AUSTIN (KXAN)—From art to food and music—some give credit to Black Austinites for playing an integral role in shaping the city into what it is today.

Yet over at least a 10-year period, Austin’s Black population continues to decline, while the overall population grows.

To address more Black people leaving year over year, there’s one group in particular taking a solution-oriented approach that it hopes might help sustain or even grow that population.

The African American Leadership Institute (AALI) is an Austin nonprofit. According to its website, it works to:

“Increase civic awareness and leadership opportunities specifically targeting Austin’s Black population.”

African American Leadership Institute

It was founded in 2020 by longtime Austinites, Heath Creech and the organization’s CEO, Bini Coleman.

AALI has been strategic for the past few years, to come up with a real plan to tackle the complex issue of Austin’s declining Black population.

“I’ve been here over 25 years, and we have not directly tackled this issue,” Coleman said. “We’ve talked about it.”

Much of AALI’s work is centered around its annual cohort.

A path toward building belonging and purpose

AALI selects up to 40 participants to be members of its 10-month long Cohort. It started doing this in 2021.

Participants meet once a month.

“We dive into the different issue areas such as employment, education, arts, culture, and entertainment, health and wellness,” Coleman said. “We’re looking through the Black community lens at these issues.”

The cohort is an extensive long-form educational networking event.

It’s an approach AALI curated after a survey found 80% of Black people who have left Austin cited, “a lack of belonging.”

A measurable impact

AALI cohort members connect with other leaders, gaining the knowledge and tools to be more successfully active in the community.

“The more that they have that voice at the table, the more they’re likely to stay and feel like they have ownership in their community,” Coleman said.

End of cohort survey results show the impact.

AALI plans to continue using this survey as a metric over the years to see whether it impacts Austin’s Black population.

Inside ‘The Wakanda Building’ with an AALI Cohort Alumni

Carl F. Hunter works in what he’s dubbed as “the Wakanda building.”

“I kept saying it and we will all go around here hitting that [Wakanda Forever motion],” Hunter said with a chuckle.

Hunter refers to the space where he works the way he does, because of how it feels to him.

“It’s significant that you have 25 African-American led nonprofits in one place,” Hunter said.

Hunter, the founder of the nonprofit, Building a Promise USA (BPUSA), helps with helping formerly incarcerated people transition.

He’s also now an alumni of the AALI cohort, which he says has helped his business immensely. There was a nagging feeling he had, prior to being selected as a member for the cohort.

“Going home…in Philly…I stopped in the middle of my walk, and I said [to myself], ‘You know what, I haven’t seen Black people in two years,” Hunter said.

That’s one big reason he went through the cohort.

“There were dynamic resources, and I took advantage of them.”

Hunter said he was able to specifically connect with elected officials to help his nonprofit with workforce development after the cohort, and is now building on that.

“It allowed me to broaden my base,” Hunter said.

City of Austin Demographics

Less than 7% of Austin’s population is Black, based off the latest demographic numbers.

Over a 10-year span, the population grew by 3%.

This has helped guide AALI’s strategic approach.

“If this is one thing that I leave with Austin, that made it better…I can’t even express the joy,” Coleman said.