me in its metaphorical universe of events that were either real, made-up, or a mixture of both. 

Whether the framework of these anarchic universes is what led to Johnston’s displaced reality or if the digression in his mental state was what the drawings depicted, the line between “art” and mental illness is blurred. 

In the self-titled excerpt “The Origin of the Dead Dog’s Eyeball,” Johnston recalls various memoirs on the distinguishable side of a double-sided paper handwritten in blue ink. His first known word “eye,” his inspiration from a Beatles song lyric, and a vivid memory from a road trip during his childhood make it possible for him to jump through timelines of his life.

Many sketches of Daniel Johnston's "Captain American" series.
Daniel Johnston’s untitled “Capitan America” series showcases a more fictitious side of the late Austin artist. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

In his Captain America extensive collection of comic-like drawings with colorful markers, he implies hyper self-awareness through satirical comics and phrases like “fear yourself,” “it’s cold to be alive,” and “there is still hope.” 

A lot of Johnston’s artwork is a product of isolation, and so he often speaks of existentialism and makes naive jokes about serious issues or situations. It is simultaneously strange, captivating, and raw. And yet at times, it’s relatable, refreshing, and original. 

The Phenomenon 

“When I was a little kid

And all the people they looked big

I never exactly understood

How to tell the trees from the wood.”

Lyrics from “Joy Without Pleasure” in Daniel Johnston’s album “Songs of Pain.”
An image of a man with only a skull for a head plays a small piano.
Another of Daniel Johnston’s sketches at The Contemporary Austin. Johnston, who played the piano himself, may have been attempting a self-portrait in this sketch. Photo by Angelica Ruzanova.

With a huge, messy collection of EPs and albums in his discography, lofi self-taped recordings and serious struggles with mental health, Daniel Johnston checks all the boxes for artists categorized into the “outsider” music genre. 

Artists in this unofficial category, often driven to create music out of self-prophetic callings and not out of contractual obligations, have an unconventional sound and look to their art. But getting past the first impression of the strangeness and eccentricity of their work allows the observer to experience a new perspective on the world. 

If you want to dive deeper into the world of outsider music and the fine line between creativity and mental displacement, I recommend this documentary on origins of outsider music and this short film about Johnston’s embodied manic schizophrenia.  

From his famous mural promoting an album titled “Hi, How Are You?” on a now out-of-business indie record store on Guadalupe Street, to the misery and hope depicted in his homemade recordings and sketches, Daniel Johnston openly shared his vulnerability with the world for all to see.

Learn How to Go Green with ACC’s Green Team

Story by Georgina Barahona

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Have you ever wondered what you could do to protect the natural environment around you? Have you ever tried to calculate and lower your carbon footprint? 

Austin Community College’s Office of Energy & Sustainability can help you address these questions and discover how you can get involved in creating a more sustainable world through green initiatives led by their Green Team.

The large and ever-growing department’s Green Team consists of ACC faculty, staff and students who volunteer to improve environmental sustainability on campus and throughout the surrounding city.

The office and its Green Team work to continuously elevate the knowledge of sustainability to those they have the opportunity to work with, students and community members alike.

The Green Team welcomes all volunteers with open arms, no matter what community they come from. 

Inspired by the work of the Office of Energy & Sustainability, Angelica Ruzanova, a first-year journalism major at ACC, decided to join the Green Team last fall.

“Our ACC Green Team works by offering particular activities, advocacy and action,” Ruzanova said. 

The organization has a calendar of events accessible to anyone who wants to join their movement in ecological restoration, including events offered by The Trail Foundation.

“The Trail Foundation is a beautiful place to start with hands-on projects,” Ruzanova said. “We do planting, weeding, invasive species removal, trash clean-up, mulching, and other ecological restoration activities on the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail.” 

Angelica Ruzanova works with other Green Team members to spread mulch at the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail. Follow the foundation’s Instagram account @thetrailfoundation.

You can find the organization’s events calendar by clicking this link. The Green Team provides a wide variety of events curated to teach individuals how to take that first step towards environmental awareness.

One of the upcoming events that is open to ACC students is the Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability on Monday, April 4, 2022 from 1 pm to 5 pm. 

The event is a free student virtual summit with the theme being student empowerment and climate action. If you would like to attend the conference, send an email to the Green Team at [email protected]

If you get involved with ACC’s Green Team, they’ll introduce you to the seemingly endless possibilities to learn new and realistic ways to combat climate change.

