ACC Alumni Making a Mark in West Texas

Sarah Vasquez (right) interviews an ACC student for ACCENT while on campus when she attended the school in 2009. Photo taken by Karissa Rodriguez

By: Pete Ramirez

It’s not uncommon for a portion of students to find their way back to school at Austin Community College. Sarah Vaszquez enrolled at Texas State University immediately after graduating high school. Eight years later, she enrolled at ACC.  Now, Vasquez is a freelance journalist and photographer whose work can be found in the New York Times, Texas Tribune, Texas Highways Magazine and others. 

It is common for students, of any age, to start here in order to get there. After graduating high school, Vasquez became a student at Texas State University. About two years into her higher education journey, she decided the best thing for herself was to take a break from school. During her time away from school Vasquez began writing her own blog called So Many Bands, which covered the independent music scene in Austin. 

“I was interviewing anybody and everybody who would let me,” Vasquez said. “I was so shy, my brother would sometimes ask band members if I could interview them.” 

After a few years, Vasquez decided to step back into the world of academia as an ACC student. In her first semester, she was recruited to work for ACCENT’s newspaper, which had its last publication in 2014.  

“[ACCENT] gave me the space to learn everything I wanted to learn,” Vasquez said. “I learned photography, how to edit audio and work on video.”

While working for ACCENT, Vaszquez picked up as many assignments as she could to become the Campus Editor and, eventually, Assistant Editor. Vasquez credits ACCENT for giving her low-stakes opportunities to grow as a journalist.

Sarah Vasquez Photo 2 - Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.
Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.

“I feel like ACC legitimized my career,” Vasquez said.  “It opened so many doors for me and gave me confidence to come out of my shell.”

After graduating from ACC with her associate’s degree in journalism, Vasquez was selected to take part in the Poynter Institute’s fellowship for a semester which is one of the most recognized schools of journalism.

After completing her fellowship, Vasquez returned to Texas State University. She quickly fell into the fold at the student-run radio station, KTSW 89.9, where she continued to develop her journalism skills in an audio format.

“I don’t think I would’ve been as prepared for the work at the university level if it wasn’t for ACC,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas State in 2012 and decided to take a four-month internship with Marfa Public Radio. After growing up in the fast-paced Austin area, she found joy and calm in the slower-paced west Texas town. Half-way through the internship she began working at the Big Bend Sentinel part-time. After the internship ended, Vasquez was hired as a full-time staff member for the newspaper.

“I was the general assignments reporter [at the Sentinel], so I covered everything,” Vasquez said.

In 2016, after working for the Big Bend Sentinel for three years, Vasquez decided to go her own way and become a freelance journalist and photographer covering the west Texas area.

Vasquez’s photography and writing for the Texas Tribune during February’s winter storm was essential coverage for rural west Texas communities that are often overlooked.

Although her path to ACC was not straightforward, Vasquez’s story is a testament to the valuable opportunities and connections that can be made at ACC.

“[ACC] exceeded my expectations,” Vasquez said. “I had no idea I would go on this journey.”

Vasquez plans to continue her work as a freelance journalist and photographer in the west Texas region.

Pride Month: Legislative Edition

By: Kyrios LoNigro

This year is seemingly the worst on record for LGBT+ equality. More than 250 anti-LGBT+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the U.S. Texas is the leading state with 12 bills being proposed this legislative session, targeting transgender youth. One banning a type of school sports participation and, another, health care access to transgender children. and another. Debates over transgender people living freely in the U.S. have been shown to have negative consequences on their mental health.

Mateo Marquez, theater student, says his K-12 experience was exhausting. In high school he encountered more than name-calling, just for being a transgender student.

“Freshman year I was threatened,” Marquez said. “I was harassed [by one specific classmate.]”

Marquez’s classmate told others at school that transgender people needed to die. Despite this harassment, Marquez says the school did not seek disciplinary action against the boy. This type of discrimination causes many transgender students to drop out of school.

