Decolonizing Thanksgiving Through Community Voice & Gratitude

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

 After surveying 5,000 nonprofits, Race to Lead found that white-run nonprofits are more likely to have larger organizational budgets than those led by people of color. With this in mind, MEASURE is working to decolonize Thanksgiving by highlighting three Black and Brown-led nonprofits that deserve credit and gratitude this season.

Based in East Austin, the Central Texas Allied Health Institute (CTAHI) offers health care education at an affordable price. Co-Founder and Campus President Todd Hamilton M.Ed explains, “We are looking to serve the underrepresented, the under-appreciated and the ...under represented population to give them a path forward in the medical field.” Increasing the medical field workforce is important because according to the Austin Metro Master Workforce Plan, Austin is 30,000 medical professionals short to care for the growing population of the city.

The vision of CTAHI is to put confident and competent Black and Brown individuals in the medical field, because increasing representation in the medical field can have a huge impact on the wellbeing of one in need. As Hamilton sees it, “It starts with one person: our student who can make a connection in the world either to elevate themselves or to inspire and share, ‘This is what I did to change my life.’ You can, too.” Having worked in the medical field for over 20 years, Hamilton built CTAHI with his business partner Dr. Jereka Thomas-Hockaday to “give people that pride and that respect within themselves.”

CTAHI offers a wrap-around service, meaning from the time you contact admissions to getting your first job or your next job, CTAHI can assist with childcare, rental assistance and career advancement. “We will all do everything that we can in order to help the students not give up on themselves,” Hamilton explains of the breadth of the non-profit.

While the target demographic of CTAHI are Black and brown individuals, Hamilton shares that, “We're here for everyone because we want equal representation. Everyone's invited. Come be a part of the family. Once in the family, always in the family.” Community members may take part in the free COVID-19 testing, pre-register or walk up to the clinic. Results are emailed within 72 hours.

Another Black-led nonprofit offering additional resources since the pandemic is The Austin Urban Technology Movement (AUTM). MEASURE is grateful to AUTM for bridging the gap between the Black and Hispanic communities and the technology industry through job placement, career development and networking opportunities. Since the start of the pandemic, AUTM has been working to provide long- and short-term internet access, a service to track the quality and speed of internet access, and computers to those in need.

Driven by his faith and a desire to help his community succeed, AUTM President and CEO Michael Ward Jr. looks to eliminate challenges that keep people left behind. AUTM services include upskilling (taking someone who may have basic skills and getting them to an intermediary or advanced level of skill set) and rescaling (taking someone who has skills in another field and transferring those skills into the tech space).

If it sounds like the mission of AUTM is large, Ward will assure you, “Yeah, it is a lot because everything's connected. There's no segmentation. The education industry is the same as the workforce industry; the only difference is your age. The education industry is the pipeline into the workforce industry. If K–12 education is not providing the foundation of digital literacy, people will fall behind in the job market.”

Becoming self-sustaining within the tech industry is the ultimate goal of AUTM and in order to do that, people have to have internet access. They have to have access to devices, and they need skills within this space. Ward explains, “If we do those three things, then we'll be able to not just allow people to become self-sustaining, but we'll shrink the racial wealth divide, eliminate the digital divide and furthermore address the skills gap.”

In giving thanks, Ward offered this bit of encouragement to the AUTM community: “Don’t ever stop. Don't get discouraged, continue pushing, and you can work and live inside the tech industry. Even if you're not technical. Everyone could have a different pathway inside this space.”

The third Black-led nonprofit that deserves credit and gratitude this season is the Austin Justice Coalition (AJC). AJC is a grassroots racial justice group that educates Austinites and builds community for people of color. “Our mission is to educate not only ourselves [and] our community, but others, so that we can dismantle this system together,” explains Director of Communications Ishia Lynette.

AJC’s Instagram account jumped from 3,000 to 35,000 this summer because, as Lynette sees it, people showed up to “truly support the liberation of black people, not only in Austin, but in this world.”

Lynette is not discouraged that the number of people showing up to AJC meetings has diminished since the summer’s uptick. Instead, she is grateful to those who are still part of AJC’s cause. She offers those supporters these words: “Thank you for believing in our mission and believing in our fight. Thank you for listening to Black voices that often go unheard. The Black community of Austin is being supported and may continue to be supported so that one day we can have a life of equity.” When asked what keeps AJC pressing forward, her answer is clear. “We have to keep going because until everyone's free, nobody's really free. If we don’t stand up for our own people, then who will?”

MEASURE supports the work of CTAHI, AUTM and AJC as subscribers of their newsletters, executive partners and joint forces of initiatives for equity. Your support matters in continuing this important work. We see you here. Will you join us there too! Visit the engagement pages for these amazing organizations to sign-up for newsletters, find ways to volunteer or donate this holiday season: Take Action for CTAHI, Join the Movement for AUTM and Get Involved for AJC.

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