As founder and director of DiverseArts Production Group, Harold McMillan is a nonprofit producer of multidisciplinary art and culture projects and programs, and has been involved and active in Austin’s art and music community for more than 20 years. He is not your ordinary Austinite.
McMillan’s work in the nonprofit sector includes service and management positions in higher education, art and culture, social work, and low-income housing programs. DiverseArts Production Group promotes and expands the arts in Austin with a focus on traditional music and culture of African-Americans. For the last 20 years, the group has been at the forefront of innovative cultural programming and arts advocacy; its current projects include East End Fourth Fridays, East End Summer Music Series, and the Blues Family Tree Archival Project.
He cares deeply about preserving Austin history and fostering its long-standing African-American arts culture. And if you’ve ever met him, you would describe him as soft spoken, passionate, peaceful and powerful at the same time.
McMillan himself is African American. Here’s why that might be relevant.
On April 5, McMillan went to Houston’s Herman Memorial Hospital to pick up the belongings of his brother, who’d died there two weeks before. He’d attended his funeral, spent time with his family and then stopped into the hospital on his way back to Austin.
In this blog post, he describes what happened to him at the hospital (we excerpt):
Next thing I know the office door opens up and the big tall HPD guy is in the hall with me. He says, “we need to talk to you back here.” I ask, why do you need to talk to me back there? He simply repeats. We do this a couple of times. I tell him I prefer to be in the hallway in front of these cameras if you can’t tell me why you want to talk to me “back there.” I’ve done nothing wrong. Why do you need to talk to me back there in the office?
After I ask again “why do you need to talk to me back there, rather than here in the hallway in front of these cameras”……he is quickly behind me, has my arms to my back and I’m off the floor and being lifted to the door.
You can read the entire post by McMillan here.
In our second issue (link here, open a PDF), we interviewed three East Austin leaders about the state of African-American Austin. McMillan was one of those leaders. He expressed regret, anger and fear, but he also expressed hope. He’s made it his life’s work to make a difference for the African-American community.
I don’t know what happened in Houston last week, but I know that McMillan’s contributions to Austin are not reflective of a person who should be treated with brutality.
NOTE: There is a petition on Change.org for “Justice for McMillan” to the mayor of Houston.