Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate Black achievement. It’s also a chance to recognize where systemic racism persists and take steps to undoing it wherever we find it.
At the YMCA of Austin, we believe in creating environments that bring people of all backgrounds together and identifying concrete steps we can ALL take to make positive change in our communities. Although historic systemic discrimination in the past continues to shape today’s racial inequities, one way we can make a tangible positive impact in the ongoing fight for justice and equality is by supporting Black-owned businesses. When we amplify the voices, services and innovation of Black entrepreneurs, we all benefit.
In a world where our dollars serve as a vote for the products and services that stick around and succeed, this Black History Month, let’s support the Black-owned businesses in our community that contribute to Austin being a vibrant and optimistic city.
From restaurants to retail outlets, beauty services and more, supporting Black-owned businesses is a proven way to make a positive impact in the community all year long.
The YMCA has a long history of creating equity and opportunity for Black communities. In 2000, the East Communities YMCA opened its doors as the first facility of its kind East of IH-35. It serves as a hub for the community and a source of pride, giving families and children a place to learn, grow and have fun together.
At every step of the way, YMCA volunteers and staff have collaborated with surrounding neighborhood, education and church groups to design programs and services that meet the needs of the community. Furthermore, the YMCA actively supports community organizations by providing space to accommodate meetings and activities.
An understanding of the past is necessary to prevent oppression and to honor civil rights now and in the future. Austin’s own recent history is spotted with segregation and discrimination. One of the most notable laws, the city of Austin’s 1928 Master Plan, took control of property previously owned by Black residents and isolated Black Austinites in a single district on the East side of town.
That act of legal segregation had ripple effects that shape our city to this day. The rights and wealth of people of color were taken for the benefit of those who were already wealthy and powerful. Despite these systemic forces, which legitimized economic and social policies that cost them their property and opportunities to build wealth, Black Austinites have gifted this city with products and essential services that make our community thrive.