Originally aired on January 23 @ 11:00 PM - 12:00 AM EDT
For this installment of Afroflare's Why We Matter Speaker Series, Elisa Durrette, Head of Legal - Commercial Transactions, will host a fireside chat with Frances Jordan, Board Chair,
Austin Justice Coalition and Policy Director, Notley.
Black History Month
Elisa Durrette Hello, welcome to Cloudflare TV. I'm so excited today to have Frances Jordan joining us from the Austin Justice Coalition. Frances is the board chair of the AJC. She is an activist attorney, has been involved in the tech sector and the non-profit space for over a decade in Austin and I believe in DC. Am I making that up? I'm making that up, totally making that up, but you know worldwide. She's worldwide and she is joining us today to talk a little bit about some of the cool things that the Austin Justice Coalition is doing. We have a lot of folks who probably are not based in Austin and don't know what the AJC does. If you could just kind of describe for them what that organization, what your organization does in maybe 50 words or less so they can get an idea of what it's about, that'd be great. Yeah, so we're a non-profit that builds community and it's for people of color and we do that through policy, education, community programming with the idea that we want to be the driving force behind our own liberation. So that is around policy and policing, affordable housing, education and we actually quite love Black art. We have an event called Black Art Matters. It's probably our most popular community event pre-COVID and so those are some of the things that we do on a regular basis. That's awesome. I am an art collector so I love that you do things with the arts because I think you know there's things that you can say with art that you just can't say directly and so I think it's wonderful that you guys are exploring that. How did you actually, because again I you know when I was reading your bio you actually started off in the tech world and you still do a lot of things with the tech community. How did you come to work at AJC? Yeah, so I actually, AJC was forming around when people of color were dying and after Sandra Bland's death it was a rally that they had and they asked me to be a legal observer and a legal observer is basically someone who helps during a protest or a march to make sure everything is safe and sound. I'd never done it before and to be honest I wasn't actually much of a marcher or a protester. That's actually the only march I've ever done but it was one of the most emotional experiences and I just thought of my ancestors and the people who marched at the Civil Rights Movement and I was like just trying to find ways to engage and so for a couple years that was 2015-2016 and so I kind of engaged in very small ways. I actually did some writing, some blogging and then in 2018 is when I was like decided to get really serious and engaged with AJC and so for the first couple years I helped with development, so grant writing, working with partners and then also running the operations for AJC. So all of 2020 I was fortunate to be a volunteer because at the time we didn't have the staff that we've been able to get in 2021. So a lot of the work that was done up until last year was completely volunteer. So a lot of people had hands in all in deck. And how big was the org like how I mean are we AJC because I mean on the one hand I remember when we had talked earlier I think your founder had kind of been a one-man show and kind of holding this down by himself for a while and then started pulling people in. I think now it's like you know on any given basis like have a couple hundred volunteers that are coming. So it's been an interesting journey. So Taz Moore who's our executive director was the only paid staff before in 2020 and so now we have I think we're up to six or seven staff and I think we're growing and you're right so and so that everybody else who was engaged with AJC was volunteering. Our board and our leadership team both black and brown and we'd have a lot of volunteers right. So sometimes it would fluctuate a lot a lot of times would have to do with honestly elections and things that are going. But honestly with COVID one of the really good things about COVID it's like so our general body meeting you know we could range from 40 max maybe 80 but I think we've been able to have a couple hundred people 200 300 people like really engaged. So that's actually been a benefit of COVID last year. It's hard to say with so many negative things happened with it so. Yeah that actually because that actually leads into one of the questions that I wanted to ask you like kind of in the aftermath of you know the the protests in the spring and kind of all of the the emphasis that there's been on on kind of black-led organizations and Black Lives Matter. Has that changed the the types of conversations that AJC has been able to have you know who's who's actually wanting to talk to you what you're able to talk about like how has that impacted really what the work is able to do? Yeah so the two words that I was using a lot of maybe not publicly but it's it was exhausting and exciting right. So everybody wanted a piece. It's like 2020 in a nutshell. Everybody wanted to engage like one of the cool things was that if you were an organization that had been around and doing the work people were suddenly like we want to give you money we want to help you but what was challenging and this happens with nonprofits so I don't want to say it's just us people want to give in the way that they want to give right. I'm trying to help you what do you need but they don't really actually mean that I mean there are a few and so I can just say in that regard it was like no you all are making it harder on us for you trying to help us right and then you get it. Then it was also exciting because there were companies like I mean I hate to mention it but they've been a great partner but Bumble but they were a startup that had engaged with AJC not financially but had supported our work had engaged with us we had done things with them and so when this happened it was easier for them to have that conversation about donating to us. So I do think that that companies and organizations that had been interested and had connected with us it gave them more ability to convince people like I really think we should invest financially because one of the cash 22s of being an organization the size of AJC people love what you're doing but they don't want to give their money because they're like you're so small like you can't handle our money and so like and then it's like the funds we would get which are from foundations oftentimes would be attached to yeah those have restrictions on them right they're not they're not unrestricted funding and it is I mean to your point I do want to just point this out because I don't think people appreciate this and you know I think people who want to give and help non-profits a lot of times their first question especially when they're talking about a Black organization is well you know I don't see this organization in Charity Navigator like how could how do I know if this is like is this legit can I give my money like