February 2021

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How fitting that Cami Hawkins’ roots are in Tyler, Texas—the “Rose Capital of America.” In her role as chief executive officer for Marathon Kids, she helps kids grow healthy lives through running. The daughter of a physician and a nurse, Hawkins grew up in a home that valued health and wellness. As a young adult, she moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. After graduation, she moved to Boston for a year, then headed back to Texas to attend graduate school in San Antonio for health administration.

Not long after completing her second degree and settling into the capital city for good, Kay Morris founded Marathon Kids. Since 1995, it has grown into a national nonprofit organization that serves hundreds of thousands of kids in all 50 states. As Marathon Kids evolved, so did Hawkins. She became a health care professional, fitness enthusiast, philanthropist and mom. When her children joined Marathon Kids, she signed up to become a volunteer. More than a decade later, Hawkins became its CEO. For the last three years, she and “the most brilliant team of people,” as she describes her dedicated staff, have been moving the organization into the digital age and are engaging with kids and communities on a whole new level. While Marathon Kids spans across the country, the effect it has on its hometown is particularly meaningful. For more than two decades, the program has been implemented districtwide in Austin. This means that every AISD elementary school student gets to participate in Marathon Kids. “I believe Marathon Kids has played, and continues to play, an important part in building Austin’s well-known culture for healthy living,” says Hawkins. “We believe, and research has shown, that when kids are introduced to positive physical activities early in life, they become more physically active adults. Not only that, but active kids do better in all aspects of their lives, academically, socially and emotionally.” When the pandemic arrived and ushered in remote learning for local students, Marathon Kids stepped up to help keep them moving. The organization opened up its resources to parents and created more programming for kids. Hawkins and her team added new features to their digital platform, Marathon Kids Connect, enabling parents to access their children’s Marathon Kids accounts and assist or join them in completing their miles and reaching their goals. Long term, Hawkins hopes that it will be as important that kids move their bodies for 60 heart-pumping minutes every day as it is that they brush their teeth twice a day and get eight hours of sleep per night.

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“If we can do that, we will reverse the inactivity crisis we are facing in America and turn the tables on childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” says Hawkins. In order for the organization to do its important work, it relies on donations and partnerships. Last fall, the Statesman Capitol 10,000 named Marathon Kids as the beneficiary of its 44th race on April 11, 2021.

kids than ever and make the Marathon Kids program available to all, without cost as a barrier.” Since 1978, the Cap10K has been about bringing the Austin community together in the name of good health.


“We are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, and what better way to show the strength of our community than the pairing of Marathon Kids and the Cap10K,” said Hawkins at the time of the 2020 announcement. “We are grateful for this partnership, as it will help us in our mission to reach more

“Austin’s kids are the heart and the future of our city. So, I’m pleased that our race and running community will support Marathon Kids in their mission to get kids active and set them on the path toward a lifetime of good health,” said Jeff Simecek, Cap10K race director. One dollar from every Cap10K registration goes to Marathon Kids. Additionally, race participants can choose to make an additional donation when registering, which the Statesman will match up to $10,000, at Cap10K.com.

The 44th Cap10K is just a couple months away. It will be springtime then. Just when the roses start to bloom.




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Ellen implemented the city’s first homestead exemption lowering taxes for all homeowners when she served on Austin City Council.

llen Troxclair is far more than just your typical real estate agent. After serving as an elected member of the Austin City Council, she knows the ins and outs of the city better than just about anyone.

