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Black community calls for inclusion in Austin politics

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Austin's two traditionally black newspapers NOKOA-The Observer and The Villager hosted an Austin City Council candidate forum Tuesday evening to draw attention to issues facing Austin's black community.

The newspapers' editors both said the city's black community faces some tough issues, some of which the city has failed to address.

"It's very important that the next city council be more considerate about what African-Americans go through," attendee James Price said. "I'm going in here with open ears and open mind and hopefully, I hear something that is very beneficial, not just for African-Americans, but all citizens."

As Austin expands and downtown grows eastward, community leaders want council members to remember who their actions affect, and whom a lack of action can adversely affect.

"Education is most important. Jobs are crucial," NOKOA Editor and Publisher Akwasi Evans said. "The decline in population is a major issue we want these candidates to address."

In the 1990s, the African-Americans made up about 13 percent of Austin's population. Next year, the City of Austin expects that number to reach less than 7 percent.

"Our neighborhood has changed; it looks different," attendee Tanya Washington said.

Downtown development into East Austin and policies toward the community's schools were some of the reasons some at the forum said the black community in Austin has gotten smaller.

"Some people believe East Austin has been left out," attendee Kelly Evans said.

Akwasi Evans said he wants the candidates "to help us create a level playing field."

"If we have the support of the city we can definitely be a prosperous community," Price said.

Attendees at the forum said the community has deep historical roots in Austin, and they want to elect city leaders that will include them in the changes and development of the city as it moves forward.

Citywide elections will be held May 9. Early voting gets underway April 27.

Stay tuned to News 8 Austin for a complete coverage of this year's Austin City Council and mayoral elections.

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