From helping to implement sustainable living ideas into a conference like Adulting 101, to acquiring access to off-campus events where other like-minded individuals share ideas about approaching ecological restoration, there are countless opportunities to get involved.

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Sustainability Manager at ACC’s Office of Energy & Sustainability, works with her teammates and volunteers to find new and creative ways to make fighting climate change accessible and achievable to the everyday person.

“My passion is working with each person & getting them to understand that the little things you do have a big impact,” Rostamnezhad said. “I do that by tabling with students at ACC and creating resources for people to use after their time at ACC.” 

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Sustainability Manager at ACC’s Office of Energy & Sustainability, speaks to ACCENT reporter, Georgina Barahona, about her office and the Green Team’s recent work.

Ruzanova says the Green Team is a place where you can share your ideas about sustainability and work with the team to turn those ideas into reality.

“Starting small, on an individual level is what makes it special,” Ruzanova said.

“You can go from so many angles with sustainability because it’s a universal movement acknowledged throughout the world, with people from different demographics and different socio economic levels bringing something to the table by sharing their stories,” Ruzanova said. 

“Having organizations such as ACC Green Team, who work so hard to organize these events, is a step towards widespread sustainability in our community in Austin and a realistic example of what action is capable of,” Ruzanova said.

But ACC did not always have sustainability in mind. As the consensus around climate change reached a tipping point during the 2000s, the college moved to change with the times.

The blueprint to enact college-wide sustainability policies was created and adopted by ACC in 2009 with the C-9 Sustainable Practices Policy and the Sustainable Construction and College Operations Guidelines/Procedures. In the same year, ACC joined the Carbon Commitment, which is a public pledge for the school to take steps to make the entire college carbon neutral. 

As these initiatives were put to the forefront of the college’s taskbook, the steps to creating climate neutrality among the college were put into full effect.

But wait, what is climate neutrality? 

In simple terms, it means reducing greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, which is created by burning fossil fuels, as soon as possible by balancing those emissions so they are equal to or less than the emissions that get removed through the Earth’s natural absorption. Fundamentally, it means we reduce our emissions through climate action.

Rostamnezhad realizes that her work is cut out for her but she is driven by the hope of building a better world for all of Earth’s inhabitants. 

“Ultimately what inspired me to get into this field is the impact that our climate issues and environmental problems have on certain communities as well as low income communities and disadvantaged communities that are unfairly targeted by our behaviors everyday,” Jasmin Rostamnezhad said. “I think that should inspire everyone to want to change the way that they live.” 

Black Voters Matter Tour Visits ACC

On February 16, 2022, organizers from Black Voters Matter visited Austin Community College’s Highland campus as part of their Campus Blackout Tour. The outreach tour across Texas aimed to educate and register young voters ahead of the recent March 2 primary election. The weeklong bus tour began in Houston, Texas on February 14 and ended in Tyler, Texas on February 18.

Story by Ky Duffey

Edited by Pete Ramirez

“Are y’all registered to vote yet?” Black Voters Matter senior organizing manager, Dionna La’Fay said to two ACC students as they walked by.

La’Fay and her colleagues stood in the breezeway outside ACC’s Highland campus engaging with students and handing out flyers with instructions on how to register to vote.

Organizers from Black Voters Matter set up a table at ACC's Highland campus.
Black Voters Matter organizers set up in the breezeway at Austin Community College’s Highland campus. Photo by Ky Duffey

A non-profit organization that focuses on voting rights and community empowerment, Black Voters Matter stopped in Austin on the third day of their bus tour. While in town, the tour made stops at ACC’s Riverside campus and Huston-Tillotson University, a historically black college.

Traveling around the state in a bus wrapped in the photos of members of the Freedom Riders movement of 1961, which includes the late congressman John Lewis, the organization also held voter registration events in San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth.

“While these conversations are necessary for traditional 4-year university students, the 2-year college students are the folks that will be engaging the workforce sooner,” La’Fay said. “So it’s better for us to educate them and teach them how to advocate for themselves now while we still have their attention.”

A table with Black Voters Matter swag like fans, face masks and buttons that the organization was passing out to students.
While the non-profit organization was on campus, they engaged with students using Black Voters Matter branded gear to start conversations and ask them if they were registered to vote. Photo by Pete Ramirez

Black Voters Matter was founded in 2016 by LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright with the goal of increasing power in communities by focusing on voter registration, getting out the vote, independent election-related expenditures, and organizational development and training for other grassroots groups. The organization bases itself in Atlanta, Georgia, yet as of 2020 has expanded to Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Mississippi. 

