What if there was a hub in Austin that attracted and cultivated established and developing Black talent in every area of civic life? What if local Black professionals in education, arts, healthcare, finance, politics, development, entertainment, etc. had a home base at which they exchanged ideas and joined forces? What if that hub had a mechanism to connect those resources to each other and to other communities that earnestly wanted to improve their outcomes and make good on their commitment to diversity?
What if that hub was being established right now?
All of these hypothetical questions are currently being answered in the form of AALI, African-American Leadership Institute. AALI is the long-awaited solution to the growing chasm between Austin’s Black community and the larger Austin community. AALI is launching its 2021 inaugural cohort in March and is calling for Austinites to submit their fellowship applications.
an excellent solution to act as a point of connection.
AALI has earned endorsements from a number of public officials, including Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion and Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler. Adler referred to AALI as “an excellent solution to act as a point of connection.” Neighboring mayor of Manor, Dr. Larry Wallace, Jr., is also a vocal AALI supporter and has expressed excitement about the many opportunities it represents for the greater Austin area.
Recognizing the potential for those desiring to be connected to decision-making posts, be exposed to board seats, and to become more civically engaged, Tam Hawkins with the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce said, “GABCC is excited about the leadership development possibilities.”
Black Austinites are often invisible where significant city-wide initiatives are concerned, and the impact of their absence often causes unintended, but consequential, damage to the city’s image and the ability of all communities to participate in its forward progress.
In addition to building a robust pipeline of trained and informed community leaders who are well-versed on Austin’s civic issues, AALI will serve as a powerful entry hub for newcomers to Austin seeking Black cultural and social opportunities and events. Given the wide disbursement of African Americans in the Greater Austin area, the resources AALI will discover and document will be of value whether you have called Austin home for days – or decades.
Co-founders Heath Creech and Bini Coleman have taken up the charge to form the Institute and are calling all Austinites to join the effort. Coleman is excited at the prospect of helping to answer the question she’s heard the whole 27 years she’s been here: Where are the black people? “If I can contribute to Austin becoming the place I’ve always hoped it can be, I will be proud. I’m a problem solver by nature and I’d like to help get this right.”
AALI will be instrumental in our city’s future as we all strive to create equity, opportunity, and a higher quality of life for Austin’s Black citizens
Several key sponsors, including Facebook, Google, JP Morgan Chase, Q2, and The Austin Together Fund, have already signed onto the initiative as Founding Sponsors. “We are thrilled to partner with the African American Leadership Institute to increase civic awareness and leadership opportunities for Austin’s Black population,” said Katherine Shappley, VP of Global Business Group North America.
“AALI will be instrumental in our city’s future as we all strive to create equity, opportunity, and a higher quality of life for Austin’s Black citizens. We believe AALI will improve our ability – and the ability of other companies in Austin – to attract, equip, retain, and promote Black talent. This is a business imperative – not only because it’s the right thing to do – but also because diverse companies are more successful.”
Resources of all kinds are needed from anyone who sees the benefit of leveraging the hidden trove of skill and talent in Austin’s black community. It is a long-established notion that projects that are powered with diverse perspectives are more effective and better serve the larger goal of community-building and growth.
Visit the AALI website for more details and to submit an AALI Fellow Interest Form. Please note that Heath Creech is also the Publisher of soulciti.