Community Through Diversity…an MNA Conversation

Dusty Harshman Front Porch Flyer

On May 19th, the Mueller Neighborhood Association hosted Austin Mayor Steve Adler and several Mueller neighbors for a conversation about fostering community in the aftermath of Austin’s recent bombings and the impact.  As the recent Honest Conversations: Race, History, and Culture in East Austin and other neighborhood discussions of the past, this conversation included neighbors honestly sharing about the challenges and aspirations of living in a vibrant, diverse community.

All are encouraged to watch the full video for context, but below are several statements highlighted for their importance.

Lila Valencia, MNA Steering Committee Chair: “Mayor Adler embraced us having these conversations and has been doing so since the beginning of his term with initiatives such as the ‘Spirit of East Austin,’ and he most recently challenged us Austinites to get to know our neighbors, in order to help build bridges.”

Mayor Steve Adler:  “Things will be less suspicious the degree to which you know the people who are living around you. If you know something about the people that are living around you, if you know your neighbors and your neighbors know you, then if you need help, there is a better chance that your neighbors are going to notice that and help you get the assistance or support or help that you need. “

Mayor Steve Adler: “There is an opportunity for the city to not only go through that experience [the bombings], but not go back to where we were…let’s use this to grow as a city. This was a wake-up call for us.”

Dusty Harshman, Mueller resident: “Before there was a single building in Mueller, we understood there were aspirations for this place. We understood there was a hopeful spirit to arise here…a new community to evolve from communities that surrounded it.”

Veronica Castro de Barrera, Mueller resident: “Now that we’ve been here longer, we have created such deep bonds with our neighbors. We have been through illnesses, health, and joy. We have been through struggles and reconciliation. We have been through what creates life. And I think those are the things that make community bonds that last a lifetime.”

Veronica Castro de Barrera, Mueller resident: “We have 45 countries represented [in the neighborhood]. We have about 40 languages with 5 regional dialects.”

Daniel Colimon, Mueller resident: “I hope and sometimes I demand that we continuously push ourselves to achieve the full potential of being an open, inclusive community and society. I am deeply troubled and disappointed by the constant disparagement of people of color who live in or frequent Mueller. Disappointed, because almost all of us choose to live here because of the promise of not just nice homes, clean streets, fancy shops, and restaurants, but because of the promise of a neighborhood rich in cultural diversity . . . Thought it is often the burden of people of color to deal with the consequences of racism and bias and discrimination, it should not be incumbent on us to modify our otherwise normal behavior to conform or to teach our white neighbors how their behavior is covertly, or sometimes overtly, racist.”

Jasmin Patel, Mueller resident: “I love the park, I love that I can go downstairs and see people of all races. I love plopping down on a bench and realizing the family next to me is speaking the same native language that I speak, I love listening to the kids on the playground yelling in Spanish.”

When asked what by MNA Chair Lila Valencia what steps the MNA could take to support our diverse community, the Mueller resident panelists shared the following:

Veronica Castro de Barrera: “One recommendation I have to build bridges is to not ignore our shortcomings and have the courage to speak about the things that hurt us, and also let’s celebrate all of the good that happens.  Let’s share the good stories as well.”

Dusty Harshman: “One of the most important factors that the neighborhood association can approach is diverse leadership…it is incumbent upon the current leadership to recruit as diverse a body of future leadership as possible. “

Daniel Colimon:  “Host informational meetings with neighborhoods outside of Mueller, and get people to volunteer for kid’s events and local elementary schools.”

Jasmin Patel:  “I would love some guidelines or best practices for when to call the police or when to assess some sort of internal bias at play.”