Along with unbeatable insight, she also has the reputation of working hard and making the experience flawless for her clients. Ellen’s experience in public service gives her the foundation to be a strong advisor in what can be a challenging process. Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, she’ll empower you to make the decisions that are right for you and your family. While managing her successful real estate career, Ellen dedicated four years to the Austin City Council. Ellen ran for office because she was frustrated by the decisions the City Council was making. She felt that Austin was “on an unsustainable path when it comes to property taxes and cost of living,” and she was able to provide a consistent voice of common sense and fiscal responsibility. She is continuing her advocacy efforts as a Senior Fellow at Texas Public Policy Foundation and her national bestselling book: Step Up! How to Advocate like a Woman. Talking about her political career, Ellen said, “It’s rewarding to know that I’ve made a tangible impact on lowering property taxes, and I hope that the work that I’ve done helps to keep people in Austin.” Whether it’s fighting for taxpayers at City Hall or fighting for her real estate clients during a transaction, she is a true advocate for our community. Aside from working hard in real estate, Ellen also loves to spend time at home with her family of five. Ellen and her husband, Caleb, currently live in West Austin with their two young daughters and son. The importance of giving back to their community is one of the things that they want to instill in their children. They lead by example through actively volunteering and raising money for numerous charities.


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instructors. The Small Business Division offers a Business Skills Certification in partnership with The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Professional Education. If you complete six of these classes, you are eligible to receive the certification. Topics include: marketing, business plan writing, managing money, managing people and small-business taxes.

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Photo by Kylie Birchfield.







COUNT US IN Women in Numbers


FROM THE DESK OF Denisha Jenkins


A CHAT WITH Joi Chevalier




Beyond Keema Curry


ON THE MONEY Why You Need a Will Now



24 32



52 10 |  AUSTIN WOMAN |  FEBRUARY 2021









A Fighter at Heart:

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A teen’s scars tell the story of her first years.

Madeline “Maddie” Ramon is used to questions about the scars often poking out the top of her shirt. “When I was younger, I had a heart problem and I had heart surgery,” she tells people. “I’m good now.”

large patch covered her still-exposed chest until the swelling subsided. She came home for a few weeks, then returned to the hospital for the second surgery, called the Glenn. She underwent the third and final surgery, called the Fontan, at 18 months.

Katie Ramon smiles when she hears Maddie say that. Calling Maddie “my little patchwork baby,” Katie considers the scars a source of pride. “You’re a fighter,” Katie has often told Maddie. “Tell people what you’ve been through.”

“I was worried about her quality of life,” Katie says. “The doctors said she should never get pregnant and she’d never be an athlete, but other than that, she can have a pretty normal life.”

The day after Maddie was born, a team of doctors and nurses entered Katie’s room. “We think that something with the heart on the left side didn’t form correctly,” a doctor said. Katie was transferred to another hospital in Austin, with more specialized care. She had just left her newborn swaddled in the nursery. She returned to find her intubated, “with wires and tubes everywhere.” A nurse offered to take a picture of Maddie. That’s when it hit Katie that she might never see her daughter again. At the next hospital, Katie learned Maddie had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect that occurs when the left side of the heart doesn’t develop properly. Without surgery, the condition is fatal, usually within the first few weeks of life. Maddie was 10 days old when she had the first of three required surgeries. Called the Norwood procedure, it allows the right ventricle to pump blood to both the lungs and body. A shunt directs the blood to the lungs. In order to connect her to a heartlung bypass machine, doctors had to stop her heart. “I can’t explain that feeling of being absolutely terrified knowing that was happening,” Katie says. Maddie came out of surgery so swollen she was nearly unrecognizable. She was hooked up to several machines, and a

Over the years, Maddie has had some medical setbacks: an episode with internal bleeding, growing capillaries that needed to be blocked off. Yet through it all, she made friends, played in the neighborhood, rode a bike and even horses and went snow skiing. In 2019, Maddie graduated high school. She now works at a restaurant. “I know my limits,” she says. “If I’m not feeling okay, I’ll tell an adult around me.” Katie knows her daughter is likely to one day need a heart transplant. But she prefers to think about all the years they’ve already enjoyed since that traumatic day when she thought she’d never see Maddie again. “When she was little, I never would allow myself to imagine her at certain ages, so now I’m just trying to enjoy her,” she says. “That she made it this far is just a miracle.” Maddie shares her story as a volunteer for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign in Austin. This signature women’s initiative is a comprehensive platform designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally. The 17th Annual Austin Go Red for Women virtual luncheon will take place on Feb. 24, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. Visit austingored. heart.org to register and give.