The bus tours were created to allow the organization to travel across the Southern United States in order to galvanize voters and stop voter suppression, especially in swing states.

During the 2018 elections, Senator Ted Cruz narrowly defeated Democratic favorite, Beto O’Rourke, by less than 3%. Last year during the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump won Texas by a 5.58 point margin, the narrowest for a Republican presidential candidate in the state since 1996. 

Political experts see this as an indicator of Texas edging closer to becoming a swing state. Black Voters Matter view it as an opportunity to challenge more Texans to become engaged in the political process and vote.

The Black Voters Matter tour bus parked at Huston-Tillotson University. There a handful of people standing outside the bus and taking photos of and with the bus in the background.
The Black Voters Matter tour bus during their visit to Huston-Tillotson University. Photo by Ky Duffey

“Our goal with the bus tours is to remind students how important and easy it is to vote and engage before the primaries,” La’Fay said. “Voting is one aspect to building power.”

With the recent implementation of the controversial new Texas voting law, SB 1, voting rights organizations like Black Voters Matter are galvanized in their efforts to expand the electorate in the state.

“Organizations like the Texas Civil Rights Project have been amazing with making sure that we’re educated on the changes,” says La’Fay. “It’s not stopping anything we had already planned.”

For ACC students who want to get more involved with the electoral process, La’Fay recommends a few things:

  • Look into state boards, commissions and precinct chairs because some of them help to create local policy
  • Become a poll worker. According to La’Fay, several polling locations were closed in 2020 because they had staffing shortages.
  • Join organizations like Black Voters Matter that work on voter registration and civic education in your community.

“As you learn, share what you’re doing with the folks around you so we can build power together,” La’Fay said.

You can find more information about Black Voters Matter at blackvotersmatterfund.org or by visiting their Instagram page @blackvotersmtr.



Valentine’s Day For All

Story by Gloria Nguyen

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! 

Americans have been celebrating Valentine’s Day since the 19th century but the holiday became ubiquitous early in the 20th century. 

Nowhere in the world is Valentine’s Day celebrated as wildly as in the U.S. Much like during the Christmas holiday season, stores are filled with rose-colored products weeks beforehand.

Contrary to popular belief, Valentine’s Day is not just for romantic love. Your best friend, grandpa, teacher, or even your favorite colleague from the office may participate in exchanging valentines.

Valentine’s Day is ultimately about celebrating love – which at its heart involves the connection and unconditional acceptance of another.

One thing about Valentine’s Day that is slowly starting to change is that historically, there hasn’t been much room for the LGBTQ community at the table.

Supervising editor at National Public Radio, Arnie Seipel, wrote about how the origins of Valentine’s Day are heteronormative itself. 

Seipel writes that the early Romans would celebrate the feast of Lupercalia during Feb. 13 to 15 which would culminate in “a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar.” The new couple would be paired up for the duration of the festival or longer if the match was right. 

Even though our society seems to slowly make progress LGBTQ couples may feel like they are not able to be affectionate in public because of the recent surge of anti-LGBTQ laws being passed and toxic rhetoric coming from some mainstream media entities.

According to NBC News, recent FBI data suggests that “crimes based on bias against trans and gender non-conforming people continued to increase.”

The ramifications of these threats against the LGBTQ community are even being felt in colleges across the U.S. In a recent survey of LGBTQ college students published by Intelligent, 61% said they’ve experienced more discrimination since Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special aired last year, which features transphobic and homophobic jokes. 

Although Valentine’s Day does not directly help fight the day-to-day inequalities of our society, we can choose to participate in the holiday while continuing to be an ally to the LGBTQ community.

Here are some ways you can celebrate Valentine’s Day and support your local LGBTQ community.

Make Your Own Valentine’s Gifts

One way to avoid the commercialization and heteronormative standards of Valentine’s Day is to make your own valentines gifts. 

This does not necessarily need to be about your partner. Your gifts can be sent to members of your family or your chosen family and friends.

Batman & Robin illustrated on a Valentine's Day card in a kissing embrace.