well you know who else has given them money and it's uh I'm not going to move until I until this organization has been validated by someone else I'm like you're basically just recreating the same kind of systems of oppression here if that's if that's what you're waiting for like if you're really serious about helping Black-led orgs you're gonna have to put some of that down and so I mean the the stuff that you're saying I mean that sounds exactly like some of the people that I know who are running orgs same same sorts of stories it's like oh we want to help you but wait we need to see we need to get more information and make sure you're legit it's like we're doing the work of course we're legit like what are you talking about yeah and it also depends on where you're located right so a lot of non -profits or foundations in New York and say California they are familiar with fiscal sponsors fiscal sponsors are basically non-profits who have their have everything good to go but they support smaller non-profits and we had our um 501c3 standing but we used a fiscal sponsor because they helped us with bookkeeping like things that make you more legitimate right we have we have that partnership but in in Texas especially in Austin even though it's a progressive city was very much like we don't do a lot of applications or grant things would not allow for a fiscal sponsor so a lot of the funding actually that AJC got that really made a huge difference and we're talking pennies that we will we appreciate every single dollar that we got came out of New York a lot of the funding that we got that really got us off um our feet were really out of New York so that's amazing yeah but but yes I wanted to follow up the conversations it's one of those things that the conversations about um reimagining what police look like reimagining policing you know we we have people we have volunteers who help us who have been doing this for 30 years who were just excited to have the opportunity to have a conversation um and so I think it was really um awesome opportunity on on the back of something very unfortunate to have city council members willing to have a conversation about changing where some of the funds are going um so well kind of kind of related to that I mean so um one of the things this past year that AJC was um heavily involved in was the defunding the police um uh movement in Austin in particular and unlike many other uh municipalities that tried to do that um you guys actually succeeded so one of the things I was hoping that you could talk a little bit about is um you know what did what did defunding the police what did that actually mean in reality and then like how like how did that money get redirected if at all and did it match with what AJC and its supporters wanted yeah well yeah I definitely feel I just want like one of the things that while we're called a coalition you know it just wasn't AJC there was a lot of organizations that were really pushing it um we especially were pushing it and what it felt um so a couple things so defunding the police really was about taking ended up being like around 20 million dollars and putting it into other areas that still were around this idea of policing rehabilitation but putting it into more useful areas so triaging people to mental health services instead of um sending them to necessarily having police show up so that was one area and I that recently came online in the last couple weeks actually and the other really big thing actually happened over the last couple weeks too which is repurposing some of that money to purchase houses I mean to purchase um hotels to create transitional housing so one of the biggest issues are one of our biggest homelessness issues is that we have shelters and then we have low-income housing but we don't have the housing that is actually desperately needed when someone is working but can't quite afford a house like you know it's like it's that in-between phase it really is causes a lot of problem with homelessness and so that's where um Austin is lacking and so we were able to use the funds because some of the quote-unquote police activity is happening around our homeless population so it's one of those things like we want to reduce some of like you know it's like not just easy it's like people think we want to like just stop paying police officers no we're trying to get them out of situations that they probably shouldn't be in right like do people sign up to be a police officer to manage homeless people no we as a community need to put our hands together and reduce the homeless population right like people aren't just waking up waking up one day like you know what I want to be a homeless and then people say and I want to be a criminal no it's like this idea of criminalizing people for being poor right exactly if your solution to homelessness involves police then you are something has broken down because these people are your neighbors they are not criminals right like that if the solution for homelessness involves police you've always got to I think stop there I think that's a brilliant point the piece about in terms of taking that money that was taken from the police and using that for transitional housing I think that's that's brilliant yeah and I think one of the other really things that was important and you never know because you know when we live in such a divided society so you we hope there are people who are listening to opposing views but we actually know a series called imagine the world without police which is not I mean if you talk to Chad or take a director he wants to get rid of the police completely but I think people's minds explode but that conversation we touched a lot of areas we talked around like in schools and in like in different areas and the reason why that that series that conversation was really important is because the idea of defunding the police is more about thinking abstractly about how the police we have created police in this country it's not that we want to get rid of police it's like we call police to go into situations that maybe we should be sending someone who has mental health experience or maybe together they go right and so the reality of it is that we need to continue to still have more conversations about reimagining what the world looks like versus just saying this is how it's been and this is what we're going to do and you know you hope that there are people listening in that maybe hear the word defund police and they have a negative reaction automatically so and I think and I think it's it's growth for everyone like I grew up in I'm from Kentucky I didn't have as many negative me or my brother have as many negative experiences with police but it was an education coming to Texas do you I mean here's the question I'm gonna I'm gonna play a little bit of devil's advocate here because I think so you know let me use my father for instance and he would say okay I know I know what they what they are trying to achieve like I know what they're trying to do but why they have to say defund the police because it makes it sound like they don't want any police that you know whatever what am I going to do how am I going to be safe and I'm