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CONTRIBUTORS This month, we asked our contributors: What’s something you do for self-care/self-love??



KYLIE BIRCHFIELD Photographer, “A Rose Among Thorns,” Page 34


• Her favorite season is spring.


• She loves kayaking.


•S  he wants to explore more Austin coffee shops.

Creative Director

Self-care: “Face masks and painting my nails”


Managing Editor

KATHRYN FREEMAN Writer, “A Rose Among Thorns,” Page 34


•S  he is all about that iced coffee life even in the winter.

Copy Editor

•S  he has had a lot of jobs, but being a big sister will always be one of her favorites.


Director of Events and Branding Strategy

• Legally Blonde is one of her favorite movies (despite being a lawyer and knowing law school is actually, like, really hard).


Self-care: “I read for 30 minutes at night before bed. I love a really well-told story, and if I need an extra boost I choose essays from Joan Didion or Toni Morrison.”

Account Executives ANNE COX

Operations and Production Coordinator

BRIANA DE’SEANIAE MURPHY Makeup and Styling, “A Rose Among Thorns,” Page 34


Editorial: Brianna Caleri, Kathryn Freeman, Jenny Hoff, Denisha Jenkins, Allie Justis, Mama Duke, Cy White

•S  he had never visited Austin, Texas prior to moving here in 2016. •S  he played collegiate volleyball for Tougaloo College and was ranked #1 in NAIA Division I in Total Blocks.

Art: Kylie Birchfield, Chinyere, June Gunaratne, Chelsa King, Ure Oguguo, Shelby Sorrel, Jessica Wetterer, Morty Zapata

• She has an extreme love of french fries. Self-care: “One of my favorite things to do is to sit outside in the early morning and around sunset! It’s very therapeutic for me because it allows me to reconnect with God and provides a space for me to think.”










Writer, “The Crown, That’s a Wrap,” Page 32 • She accidentally became a photographer. • She has 42 species of house plants.

Austin Woman is a free monthly publication of AW Media Inc. and is available at locations throughout Austin and in Lakeway, Cedar Park, Round Rock and Pflugerville. All rights reserved.

• She built her own guitar. Self-care: “Pruning and repotting my plants makes me feel like everyone in the house has space to grow.”

To offer feedback, email feedback@awmediainc.com. For submission information, visit atxwoman.com/jobs. No part of the magazine may be reprinted or duplicated without permission. Visit us online at atxwoman.com. Email us at info@awmediainc.com. 512.328.2421 | 7401 West Slaughter Lane, Austin, TX 78739

COVER NOTES Hair by Kendra McCullough; makeup by Briana De’Seaniae Murphy; dress from N-V-Us Fashions & Boutique; jewelry by Alicia Thomas/ Mz. A’s Exclusive Jewelry.


Let’s be honest. This notion of “inclusivity and equity” has started to ring like a slogan. A subgenre under the umbrella of “diversity.” At this point, even the concept of “diversity” has become a catch-all tag to tack onto a business or a brand to give the appearance of allyship. The secret ingredient to being Woke™? DIVERSITY! The truth is we’ve done this dance before. Social media culture has made it very easy to grab on to trends every 15 seconds, many of those trends just tenants of Black culture exploited so that non-Black folk can feel the “cool” of our color, but not the heat of our struggle. I want to be optimistic that the sudden interest in the real condition of BIPOC lives in this country comes from a genuine place. But, dear reader, I come to you skeptical. Even someone as optimistic as I am has to be a bit wary with the outpouring of support from businesses and highly visible brands. You have to understand, I live this. I can’t escape this as a Black woman with a Black younger brother in a city that hasn’t completely acknowledged its complicated history with race. Be that as it may, I am an optimist. I’m also very much a humanist. I believe that there is good in humanity. That on the whole people want to live in peace. In a seemingly never-ending era of turmoil and pain, peace seems like a far-reaching concept. When just my existence is an act of defiance, “inclusivity and equity” seem like nebulous ideas with no real weight behind them. The women in this issue, they too understand the burden of being in this body. From building something from the ground in the spirit of your ancestors as our cover woman, Rose Smith, to advocating for true equity in Austin while being inside a seemingly inequitable space like Briona Jenkins and Rocío Villalobos, to fighting to bring equitable food options to BIPOC like Joi Chevalier. Every woman in this magazine has a journey. These journeys are marked with spots of great pain, confusion and, yes, anger. But there is hope in every one of them. Hope and true happiness. My hope, dear reader, is that you take these stories and perspectives to heart. That you not only hear, but you listen. Listen and think about your role in perpetuating poisonous systems or tearing them down. In the words of Pulitzer Prize winner and musical poet Kendrick Lamar, we gon’ be all right.