Valentine’s Day has been traditionally been a holiday that companies like Hallmark have used to target straight couples with products and advertisements. In recent years, companies have begun to make their products and ads much more inclusive to the LGBTQ community.
Photo by: @proyectoalegria

Shop At LGBTQ-owned Businesses

Shopping and hanging out at LGBTQ-owned businesses is another way to directly support your local LGBTQ community. Hotel San Jose, Tamalitoz and FLAVNT are a few in Austin you can consider. Check out more at this list of queer-owned businesses in Austin that Do512 compiled.

Practice Self-care

Valentine’s Day can be triggering for people depending on their dating history. If you were in a bad relationship or experienced trauma because of your dating history, Valentine’s Day can feel even more overwhelming. 

If this is the case for you, taking care of yourself is much more imperative on Valentine’s Day than usual. 

Be kind to yourself. Take time to look in the mirror and tell yourself “I love you.” Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you feel good about yourself while you’re doing it. 

Practicing self-care should be done for yourself every day – and not just on Valentine’s Day. Remember that Valentine’s Day is just another day. Regardless of how you feel about it, your relationship status, sexual orientation or gender identity, you are valid and you will get through the day.

Surround yourself with positive people and remind yourself that love doesn’t have to look the way it is commercialized to you. 

Keep doing you. You are loved!

Getting Festive with Texas Tribune CEO, Evan Smith

By Pete Ramirez

The Texas Tribune, a digital, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization, is hosting its eleventh annual Texas Tribune Festival beginning on Monday, September 20, 2021, and ending Friday evening, September 25, 2021. 

This festival brings together leading politicians and policymakers within local, state and national government to participate in a mix of one-on-one interviews, panels and networking sessions hosted by some of the premier journalists in the nation.

Students are eligible to purchase discounted student tickets to the virtual festival for $49 by following this link: https://festival.texastribune.org/. General admission tickets are $199.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the festival will be held entirely online in a virtual setting. “It’s the second and hopefully the last festival that will be virtual,” said Evan Smith, CEO of the Texas Tribune. 

Smith said that although his organization originally wanted to host a portion of the event in-person, completely pivoting to virtual allows the event to be more accessible to not only the politicians and policymakers, but to casual fans of the Tribune who can now participate from the comfort of their homes.

“We provide all kinds of opportunities for people to spend time with some of the biggest thought leaders and influencers around Texas and around the county,” Smith said. 

A few of the biggest names that will be attending the event are U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Senator, John Cornyn, staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones and former U.S. Representative, Beto O’Rourke.

For a list of all the speakers who will be attending the festival, follow this link.

“If you care about politics, if you care about policy, if you care about Texas, if you care about the world, there are going to be incredible opportunities that you would not otherwise have, to be part of conversations about those things,” Smith said.

Students who attend can benefit from the festival’s networking opportunities and grow their knowledge on nearly any subject they may be interested in.

“As a student, especially, this is a great moment to expand your thinking,” Smith said. The Tribune’s event provides a safe place for attendees to listen to views that challenge their preconceived notions on certain issues. 

“The goal is that there is something for everybody. And if you allow yourself to stray from the things that you are coming to see, there are going to be other things over here that you are not aware of but are going to be interesting also,” said Smith.

The Texas Tribune and their festival want attendees to walk away from their event better informed and more engaged citizens.

Smith also shared that there will be a session that is exclusively for students attending the festival.

Before our interview came to a close, Smith provided some words of wisdom for journalism students looking to enter the industry.

“The best advice I can give anybody wanting to break into the journalism business is you want to be a swiss army knife and not a meat cleaver,” Smith said. “We need people like that. We need multi-tool players more than we’ve ever needed them.”

Student Organization Profiles

By: Patrick Davis

Joining a student organization at Austin Community College may be the last thing on your list considering the demands from classes, work, family responsibilities, internships, and more. However, there are students involved in student organizations who will tell you that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. ACCENT met with three students involved with student organizations to hear about their experiences.

ACC’s Student Life website has a list of 115 student organizations, although not all of them are active. If a student cannot find the organization they are looking for, an advisor will work with the student to create a new organization. That is exactly what happened to Devin Driskell of the Future Business Leaders of Austin (FBLA) and Ashley Pesina of the Latinx Student Union (LXSU).

Pesina was a member of the Hispanic Students Association (HSA) in 2009. When she came back to ACC ten years later, she found that HSA was no longer active. With Advisor Jessica Oest’s help, Pesina started working on a new student organization for Latinx students. LXSU officially became an organization in Oct. of 2020.