wondering what do you kind of what do you say to those folks who are like no we should use a more incremental message like an incremental message will move the needle further than something more direct such as you know let's defund the police or let's imagine a world without police like what what was it what was kind of what you're thinking behind the strategy of just saying no we actually need to to go in a more we need to ask for more I guess yeah I think the reality of it is is that it is a little bit to make people uncomfortable right I think the question is are you asking us to be more palatable just so that it makes palatable for who yeah and then the other question too is I think police reform is a word that's been around forever and look what it has gotten us and I think that is really the I mean like when I've heard whether I'm talking about other people that's really it's like we've been performing police for a really long time and so the reality of it is some if you think about it we are there are parts of police areas that could be defunded to go somewhere else right like we're not trying to cut budgets or slash budgets or reduce I think that's the other thing too it's not it's not like we're trying to shrink the police budget to just give them less money to do their job it's like we want to take their parts of the police area you know one of the things that we're looking at too which is kind of correlated but not directly related you know one of the really big issues and it wasn't just in the black and brown community and honestly this is actually one of the things when we did for those of you who don't know AJC was able to change the police contract which was what the first ever in the country and a lot and one of the arguments our this is when I was getting really involved with AJC was the forensic unit actually it wasn't just about black brown bodies they talked about when they would go to the west side of Austin which is a rich area of Austin and people would be attacked and things of that nature and those crimes weren't being solved right like there were things that weren't being solved around the city of Austin because the forensic lab wasn't doing its job and it's one of those things that we they are now moving that out because and a lot of police departments do it that way so they're not it's not under because and so oh yeah it's like asking them to check their own homework like that doesn't right exactly and so it's those things that people and I do think you're right like sometimes you do wish like people would just get over the to fund the police but I think when you when you rarely have center stage and you get it you might as well go for the gusto I mean I think that's just the reality of it whether you like it or not I definitely I definitely hear you I mean it's like you know there's a James Baldwin quote where they like you know he says you know they they told my my mother to wait and my grandmother to wait and my my grandmother's grandmother to wait on progress how much longer can we wait and so you know this is you know to your point we've had the idea of police reform for decades and it has gotten us some things but it it has not been the kind of radical shift I think that we've seen in the last 12 months yeah and I think one of the things that is always funny to me is we've done things over the years working with the police department and have and we had to work with the police association like there are things we've done with police and whenever we do those things we're called that we're in bed with the cops so it's you know it's one of those things you can't really win you know you really can't win so it's like whatever no matter what we do there's always going to be criticism and I think that's something that's super key when going into activism and active advocacy is that you to some to some degree you have to just take the punches as they come right right no that that definitely makes sense so I want to switch gears just a little bit another area that AGC has focused on is voter registration especially kind of given this past year and you know leading up leading up to these 20 2020 elections active in voter registration but with a very specific focus on inmates through something called project or how did inmate voter registration because for AJC yeah it's funny I will say not all ideas come from ourselves we actually got that idea from the Houston Justice Coalition it's an idea that they had kind of actually come up with and you know it's just fortunate depending on the climate we just got we were just able to really engage in it and I think you know we were able to build a relationship with the sheriff's office and really get in there and I think the other thing that really made a huge difference because this is one of those times when like we weren't heavily funded it's that doing the work wasn't costly and we just had something that I always like to remind people you know Austin is a very white city and we just had some really dedicated I mean I think the majority of our volunteers for project orange were white and they just really believed in it and saw it and they kind of like took the project and ran with it and it involved like making people registrars figuring out when to getting trained because like getting into a jail is not an easy like there's things that you have to do on the voting side like the training for the voting registrar which isn't that hard and then also the training that involves just being able to go into the jail and then I think one of the more unfortunate parts of COVID is that the next foray and that which I'm sure will come back up is really looking at voting booths in the jail because I mean that's where that's let me let me stop you for one second though because I think people are probably like wait a minute isn't it illegal for people who have criminal records to vote like why are we talking about voter registration of inmates so I need you to back to back up just a little bit um skipped over it skipped over that because I'm like you know if we have some Trump supporters watching this show bless them because they're trying to change um but we also need to not add what what was happening was it was really an education piece right first explaining that they had voting rights right so these were definitely for people who had not been convicted you know if you I know I hate to use it's like when when people are arrested and they haven't gone to trial yet and they are not convicted of anything right so this it probably included people who were innocent because you know we there's innocent people in jail and maybe even some people who were guilty who hadn't been and they have the right to vote because they have not lost their rights to vote so what it was a lot of work in figuring out which inmates qualified getting them registered to vote and then doing a lot of the mail -in ballots right so that's why I mentioned trying to have and also in Travis County I think I think I remember reading this on your website um there is a huge problem around people being held for extended periods of of time that's not without being charged for anything so you could just you can