Photo courtesy of Cy White.

Publication of Austin Woman would not be possible without the support of our monthly advertisers and sponsors, who believe in the impact we are making in the Austin community. The following businesses have stepped up their support of our efforts beyond traditional advertising and we are proud to recognize them as our partners. The team at Austin Woman is grateful for these businesses that have shown their commitment to the advancement of women in Austin and hopes you, as readers, recognize their efforts and support these businesses and all our regular advertisers.


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Can’t get enough of this issue? Check us out at atxwoman.com.

HOME Cookin’ for the Holidays On Friday, Nov. 27, HOME held their annual HOME Cookin’ for the Holidays benefit. The board answered a few questions about the event and its virtual future.

Artists to Watch in 2021 Amidst all the madness of 2020, including the shutting down of live events and ongoing socio-political upheaval, one thing came out of it: inspired music.

“Hope in a Syringe” On May 29, 2020, Moderna TX, Inc. sponsored a study to test a vaccine for COVID-19. Rachel Elsberry was a participant in that study. Watch her story on our YouTube channel.

Don’t forget to visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel!





WIN THIS! MAMA DUKE ALBUM AND MERCH Austin Hip Hop Award winner and Austin Award nominee Mama Duke has built her career on being fearless. She released her debut album, Ballsy, in January. And now she’s giving you the chance to experience it for yourself. For this month’s Win This, the winner will receive a signed copy of Ballsy along with some official Mama Duke merch. Enter to win by following @austinwoman on Instagram and stay on the lookout for the giveaway announcement. We’ll choose a winner by the end of the month.



@ austinwoman

Special Advertising Section




CAMP LUCY Wedding planning has been a bit tough these days, huh? Let’s take some of the load of your shoulders. If you're getting ready to plan your nuptials, we’ve compiled a list of a few local companies that can help you prepare for your big day.

Camp Lucy is a beautiful Texas wine country resort and wedding venue in Dripping Springs. Let their amazing team help you plan the wedding of your dreams in 2021. (Psst…they have a few open dates for this year, but they are moving quickly.) With luxury accommodations, world-class services and four gorgeous venues, Camp Lucy is a breathtaking hidden treasure. camplucy.com


THE DRISKILL For more than a century, starry-eyed couples have chosen to write the first chapter of their forever story at The Driskill. Their Luxury for Less promotion is now available through 2021. An inclusive food and beverage package has been designed to simplify options for celebrations of 10-100 guests. With the promise of timeless venues and charming guest rooms, everyone is sure to have a memorable weekend in the heart of downtown Austin. driskillhotel.com


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WEDDING SCOUT Wedding Scout provides virtual tours of wedding venues with a budget comparison tool designed by a local Austin wedding planner. You can explore venues instantly with cinematic-quality film and feel like you’re really there. Tours are guided by a seasoned wedding planner with 10 years experience planning weddings in Austin, Ren Newey. She will give insight so you can build an accurate budget and avoid common mistakes. Did we mention this is free? weddingscout.com



Numbers don’t lie; though women of color have continued to dominate the business world, they fail to find economic equity. BY CY WHITE ILLUSTRATIONS BY JESSICA WETTERER

$29,870 According to a study by the Texas Women's Foundation, the average full-time income of women of color (Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Black) is $29,870.50, as opposed to $48,395 for white women.

