Jackie Venson – Antone’s Nightclub

Jackie Venson – Musician

It is legend that a blistering Jackie Venson guitar solo knocked Pluto straight out of planetary existence.

Venson’s “…astonishing mix of raw soul, superb musicianship and laid back grace…” (Austin American Statesman, June 2014) has been compared to the likes of Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse and fellow Austin native Gary Clark, Jr. Originally a classical pianist, Jackie picked up the guitar, shortly after graduating from Berklee College of Music, and made the giant leap from the tradition of classical music to the raw and gritty blues.

Enthralled with music since the age of 8, this young singer/songwriter/musician instantly captures your attention with a vibrant musical soul and passionate control of her instruments, that reach far beyond her tender age. As she mindfully blends Blues, Rock, R&B, Soul and more, with her introspective lyrics, the message is clear. When you’re listening to Jackie you hear the “Truth in Music”.

In recognition of her dedication to her craft, Bestfan.com said “Venson is no dilettante, wannabe performer, however a real staple of what a musician can achieve when they put in their 10,000 hours for both musical schooling, and late night pub sessions for practical honing.”

Her live performances revisits what makes music so powerful: emotion and passion. She thrives without the flash, instead favoring a clean sound, genuine soul, and meaningful connection with her audience. Music is not only what Venson does – but also defines who she is and reminds her where she wants to be: performing.

Having finished her second tour of Europe and the recent declaration of “Jackie Venson Day” (May 21st) in the “Live Music Capital of the World” Austin, TX, there’s no doubt she has every reason to lead the way with the trademark smile that accompanies her magnificent musicianship.

Brenda Malik

Brenda Malik is a former president of the Rogers Washington Holy Cross Neighborhood Association. She attended the historic LC Anderson High School from 1966-1969 and is an administrative specialist at the cultural Arts Division/City of Austin.

Interview Highlights

Tight knit community

“It’s a homegrown community, so I’ve always been involved. Our mothers started the association as soon as we got here. So this community was really built with a lot of black professionals at the time. Teachers, nurses, elected officials. And so those women were the driving force. Or creating the Neighborhood Association, and they go from house to house, with the monthly meetings.

So it was a party every month, and the neighbors would get together, and the children would watch and see what they were doing. I was one of those that grew up in the association, and I became more active when I became an adult. Oh, these women were civic minded, and they were always doing something with their children.

For instance, they would take us down to the skating rink and protest the segregation of the skating rink that they couldn’t take their children in. Went to Zilker Pool and protested there too, or they picked us up and took us to the movies. It was always a communal kind of thing.”

Civil Rights in Austin

“We had quite a few leaders over here in this neighborhood come from this neighborhood, including Mr. Snell, who was the first black Travis County Commissioner. We also had the first black mayor of Dallas come from this neighborhood.

Ms. Kirk’s son, Ronald Kirk, was the first black mayor of Dallas, Texas, and went on to become appointed as an ambassador in Obama’s presidency. And they became good friends as well. So, it was a bunch of leaders, because we had the professionals come from this area. And like today, it’s hard for black and brown people to get to these meetings and put that pressure on our elected officials because we’re working.

So it was a little bit easier for professional folks in this area to take up that mantle and fight for civil rights. But this whole community has been active in civil rights here in Austin. King Tears, mortuary, is part of the legacy of this neighborhood. And Dr. King lives also on the street over.

Dr. King was the past president of Houston Tillerson College, he was co-founder of King Tears mortuary. But yes, he’s a descendant of one of our presidents. Most definitely L. C. Anderson High. It was an iconic building. It was the only high school that Blacks were allowed to go to before integration.”

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Rhiannon Ferguson – Akins High School, Austin, TX

Rhiannon Ferguson – E4 Youth | LinkedIn

Rhiannon reflects on her senior year at Akins High School as a pivotal turning point in her life and creative career. Dealing with social phobia worsened by the return to in-person classes post-COVID, fell into a cycle of depression and nearly dropped out. But being appointed editor-in-chief of the yearbook and designer, alongside supportive teachers, pushed her to face her fears. Through painting murals, designing the yearbook, and even publishing her own children’s book, she found her confidence, proving that Akins was more than just a school—it was where she found her creative voice and began to conquer her mental health challenges.

