Throngs uplifted by Hope Awards and Taste of Mexico

Interfaith is very Austin. The city is open to ideas. And to faith. It is no wonder that Austin hosts multiple interfaith groups, which not only encourage dialogue among religionists but also action based on shared convictions.

Ali Kahn and Rizwana Bano
at the Hope Awards for iACT. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

One of those groups, iAct, helps refugees, fixes up homes and provides other opportunities for talking and doing good together. Most years, they work very closely with the American-Stateman’s Season for Caring program. More than one recipient from that annual campaign to help the neediest were present for the Hope Awards, iACT’s annual tribute to interfaith leaders at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

SEASON: Blinded by bomb, Iraqi refugee seeks to counsel others.

After some unavoidable fluff, the ceremony picked speed and gravity when Executive Director Simone Talma Flowers used her not insubstantial oratorical skills to lay out the group’s mission. Then Rev. Stephen W. Kinney, iACT’s board president, introduced the first Hope recipient, Imam Mohamed-Umer Esmail, whose pastoral humility and dignity reach far beyond his Nueces Mosque.

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The remainder of the program was given over to a conversation between another Hope honoree, Luci Baines Johnson, and Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith. There isn’t a better public interviewer in town and Smith pushed Johnson to reflect on sad state of civic life today. Yet Johnson focused instead on the inspiration of her parents and her own guarded but urgent optimism for her children and grandchildren. At any rate, she is an increasingly disciplined speaker who struck just the right chord for the evening.

SEASON: Caring for others keeps senior going.

TASTE OF MEXICO

Mexic-Arte Museum first staged Taste of Mexico on the street. Then the sample-and-sip fiesta moved indoors and slipped into a more traditional a gala format. The benefit, which attracts a wide range of ages and cultures, now seems to have hits its stride at Brazos Hall.

Chris Gonzales, Sara Palma and Paul Chavarria during an absolutely packed and festive Taste of Mexico benefit for Mexic-Arte Museum at Brazos Hall. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

A dizzying array of food and drink could be had on the first floor, while the open-sided deck upstairs was set up more like a crafts market. The sheer number of culinary options was overwhelming. And the copious crowd love it, swirling from one table to another just enough abandon, given the generous sips of tequila and other potent potables. At times, it felt like a pop-up nightclub, but with better food than any nightclub has ever assembled.

The program was miraculously short. And a good thing, because the speakers could not be heard beyond the front rows. I like this event. It think you would, too.


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