2023: BHM Honorees

The impact of Black Americans can be felt across the fabric of our nation, including within the halls, stands and pitches at Austin FC. In honor of Black History Month, Austin FC will lift the voices of leaders in our community in celebration and acknowledgement of the work being done to strengthen our city.

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2023 Lift Every Voice Honorees (left to right): Glenn Peterson Jr., Gregory Gibson Jr., Katrina Brooks, Javier Wallace, & Alex Peterson

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ATXFC and 4ATX Foundation cleans up the historic Rosewood Park, with the support of the Austin Parks Foundation

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Gregory Gibson Jr. 

Founder & Executive Director, HBCU Battle of the Brains / Founder, Black Sports Business Symposium

Graduate, St. Edward’s Univ. / Entrepreneur / Partner, Kicking it ATX (only Black-owned business in Austin’s Domain)

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Why Austin? 

As a child of a musician, the rich music culture was something that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Within a week of being here, I was on 6th street at the Old Steamboat at a Wu-Tang concert with 300 people…on a Tuesday.  That immediately spoke to me.  Additionally, it’s an educational place.  There are really brilliant minds here, so my creativity was challenged.  In a way that pushed me toward where I was going, as opposed to suppressing that.

Growing up, I spent my summers in New Orleans.  One of things that I learned there, which is also similar to Austin, is that you never know who you’re talking to.  That cover of the book that you think you’re perceiving is a lot different.  There are cultures there that passed through those ports and there is an appreciation for that, and I found that here (Austin) as well.  There’s a multitude of cultures that are preserved, appreciated, and celebrated in Austin differently that many places around the globe.  

If you have a passion for experiencing what this world has to offer, this city uniquely speaks to that.  I have enjoyed Austin in my 20s, 30s, and 40s and each of those versions of me looks different…but the city continues to speak to me. 

I know what brought me here, but I know what kept me here…and Austin, as a city, kept me here.

How intentional are you in connecting culture and your personal path to your entrepreneurial approach? 

Nothing that we do that we’re really proud of “just happens”, I am super intentional with how I build.  With HBCU Battle of the Brains, I sought to diversify tech while also showcasing the brilliance that is in our community.  

I am transparent about the things that I go through.  I don’t want any young professional to think that what they see is easy…or exclusive.  Success is not exclusive to any of us, it is specific, but not exclusive.  We are going to go through things, but it adds seasoning to that gumbo, it makes you better appreciate the wins and learn more about ourselves. 

The power in appreciating history: 

We grew up reading history books, but they are still writing them.  You can respect and understand the past, but it’s still your opportunity to continue that story and add your context to it.  History is living and breathing, culture is living and breathing, language is living and breathing.  It’s one of things about our culture that showcases our brilliance.  There’s too much opportunity to look forward, to keep looking backwards.  I’m looking forward to the history that we write moving forward.  Our culture is a living / breathing thing and I want to live and breathe with it.

Importance of remaining present: 

I try to remain present because I’ve seen things change for people when they look backwards or forwards.  The moment they stop is when someone passes them or knocks them off.  

If there is a focus of how I’m remembered, it’ll be on the strength of the people I’ve supported.  I’d like to be remembered as a someone who helped, who loved not only his people, but the people around him…but definitely his people. 

Why sports are a tool to learn more about yourself and other people: 

Sports is the 1st team we were on besides our family, the 1st time we express ourselves physically. People LOVE sports, it’s a unifier and a connector.  It’s a special space.  I’m excited about what the future of sport is.  I can say unequivocally that there is a wonderful future in sports for us that does not resemble its past.  There’s progress, though it’s taking longer than we desire, but I take pride in accelerating that on the business side.  Sports is a driver of change.

How can Austin FC follow in your footsteps in being a place that makes our community stronger? 

The biggest responsibility is to understand and honor your community.  This community is diverse in a host of different ways.  Austin FC must represent AUSTIN and all the nooks and crannies that are within it.

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The Peterson Brothers 

Glenn Jr. & Alex Peterson

American Soul, Funk, Blues & Jazz band / Austin-born and Bastrop-raised / Continental Club residents

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Why Austin? 

Alex:  There’s support in Austin (for musicians) that you don’t see anywhere else in the country.  There’s diversity and collaboration; fans from different genres supporting other artists.

Glenn:  Austin is a place that encourages original music, rather than having to fit inside a box.

Why celebrating and supporting Black History should be year-round: 

Alex:  The contributions of Black people and our music impacts the World around the year in a positive way, so why not support it year around?  

Are you aware of the impact your artistic gifts have in introducing some fans to Black culture?  Is there pressure? 

Glenn: With us doing Blues, Soul, Funk, and Jazz, we are carrying a tradition and everything that came before us.  It’s important to present it the right way and understand we are representing something greater.  We’ve had those conversations with fans where they’ve never listened to the kind of music we do before and can’t exactly put a needle on what it is...but they know they like it and are having fun.  When you’re being authentic and doing what you love, you don’t have to feel the pressure because you’re not being anything but yourself.

Alex:  I wouldn’t say we feel pressure, just the natural duty to do it right.  What we naturally do pays proper homage of where we come from.  It’s bigger than us as individuals. 

The power of spaces like music venues and sports stadiums: 

Glenn:  You have people come together that may not normally be around each other.  You see other people in spaces where you have something in common, which allows for conversation where you realize that this person isn’t that much different than you are.  These times have been divisive so when you have places where people can come together on the same side of something, you see that we way more in common than we don’t.

