Best in the Citi

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soulciti and the African American Leadership Institute (AALI) are recognizing the accomplishments of Black Austinites who are leaving their mark in the arts, business, government, education, and healthcare.

Following a number of online discussions about the lack of a Black community in the city – and a very real statistical reality that shows the population decline – it is especially important to acknowledge the trailblazers and innovators who are working hard to represent and build that community.

Alongside this recognition, AALI is doubling down on efforts to help cultivate the next generation of leaders in Austin who will help improve the quality of life for those who currently live in the city and those who will join the more than 160 people who move to Austin each day.

Austin is the fastest-growing major city in the U.S., and it is our hope that as diverse populations continue to migrate here, they will find there are people working fervently to promote a city that is truly inclusive and welcoming of everyone. Applications are now open for the inaugural cohort, which will debut in early March.

In the meantime, keep an eye on these Black Austinites to watch for 2021 (and beyond):


Gibson’s alma mater sparked his love for Minority Serving Institutions. His desire to find new and creative ways to serve Black people led him to HBCUs.

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McDonald thought he would follow his family’s tradition of military service. But after being medically disqualified, he found himself as a leader in healthcare administration, fighting for more inclusive ways to deliver services to patients across the nation. Today, he’s using his superpower to give voice to the voiceless.

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Harris is an Austin sports legend. She led the 1986 University of Texas Longhorns women’s basketball team to the first perfect season in NCAA women’s history, en route to their first and only NCAA title. She’s worked as a commentator at ESPN and Longhorn Network, and now she’s trying her hand at sports beverages.

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Mitchell is a native Austinite who also understands what it’s like to be a transplant because she moved away for eight years as a young adult. The serial entrepreneur has achieved all the goals her younger self set. Now she’s focusing on the one that matters most: Creating a better, more inclusive Austin for her daughter to grow up in.

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James says he and his family have almost left Austin countless times. Coming from cities like D.C. and Atlanta, they found themselves often frustrated by simple things, like where to get their hair done, and where to worship. But he acknowledges he would not have started DivInc in those cities, and has found Austin the perfect place to focus on supporting entrepreneurs of color.

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Moore found himself a felon at 17, after a judge wanted to teach him a lesson for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Knowing first-hand how difficult life can be for those who have encountered the criminal justice system, he founded the Austin Justice Coalition to fight for fairer outcomes for other Black and Brown people in the city.

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Madongorere is looking to bridge the gap between technology and inclusive content. His upbringing in New York, then Boston, and finally Zimbabwe gave him a range of experiences in diversity, now he’s bringing those experiences to Austin to build a more inclusive community through tech. But what drives him most is building a stronger sense of community for Black families supporting a child with Autism.

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Ulmer built a multi-million dollar lemonade brand before her twelfth birthday. She is a public speaker, a published author, and she runs a nonprofit to save the bees. Now, the 16-year-old is grappling with her biggest challenge: Figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up.

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Mahone has been a struggling artist. Now that he and his wife, who together make up the hip-hop group Riders Against the Storm, have made it to the other side of the mountain, he’s working to help out other artists. After finding the community overwhelmingly in agreement that it’s hard for artists, but slower to talk about the challenges that go along with being Black in the city, he’s on a mission to show Black Artists Matter.

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Williams is passionate about turning moments into movements. Her parents and grandparents were professional “fire starters,” as she says, and now the high-powered D.C. lobbyist is using her power for good to inspire policy around social justice initiatives.

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