spend 60 days in jail not be charged with anything and then be released but you will have been disenfranchised during that period yeah and I mean if you know the story of Kali I mean that is actually an issue not just in Travis County but especially so in a you know that's a that the that issue of jail bond is an issue across the country because people can't afford to to make bail and so then they end up being we were working with a a guy um who got into jail and was trying to like help him figure out how to get out right when COVID was happening it was a working with his mom and things of that nature um and he was and he was in you know it's one of the it is a challenge because if you don't have the funds to do it you're there and then you also are missing out on being able to vote for the people who are affecting your life directly um so it definitely is something that is a really good initiative that's you know it has kind of been on hold with COVID um so definitely looking forward to really engaging back in that once COVID is over. So I I did interrupt you a little bit so you were saying the next phase of that so phase one was kind of beginning to go and and get folks registered and then you mentioned right before I cut you off you started to say something about uh voting booths I think in the yeah we're we're starting to have those conversations right because I mean with the with the mail and stuff it's it's a more of a you know there's a lot more follow like making sure all of that happens with the mail-in ballot versus you know if you are able to kind of put a booth in the jail then everybody who is registered it's a lot easier to try to figure that I mean we don't know what it was gonna we don't know like I don't want to say I don't want to make things up but we don't know what that could have looked like or what were the figuring out what the challenges are and what why we could it couldn't do that is kind of what we were exploring. That's really that's really exciting um I guess kind of related to that that especially just kind of given how contentious um these past you know this past election was um do you feel like there's additional hurdles to getting like historically marginalized voter put uh put differently are you sensing I guess an erosion or of faith among you know young people of color color whether they're incarcerated or not um as it relates to democratic institutions like voting. Yeah so I have lots to say here um I think that the 2020 elections actually especially with the national view on Georgia were really good right I think more people have it's been eroded I actually would say for some people let's before we're not going to talk about Texas first but I would say most people I think people for the first time saw their faith fulfilled right they wanted if you wanted for a segment of a population in Georgia who really didn't think they I mean they they didn't have to some extent believe that they could turn the the seat and they did um there was a lot of national attention right but the reality of it is it's like that's not what most of us live our world live in the world that we live in right so there was this push in Texas for it to uh be more blue and I'm talking about state politics not even looking at the national which is our state politics there was this real big push and it didn't really happen right so you could be a person in Texas and feel like oh I'm seeing this blue way but it didn't really happen and I I would like to remind people though at least with and before I go back to national with the state politics AJC we have to work with Republicans in the state level because they're so I mean you if you're if we're working on a bill and we have to get it passed I mean it's not going through a bunch of Democrats right it's going through Republicans and Democrats so I do think that it's just really important for people just to recognize though that their vote matters and that their participation matters and I think that that in 2020 did happen regardless of what people might have experienced on their state and local levels um I think that's a good thing I mean the reality of it is is that half the battle it's if you if you follow some of the you know everyone's not Barack Obama right there are candidates who run and that they lose and that they have to keep running I think people often forget that um because we can sensationalize politics it's not a just sometimes it feels like the people with the most money win and that is true sometimes but that's not always the case it's about the people who are on boots on the ground and really get engaged it's why it's so important that local engagement is super super important because as people figure out on the local level and then the state level and then the national level right and you build that momentum and that so if more than anything if more people continue to run more people of color more women get engaged and mobilize their communities um I do think the tide will turn so I mean I'm probably being a little bit of a optimist um but that optimism so that's good but I mean but you were one of the things you said though is that you did say kind of so people saw you know everyone was like oh thank god for Stacey Abrams thank god for Georgia um right um but on the local level things may have stayed the same and I guess I'm wondering what was it do you feel like like just I mean if you're kind of just taking a pulse do you think that um folks who are eligible to vote actually believe that their vote counts because on the one hand it's like you're you know AJC is registering people but do you think that they actually believe in the institutions anymore like what are you hearing you know kind of in your role in with AJC and from you know folks that you're serving about whether or not they believe these institutions even work for them like I think at least you know just anecdotally like I think I see people who are who have a much um higher belief in um movement work and protest in terms of that actually changing something than they do casting their ballot at the you know at the ballot box and I'm also kind of just bringing it back around because it was like the way that you got in um first got involved with AJC was through a protest and so I'm just curious like are you seeing that same are you hearing things like that like what are you hearing out there in the field to speak on the protest thing is that protest gets people all riled up and excited but it rarely actually that's why AJC got into policy you know protests and marches sometimes don't actually turn the tide and if they do it's often because they have elected officials who actually care at the end of the day one of the things that when we we want to couch like some of the success that AJC has have we have to remember some of our leaders that are in office who were elected now like I said some of that has to do with the the makeup of the city right and so it does like I think the reality of it is a mixture of both you can do all the protests and all the things that you want but if you don't have the people in the positions to make the changes things are going to stay the same and so you really