The importance of family support in the music industry: 

Glenn:  When we face obstacles, it’s always about us sticking together as a family and “playing through it”.  We consider our fans a part of our family and know that if we “do what we do”, people will come to us and support.  It’s about connection.  We see people that have been showing up for years.  When you surround yourself with a lot of love and focus, obstacles don’t really stick out, you roll over it.   

Alex:  I give so much credit to our parents and family for being so strong together.  We’ve always been able to push through obstacles, even when things are inconvenient, they never stop us from moving forward.  

Why pay it forward by extending spaces to younger artists? 

Glenn:  With us having opportunities to play in front of audiences that we normally wouldn’t, mainly with Gary Clark Jr., when there are artists that we can bring up, we must do the exact thing that was done for us.

How can Austin FC follow in your footsteps in being a place that makes our community stronger?

Alex:  Find ways to support people that are building and/or sustaining something in the community.  There are a lot of causes and creatives that are trying to continue important things.

Glenn:  Show up and be present.  Sports, like music, brings people together and breaks down social barriers.

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Javier Wallace

Founder & Owner, Black Austin Tours

Graduate of Florida A&M University / Race and Sport Postdoctoral Associate at Duke University

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Why Austin? 

I’m from Austin, born and raised in the city.  Even though I have not lived in Austin completely full-time and have left at times in my life; I can leave it, but it will never leave me.  I say that intentionally when I think about my family’s relationship to Austin, which is the main attractor that I have, my family has been in the Austin-area for 200 years.  I am of “there”, we are of “there”, we created “there”.

Speak to the importance of creating / protecting diverse spaces where people feel a sense of belonging: 

Diversity has real-life implications for people.  I think deeply about what it means to be a part of this space and how do you preserve the cultural heritage.  When we think about places that are worth being preserved, that comes with an official designation and benefits.    That can impact how your taxes are evaluated, which directly impacts whether you can stay in your home or have that family business stay in the community.  Those words are important because it’s not just about how we feel about those spaces, but the larger ramifications about what it means for policy and how policy impacts how we live.

Why are places and activities that encourage diversity important? 

From a sports lens, being a microcosm of society, we think about the people who are playing, why do certain communities play certain sports more?  Even with Austin FC and its relationship to fútbol (especially as a Spanish-speaker myself), it allows people to recognize that everyone is different while being open to understanding where people come from and not just rely on our simplistic ideas.  From that space, we can have a dialogue.  Who are the players, the people in the stands; in what ways can we support each other?

It is the reason why one of the Supporter groups for Austin FC is named “Los Verdes”.  They are intentionally saying that there is something about this Club that resonates with them in a very specific way that makes them want to say we are “The Greens” but saying it in Spanish because it speaks to identity, to this sport, and the countries that they come from.  Not everyone feels the same way, but sporting events can open our eyes to different perspectives, it’s then up to the person to see what they want to do with that next.

Were you naturally connected to history or were there moments in your life that activated your curiosity? 

I grew up in South Austin, but my mother was raised on E. 12th Street and a lot of our activities were there.  We travelled a lot in the city growing up and it became noticeable to me that these seemingly arbitrary geographic things like IH-35, Congress Ave., the river, 7th street could be huge dividing barriers that dictated how people lived.  Being educated at FAMU (Florida A&M University) made me “dive-in”, it went from this “thing” that I lived to a greater understanding.

I like knowing who I am, it’s empowering for me to learn about what we did, despite of.  

How can Austin FC follow in your footsteps in being a place that makes our community stronger? 

The most powerful thing you can do is educate yourself and understand your position within the world, so you can use your position / platform to affect change.  Nothing is too small to do, even if you are just helping your neighbor.

Think about the young people that are playing the sport and why communities gravitate to this sport.  Be in the lives of young people to develop them, to provide them with opportunities to know about where they are coming from. This is bigger than the game, the game is providing opportunities for communities.

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Katrina Brooks

Owner, Black Pearl Books (Austin’s Only Black-owned Bookstore) / Historian / Educator

Graduate of Clark Atlanta University

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How does the Austin community grow in its connectivity with one another? 

In Austin, I see it as grassroots.  We have different organizations, non-profits trying to bring people together, intentionally.  Austin as a city lacks diversity in so many ways, it only becomes that with folks building and making it what we need it to be.

The experience and opportunity of being the only… 

“We are, intentionally or unintentionally, somebody else’s standard.  Someone is looking at us saying, “I can do that, I can be that” because I see this person doing it.  That’s an unintentional beauty of what we’re doing.”

As a Leader, are you called to do specific things or is it innate? 

For me, it’s innate.  I see it as this fluid thing where anybody can contribute, you are just trying to serve in your moment.

Why are places and activities that encourage diversity important? 

What we do, it’s about connectivity, bringing people together from different backgrounds, different cultures, races, socio-economic classes…very much like sports.  You go to a (sports venue) and you see everyone there.  That is used as a catalyst as a way for people to come together and start to recognize their similarities vs their differences…When you can connect on how you are similar, you can begin to value how people are different.  As you start to value differences, there’s also this sense of empathy that happens.  It allows you to connect with another person’s story and experience something that you probably will never experience…by being in these types of spaces, it allows you to think differently about other people’s situations.

Explain the power that books have: 

There’s a sense of EMPOWERMENT when a young person can pick up a book and see themselves represented…

Why is the annual celebration of Black History important? 

Black history is American history.  The reason why we have to segregate Black history is because, traditionally, it has not been included in American history.

How can Austin FC follow in your footsteps in being a place that makes our community stronger? 

The biggest thing is being authentic with it.  Many companies miss out on the authenticity part; what is your why?  If you’re just checking a box, that comes across.  As a company, you can have the heart for something.  Whatever you’re doing, there’s no one path or right path, but it’s being authentic in what you’re pursuing.