The group’s primary purpose is “helping individuals escape a sense of otherness that the Latinx community is often confronted with,” Pesina said.

Although LXSU is concentrated on the Latinx community, the group welcomes all students.

Ayeesha Green giving a presentation on finance during a virtual Future Business Leaders of Austin (FBLA) meeting
Ayeesha Green giving a presentation on finance during a virtual Future Business Leaders of Austin (FBLA) meeting.

FBLA was also founded by a student who couldn’t find the club they were looking for. Since starting FBLA only two years ago, the student organization membership has grown to have 50 members to this day. The group aims to “help people be ready for their journey into the business world,” Driskell said.

While the group is focused on business majors, Driskell believes that the skills fostered by FBLA such as public speaking, networking, and interview skills, can be of use to students who are pursuing any degree plan.

Alpha Gamma Pi is the ACC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), an international honor society for community colleges. The group was founded on four hallmarks: scholarship, leadership, service, and fellowship. PTK works in the community through service projects and volunteer opportunities.

Alicia Stadler is currently the vice president of PTK of the Highland campus and has served as president and historian in past semesters. Stadler said that she initially joined PTK to improve her transfer application but gained a tight-knit support system.

“The officer team has become my family. I love them all. They’re great people,” Stadler said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student organizations have moved their club meetings and events to online platforms such as Google Meet and Zoom. Pesina has noticed that meeting virtually makes it challenging to bond with other LXSU members. However, Driskell has actually seen a rise in FBLA membership since the start of the pandemic, presumably because virtual meetings are more convenient for students to attend than in-person events. The biggest challenge these students have faced when joining or starting the groups has been finding the time to participate and organize activities.

Driskell sees a silver lining in that challenge, as it has helped him improve his time management skills. He has also become more comfortable with public speaking.

In addition to time management, Pesina also cites greater patience and accountability as qualities she has gained during her time with LXSU.

Driskell, Pesina, and Stadler all speak highly of their time spent in student organizations. The time invested can create new friendships, networking opportunities, and real-life skills. Student organizations give their members the chance to work with a diverse group of people, including other students, advisors, and industry professionals.

Stadler encourages anyone who has the opportunity to join a student organization to do so.

“You never know if you’re going to meet your best friend, or meet somebody who could help you get into these dream schools, or just meet some really, really great people,” Stadler said.

Plastic Free July

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Austin Community College’s Sustainability Coordinator, is interviewed by ACCENT’s Editor-In-Chief, Pete Ramirez.

By Pete Ramirez

Take a look around you. How many items in your vicinity are made from plastic? 

With a quick scan around my room, I can count at least twenty things that have some sort of plastic used in the product. I’m sure your number is nearly the same, if not, more.

 Plastics have infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. They are so ubiquitous that it’s hard for me to imagine a world without them.

Our global obsession with the low-cost and convenience of plastics has come with a hefty price to our environment. 

You’ve seen these images of huge, floating garbage patches in the ocean. Next time you go to a beach or to the Greenbelt, take a good look around and you’ll find plastic waste throughout the most popular locations. 

For those of you who are tired of the abuse we are inflicting on the Earth, Plastic Free July is a perfect opportunity for you to commit yourself to be more conscious about your plastic consumption and adopt new habits that decrease your use of plastic altogether.

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Austin Community College’s Sustainability Coordinator, said that Plastic Free July is an “educational opportunity to bring this issue of plastic pollution to the forefront of people’s minds.”

The month-long event gives people the opportunity to take on the challenge of decreasing their plastic consumption or eliminating plastic from their lives entirely.

“It’s not about telling people, ‘Don’t consume plastic for the whole month’ and then don’t think about it,” Anne Cuzeau, a computer science major and sustainability steward at ACC’s Energy & Sustainability department, said. “It’s more about having a really big global conversation about plastic and how we can address this crisis.”

“[ACC] is always trying to come up with ways to do Plastic Free July all year long,” Rostamnezhad said.

In 2020, ACC officially became a styrofoam-free campus, Rostamnezhad said. This means ACC does not purchase products with styrofoam packaging. If a product arrives with styrofoam, the energy & sustainability department will reach out and notify the vendor that the school needs their products packaged differently.

As many of us now know, recycling is not all it’s cracked up to be. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, less than 10% of plastics actually find a repurposed life as a new container, the majority of the remaining 90% is usually buried in the ground at a landfill.

