Archive for: March 2017

A Need for the Sport, a Need for Community

Words and Photos by: Itzel Garcia

Video and audio by: Katie Keenan and James Grachos

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The recently formed band of Eritrean soccer players exercises before each game nearly every Saturday morning, and are seen here running around the field before starting their intense match, Sat. February 18th, 2017.

 

AUSTIN—On Saturday mornings, Zilker park’s soccer field becomes a faint memory of Eritrea, a small country located in the so-called Horn of Africa peninsula, according to Britannica.

The soccer field fills with the fluid movements of soccer players, with their sweaty faces and their loud, emotional shouting in a language strange to Austin. The players run, they kick, they dance with a soccer ball scribbled with memories attached to their feet and sometimes, they even fight for who gets to do the free kicks.

But when noon comes around, from the soccer field they go back to sit down, back to the road and their jobs as taxi drivers in a city they now call home.

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Colorful taxi cabs line the parking lot adjacent to the soccer field, signaling to passersby that balancing both work and play is important to these Eritrean immigrants, Sat. February 18th, 2017.

 

“We sit in a car 15 hours a day, we need exercise,” Teklehaimanot, or Tekle, said. “So me and a couple of friends decided to start a soccer team.”

However, the newly-formed Eritrean team is not only an outlet for exercise, it is also a need for community.

“We all met on (an) immigrant shelter, some of us came here like four years ago, I came three years ago, other friends six months ago,” Tekle said. “So we tried to make a community.”

Another player, Oumer, agreed.

“It unites us,” Oumer said. “It gets our hearts beating.”

Community building for Tekle, Oumer, and their friends starts at 8 a.m, as the red-hot sun sets on the open field. The parking lot nearby quickly becomes busy with bright, neon-green taxi cabs. Then, the team members take to the field. They begin to chatter amongst themselves, then stretch in flowing motions. They huddle around a bench near the field drinking water and joking.  Finally, they set up the goal posts to begin playing.

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Three of the players attach the net to the goal post, each wearing his team color. Although they haven’t decided on a professional uniform yet, the game is played with a genuine reverence and passion for the sport, with the hopes of attaining community recognition amongst leading Austin soccer leagues in the future, Sat. February 18th, 2017.

 

For the Eritrean soccer players, the sport is a process they all had in common before arriving to Austin.

“I grew up watching soccer, like La Liga, Syrian and European soccer. In our country, soccer is a big deal,” Tekle said. “My favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo. I love my mom, he loves his mom, he didn’t want to leave her. I love him.”

Tekle remembers playing soccer in high school, fondly, even when the country was ruled by a young, constricting dictatorship.

“Eritrea is beautiful, there’s no violence, no one carries arms, it’s a very peaceful country, but the dictatorship is the problem,” Tekle said.

In 2015, a U.N. report found that Eritreans are “subject to systems of national service and forced labour that effectively abuse, exploit and enslave them for indefinite periods of time.”

Oumer said Eritrea is comparable to North Korea, given the restrictive dictatorship that has been in power since 1991, when the country gained independence from Ethiopia.

“Even though North Korea has electricity, has water, our country doesn’t even have that, it’s a very tough life,” Oumer said.

As of 2015, only 58 percent of the Eritrean population has access to water, according to the World Bank.

According to the U.N. an estimate of 400,000 Eritreans—9% of the country’s population—out of a total population of four million, have fled in recent years, not taking into account those who die en route while escaping the situation.

“My entire generation fled the country, illegally,” Tekle said.

But despite escaping the country and not having plans to return, Tekle sees his home country reflected in Austin.

“Austin is amazing, I feel like I am home,” Tekle said. “The weather is similar.”

Some Saturdays, even other parts of Africa come a little bit closer. The last rivalry game they had was against an Ethiopian team. Tekle’s and Oumer’s team lost 3-2, but that only motivated the team for the future.

“They were better, more organized, they’ve been here longer, but we will get better, we will train more.” Tekle said. “Soccer is in our blood, my friend.”

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Before beginning their match, the Eritrean players huddle together during their exercise routine, and almost in a dance-like motion, jump together in a circle. The warm-up is done in complete unison, while the game later unveils the competitive nature of the sport, Sat. February 18th, 2017.

 

 

Art From The Streets

By Mackenzie Palmer, Peyton Yager, Kathryn Miles and Taylor Gantt

David Schumaker woke up every morning on the cold streets of Austin, but one day this would all change.

Schumaker was walking past the Trinity Center downtown, and a woman volunteer at a local art studio stopped him and asked him to tell his story. Schumaker explained how he had been living on the city streets for more than 5 years due to the loss of his parents, alcoholism and drugs.

The volunteer immediately invited him into the art studio and told him to take that grief and anger and paint a picture.

“At the time I had a broken heart and a lost soul, but the program was therapeutic for me,” David Schumaker said.

For over 25 years, Art From the Streets has given the homeless community a chance to start over by providing them with a studio at the Trinity Center, art supplies, and volunteers to help sell art in hope to create a new beginning.

The non-profit organization is run on donations and holds pop-up art shows around downtown Austin. The art shows provide an opportunity for income for the contributors, 80 percent of the earnings of the art go to the artist. Their slogan, “Give Art a Home”, fully embodies the message that AFTS provides an encouraging space for artistic expression for those who need it most

The artists are able to attend 3 free studio sessions each week while creating one-of-a-kind pieces all year long to prepare for the annual “Art From the Streets Exhibition Show”.

Last year’s 24th Annual Show and Sale at the Austin Convention Center brought over 1,200 people who purchased over $90,000 of art in the 10 hours they were open.