50% A study conducted by American Express found that as of 2019, 50% of all women-owned businesses are owned by women of color.

300% While overall businesses owned by women of color generated over $420 billion in revenue, individual businesses averaged only $65,800, compared to non-WOC-owned businesses, which averaged $218,800. A difference of over 300%.

24.2% In Texas, of the businesses that identified the gender of the owner, women-owned businesses received an average of 24.2% of PPP loans under $150,000.

$422.5 billion In 2019, overall businesses owned by women of color generated $422.5 billion in revenue.





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Dismantling systematically prejudiced mindsets in business, Denisha Jenkins provides insights on racial equity in Austin. BY DENISHA JENKINS

microaggressions that perpetuate a culture of complacency and silence. She manifested her calling to bring people together with concrete ideas. She earned her master’s degree in intercultural relations from Lesley University, then took her experiences and degree and founded Kardia Advisory Group in 2018. Kardia opens the conversation around earnest acts of diversifying work environments for businesses that might not have seriously considered it or simply lacked the knowledge to reimagine more inclusive spaces. With over 15 years of working within centuries-old systems rooted in racial prejudice, Jenkins has insight into the true meaning of “inclusivity and equity.” Austin continues to pick away at the vestiges of its own issues with racial equality. Just as she does with businesses who seek her services, here Jenkins provides a blueprint for Austin businesses to build a foundation rooted in true equity.

ACCEPT THAT EQUITY DOES NOT EQUATE TO “SAMENESS.” Fairness is only attainable when we acknowledge that not all humans are perceived or have been treated equally. Austin businesses (small and large) have to reconcile that the scales will not be balanced with a few good intentions, but through a commitment to reinvesting, resourcing, innovating and implementing differently. Equity is the fair treatment, access and advancement of all people, while intentionally eliminating barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. That means opportunities, resources, services and products have to be distributed based on specific and greatest needs. There has to be work done to disrupt barriers that create those gaps.

ALWAYS LEAD WITH RACE. How is your business/industry impacting Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx/ Hispanic, people of color? Within every system and industry, disparities can be found due to race and ethnicity. While it is uncomfortable to acknowledge that every institution has been rooted in racism and every individual holds racialized bias, we will not dismantle social inequities without being explicit in our discussions and anchoring interventions for change in race. Every day, I force leaders to address the elephant in the room. Racism lingers in the very air we breathe. The more we avoid it, the more harm we do. Hold your business accountable by setting and evaluating goals using equity-driven indicators that measure the impact you have within communities, especially markets of color.

ASSESS YOUR OPERATIONS FOR BIAS. Complete audits of your daily practices and decision-making processes to identify opportunities for bias to run rampant. Oftentimes, business leaders are unaware of how they perpetuate the exclusion of certain groups of people. Take an honest look at power dynamics within your business. Evaluate who makes decisions and how they are held accountable. Pay attention to hiring, compensation and promotion decisions. Get real about why your workforce is homogenous, why certain social groups are not attracted to your business or services and do something about it. Invest in workforce training, create more accountability for management/leadership and track data regularly. 20 |  AUSTIN WOMAN | FEBRUARY 2021

AUTHENTICALLY INVEST IN HISTORICALLY MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES. Establish mutually beneficial relationships with organizations and businesses led by people from historically marginalized groups. When expanding your network or markets, look for opportunities to also add value and not just take. Regularly market and sponsor programs or events, grants, invest in development funds, hire minority- and women-owned businesses, swap in-kind services that help close the gaps in access and build a stronger, more sustainable pipeline for wealth and talent across the city.

