Inaugural State of Black Pflugerville aims to connect residents, leaders, entrepreneurs

Alicia Jackson and Ronnie Russell, the president of Black Pflugerville and the CEO of Texas Black Pages, respectively, will lead the inaugural State of Black Pflugerville forum on Oct. 12.

Alicia Jackson and Ronnie Russell, the president of Black Pflugerville and the CEO of Texas Black Pages, respectively, will lead the inaugural State of Black Pflugerville forum on Oct. 12.

Alicia Jackson, president of Black Pflugerville, followed an influx of questions and reactions on the Black Pfamilies of Pflugerville Facebook page in August in response to Community Impact Newspaper's article on the city having the highest percentage black population in the Austin metro area. Inspired by questions she read, Jackson said she wanted to create a space where black residents could network and share resources.

Jackson, alongside Sheldon Lamey of Pflugerville Black Business Builders and Ronnie Russell of the Texas Black Pages, have joined forces to present the inaugural State of Black Pflugerville. The forum provides an opportunity for residents to meet with community leaders, executives, entrepreneurs and other creatives from Pflugerville and the greater Austin area to discuss how to enhance the quality of life for black residents in the city. The event will be held Oct. 12, from 1-3 p.m. at the Abundant LIFE Church.

The right time for residents

Both Jackson and Russell said the inaugural forum comes at the right time for residents. With 2019 coming to a close, each said this is an opportunity to be reflective of where residents are at, individually and collectively, and how they can position themselves for success in the future.

"The displaced people from east Austin have had time to settle, to build a community," Jackson said. "So maybe as Ronnie said, it was about time. Now that they have their roots sown and watered, they can see what’s growing."

Russell said 2020 is all about optics, and being able to see things from a clearer point of view. That clarity, he added, comes not only from the presence of new information, but the ability to access it.

"You have to strategically put yourself in those structural areas to provide those with not just information, but access," Russell said. "Often times, our communities aren’t given that access, because they’re just like that silo, they’re held in silos. There are less and less and less venture capitalists that are in African American markets, but you may have a venture capitalist that just may show up because they want to invest into a community that often don’t know that they exist."

The forum

The forum will include discussions on topics ranging from education and healthcare to business, real estate and government. Prominent figures in Travis County—such as Sherri Fleming, a county executive in Travis County's health and human services, and Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce's president, Tam Hawkins—will be attending the event.

A topic of importance, Russell said, is that while Pflugerville has the largest percentage black population in the Austin metro, it still does not have its own black chamber of commerce. He said he sees this inaugural forum as an opportunity to change that.

"If the buying power is really outside of Austin, so why don’t we go where the buying power needs to be rejuvenated to say ‘let’s keep Pflugerville in Pflugerville,'" Russell said. "Because if you’re talking economics, you’ve got to look at all of those numbers."

Jackson said that alongside the economic and entrepreneurial elements of the forum, she wants to focus on the creative visions of residents—the goals they have that, when paired with the support, structure and resources the forum will present, can come to fruition.

"Away from the capitalistic side, I’m more on the nurturing of ideas," Jackson said. "I want to see ideas sparked. I want to see people moved."

Russell said that this event, while happening in the present time, has the opportunity to create proactive changes that will carry on far into the future. His, Jackson, and Lamey's vision, Russell said, might not come to fruition in their lifetime. But by focusing on the position of their community now, he said they are better equipped for even greater success and equity in the future.

"I noticed that we only gather during times of crisis, and I wanted to change that narrative," Jackson said. "You shouldn’t always be on fight or flight. This is the time when things cool, things are mellow and we have time to sit back, reflect, and make a game plan."

For more information on the forum or to register, click here.
By Kelsey Thompson

Kelsey Thompson is the reporter for Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto, where her work focuses on education, city government and community development. Originally from upstate New York, Kelsey relocated to Austin after graduating from Syracuse University in May 2019.


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