African American Cultural Heritage District Board Forms


L – R (clockwise) Rev. Freddie Dixon, architect Emily Little, business owner Adrian Neely, attorney James Nortey, museum curator Bernadette Phifer, artist Lisa Byrd.
L – R (clockwise) Rev. Freddie Dixon, architect Emily Little, business owner Adrian Neely, attorney James Nortey, museum curator Bernadette Phifer, artist Lisa Byrd.

Nearly 30 years after the idea first came to light, Austin’s African American cultural heritage district is closer to becoming a reality.  Last week a group of business owners, community leaders and cultural and arts professionals officially established the organization known as the African American Cultural Heritage District (AACHD).

“The organization plans toserve as a catalyst for projects and activities that are dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for residents and small businesses of Central East Austin,” says Adrian Neely, board chair,  “while preserving and protecting the cultural legacy of Austin’s historically Black community.”  

“We appreciate the support of visionaries in the community and staff from the City of Austin, especially Deputy City Manager Michael McDonald,” adds Neely.

In the late 1980s a group of concerned citizens and activists offered a plan for the revitalization of E. 11th and 12th streets that included the creation of a cultural arts center and heritage district.  Since the 80s many other community members have worked to create a community-based economic engine to preserve and protect the vitality of African American culture in Austin.

Rev. Freddie Dixon was part of group that envisioned the district and was recently elected treasurer of the new African American Cultural Heritage District Board of Directors, along with Adrian Neely, Chair, James Nortey, Vice Chair, Emily Little, Secretary, Bernadette Phifer, Parliamentarian, and Sheldon Kilby, Assistant Secretary. Harold McMillan was also elected a member of the organization.

In 2007, Austin’s City Council authorized the district’s boundaries: Manor Road to the North; Huston Tillotson, south; Airport Blvd, east; and I-35 as the western boundary. In 2009, Lisa Byrd then Executive Director of ProArts Collective, applied for and received State designation for the cultural heritage district.

Since 2010 a steering committee, chaired by Byrd, has worked to plan and organize the effort to build an organization that will provide programs and services within the district’s boundaries. This group of concerned and active citizens has been successful in laying out the vision and mission of the organization.

On Tuesday, July 16, the African American Cultural Heritage District (AACHD) was officially formed. The group operates as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve the heritage and cultural contributions of Austin’s African American community. One of the next steps is to establish a community advisory board that will assist the group with telling the many fascinating stories of the district and assisting in finding the best methods for honoring the legacy of this community.

The group has been awarded initial start-up funding from the City of Austin (through the department of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development HERE). These funds will be used to develop an interactive website about the history of the area in partnership with Kealing Middle School and others; conduct tours of the historical sites; assist residents and businesses in documenting their histories, promoting business and housing opportunities and producing an annual Arts and Ideas Festival, are among some of the planned activities.


For more information, please contact: Lisa Byrd:



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Concact: Shuronda Robinson, 512.472.6112,