Fiesta Gardens – Presented By Perez Elementary School

Perez Elementary School in Austin is embracing technology and local culture with a VR story focused on the city’s vibrant Fiesta Gardens. This immersive virtual experience allows students to explore the iconic lakeside venue, known for its lively community events and beautiful scenery. This innovative approach to education connects history, community, and technology, engaging students in a unique and memorable way.

Zavala Elementary – Presented By Widén Elementary School

Widén Elementary School

Students at Widén Elementary explore the legacy of Zavala Elementary and the vibrant East Austin neighborhood it serves. As they navigate through interactive historical scenes, students gain a deep understanding of their school’s heritage, fostering a sense of pride and connection to their educational roots and the broader community.

Pan American Park – Presented By Widén Elementary School

Widén Elementary School

Widén Elementary School takes a virtual leap into the rich history of Austin’s Pan American Park through an engaging VR experience. Students are transported into the lush landscapes and vibrant community gatherings of this beloved local landmark. This immersive journey allows them to experience the park’s cultural significance and historical evolution, deepening their appreciation for one of Austin’s cherished green spaces and fostering a connection with the city’s diverse heritage.

Santa Rita Courts – Presented By Widén Elementary School

Widén Elementary School

Widén Elementary School is delving into the history of Austin’s Santa Rita Courts through a compelling VR narrative. This immersive experience invites students to step virtually into the heart of the city’s first public housing project. As they explore the historic site, they gain a profound understanding of its cultural and historical importance, enriching their knowledge of Austin’s past and fostering a deeper connection with their community’s heritage.

Santa Rita Courts – Presented By Govalle Elementary School

Govalle Elementary School

Govalle Elementary is introduces a history of Austin’s Santa Rita Courts. This immersive VR story allows students to virtually walk through the historic grounds, understanding the cultural and historical significance of the city’s first public housing project.

Darnell (D.K.) Wilson – Capital Plaza

Digital Docent – E4 Youth

Darnell chose Capital Plaza, a bustling strip mall in the Windsor Park neighborhood of Austin, Texas, as his landmark of resilience. Back in 2019, this place became an unlikely refuge where he spent nights in his car, a decision dictated by economics more than comfort. Juggling a variety of odd jobs, he viewed every dollar spent on a hotel as a setback from his hard-earned income. Amid the hum of nighttime activity at the plaza, Darnell made a solemn vow to himself — this situation would be a temporary chapter, not his life story.

Those months, under the dim glow of streetlights, were not just about survival; they were a crucible forging Darnell’s resolve and tenacity. The resolve that has since propelled him, fueling ambitions and dreams far exceeding the confines of his car’s four doors. Capital Plaza stands not just as a reminder of his toughest days but as a testament to the promise he made and kept — a promise of relentless pursuit towards a future he envisioned.

Matthew Roman – El Paso High School

Digital Docent – E4 Youth

Matthew selected the gym at El Paso High School as his pivotal arena. As a dedicated multisport athlete, he devoted countless hours there, weight training not just to meet benchmarks, but to surpass them – striving to become faster, stronger, and the best competitor possible. The gym, with its echoing cheers and relentless pulse, wasn’t just a building; it was the crucible where Matthew’s limits were tested and his victories forged. Beyond physical strength, sports nurtured enduring friendships and a deep sense of camaraderie among teammates.

Upon graduation, however, the structured world of school sports faded, leaving a void where clear objectives once stood. Initially, Matthew grappled with this transition, feeling a sense of aimlessness as the familiar rhythm of team practices and competitions fell away. Nevertheless, he found a new sanctuary in his apartment gym. This wasn’t just a place to maintain his fitness; it was where he redefined his purpose on his own terms, channeling the discipline and resilience honed during his high school years into forging a new path forward.