The Trevor Project is the country’s biggest LGBT+ youth crisis phone line, focused on supporting suicide prevention efforts for those under the age of 25. Phone calls drastically increase when when trans-phobic rhetoric circulates and bills are proposed.

Missi Patterson an ALLY at ACC said, “I hear so many people in the lawmaking community say, ‘You’re either a man or a woman. It’s just science.’ I want them to understand that that’s not even true.”

Texas and Florida are the two top states with the most instances of Fatal Anti-Trans violence, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“It’s scary because your life is at risk here – they’re making fun of you solely because you’re trans.” Marquez said. “You don’t want to be hate-crimed for it, but you also want to stick up for yourself.”

Ari Thomas, a health science student who is also gay and non binary. Although they believe their sexuality hasn’t received negative responses at ACC, they have not come out as non-binary.

“I’ve never had anybody say anything to me just because I’m gay,” said Thomas. “People don’t know I’m non binary at ACC but that’s mostly because I’m doing online classes and haven’t gone to in-person classes yet.”

Thomas expressed that if they did encounter discrimination they wouldn’t know how to handle it due to lack of face-to-face interactions with instructors in remote classes and online information.

“I’ve never seen anything LGBT related on the website,” said Thomas.

Neither Marquez nor Thomas knew about ACC’s LGBT+ Equity Committee, whose aim is to provide education to faculty, staff, and students at ACC about LGBT+ issues.

A primary component of the committee is their advocacy for long-term systemic change that can be achieved by policy revisions and support networks through their ALLY program and events.

Despite one of the committee’s goals of providing support, the committee is not often easily accessible. A Google search brings you to their Facebook where little information is provided on the committee – only their email.

“You have to know how to search for us,” Matthew Campbell, co-chair of ACC’s LGBT+ Equity Committee, said. Campbell said the secrecy is due to bigoted language they have received in response to trying to reach students through ACC’s email contact lists.

“It’s usually on the lines of homophobic or religiously motivated,” Campbell said. “We don’t do that anymore.”

Campbell also shared the committee is working with ACC to require students to participate in sensitivity training to mitigate the issue after they expand their ALLY program. So, for the moment, the committee is building their own email lists and operating by word of mouth.

 “All organizations have to go through a chain to be able to access those email addresses,” Campbell said.

Interested students must opt into receiving their newsletters and emails. Campbell shared that the committee has been receiving more engagement recently, but the pandemic has made connecting to students difficult, being that information isn’t as easily found on posters on campus or other ways.

In her psychology class, Patters creates space for her LGBT+ students by asking them to put their pronouns in their zoom names. Additionally, she asks them to provide their preferred name at the beginning of class.

The Ally Program trains ACC employees to create space and support for LGBT+ students. Employees of ACC can become an ally by filling out an interest form. Interested parties will be notified when a training is available.

“[The training] wasn’t difficult at all,” Patterson said. “We had an incredible guest speaker from UT and it was really enjoyable.”

In addition to the ALLY training, Patterson recommends training on how to be an advocate through organizations like the Texas Freedom Network, Texas Rising, and Equality Texas.

Many LGBT+ youth and adults are not accepting of these bills filled with trans-phobic rhetoric being proposed into the Texas legislature.

“We don’t need people checking our genitals. End of story. We are who we are. We are just like everyone else,” Marquez said.


Mateo Marquez, Ari Thomas, Missi Patterson, Matthew Campbell
(left to right) Mateo Marquez, Art Thomas, Missi Patterson, Matthew Campbell

How Students Stay Active

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness.

By: Pete Ramirez

One of the most significant ways the pandemic has affected Austin Community College is by the cancellation of in-person intramural sports. Losing these extracurricular events placed a hold on what is normally a fun way for students to stay active and socialize with their classmates.

No one has felt this loss greater than Tracy Partin, intramurals coordinator and health & kinesiology professor at ACC.

“It’s been kind of tough, the last year, not being able to see my students or get out on the court with them,” Partin said.

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness. Last March, Partin began sending an email with workouts and health tips to his subscribers every Tuesday and Thursday during the semester.

Partin’s email fitness program hasn’t missed a semester since it began a year ago.