ASSESS YOUR POWER AND LEVERAGE YOUR VOICE. Devote ongoing time recognizing and unlearning internalized bias. Study the ways your industry/sector and business have participated in the exclusion of social groups to avoid repeating the cycle. Part of creating fairness is advocating for public policies that improve conditions and opportunities for communities collectively. Use your sphere of influence and power to disrupt norms of invisibility and exclusion. Speak out on issues of discrimination; collaborate with groups that also value social equity and are finding solutions that benefit everyone in our community. To bring equity, Austin business leaders must get comfortable with being uncomfortable, going first and, yes, stumbling. Equity is a journey. It's about listening to those burdened by the status quo, owning our incompetence, getting over desires to be “perfect” and getting to work.

Photo courtesy of Madeline Harper Photography.

As with most professional Black women, Denisha Jenkins has dealt with



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Joi Chevalier elevated her love of food and technology in order to help BIPOC entrepreneurs level up. BY CY WHITE

woman. A graduate of UT Austin, she got her start in tech right out of her Ph.D. program when the internet was on the cusp becoming the all-encompassing global power that it is today. “I spent the next 18 years as a technologist running new products, building new products, connecting users, technology and processes,” she says. “From that product management, product strategist, director of marketing and [I] ran a lot of very large global billion-dollar programs.” When it was time for her to move on to her next phase, she knew two things: One, she wanted to work in food; and two, she wanted to put her knowledge of product creation to good use. “I figured I could product manage myself and build my own company.” For almost nine months, she worked from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., then attended classes at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts at 5 p.m., sometimes getting home well after midnight. She knew with her new culinary skills and her talent for product development she could do something great. Having lived in Austin for 32 years, Chevalier has a keen sense of the economic and food disparities within its communities. She founded The Cook's Nook in 2014 to not only address those disparities, but to put power back in the hands of the most underserved communities and the entrepreneurs who want to do something to spark change. Their food service group “makes high-quality meals for a reasonable cost that’s being used today to feed about 3,000 a day across Travis County in schools and residences,” she says. On January 27, the Cook’s Nook hosted its first Conference on Food Resilience, Access and Equity. The two-day virtual event featured Jason Mikell of KVUE as emcee, several keynotes and over 30 panels. It was a culmination of everything Chevalier has done within the Austin community. What disparities did the pandemic expose in your eyes? The lack of ownership relative to our white counterparts. The fact that products do get created in the Black community, but they tend to stay in the community. That might stem from this fear and lack of knowledge around financial literacy or the language of business. There's not just systemic barriers, there’s internal barriers as well. The fact that entrepreneurs didn’t have a place to share their tribal knowledge. 22 |  AUSTIN WOMAN | FEBRUARY 2021

You had the idea for Keep Austin Together (an initiative providing supplemental prepared meals for families in need) long before the pandemic hit. What was the impetus to create it? The first week of March, when our own members were on their way out to Anaheim for Expo West, caterers and those who make food who don’t go…were shutting down. The people at CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) literally got out to California, they were on planes already coming back home. The thing that I saw was, we’re going to have new audiences of those who are working, but were barely getting by. We always think about the people who are food insecure today, or tomorrow, or the next day. But what about those who didn’t realize they were five days from being food insecure? I said, “What is the product that satisfies and helps this audience and uses what we have in our supply chain?” Because I know who has food that they can’t sell. I wrote it up and said, “We have the space and the capacity, and there are others like me.” It became Keep Austin Together, and it became SEFAN, the Supplementary Emergency Food Action Network. [I] submitted that to those I knew in the city. That was the fourth week of March. We were preparing meals by the end of April. Can you talk about the first Conference on Food Resilience, Access and Equity? Basically we have established and forged these new relationships between for-profits, nonprofits, government agencies in order to support our residents of Travis County and our neighbors. But whatever these new, innovative processes, activities and relationships are, we need to have them persist, we need to have resilience. We need to have a plan or an understanding of who to call, where to call and how to work for when this happens again, because it will happen again. So this conference has come about as a direct result of that, to get together, have those lessons. If we’ve learned that, we’ve got to be able to share it. Go to atxwoman.com for an expanded version of this interview. Photo by Chelsa King/Crowned Photography.