have to kind of do this triage both I mean it's it is all together I think the thing is is that I think in areas where things are purple I do think people get that their vote counts I do think it is a challenge still today to be in a community where maybe you think a little bit different than what the majority is like it's like my one vote really isn't going to change right um and but as you can see you know there was the amount of people who voted in Texas was beautiful I don't care what anybody says right or left I mean we we people in Texas came out because you know depending on what you wanted we didn't want the other person winning on both sides and so reality of it is that is better than anything that mattered it's like we want people to be at we want people to be engaged I think the real telltale sign is I have a friend who is actually constantly reminding me of all the redistricting and suppressing the vote is currently happening across the country um in Texas um someone who was literally determined by a judge to have redistrict his area to suppress the Latino vote is in charge of redistricting of over the redistricting committee in the state of Texas right like that is what's happening and it's one of those things that you'd like yes the election was great but now people are starting to try to figure out how to continue to suppress the vote and for those of you who don't know we me and my friend this friend is white and we got into a huge debate because I'm like it was originally for people of color and he's like now it's the Republicans or the Democrats and I was like yeah but it's still rooted in trying to keep the brown vote and the black vote and so that's why it's really important though to remember that your vote does count because people are consistently trying to keep people's voices suppressed like it's like you feel like your vote's not being counted well some of that is because they're trying to keep it from right some of that's intentional your you feel like your vote is not being counted that's because it's not being counted that is that is on purpose and so that's why it's so important like when people think about what what Stacey Abrams done and what other people did it's literally not just because people are sitting at home trying to make things you know just because they're being lazy like you know I think that that's somewhat of a misconception that it's just because people like don't care right like people have jobs people have kids like figuring out how to teach people how to do absentee ballot voting or figuring out ways to accommodate people I mean it's the same thing when people are talking about vaccines right like you're asking people over 65 who have no family to figure out how to get to their vaccine using technology right well I mean one of the things that 2020 laid bare for me at least with respect to voting rights I mean I'm I thought it would be absolutely non -controversial to allow people to vote by mail during a global pandemic that seems like a no-brainer like I don't know the fact that that was so contentious and the fact that it's the whole vote by mail concept isn't even available in certain states yeah that blew my mind so I mean I think there's like a lot of room for improvement and I think a lot of kind of areas where we need to think kind of just like systematically about how do we run elections in this country like you know we're the one of the few western nations where you know election day isn't actually a holiday that you get off so you can go vote right so it's stuff like that but well and that's why it was really hard for the Trump administration to persuade Republicans who were running their elections to say that there was fraud because it's like no even though we might like we do this I think that's the thing too is like also trying to discredit a system that we've been doing for a long time and so just this idea once again of like just trying to suppress the vote because it didn't work for you um it's a very interesting thing so this you when so when we were talking about the vote just now one of the things you mentioned is um Texas at least on a state level going a little bit purple and you know it's been loser like every other day there's an article about how you know Austin is the next San Francisco Miami is the next New York there's basically this exodus of these blue state folks to historically red states and a lot of the pundits are um a lot of the political pundits are getting very excited about this and that they they think that it's going to uh turn the table on the politics of of those states and I guess I'm curious do you see that being the case in Austin as you get kind of this influx of blue state tech folks um and then separately are there other um issues I guess that these new immigrants and I guess I'm not using the right word immigrants sorry that they um are bringing to Texas that are also like cause for concern maybe yeah so there's several things there so first you know Austin is already really blue so I don't really think that they're that I mean maybe it gets a little bluer but like I would say you have so they need to telecommute from um like Red Rock or like that's what I'm going to say so if you look at so I so in Austin in Travis County so Williamson County which is the county above which involves our suburbs uh Round Rock and Georgetown which is right next to Austin so here you have Austin one of the most liberal cities in Texas and then Williamson County I think it's either the fifth or sixth reddest county in the state which is really huge when you think about West Texas, Dallas, Houston so the reality of it is is that they don't live in Austin but they are like right there and I think people um I actually think we have to buckle up because I think it's really going to be divisive if you listen to a city council meeting and you hear the community comments you hear I mean if you you think about the divisiveness because the people are still here um or you think about the the back and forth between the governor of Texas and the mayor of Austin and some of that you know trying to engage about our homelessness issue or the defund the police so I do think it's actually a little scary in that it's going to be more more contentious um because um I don't know how less red the state of Texas gets but I think what people have to remember and we like to talk about this a lot so when we think about the work that we did in Austin there are plenty of liberals who are on the opposite side of the work that we do at AJC it's really important to highlight what do you mean by that how can you be liberal and be against AJC that just seems wrong nimbyism not in my backyard okay okay it's not not a thing only for one political spectrum it's on both sides and one of the reasons why it was a struggle was because people who were liberal because Austin was a considered liberal city didn't think that police brutality was a problem didn't think our police force was a problem because they're in Austin and we are progressive and we have arrived and we're better than all the other conservative cities around the state and it's like no actually you all are literally doing the