“Tracy’s emails have been great,” said Brienz Edwards, a student at ACC studying peace and conflict within the interdisciplinary studies program. “I used to think that a gym was a pretty necessary part of working out and it has been quite the revelation for me that that’s not what I really need.”

Edwards mentioned underestimating a workout Tracy sent earlier this semester that only called for using a kitchen chair for the movements. 

“I was like, ‘oh I can do a chair workout, that’s no problem’ and I was immediately sweating,” Edwards said. “It sounds ridiculous that you can sit in a chair for ten minutes and sweat but I promise you.”

Partin’s fitness emails not only include workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels but they also touch on mental health and wellness advice.

“I send them suggested YouTube workout videos,” Partin said. “And on Thursdays I touch upon mental health a little bit. Stress relief. Things that you can do mentally to help your mindset.”

For Jeshika Lamsal, a prospective ACC student and subscriber to Tracy’s fitness emails, staying active means being conscious about what you are doing.

“My favorite way to stay active is first meditation and second is working out,” Lamsal said. “I think everyone should try to meditate.”

Lamsal encouraged ACC students to adopt a meditation practice a few times a week at first and then slowly increase the frequency as time progresses. 

Lamsal also compared starting a meditation practice to going to kindergarten and learning the alphabet. When you first begin, you may not know anything about the subject but as you continue to practice, you learn and grow to have a better grasp of the practice.

Regardless of the route Partin’s students take to stay active, his ultimate goal is to get his subscribers to reconnect with their bodies and improve their mental and physical health.

“It gets those endorphins going and it does make you feel better so anything you can do – whether it’s taking a walk, whether it’s doing some exercises at the house – it helps”, Partin said.

Edwards said her favorite way to stay active is by taking walks at her own pace through her neighborhood.

“It’s a really good way for me to get back into my body and be able to think clearly”, said Edwards. “It helps me organize my thoughts for whatever I need to do next and reconnect with myself but also with the world outside.”

With his fitness emails, Partin wants ACC students to realize that there are simple yet effective things they can do to be active while staying within and nearby your home. 

“Most importantly, try to keep a consistent time when you are going to workout”, Partin said. “There’s going to be those days where you are tired and want to blow it off, but you’ve got to push through.”

Partin said he will begin to send out his summer semester fitness emails on June 8 and students will be able to sign up via Student Life.

“I would just like for the students to know they can contact me at any time,” Partin said. “I want them to know that there is somebody out there, that we do care about them.”

ACCENT On Air E00

ACCENT is launching a new podcast, called ACCENT on Air. This weekly podcast is created to be a one-stop-shop for the essential information that students at Austin Community College need.

By: Zeus Enole

First Episode of our new Spotify Podcast

ACCENT is launching a new podcast, called ACCENT on Air. This weekly podcast is created to be a one-stop-shop for the essential information that students at Austin Community College need. Each episode includes announcements or reminders about upcoming events. Additionally, every episode will have a guest speaker help us take a closer look at a service or resource that the college  provides.

The first episode, E00, is a pilot introducing this new project. It includes an interview with Multimedia and Social Media Coordinator for Student Affairs Communication, Halie Ramirez, as well as information about ACC’s Community Resources page. You’ll also hear about the following announcements and events:

  • The college was closed Sunday, April 4.
  • The priority deadline for ACC’s General Scholarship has been extended to May 1. Visit https://www.austincc.edu/students/scholarships for more information on how to get started. 
  • Summer Registration opened  April 5 for current students. For new students, registration will open on April 19. 
  • The last day to withdraw from classes this semester is April 26.
  • ACCENT Student Media hosted a Kahoot trivia event with Student Life on April 5. Attendees were able to test their knowledge on 2000’s to 2010’s pop culture.  
  • Student Life hosted  a Leadership Development Workshop called Building Your Personal Brand on April 7 at 4 p.m.
  • Riverbat Success Programming  is hosting the virtual event: Poetry for Take Back the Night on April 9 at 5 p.m.
  • Join Student Life for their virtual watch party of “A Mile in His Shoes” on April 12 at 3 p.m.