You could call Houston native Joi Chevalier a wonder


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eocha LaFleur-Anders is a certified Wellness Coach and Barre Instructor who helps women take the pressure off personal development through fun, interactive wellness experiences and events. As a busy wife and mom, she knows how difficult it is to prioritize self-care. She supports women as they identify blind spots and make healthier choices without judgment but with grace. LaFleur-Anders has created a unique lifestyle brand, Reset with K., that encourages women to be true to themselves and live a more connected, vibrant, freedom-centric life by learning how to fill their cup first. Her events leave women inspired and ignited socially, emotionally, mentally and physically. LaFleur-Anders is also a writer and co-founder of ITrain Sports Performance, owner of The Sports Barre and co-founder of Reset YOUniversity. When she’s not working, she is watching ’80s movies or working out in the sun with her family. resetwithk.com





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r. Colette Pierce Burnette is the president and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University—Austin’s oldest institution of higher learning and only Historically Black College and University (HBCU). She is a mother; wife; engineer and lover of music, dogs, books and champagne. She staunchly believes education is the great equalizer and not an option. Since President Pierce Burnette’s 2015 arrival to Austin, she has been a woman on a singularly focused mission—ensuring any and all barriers to her students’ success are elucidated, deconstructed and obliterated. Her unwavering commitment to this mission has resulted in Huston-Tillotson University forging strong partnerships with companies such as Apple, Tesla, Bank of America and University Federal Credit Union. She proudly serves on the boards of Austin Community Foundation, Leadership Austin, Austin Transit Partnership, Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Area Urban League. htu.edu/offices/office-of-the-president


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Nigerian-American designer Chinyere makes protective headwear fit for all queens. BY BRIANNA CALERI


so different from here. There’s still one thing she has to work harder to explain to Americans, and she makes it a point to try as often as possible: “It’s more than just tying a piece of fabric around your head.” Across Africa, head wraps hold significance in several aspects of life— social status, maturity, respect, spirituality and beyond. Yes, Regal Ivy is inspired by queens of the past. However, Chinyere senses the royalty in every woman. To her, queenly behavior is what she did in college, reconnecting with her cultural roots by bringing more Nigerian elements back into her personal style. It’s about her Sundays now, with four kids, when she puts on her own products and makes time for self-care. “Being a queen is not just being royalty and wearing a crown,” Chinyere says, “but being your own woman and being empowered and following your passion.”

Photo courtesy of Regal Ivy.