The show changed one artist’s’ life entirely. “I own a duplex on South Lamar now. I made enough money at the show last year to pay 2 years of rent,” Jerry Hurta said, “I have a lot of returning customers and people that have gotten to know me, I have a fan club at the art show each year now.”

The program does not only bring money and stability to the artists. It provides them with creativity and determination to belong to something in this world.


 

“At the time I had a broken heart and a lost soul, but the program was therapeutic for me.”


Cathy Carr lost everything she knew in a house fire and immediately was forced to live off of the streets. After hearing about Art From the Streets from a couple friends, she immediately fell in love with the program.

Carr’s painting subjects are usually animals because she feels they are independent and courageous. She hopes to open either an art or a music studio of her own one day to inspire others.

The artists create personal relationships with each other and the volunteers during the studio sessions and the annual exhibition show. Individuals that were once invisible are now seen as a local celebrity. Art From the Streets motivates their artists to be rewarded for their hard work and dedication all year.

The volunteers at the studio range in age from 20 to 70. Most of the volunteers have a passion for art and become truly inspired by the products the homeless or at-risk artists create.

The volunteers often have jobs in the St. David’s episcopal church which allow them to be on site and available for all of the art sessions. They like the consistent schedule and central location because it allows them to build strong bonds with the artists and serve as not only a volunteer, but as a friend.

Schumaker explains that a change in perspective can sometimes be all a person requires to get out there and help somebody in need.

At this year’s art exhibition David Schumaker is expected to have over 200 paintings on display. Schumaker now pays for his own apartment from his earnings for his art and never looks back at the life he once lived.

The Trinity Center is located downtown at 304 East 7th Street. Open studio times are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm.

 

website: http://artfromthestreets.weebly.com/

 

Hashtag Famous: The Life of an Instagram Star

Words by Grant Gordon

Video by Karla Benitez

Graphics by Ashika Sethi

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David Sternberg is a 21-year-old journalism major at the University of Texas at Austin who uses social media to realize his passion and influence society around him.

Sternberg has been interested in makeup since his senior year of high school, when he wanted his lips to be as pink as those of an actor in a movie he watched. When he didn’t have the courage to buy the lipstick himself, his friend stole it for him.

“When I wear makeup out and about I feel very powerful and strong,” Sternberg said. “I can influence other people. Whether you mean to or not, you still do, and that’s exciting.”

Sternberg created an Instagram profile in late 2015 to showcase his dazzling makeup designs to the world. He called his profile “Ultraviolent makeup,” based off the term coined in Clockwork Orange, which means violence simply for violence’s sake. Sternberg said he identified with the saying from an art perspective.

“I’ve always liked that (term) for art, saying … you just do art for the sake of art,” Sternberg said. “You don’t really have a message behind it; you’re just creating because you have to. I’ve always felt that way about myself; it’s just that I’ve never been good at any creative mediums.”

While Sternberg said he was unsuccessful in his previous attempts at music and painting, he finally found a way to express himself through makeup. His Instagram page has almost 100 thousand followers.

“I think getting some validation from social media that I might not be terrible at makeup is why I’ve stuck with this,” Sternberg said. “I’ve always wanted to do art – it’s just now this is the art that I’m doing.”

After one year, Sternberg’s Instagram page had only 8,000 followers, but started gaining more as he posted higher quality content. He said he switched from recording his videos with an iPhone to a DSLR camera and started being more creative.

His big payoff came during a “31 days of makeup” campaign he participated in last October, where he posted a new Halloween themed makeup design every day of the month. He gained 50,000 followers that month alone.

Now, Sternberg receives free makeup in exchange for sponsored david1Instagram posts. He said he used to spend about $100 every three months on makeup, but because of these sponsorships, he hasn’t purchased any makeup in a year.

Robert Quigley is a social media journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He said the way to create a great following on social media is to put out great content, pay attention to your production value, and understand the platform you’re using. After that, Quigley said, entrepreneurs can monetize their craft.

“There’s a way to make money for sure if you’re enterprising enough and you understand how to use social media well enough,” Quigley said.

Sternberg contributes much of his creative improvement, and the level of comfort he now feels with his artistic medium, to social media.

“I started off doing it by myself in my room completely alone,” he said. “Without strangers encouraging me to do what I do, I probably would not have gotten this far. Honestly, I probably would have quit a while ago, or just done bad makeup forever.”

Sternberg says the highlights of his career are the emails and messages he receives from men who say that Sternberg inspired them to wear makeup. Even with more and more men wearing makeup, Sternberg said most peoples’ negative attitudes toward the practice are not changing. However, he believes social media will force these negative sentiments to change in the future.

“Boys in makeup are a commodity for social media right now, and if a company wants to be young and hip then they need to include boys (in makeup),” Sternberg said. “So whether the people viewing that accept them or not, they’re still going to be viewing it regardless. So it doesn’t really matter how they feel, it’s still getting out there.”

david2While Sternberg said that people will eventually become accustomed to men wearing makeup, he knows we are not yet at that level as a society. He said the greatest challenge of running his Instagram page are the hate comments he receives.

“You want to say they don’t affect you, but they do,” Sternberg said. “It’s just something you have to deal with, constantly.”

While many people would simply delete the negative comment, Sternberg takes a different route.

“I try to educate the person intelligently, because I don’t think that hate comes from a place of knowledge,” Sternberg said.

Sternberg said he doesn’t see the hate comments as a negative.

“Even if someone is leaving you hate and it hurts your feelings, you’re exposing that person to knowledge,” he said. “Because they are now seeing something that they are not used to, which is where hate comes from.”

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