same thing because I mean if you look at our homelessness conversation you know we have our the Travis County Republican chair leading the fight to kind of criminalize homelessness but his the co-chair is a leading liberal Democrat and she will let you know it so it's like it's not when you really get down to the local level some of those politics it's less about party and it's more about where you live and how much money you have right and that goes across party lines so from us on a local level it feels like depends on who's coming right and we're talking about really rich people coming from a already really rich state right so do we think it will change much probably will just intensify um some of the things like our focus on affordability you know how is that going to help that um and so those are some of the things that we have to think about um as people are moving here and I think the other really important thing is that Austin has continually been the largest city in America that has been losing people of color especially black people once they black not people because it's not necessarily true for brown people and so um it's a concern that we're good that Austin which is already not the most diversity is going to get less and less diverse but it's really but you know what I mean I think economic growth is a good thing it's just being able to use it for good right I think that is the challenge I think that is the challenge um that our city council is experiencing it's like we have all these you know it's good to have companies want to move to your city but it's like how can we do it so that it um is really positive so Samsung is trying to build a new plant in a certain part of Austin and it's kind of one of those things that the jobs that it's bringing isn't the same high-tech jobs that Tesla's bringing right and so they're asking for a very very lucrative tax credit whatever I don't want to know the official term but they're trying to get a deal y'all they're trying to move get build this plane get a deal that's all I can say and it's one of those things that it's like but they're bringing middle middle class jobs it's like do we is it the council and the county's responsibility to just lay down and just like to like take it because we know that they're going to bring jobs that are for a subset that's not necessarily uh focused on and so I mean I think those are the challenges that we're dealing with as people are moving plants and whole companies um to our area well definitely definitely and I guess you're kind you you're kind of getting you're kind of getting there a little bit um the question that I was going to follow up with was is there anything that companies like cloud flare or these you know basically companies that are moving to Austin that we owe the communities that we're moving into like how do we like how do we be good um not only corporate citizens but like how do we be good civic citizens like how do we actually add to um the the civic life there that's a very interesting question so I have a couple of thoughts my first job out of law school actually before I moved before I came to the wonderful Austin I lived in a very small town in Indiana and I will never forget if you've heard of Cummins engine it's their headquarters is in this small town Columbus Indiana it's actually also where Mike Pence is from it's a very small town and um I actually worked for the city I worked um in civil rights there and what I always what I was really amazed how much money this little city managed and when I moved to Austin and I was trying to determine whether I was going to get engaged or whatever I was like wow like if you look at what a city manages it's so much money and it's a responsibility for people who live in a city to engage and so you know one of the things that happens is that people move to a city and they just want to enjoy the benefits they just want to enjoy the great food and the music I mean there's so many wonderful things about the city of Austin and we wish that there were more people engaged in what's going on with our homelessness homelessness issue I think the reality of it is that I think having avenues to support really important initiatives um I think are really good like one thing that I do in my day job is looking is PACs right people think that company PACs are a really bad thing you mean P-A-C-S like like uh political PACs political PACs not super PACs and I think that's a I want to just bring this up on okay so you have to you have to school me because I don't know the difference between a PAC and a super PAC first of all super PACs are the PACs that we think of back in 2010 that were kind of created by um the lawsuit I can't it's not citizens united yes that is and that's basically where people can fund throw a lot of money in it and support whatever but just regular PACs the smaller PACs which actually have been around for decades which are very used by labor institutions associations and companies and it's actually about the people who work there and the money to support things that are important to them so it's so wait so you're saying a political action committee can be started by the employees of a particular company or companies well it's usually no it's still started by the company but when people so one of the things that's in the news it's like all these companies that we're saying we're going to stop giving to the republicans like to some of the republicans in support of january 6th well if you really dig deep into some of that it's not the super PACs like the super PACs are the things where you can give hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars with the smaller PACs it's actually much smaller your employees can be engaged your employees can whatever but that's actually how literally corporate citizens can actually contribute so I just wanted to bring that up interesting because actual company PACs not super PACs that is actually one way that they can support candidates that care about the things that are really important to them and it's a really well it's a really unknown fact now I might not have everything perfectly right but at that I just wanted to do just kind of bring that out there but also I think one thing that companies did last legislative session in Texas is when the bathroom bill became a really big thing in Texas there were a lot of companies who stood up and got that squashed right because it was going to hurt not only their businesses but just the community regardless of whether you stood on it still on the issue it was going to be bad it honestly was going to be bad for business also on the fact that it was discriminatory and unnecessary and so I think when those when those things come up I think it is important for corporate citizens to kind of take a stand and I think that let me let me I'm gonna push you on that a little bit because there's a couple things right like on the one hand and I'm I'm just playing devil's advocate right so what do you say to a company that's like well you know I have customers that are red state customers and blue state customers and I don't you know I want I want to remain neutral is there any one is that a legitimate