In the interview with Halie Ramirez, we discussed her role at ACC as well as her position as faculty advisor to ACCENT. When asked about her involvement in ACCENT, she talked about her experience in student media while she was in college. 

“That’s where I got to build my network for my career,” she told us, “which, I like to say [that] every job I’ve ever had–I would not have gotten there without having someone from my network to help me get there. Every student should be involved in a student organization in some way; you never know who you’re going to meet. That’s a part of higher education, is building that professional network.”

 Listen to the full interview on IGTV or Spotify. Subscribe and never miss an episode.

You can find more updates on our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Have an announcement you’d like us to include in future episodes? Email us at editor@austincc.edu

A Therapy Guide To Virtual Counseling

ACCENT spoke with Manuel Zamarripa, Associate Dean of Counseling, about ACC’s virtual mental health support services.

By: Angela Murillo-Martinez

As Austin Community College enters another semester of distance learning, the college’s mental health counseling services have adapted to support students at a virtual scope. ACCENT spoke with Manuel Zamarripa, Associate Dean of Counseling, about the support and resources ACC offers.

The balance between work, school, hobbies and education can seem like too much to handle at times–especially during a global pandemic.. And with campuses being closed to non-essential faculty, staff and students this too means that counseling sessions have moved as an online service. Students can continue to receive private counseling from their own home through virtual sessions. ACC offers free mental health counseling to currently enrolled students. 

You get a first session, where you get a lot of background information,”  Zamarripa said. ““Then you get six sessions after that, so you get a total of seven sessions with a counselor individually.

Some have trouble deciding when and if to visit with a counselor or therapist. Mental health isn’t a one size fits all situation, but ACC’s counselors are trained to work with anyone, no matter their situation. And if needed, the counselors can always provide referrals.

It can be anywhere from, ‘Hey, I need someone to support me,’ or ‘I have a couple of decisions coming up that I need to make,’ or ‘I’m feeling kind of stuck,”’” Zamarripa said.

Students can schedule appointments through the counseling page found on the ACC website. In these sessions students can talk to trained clinicians who can speak to you about various topics. All sessions are private and confidential unless the student provides written permission to share information with someone else. ACC not only provides individual counseling but also has group counseling.

“We do offer groups, which are another good way to get support,” Zamarripa said. ““We offer about two to three groups every semester, and the topics always change; some of them stay the same.”

The topics discussed in these group counseling meetings tend to change every semester, although they are a couple of topics that remain as students continue to request them.

“We get the most requests for anxiety and dealing with anxiety,”Zamarripa said.  ““So we tend to offer some groups in some way about anxiety to help students.””

Although the idea of group counseling can seem nerve-racking at first, being around students who have similar struggles as you can create a great support system. It can also help you realize that you are not alone and see that you have others rooting for you.

“It can be really supportive, but it can also be to the other end, like some people who are having severe anxiety or severe depression,”  Zamarripa said. ““They can come in, and we try to help them find strategies of coping.””

Although taking that first step towards therapy can seem scary, ACC’s counselors are here to help every step of the way, so you are not alone. As we continue to physically distance ourselves from others and take socialization to a virtual realm Zamarripa emphasizes the importance of checking in on one another, but more importantly, on yourself.

The Time I Realized I’m a Minority

According to the Austin Community College Fact Book, minority students make up over half the percentage of total students who were enrolled in the spring 2020 semester.

By: Emily Pesina and Angela Murillo Martinez

Over the years, we’ve more than often heard the word, minority, be brought up in discussion. Whether it’s heard on the news, read in an article, or tossed around in an interview, the term is no stranger. Although a minority is usually perceived as going hand-in-hand with race and ethnicity in the United States, definitions differ between the way they are used by people. Denotatively speaking, minority means “the smaller part or number,”. According to Merriam Webster minority in social terms is defined as “a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment,”. 

According to the Austin Community College Fact Book, minority students make up over half the percentage of total students who were enrolled in the spring 2020 semester. ACCENT spoke with a few students to get their story of their journey. 

