One of the challenges of living in Austin, Texas is navigating the insistent gentrification taking place. It rips communities and takes your friends away. It forces potential friends to leave, too.
Roberto and I have worked hard to intentionally find and develop friendships with People of Color to ensure community and culture. We want our children to have friends that look like them. We want quality time with people who understand us and with whom we don’t have to explain much of ourselves to.
Yesterday, Dr. Courtney Robinson of Excellence and Advancement Foundation coordinated and led a summit called EquitySpace. Wow! It was such a breath of fresh air for many reasons. One of them was the community that was present. So many People of Color dedicated to equity work were in attendance, and the sense of community and connectedness was palpable. Also, this was a summit where many industries were present. There were educators, yes, but many folks from the health sector, non profits, tech, city staff, and more. Listening to their perspectives was great.
For example, I attended a session led predominantly by Black women working in the Austin Health Department. I’m so glad I did. The statistics of what’s going on in Austin in terms of health is saddening. They shared how the east crescent (or east side) of Austin is both less insured and folks living there (including my family and I) have a lower life expectancy rate. They added that Black and Brown children living on this side of town are 5-7 times more likely to live in poverty. They broke down how Austin’s racist history of segregation and redlining has impacted and defined issues of health and how, as a result, the office has now shifted to lead all of their work from race. Meaning, it’s the primary factor for determining inequity and health disparities. Therefore, that’s the factor they’re isolating in their work and that’s how they’ll be addressing inequity in Austin. I was invigorated.
That afternoon, our keynote was April Ryan and I really enjoyed the tid bits she shared and the inspiration she left us with. This work is exhausting. It’s eroding. It requires patience and balance. She gathered us all the way up. I wrote a thread about it on Twitter, in case you want to read her gems.
Roberto, myself, and Dr. Angela Ward presented a session on anti-racist workspaces. I loved co-presenting with them, and Dr. Ward’s expertise and energy were all the right factors. Below is a screen shot of our introductory slides.
Our presentation focused on Tema Okun’s work “Traits of White Supremacy Culture” and we used that as a lens to think about strategies for moving workspaces to anti-racism. One point of resistance I always face when talking about these traits is questions and doubts about how these traits are racialized. So many people feel like these traits are “American” and therefore neutral and not racialized. That perspective is in and of itself a workshop, but I did want to address that idea from the start. So the screenshot below of this particular slide begins to explain some of those connections.
We broke down how early colonizers had beliefs and values and those beliefs and values could be found nested in these traits Okun (with the help of others) identifies as the ones foundational to White Supremacy culture. And we talked more, but for that, you’ll have to come to a session!
The day was full of learning, networking, and community building. What a day. It was the boost I needed. All the feels…