The folks at ACC’s Energy & Sustainability Department have long recognized this and have taken concrete steps to embrace composting throughout its campuses. It’s not hard to locate a compost bin when at an ACC location.

Not only is plastic harming the environment and its biodiversity, it’s also harming the health of human beings.

“Plastic is made through the oil industry and the chemicals that are within the plastic can leach into the foods that you are eating from packaging or can leach into the foods that you heat up in the microwave,” Rostamnezhad said. “Those include a lot of cancer-causing chemicals so you’re basically ingesting the plastic which is really bad for your health.”

In addition to the chemicals plastics can leach, microplastics, which are microscopic particles of plastic less than 5 millimeters, are another way plastics end up in our bodies, Rostamnezhad said.

“The average human eats a credit card of plastic a week,” Rostamnezhad said. The study by the University of Newcastle in Australia, which first made this assertion, says that most microplastics are ingested by humans via tap and bottled water.

In an effort to reduce her plastic consumption, Holli Sampson, a sophomore geology major at ACC, said that she implements creative ways to repurpose her plastic containers to organize and store her school supplies, spices, and makeup.

“It becomes a fun game to see how you can reuse an item instead of sending it on its way to somewhere you’re not sure of,” Sampson said. “Also, it saves you money!”

Rostamnezhad is currently working on an educational flyer that explains exactly what steps people should take in order to reduce plastic waste in their personal lives. 


Anne Cuzeau, sustainability steward at ACC’s Energy & Sustainability department, speaks to Pete Ramirez, ACCENT’s Editor-In-Chief.

A few simple tips shared by Rostamnezhad, Cuzeau and Sampson are:

  • Consider carrying a pouch full of compostable utensils and straws in your car so you won’t need to accept single-use plastics when you pick up food from a restaurant.
  • Contrary to common belief, the city of Austin does not recycle plastic bags. Instead, take your plastic bags to your local grocery store and they will recycle the bags for you. Go to this website to find the nearest participating grocery store.
  • Buy reusable water bottles and containers that bring you joy so you are more likely to continue to use them.

“At the end of the day, just do your best,” Cuzeau said.

If you have any questions or ideas you would like to send to ACC’s Energy & Sustainability department, email them at [email protected].

The Energy & Sustainability Department is also working with the purchasing department at ACC to develop training and rules to limit and eventually eliminate the purchasing of single-use plastic.

All three of the women interviewed for this piece brought up a common issue of pushing back against large companies that are the main culprits of plastic creation and waste. 

“How can we get the big corporations who are putting these plastics out for us to consume to scale back?” Cuzeau said. “Clearly, this is not going to come from them. It’s going to come from the bottom up.”

“I don’t think we’ll be able to make a difference until we start holding companies accountable,” Rostemnezhad said. “They need to start innovating and coming up with ideas on how to change packaging and change their products.”

We all have the power to change these corporations and that starts in our wallets and where we choose to spend our money. Look to spend your money with businesses that are taking steps to reduce and eliminate their plastic consumption.

“Plastic Free July is great,” Sampson said. “It’s a start, but we should all work together to become a plastic-free society as much as we can.”

Juneteenth: History to Present Day

Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. Although it has long been celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event which is also known as “Black Independence Day” and “Texas Emancipation Day,” is beginning to see mainstream celebrations. While the holiday was informally commemorated for years, Texas became the first state to honor the day as a state holiday in 1980.

By Kimberly Dalbert

Many cities have parks where Emancipation Day celebrations took place, which also includes Austin. Austin’s Eastwoods Park prior to 1930, was referred to as Wheeler’s Grove. The site is historically significant for hosting one of the earliest Juneteenth celebrations in Austin in the latter part of the 19th century. The restrooms at the park now used to be the Eastwoods Shelter House.

On “Freedom’s Eve,” also known as the eve of January 1, 1863, at the stroke of midnight, all enslaved people in the Confederate States were declared legally free, but not Texans. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, most slaves in Texas were still unaware of their freedom and that the war had ended in April of 1865. When Union troops arrived in Galveston Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, commanding officer, District of Texas, from his headquarters in the Osterman building (Strand and 22nd St.), read ‘General Order No. 3’ on June 19, 1865. This order stated that the people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free.


Juneteenth Historical Marker, 2201 Strand Street, Galveston, TX, on June 6, 2021.