Nikko Vafaee, transferred riverbat with a keen eye for photography, current track in pre-law, and a snapshot in her mind of creating an impact, expressed feeling the minority when she joined an organization after transferring into college. 

“I joined this organization and I [felt] like “dang I do feel like the minority”… I [was] the only white/Persian here.” 

During her earlier years in public school, diversity was the norm as cliques and clubs were integrated, however changes came with college. 

“It was strange because I’ve never been in that situation… where it’s not diverse,” said Vafaee. 

The same contradictory knowledge between your comfort-zone and the real world was noted by Diana Gorostieta, a first generation student and ACC alumni. Gorostieta recognized her minority position upon entering college, describing it as “the whole pot”, which opposed her high school experience of previously making up the Latino majority. As a DACA student pursuing education with limited resources, Gorostieta tackled challenges through finding guidance and support through ACC’s Ascender program, which opened up doors for her. 

“Stay active within the community. That way you’ll build connections, friendships, and that leads to other comfort zones..it’s a home away from home,” said Gorostieta. 

With an overworked automotive tool in one hand, and a pencil for schoolwork in the other, Armando Sanchez is an individual paving his future as the next generation’s leader.

“The moment I realized when I really was a minority was when I was thirteen, and my grandparents were [filing paperwork] for me to be on DACA,” said Sanchez. 

 Upon the process of filing fingerprints, portraits, and sealing the contract with a signature, Sanchez understood the purpose of this years later when his ability to work, drive, and study in the United States was protected by a 6’ x 4’ identification card. Sanchez expressed how his future relies on the decisions of the supreme court in terms of possibly overturning DACA was further realization of the minority. However, through an internship, a never-before-seen snapshot formed in his mind as he found himself working alongside government representatives. 

“Two years ago I thought I’d just be working on cars. Now I want to make a difference, create an impact…[and] we were doing something, showing those who see us as not doing anything important later in life… anything you do, we can do too,” said Sanchez. 

With an associates degree under his belt and a current pursuit in a duo major/minor, Sanchez shares how he feels that he can relate to the apprehensive feelings new or incoming riverbats may have. 

 “When I first came to ACC, I felt like a nobody. [Everyone] seemed so educated, well-informed, and that made me feel like a nobody… for that reason, I understand their level. Students come across to me as if they’re afraid to speak up, or to do anything because no matter what they do, it won’t matter. If you feel like that, that’s okay. Learn to oppress that feeling… don’t be afraid of who you want to be,” said Sanchez. 

Sanchez stresses the importance to remember who you are. His optimism, eagerness, and overcome-challenges continue to be recognized by all that he meets. 

For Maudriel Goodlet, a liberal arts student, the word minority means “a group of people who don’t have the same privileges than the more powerful group in America.” 

“America is supposed to be for everyone that lives [here], and some people don’t have access to those privileges,” said Goodlet. 

 Her realization of being a minority started in kindergarten, where white children made up the majority of her peers. Goodlet noted that she didn’t look like everybody else, and while she initially didn’t care, others started to realize and comment on her exterior differences. 

Growing up in Minnesota, Goodlet recalls experiencing weird situations from getting stared at in public to being asked unusual questions such as, “Do you have a lot of money?”, or constantly hearing comments such as, “your dad is black.” A certain situation at the store still lingers in her mind, when a lady purposely pushed her basket away from Goodlet, where the woman had left her purse. 

“She was going to go into the bathroom, and I was going to go to the bathroom too, so I wasn’t worried about the purse she was leaving in the basket,” said Goodlet

Being able to move to Austin and receive higher education allowed Goodlet to learn not only about herself, but about the community around her.

 “They wanted to teach people in public school, where the government has a heavy hand in their education that everybody has a place here. Not true…It really matters what you look like,” said Goodlet. 

  Although she feels ACC is inclusive, Goodlet would like to see more diverse professors.

 “I really liked having a black teacher for my English class. That was really cool. She talked a lot about racial issues and tensions, and she was inclusive with everyone in the class,” said Goodlet.