position in in your opinion and then two I guess well let's start there let's start there yeah no I think that if you choose to be in neutral that is a completely valid option right so then you need to be a company that is giving your employees the day off to go vote right like then I think you you provide a very safe environment for your employees to be active to be able to do certain things during right like give them that freedom right like to even if you want to support certain groups within your company so people have different views like I think you become a supportive corporate citizen outside of your point of view and I think that that is okay but that means you got to say that right like you can't like you can't do it just for when it suits you right well well then then there's so then there's the the second piece of that which is so you know when the when Black Lives Matter happened everyone and their mother had a Black Lives Matter statement and so then it becomes hard to tell you know what how do you then begin to differentiate between what is marketing marketing message versus an actual commitment to your community to uphold certain values and it sounds like one of the things you're saying is like the pack is one way of of doing that because you're actually putting your money where your mouth is and you're saying okay I'm actually going to support this legislation or fighting against a certain legislation but are there other ways to do that that don't just end up then disintegrating into like oh just marketing pablum yes so I have several thoughts on this because when all this happens last year I was working in a tech company and I was doing internal communications and culture and I was Black that was not an easy job I'm sorry bless you I think I told you the CEO called me on my phone for the first time and I was like you're like who is what's happening I'm like oh we're talking about this I think there's several things because it happened at my company which was just it's a global thousand people so so I know there are a lot of companies that were much larger but I also think about the church that I go to and these are the same things that are happening there they want the church to be coming out and protesting and doing all this stuff and I think it's really important to remember the people that they're trying to help this was coming from a lot of non-Black people they're like we need to be loud and we need to be out there and I think that was probably I think what's hard about what happened last year is that the people who were asking for it weren't the people that it was affecting most at least in my instances and it's like you know I don't know you know a lot of Black people at the company I was working at were felt very uncomfortable they're like oh so now everything's about Black people and they you all want us to be like these poster children and you want this company that maybe doesn't hire enough Black people to magically have a statement about Black right so I think the most important thing is authenticity and I know it's an overused word but it's real it's when that's one of the conversations when I was talking to an elder at my church I said the steps that you all have taken are real because there's no reason why you all should actually have a master plan tomorrow right if you did like it would be just like why were you sitting on it for the last 30 years yeah honestly the church I go to was really blessed because they had just hired like three Black people for all this happened like it wasn't a fake there was a little bit of not a fakeness because they were already doing the things I mean I think that's the thing when I bring up companies that we partnered with because there were companies that we when this all happened that we said no to because we didn't believe that it was authentic but there were companies that we had worked with before who cared about this space and they just wanted to another company that might be surprising to people is GLG I mean actually no they do great work around the world but GLG has is still partnering with us and it's been a whole almost a whole year and they were doing stuff with us before and they're doing stuff with us now you know it's one of those things that this work is an investment so I always I started having this saying so after it happened in May and June and July happened so in about August and September I was like what about the next six months where is your support going to be in the next six months you know this work like right now things feel very contentious in the state of Texas because the governor is very upset about the defund the police and we don't know what's going to happen with some of the laws right but a little bit he has to run and he's kind of posturing when he's done being like mad at all the cities who took money away from the police department we're going to be back at it and doing it because like I said there are people in our legislature who are on the criminal justice committee like right like they're going to be like the reality of this work is going to be here two years from now because like we don't live in a perfect world so like the reality of it is for companies so let me circle back to the companies it's like being authentic and having longevity and it's like if you can't really invest in something for an extended period of time don't do it right like I mean I think the George Floyd thing was a little bit tricky because everyone started putting up statements but you know our CEO waited a whole week and people were really mad he was like I'm about to just push out a statement that means nothing because I hadn't thought about it and that can actually do something behind it so I think that is what I'd have to say about whatever companies want to do think about the long game don't think about the short dividends I mean people do remember right like these are people's I think the thing that probably struck me more than anything in my tech company is that this affects people's life right and the reality of is that the thing that was so mind-blowing that people white people who had never really heard these stories is that even though it doesn't affect my life we as humans have to care about people it affects like that was the game changer it's like when you I love to tell this story I had a friend when I was in law school who's from Pennsylvania I was like her first black friend and if we had talked about racism and me being followed in a mall the week before she wouldn't have believed it but we were in a mall we were in Dillard's and this lady was following me everywhere and you know me I was I was on a shopping spree I had just broken up with my boyfriend and I was on a shopping spree she's like why is that lady tailing you it's like she got so upset she was like why is she following you and I'm over here like you know I don't care you know what I mean and so I always share that experience because like she saw it for the first time and so she's like no one could tell her that black people don't get followed in a store but like I said a week earlier she'd been like you don't get followed in the store stop lying it's 20 it's 2011 just