Since the fall of 2014, a group of BIPOC-led community based organizations, each working for social justice for their own communities, has been collaborating to address the growing racial divide in the city of Austin. As the city is in a period of accelerated growth, Austin has also become the most segregated city in the United States.
In May of 2015, the coalition launched a report: Austin- A “Family-Friendly” City: Perspectives and Solutions from Mothers in the City. The report questioned Austin’s designation as a family-friendly city with research and analysis pointing to the growing inequities we are facing locally. One recommendation in the report made by the community coalition was for the city to develop and implement an Equity Assessment Tool. The purpose of the equity tool is to evaluate the impact that existing city policies and practices have on equity, and develop recommendations for addressing current race and socioeconomic-based inequities throughout the city.
These community based stakeholders worked closely with various City Council members and the mayor to develop a resolution to address these inequities. This coalition of community based organizations organized community members to pass a resolution at Austin City Hall calling for the city to develop an Equity Assessment Tool. Resolution # 20150507-027 passed in May 2015 and designated the city government to focus on the work of advancing racial equity in Austin.
We have continued to push for a racial equity lens to be applied to our city’s budget year after year to fund much needed public health, housing and parks and recreation programs by divesting from the inflated policing budget. In 2020, an unprecedented year of pandemic, job loss and racial uprisings, we mobilized to expand our work to include a Racial and Economic Solidarity Network to provide Mutual Aid in addition to our ongoing city work. We rallied, organized, and demanded a dramatic 50% cut to the police budget and R.E.A.L. (RISE Funds, Equity Office, Austin Public Health and Low-Income Housing) Solutions to provide real safety and security for our Black and Brown communities. While the city decreased the budget by only 5%, it was the biggest decrease we have seen during our lifetimes. We continue to reimagine a world without policing and advocate for investment into racial equity and an Austin where communities of color can thrive.