Photo Kim Dalbert


The mural was created by Houston artist Reginald C. Adams.


Photo Kim Dalbert


Eastwoods Shelter House, Eastwoods Park

Photo Austin History Center

Eastwoods Shelter House, Eastwoods Park, is now the restrooms.

Photo Kim Dalbert

Austin’s 2018 Juneteenth Parade

Photo By David Brendon Hall

Photo By Jana Birchum

June 18, 2013

Juneteenth day celebration in Texas, 1900.

Photo Austin History Center

King “fuh-fuh” X, an Austin activist who organized StarPower Black Collectives, and has led many protests over the past year. Emancipation Proclamation that leads to the Bell of Freedom.

Carver Museum, Austin, Tx, September 29, 2020.

Photo Kim Dalbert

 There are five statues, the lawmaker, the minister, the former slaves, both male and female, and the child, a daughter.

 Carver Museum, Austin, Tx, September 29, 2020

Photo Kim Dalbert

Juneteenth day celebration in Texas, 1900.

Photo Austin History Center

Taking Initiative: Why, and How Students Should Start Honoring Asian Heritage This Month

ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

By: Renata Salazar

How much do you know about Asian American heritage? 

This is the question students at Austin Community College should ask themselves when learning to embrace and honor different cultures and their traditions– a crucial factor to creating a welcoming and inclusive community at ACC. ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

“Something I will never forget is where I come from, my background and origin is from Asia,” Tsai said.

Tsai honors his Taiwanese heritage in America by enjoying local Asian food as well as keeping up with films and books from his culture.. There are also official and local communities with events to celebrate diversity through Asian art, political issues, food, and other traditional rituals. Tsai is also able to help students with their career goals as an Asian American career counselor at the college like Hzu.  

Hzu, an engineering major at ACC, is a taiwanese student who moved to Texas four years ago. As a minority in the U.S. Hzu consistently absorbs and learns more about different cultures, while still honoring his own.

 “A big part of our Asian culture/heritage is having a very strong family bond,” Hzu shares, “we have a lot of festivals that are meant to be celebrated with family members, such as Lunar New Year, Moon Festival, and Qingming Festival.”

Student Opal Framnes, an Taiwanese student and mother working towards a major in TV production, believes being able to interpret and explain your own culture is an important factor when letting people hear your story.

“We have to do our own part first, and create opportunities that allow people to understand our culture”  

“Everybody has different stories no matter who you are, so we need to let people listen to us”

“Even though most of our cultures are not similar at all, I think ACC, or any other institutions should do the same to educate their students to be open-minded” states Hzu.

“Different departments officiate events organized by the college that allows students and staff to participate and learn more about or even just help promote social justice.” 

Implementing these events to get to know other people from various cultures sparks a conversation where students can mutually benefit from each other’s experiences.

To shed a light on the positive and interesting aspects of Asian heritage Framnes believes “It comes down to being a better person, we are living in a different country and we can contribute to a lot of things.” 

Educating students, and ourselves is pivotal. Whether through your own research online or participating and seeking to learn about different heritages, you are taking the initiative to honor a different culture unlike your own. It is common for ACC students to come from a homogenous background. Tsai believes it is “very important to promote awareness of the idea of multiculturalism, diversity, equity and inclusiveness coming from any curriculum design”  

ACC’s Dean  made a statement regarding recent hate crimes against Asian Americans, officially demonstrating their stance of support against anti-Asia hate crimes. “The college is working to establish a new Asian-American cultural center and it has been an ongoing project now becoming part of the 2022-2025 Academic Master Plan.” 

“It will be so nice for students to know that they have a student organization that belongs to them, and feel comfortable sharing their culture.” Tsai states.

With the following steps: hiring personnel and establishing other aspects, we should look forward to seeing ACC’s Asian American Cultural Center be installed in Spring 2021. 

Alongside the new cultural center, students like Hzu are also in search of ways to get more Asian American voices involved at ACC. One of Zhu’s goals is to become a person that advocates for Asian American voices like his own. 

“People only listen to the ones that are influential, so to let more people know our heritage, the way is to succeed and use your power and influence to change what people thought about you stereotypically.”

“This is all about educating oneself,” With relevant climates pertaining to Asian Hate crimes, it is important to know what you can do to support Asian Communities and prevent racially motivated crimes, and his response was–participate. 

