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Black leaders in Austin want to build a racial justice movement that sustains itself for years to come

Thursday, July 23, 2020 by Sangita Menon, KUT

Black leaders in Central Texas are forming a new coalition called the Black Leaders Collective to address systemic racism.

The group has about 40 members, including activists, educators, artists and policymakers who say they want to create meaningful and transformative change that goes beyond conducting studies and making plans.

Police killings of Black people like George Floyd and Mike Ramos have sparked protests and conversations this year about racial disparities in everything from policing and health to education, wealth and more. Against the backdrop of these events, the group says it wants to build a racial justice movement in Austin that will sustain itself for years to come.

Leaders announced the launch of the group during a press conference Wednesday. Member Shuronda Robinson said the community often comes together to protest and call out issues after an incident, but “the changes in thinking and structures and implementation [are] often left undone without advocacy and [are] underfunded.”

The collective says there’s been a lack of investment in Austin’s Black community over the last several decades. Housing affordability and limited educational opportunities have pushed many Black residents out.

In the short term, the Black Leaders Collective says it is focusing on fundraising to support existing Black-led organizations in Central Texas. It’s also working to educate and train leaders on how to overcome systemic racism, and fundraising for projects that help Black people succeed.

One goal is to ensure the movement is inclusive of people of varying social identities, backgrounds and ages.

“We all hold responsibility as young people to show up where we are needed and to put in the work,” said member Elle Smith, who is a recent high school graduate and founder of the Central Texas Genders and Sexualities Alliance Coalition. “No great movement can be successful if it is not intergenerational.”

Smith said it was fundamental that the movement be truly intersectional, because “Black people are not a monolith.”

“Our intersecting marginalizations mean that white supremacy affects all of us in different ways,” Smith said. “So, we must acknowledge and affirm that Black folks from all walks of life have valuable perspectives and distinct needs.”

Robinson said she hopes the work the group is doing now will benefit generations down the line.

“We are planting trees that we will never sit under the shade of or eat the fruit of,” Robinson said. “We’re looking at the leadership collective as a mechanism to deconstruct white supremacy and to build a foundation so that seven generations from now, our children and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren are having a very different conversation.”

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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