because that's back it was no one's following you and so everyone doesn't have the opportunity to have that instance and I feel like those are the only people the people who saw through those lens or just people who are naturally understanding and empathetic but this gave that opportunity for people to really not have any experience with it and have empathy on our situation yeah definitely I mean I definitely felt like the the George Floyd the George Floyd to the George Floyd killing um it was this moment where it was like finally like oh my god like it really is bad it's like yes that's what people have been saying in many different ways and it it's kind of like all of a sudden many of my friends it was like this for the first time that they were seeing it but even to your point they do see that they now kind of understand oh wow this like police violence is it's endemic it's bad um they don't necessarily I don't think have grasped the scale of the day-to-day racism that just you live with as a black person um I think some of them are starting to get that like I'm always you know some people I think some of my friends get like a little bit um turned off when they're you know when white colleagues or their white friends come to them it's like oh you you know I'm reading this book and I you know I'm learning about anti-racist this and that and the other and I'm like on the one hand it's like I understand the frustration it's like really you you're just now becoming woke on the other hand I'm like thank god that you're actually engaging and that you're actually trying to do um trying to educate yourself because one I don't want to be the one who has to educate you two um you know this is a conversation that um white people should be having with other white people um because this is something that is you know we've been having conversations amongst ourselves and with white people for years and it hasn't really worked so I think we're going to see that ship sort of uh turn and so you know I think it's an exciting an exciting time yeah and two quick things as I say one thing we we helped we hosted a white reckoning and all the panelists were white actually that we hosted it was actually our biggest event we had to like up our zoom by like like we had like a thousand we had a thousand people at this thing it was it was bonkers and it was great because we had some really white advocates who you know fight against racism that really came and they really brought a really a lot of really good stuff but something that I wanted to bring up because this is something that's happening right now with the vaccines is that I have a friend who is super she's that person who's read all the the books and she when all this was got her vaccination yeah well yeah but she she read white fragility she read all those books like back when they came out like she's like you know when all this stuff when all these white people are getting woke she's like I've been woke and we had a conversation about vaccines and the slow pace that black people you know there is this access issue with black people and older black people not getting the vaccine but I had made a comment about you know there is this other discomfort or bias for black people with the medical system and that's some of our hesitation and we got into this huge fight about how oh that history shouldn't matter let's go save people with the vaccine I was like here's here's a live example where you're telling me or telling black people that your past trauma of whether it's the Tuskegee syphilis study or all these things it doesn't matter any past wrongs with a health care medical system doesn't matter I need to just go get everyone that's you just gotta go get a vaccine doesn't matter what you've been taught or your past history and it was a very intense debate and I've been having this conversation with more people it's like this is one of those opportunities where you're telling me my my my race my past trauma doesn't matter I just need to go get in line to get a vaccine and my our our hesitation is invalid right now well yeah basically they're saying what it's even they're not even just saying that it's a valid I think the thing is they're saying that's over that's over it's not like that anymore the trauma has ended whereas I think the thing that black people are trying to say is the trauma has never ended um it has changed shapes and forms but it has not ended and I think that's the and so and so and so and my point is I'm not saying people don't need to get the vaccine I'm saying we have to try harder do different things like like we actually need to get to people of colors family doctors have to get vaccine to them because they don't want to get a vaccine so in Texas I don't know how it is where you are but in Texas it's this big these these sinners and older black people aren't going and just being able to just giving them a bus pass and getting them signed up they're not going because they don't trust like not only are you asking them to ask to have a stranger it's like these systems where like women aren't you know I mean when women are dying having babies and maternal health all of us so anyways just a very interesting thing how this conversation is not it's not just one thing in police brutality it actually affects us in the healthcare system absolutely so we've got just a few just like two minutes left I don't know if you can answer this in two minutes but if you okay so we've got a new administration we've got the Biden-Harris administration um if you could tell them ask them to focus on anything um one one specific issue for the next four years what would that one issue be if you just if you could only pick one and we'll try you've got two minutes so no absolutely so what I was just talking about that's why I was kind of going you know the momenous bill which was which was was updated and put into legislation on Monday it supports black maternal health um and the caucus as 100 strong like fixing the the death rate of black women dying um is a real it's a real problem so I hope that that bill gets passed I hope it's supported by the administration but more you know Biden already put in the um executive order for discriminatory practices when it comes to housing but we've got to fix affordability in this country it doesn't matter if people stop discriminating if people don't have houses to go to and I think that that now that now that we have uh I don't want to forget her name who's the secretary of housing oh it's uh she black she's a woman I'm so mad I can't remember her name either she's an adult I think ah I can't remember but she's really doing great work and then lastly job you know the no matter what you think about Trump black unemployment did go down and so economists are looking at that right now and looking at unemployment full unemployment there was this really great Wall Street Journal article last week about how the Biden administration is looking at full employment and how it's changed because inflation didn't happen um during Trump's years and so that's those three things housing jobs internal health that is really a great note to end on thank you so much Frances. Thank you.