ACCENT thanks the students that participated in sharing their voices, and the students that will lead the next generation as future leaders. 

For this and more stories like this

The LGBTQIA2+ Community: Our Pronouns, When and How To Use Them

The primary reason why the LGBTQIA2+ communtiy and pronouns matter is because it creates a positive impact on mental health, emotional well-being and quality of life for those a part or allied with the group.

By: Grant E. Loveless

What Does LGBTQIA2+ Mean & Its Importance?

The LGBTQIA2+ community, also known as the Rainbow community, are people who are allied with the LGBTQIA2+ movement or identify as an lesbian, gay, transgender, etc. People from the LGBTQIA2+ community come in from all walks of life and include people of all races and ethnicities, all ages, all socioeconomic statuses, and from all parts of the country. To break it down some more, LGBTQIA2+ is an abbreviation that stands for: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning), intersexual, asexual and two-spirited. The plus-sign signifies a number of other identities, and is included to keep the abbreviation brief when written out; the full abbreviation is LGBTTTQQIAA. The primary reason why the LGBTQIA2+ communtiy and pronouns matter is because it creates a positive impact on mental health, emotional well-being and quality of life for those a part or allied with the group. 

LGBTQIA2+ Pronouns: When & How To Use Them

Every day we use pronouns in our speech and writing to address certain individuals or groups. With the use of pronouns, we all can agree that we use them unconsciously and sometimes aren’t mindful of others’ comfort or identities when doing so. Too often, when speaking of someone in the third person, these pronouns have a gender implied. These associations are not always accurate or helpful. Note to self, mistaking or assuming peoples’ pronouns without asking first, misrepresents them, their identity and sends a damaging message. Using someone’s correct gender pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their identity and show support to the LGBTQIA2+ community.

Now-a-days people aren’t necessarily identifying with the sex they were given at birth. Examples of this are how people who identify as transgender (meaning they identify as a different gender than the sex they were assigned) or those who identify as non-binary (meaning they don’t identify as exclusively male nor exclusively female). While most of us try our best to respect these gender non-conforming individuals, sometimes language—and a simple lack of information—can make that complicated and lead to a lot of confusion, anxiety or create animosity in some spaces.

That said, it’s imperative to take a mental note when someone tells you which pronouns they prefer. In this regard LGBTQIA2+ people have said themselves that when someone says their pronouns are ‘too difficult’ for them to remember, what they hear is that you don’t value your friendship, the work that their doing in the world, or me them a person.

While cisgendered people tend to use the pronouns we’re all familiar with to describe themselves—he/him and she/her—some non-binary individuals choose different pronouns that you may not have heard of before.

What Are Gender Pronouns?

A gender pronoun is “the pronoun that a person chooses to use for themselves” to describe their gender. What this means is that, even if a person was born with male genitalia, they may still choose to use feminine pronouns to describe themselves, depending on what suits their gender expression. To bounce off of the example earlier, some transgender people change their pronouns to help identify more closely with the gender they are inside.

Also, more and more people have begun adopting gender-neutral pronouns—those that neither connote male nor female gender. These people feel as though the typical male and female pronouns do not accurately represent their gender identities and expressions. Those who identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming opt to use gender-neutral pronouns like “ze/zir/zirself” and “ve/ver/verself.”

Though it can be confusing, some non-binary people choose the pronouns “they” and “them” in place of “he/him” or “she/her,” since there is no gender associated with “they/them.” To view pronouns and some examples, view the chart created by BestLife Magazine below:

How Do You Use Gender Pronouns?

As said before, it is ALWAYS important to be mindful and ask someone which pronouns they use to identify themselves. You can’t—and shouldn’t—judge a book by its cover. Simply asking, “What are your gender pronouns?” can be one of the easiest ways to show support for the LGBTQIA2+ community, as it signals to them that you both care about and respect them. We all should be able to use pronouns that accurately describe our gender identity and expression.

