AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new nonprofit is lifting up Black professionals in Austin with the goal of ensuring their success and inviting more like-minded people to Central Texas.
The African American Leadership Institute has inducted its inaugural class: 38 men and women from a diverse set of careers who will regularly meet and collaborate together over the next half year, brainstorming ways to create a more inclusive community and connect to opportunities in their respective professional worlds.
“We want to connect them to groups who are looking for decision-makers, board members, leadership. And we want to activate them,” said cofounder BiNi Coleman. “We have African American leaders that are out there wanting to get connected and just not knowing how.”
Coleman explained there are two major issues facing Austin’s Black community. She said the African American population has been consistently declining for nearly half a century. Also, despite its thriving corporate environment, companies admit they have trouble retaining Black professionals.
She said most people end up leaving six months to a year in, seeking a more inclusive community to which they can relate.
“Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Louisiana is the right place for them, where they can find their community. That’s where they are going back to,” Coleman said. “We really want to inform this group of fellows about issues concerning the Black community.”
Coleman said the 38 fellows are proven leaders in their respective organizations. Among them are police officers, tech workers and school administrators, to name a few. Sergeant Wayne Sneed with the Austin Independent School District Police Department said he was honored to join the institute’s inaugural class.
“When I read about the institute and their mission, to me that spoke highly to my own personality and a lot of the character traits that I have,” Sgt. Sneed said. “I think bringing all those partnerships together can really lead to something monumental along the road.”
The institute has also sought out corporate partners who are interested in learning more about how they can better retain their talent. Coleman said Google, Facebook, Bank of America, Texas Mutual and J.P. Morgan Chase have all signed on as partners.
“This isn’t just a philanthropic thing. This is really a service to major corporations who haven’t been able to figure out, ‘how do we retain black professionals and why are they leaving?'” Coleman said “Well, we know one piece of it, and they know one piece of it so by working together, we feel like we can really impact this issue.”
The 38 fellows selected will meet each other for the first time on Friday. Their final meeting together will be in October. That’s when applications will open again for the class of 2022.