AUSTIN, Texas - Daniel Thomas was born and raised in East Austin and over the years he has seen his neighborhood change dramatically.
“A lot of my people moved out. They were kind of forced to move out. A lot of them would like to come back but it's so expensive,” he said.
He believes some of the change is good, but the growing City of Austin has left his community behind, and in particular, black artists.
“You never know there are black artists around here. There is live music but it never caters to the black culture,” said Thomas.
On Thursday morning, with the support of local artists, members of the Austin Justice Coalition and Capitol View Arts painted "Black Artists Matter" on East 11th Street between Waller and Lydia Streets.
Jean-Pierre Verdijo helped execute the vision. “I came here and started planning, walking the block and just envisioning. Life is calling me to get serious and walk the talk about supporting and being a leader, stepping up to do whatever I can do to support justice freedom and support life for black Americans and black people everywhere,” he said.
This mural comes two days after the same groups painted “Black Austin Matters” on South Congress Avenue. Activists believe it's a first step in getting city leaders to make real changes.
“I like what they are doing, but I want them to do more,” said Thomas.
“What's happening right now is we have a golden moment to act and to continue acting,” said Verdijo.
Verdijo said black lives do matter but society doesn't see that yet. “What we see is that within our political and social structure in America, those lives have been devalued.”
The city is contracting with Capitol View Arts in the amount of $55,000 to be used to pay local black artists who helped with the murals and those were impacted by the pandemic. For many, the gesture is applauded as the first step toward true tangible efforts and unification.