So, for those of you who want to be allies to the LGBTQIA+ community, start familiarizing yourself with the pronouns of friends, family members, and strangers. The small act of using a person’s proper pronoun can make all the difference in their day. To learn more about pronouns or even on how to get familiar with LGBTQIA2+ community visit ACC’s LGBT eQuity website and see how we, Riverbats, take pride in our students, faculty and staff.

For this and more stories like this

Empowering Black Communities Beyond One Month

ACC will be celebrating Black History Month and the importance of what it means to the College and Austin.

By: Kimberly Dalbert

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions.”

Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History

African American or Black, do you worry which one is correct? Do you speak up or stay silent when talking about racial injustice and inequality with another race? If so, you’re not alone. With so much racial injustice and inequality, it can feel like a very uncomfortable subject.
Austin Community College will be celebrating Black History Month and the importance of what it means to the ACC and Austin community.

ACCENT met with Dr. Khayree Williams, Director at Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center (TRHT), and Jason Brown, Manager at Black Representation of Achievement Through Student Support (BRASS), to discuss Black History Month, events, places to reach out for help or questions, and what Black History Month means to them.

View Our Segment on What Black History Month means to the ACC Community


Q. When thinking of Black History Month what is the first thing that comes to mind? 

“Pride, proud to be a black man every day, proud of ancestors’ accomplishments,” Brown said.

Q. Do you feel we need to change the narrative of Black History Month this year focusing more on people like Carter G. Woodson and his creation of Negro History week in 1926, and its origin to help understand inequality today instead of commonly known figures like Dr. Martin Luther King jr., Rosa parks and Harriet Tubman?

“We shouldn’t change the narrative or downplay sacrifices of our civil rights heroes. Black History should be more year-round not just the shortest month of the year,” Brown said. 

Williams shared a mutual feeling with Brown’s statement that Black History should be discussed all the time and not just during Black History Month. 


Q. How do you feel about discussions of psychological distress and mental health being addressed during Black History Month?

“I love that we as people discuss mental health openly. Growing up mental health seemed tabooer, especially in my family, along with a lot of other black households. Acknowledging and discussing mental health helps us heal as a whole,” Brown said. 

Williams admits that it is something that has for far too long not wanted to be addressed in the black community. 

“Speak up and be honest when we are struggling, this is something that should be discussed all the time not just during Black History Month,” Williams said.

Q. What would you say to ACC students experiencing uncertainty about how they feel regarding recent events of racial injustice and inequality, and also might be afraid to talk about it.

“You should have support in safe places, allies, and clinical counselors,” Brown stresses. 

“All of us are afraid because it is not an easy conversation to have. We do not want to say the wrong thing or come off as awkward, or offend someone, so it is easy to shy away. That is what TRHT is there for, ACC campuses and the community,” Williams said.


Q. Black History Month was created to honor the accomplishments of Black Americans. Do you think too much time is spent on the struggle and not the accomplishments?

“It has to be a balanced conversation, if you do not understand the progress you have made, then you will make some of those same mistakes again,” Williams said. 


Q. What does it mean to have a diverse environment, and do you think Austin Community College has this?

“Diverse people have their own characteristics and they are unique from each other. Austin Community College is a champion at diversity and makes sure everyone has a seat at the table,” Brown said. 

“Diversity is not just on paper and in numbers, it goes beyond that regardless of make-up everyone has an equal say, and wants everyone to feel cared for and loved in the Austin Community College community,” Williams said. 

To learn more about BRASS or TRHT visit the sources below: 

BRASS 

Black Representation of Achievement Through Student Support (BRASS) is a community dedicated to support interests and needs of Black students through higher education. BRASS strives to “produce a pipeline of successful future professionals who are Black representations of achievement prepared to be the next generation of corporate and community leaders.”

TRHT

The Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center (TRHT) at ACC is a partnership with our community to build cross-racial relationships that lead to racial healing and an exploration of ways to transform the college and community for greater inclusion and equity.

Dr.Khayree Williams "Diversity is not just on paper and in numbers, it goes beyond that regardless of make-up everyone has an equal say, and wants everyone to feel cared for and loved in the Austin Community College community."