“Everything comes down to being aware of the prejudices and stereotypes we might usually project on to other races,” Tsai says. 

Restoring Our Earth in a Week

At ACC, we don’t just celebrate Earth Day, but rather Earth week. The college will be hosting their annual Earth Week events virtually for the second year in a row due to the pandemic.

By: Zeus Enloe

Hollie Sampson Student Leader

This year, there are over 50 videos and activities for students to choose from to learn the ins and outs of sustainability. Events will kick off  on April 19, students have the option to attend a variety of virtual events held by ACC and other organizations in our community. These events include trivia games, recycled crafts, and more. There are also resources for students to learn more about sustainable practices in their personal time. To learn more, ACCENT spoke with several staff members and students involved in ACC’s sustainability initiatives as well as the Earth Week festivities.

At ACC, Earth Week events are organized by the Office of Sustainability. Additionally, each ACC campus is home to its own Green Team. The Green Teams are collaborative student and faculty groups working towards the goal of increasing sustainability on our ACC campuses. 

Carol Knight, ACC’s administrative assistant and Green Team coordinator for the Cypress Creek Campus, explains Earth Day as “a way to draw attention to things that directly affect and influence you know ones daily lifestyle and choices.”

 This was echoed by Andy Kim, the energy & sustainability director, when asked why ACC students should even care about Earth Day to begin with. 

“Everything we do in our daily lives affects our environment, no matter how trivial it is,” Kim says.

Throughout the entire week, students will be given ideas on how to incorporate eco-friendly practices into their daily lives such as creating a DIY home garden, learning how to cook vegetarian dishes, or take on challenges that reduce electricity usage in their homes. Activities are open to students with any level of knowledge about sustainability. 

[F]or those that don’t necessarily know much about sustainability, Earth Day/Week is an opportunity to learn about and get involved in sustainability at ACC and at home. It is a time for us all to shout from the rooftops how important it is to live a sustainable lifestyle and how easy it is to do so,” Jasmin Rostamnezhad, ACC’s sustainability coordinator, says.

Student leaders Celeste Mills and Holli Sampson agreed, telling ACCENT that we should work towards sustainability every day, and Earth Week is a way to remind us of this. 

Mills advised, “We need help to make companies accountable and make it possible for everyone to live a sustainable life.”

Mills will be hosting an Earth Week book club featuring “Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World” by Tom Burgis as well as “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells. 

Sampson  organized a trash pickup for students to partake in on April 25. Students can find a space in their local community that needs to be cleaned and will receive a voucher for a free slice of pizza from Toss Pizzeria for their efforts. Students can walk around and pick up trash, even if they’re only going on a 15 minute walk with their dog.

 “[It’s] Such an easy way to get things done and it feels good,” Sampson says.

Something new to Earth Week this year are the Energy and Sustainability Office’s meetups. The meetups will be recurring throughout the week and will allow students the opportunity to connect with the sustainability staff and learn more about ACC’s green initiatives. 

“Sustainability touches on just about everything and anything we do,” Kim says. “[It’s] Not just one day. We need to think about our limited resources.”

After Earth Week ends, students are still encouraged to continue practicing the tools and resources learned from these events. Knight suggested that students “find one thing” that they care about and find a way to connect it with Earth Day.

 “[There is] always something more to learn that I can do that can help minimize the things that are bad for the planet,” she says. “For example, a student that enjoys cooking can look into green cooking and container gardening. 

There are also events hosted by organizations outside of ACC. Both Kim and Knight suggested that students look into the nonprofit organization called Keep Austin Beautiful.  Rostamnezhad suggested getting involved with a nonprofit called EartShare of Texas and their daily eco-friendly challenges for the month of April.

“ [I] would encourage everyone to participate in the #MyEarthMyTexas Challenge April 1 – 30, 2021. This challenge will show you easy ways to reduce your environmental footprint at home and you get prizes for it!” Rostamnezhad said.

Earth Day celebrations are not only beneficial to our planet and community, but can also lead to great memories. For Kim this was when he was challenged to make wearable items out of reused objects. Something that still sticks with Kim is how one person apparently made a hat out of kitty litter packaging. For Knight, this was the many projects that have been implemented at the Cypress Creek campus, such as the butterfly garden.  Students can make their own memories this year, whether they are interested in gardening, sustainable cooking, trash pick-ups, or even informational presentations. Get involved, get educated, and make a difference. Find the full list of Earth Week events here.