Black Women of ATX: A Brave Space for Women

When Sydney Martens moved to Austin at the height of the pandemic, she found it hard to meet and connect with other women. After joining some Facebook groups, she noticed how a lot of co-ed groups allowed bashing and disparaging comments of Black Women.

Being the “doer” that she is, she chose to respond by creating a space just for Black Women. Now, just a little over a year later, the group has grown to over 2,600 women in the greater Austin area and offers weekly meetups and events for networking, exercising, providing emotional support, and more. soulciti caught up with Martens to learn more about the group, the women behind it, and to discuss the long-term vision for the group.

Sydney Martens, Founder of Facebook group Black Women ATX.

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO AUSTIN AND HOW ARE YOU LIKING IT?
Honestly, I was looking for a change of scenery and weather. I’m originally from Minneapolis. And if you know Minnesota, It gets cold. I got tired of negative forty-degree weather and snow up to my kneecaps. I moved here in June of 2020 and so far I love Austin. And once I was able to meet so many great women, it made the experience that much richer.

HOW DID BLACK WOMEN ATX COME TO FRUITION?

One day we were in a “lovely” coed Facebook group. And as always, they were discussing Black Women in a negative light. I found myself and other women frustrated in the comments and said “You know what? I’ll start a group just for us.” So on January 25th, 2021, Black Women ATX was born. It started with just a few of us and it quickly grew. We recently celebrated our one-year anniversary this year and had over 2500 women in the group and it continues to grow.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO JOIN THE GROUP?

  • You have to live within an hour’s radius of Austin
  • Have to be a Black (not as straightforward as you’d think… we’ll get to that later)
  • Be Woman identifying – (trans and nonbinary are welcome)
  • Must be Over 18
  • Be respectful. We can disagree and educate… But it must always be out of respect and love.

ONE OF THE REQUIREMENTS IS THAT YOU HAVE TO BE BLACK, HOW DO YOU FEEL WE PEOPLE SAY YOU’RE GATEKEEPING THE GROUP? IS IT A GOOD THING OR A BAD THING?

For some reason, that’s the hardest requirement for people to grasp. Consequently, I definitely gatekeep. And I will continue to. There are so many spaces literal and non that Black women have to adjust and assimilate into. So many spaces that are harmful to Black women and we still have to find a way to figure it out. So this space is just for us. I have non-black women reaching out to request surveys from the group, women with Black Children, and Black partners and think they automatically are allowed to be in the group, nope. We are not guinea pigs or lab rats. I will politely refer them to a group can assist them but this space is for Black women and those who identify as Black women. That’s it. And I won’t budge on that. I’m gonna gatekeep the hell out of this group. And that’s coming from someone who has a white mother.

WHEN DESCRIBING THE GROUP YOU’VE HELPED CULTIVATE, YOU SAY IT’S A “BRAVE SPACE FOR WOMEN.” CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT?
One member once said she wouldn’t describe it as a safe space but more of a brave space and ever since then, that’s how we describe it. Safety is subjective but in order to be brave and authentically you, that takes courage. And that’s because what it means to be Black looks differently to just about everyone. So I try to protect that, even against one another. Some of the stuff that’s shared in there, I’m like, “What, you’re brave as hell to share that!” So I try my best to protect that.

WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR BLACK WOMEN ATX?
While we host at least three events weekly, I’m most excited about our retreat coming up on April 6th through 8th at the Crystal Lake retreat center. It’s owned by a couple and they have some mansions out on a pond, cabins, heated pools, and more.

We no longer have tickets for the overnight stay but women can still attend the daily activities. We’ll have a wellness day which consists of yoga and meditation. We have an esthetician coming out, a massage therapist, and a therapist who has volunteered her services as well. We have a personal chef and bartender, the works. It’s going to be good.

WHERE DO YOU SEE BWATX IN ONE YEAR? FIVE YEARS?
We’re currently working on getting Black Women of ATX trademarked. The other admins and I have worked too hard to cultivate this that we want to protect the name. In the next five years, I see us gaining our non-profit status and creating subgroups for travel, exercise, and more. But honestly, we’ve been able to grow because the women who’ve joined the group have brought their skill sets to the group. They offer to take on certain tasks and handle things that allow us to grow. Some are far more business savvy than myself, others might be better at communicating or organizing.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO WOMEN WHO ARE ON THE FENCE ABOUT THE GROUP?
Black women are so seasoned in any type of way. We have twenty-two-year-olds vibing with forty-five-year-olds. We have honorary aunties, big sisters, mentors, all of that. And it’s happened organically. I love it. You might not vibe with everyone or hear something you don’t like from the harder aunties. But if you find one or two women to help you in your career, to help you be a better mother, friend, or just find some women to turn up with, Black Women of ATX has done its job. Girl, Get cho ass in this group!

MEET THE BLACK WOMEN ATX ADMIN TEAM

  • Sydney Martens (Founder)
    Mother of two and legal Advocate who works in reentry. Workes with the Department of Corrections in Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and more.
  • Bianca Williams mother of 3
    Traveling Nuclear Medicine technologist and owner of PRESS CUSTOMS LLC. I am all for positive vibes! I love to hype and empower women! Especially those of color I am a Leo. Social butterfly!
  • Alexandria Pitts-Brown 40
    Seattle transplant born and raised.While maintaining a federal career and the joys of motherhood. I am pursuing my hobbies in interior design and esthetics. I am a carefree, optimistic, social butterfly. I believe in uplifting and supporting black women as I strive to see the good in everyone.
  • Ridgell Jones
    I’m an Arkansas native, luxury travel business owner, consultant, a competitor in Miss Veteran America, and a prospective JD candidate residing in Round Rock, TX. I spend most of my time dismantling and rebuilding HR departments, that systemically breed white supremacy and disparities in the workplace, from the ground up. You can find me anywhere where art and music reside.
  • Kayla Joissaint, 27
    “The Pretty Preacher”. I am a wife, mother, ordained minister, MUA, Wig line owner, and future sex educator and coach. I love when women feel beautiful and believe it too. Teaching that we can be “Saved and Sexy” is my goal through faith-based lessons and preaching.
  • Anastasia Ozain-Porterie, 30
    “The Social Scientist”. I am a native Houstonian with deep Louisiana roots who values interpersonal relationships that empower and promote all things, BLACK WOMEN. My love for African aesthetics and diaspora fuels me to show up everywhere and every place as my authentic self and allows me to encourage others to do the same.
  • Jackie Arnold, 28,
    Chicago Transplant. I’m a cosmopolitan that loves to see people happy and valued through genuine connections and experiences. My everyday actions reflect my goals to further myself and my family financially through entrepreneurship. The betterment and self-sufficiency of the Black American community is also at the forefront of my goals.
  • Amber B.
    University Recruiter for Facebook, serving on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team. Amber is an Alabama native and third-generation University of Alabama alumni. A proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Amber serves on the Financial Projects committee for her chapter.
  • Ariana Holt, 24
    Seattle transplant and alumna of the illustrious Xavier University of Louisiana has continued to invest in personal growth through relationship building with Austin’s finest, the black women of ATX.

 

 

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