he “Berlin Cleopatra,” a famous marble bust of the Egyptian queen made during her lifetime, depicts her in a diadem that now looks like a simple headband. Meanwhile, at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of only two known sculptures to portray the Pharaoh Hatshepsut as a woman depicts her in a khat, or a bonnet-like head cloth. These world-renowned African queens inspired one Nigerian-born Austinite to design a luxury collection of hair accessories featured by Cosmopolitan, Essence and more. Chinyere started Regal Ivy as a New Year’s resolution in 2018. Without even an idea to work on, she made herself a promise: She would start a business, and she wouldn’t quit, “no matter what.” At the time, she had a sizable afro that wouldn’t fit in any of the protective covers she could find at salons. And even if it could fit, there was nothing exciting about the modest black fabric. She went to JOANN Fabrics and Crafts, picked out a pattern that made her feel pretty and with guidance from YouTube, produced a bonnet more worthy of resting on her head. Chinyere’s sister asked for a batch to gift her bridesmaids, and Regal Ivy was born. Spending years as project coordinator for Apple, she understands that elegance reflects quality. “When you purchase an Apple product, you know what to expect: quality, instantly,” Chinyere says. “A queen is not going to purchase trash.” Regal Ivy designs are lined with charmeuse, a top-quality satin weave that is silky on one side and matte on the other. The reversible bonnets have two layers—one classic black layer and one vibrant African print— both with its silky side exposed to protect the hair. Anyone with curly hair, but particularly a Black woman, has to be gentle with their coarser texture to avoid breakage when dry or snagged on seemingly benign objects. The drawstring-optional bonnets, showercaps, wraps and turbans preserve moisture to keep the hair strong, while other products like Nigerian-made robes complete the comfy but luxurious mood. The patterns have meanings, but Chinyere makes sure their aesthetics can hold their own. One print she shared features cowrie shells, a remnant of a shell-based monetary system that is now a shorthand for wealth and prosperity. The shells float over loud greens that, knowing this, might invoke American money for an American queen. Otherwise, it’s just a great-looking fabric that would really pop against gold jewelry. Another simpler print is striped with clay-colored chevrons for a more neutral but equally striking look. Chinyere’s mother, part of a team back in Nigeria that helps her shop and fulfills orders, recognizes the prints by name. Chinyere shares some of the symbolism on the website and social media, but laughs, “I wouldn’t buy a print that’s ugly but says beautiful things.” Chinyere moved to Austin from Nigeria when she was 14. Like most immigrant teenagers, she says, she just wanted to fit in, and she was already quite good at it. Her fashion sense in the city in Nigeria was not

“” Being a queen is not

Photo courtesy of Regal Ivy. Bottom right photo by Ure Oguguo.

just being royalty and wearing a crown, but being your own woman and being empowered and following your passion.





Rose Smith, founder of Black Women in Business, talks Black female entrepreneurship in Austin. BY KATHRYN FREEMAN PHOTOS BY KYLIE BIRCHFIELD SHOT ON LOCATION AT THE GRAND LADY


ose Smith has just finished the daily community grocery pickup she spearheads. Every day since the pandemic began in March, Smith, sometimes with a volunteer team and sometimes by herself, has fed over 35,000 people in Austin. The project, which began with only the five- and ten-dollar donations of a few Black women on the East Side, now includes a curbside pickup, a home-delivery option and a partnership with Trader Joe’s. The community feeding project is emblematic of much of Smith’s approach to life and business—innovative, optimistic, confident and community oriented. This approach can be traced back to her upbringing in the small farm community of Luling, Texas. Smith, her three siblings and her mother moved in with her grandparents when she was 9 years old after her father died. “I am used to taking a little bit and making more. I grew up watching my grandmother feed seven people on a farmer’s and domestic’s salary, and if we had financial difficulties I was unaware just based on the size of the spreads she made,” Smith chuckles. Smith moved to Austin in the ’80s to attend the University of Texas. She worked a series of corporate jobs in sales and marketing including leading sales teams at the Wall Street Journal and General Motors. Smith was also a high school athlete, and that competitive drive followed her into the workplace. “I am mostly competitive with myself,” she says. “I chose sales because I love competition. I never was satisfied that this was the best I could do. I always felt I could do more.” Once during a short stint in East Texas, Smith convinced the manager of a local hotel to allow her to work as the hotel accountant from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Smith had a day job as an inventory manager at the local Walmart, but at the time was a single mother and needed the extra money. For nine years, she worked overnight rectifying the day’s receipts while her kids slept in a hotel room that just happened to adjoin her office. ATXWOMAN.COM |  35


Smith married her husband Charles Smith Jr. in 2009. Fittingly their first date was to play one-on-one basketball at Patterson Park in East Austin. They have six children and five grandchildren. The Smiths share a commitment to the east side of Austin and to family. Mr. Smith’s father, Charles Smith Sr., was one of the founders of the Blackland Neighborhood Association that successfully fought off the University of Texas expansion into their neighborhood in the 1980s. She again points to her grandparents and her upbringing as her main motivation. “When I think about my grandfather, who was a World War II veteran, who had to quit school in the second grade to pick cotton to help his parents [who survived Jim Crow], who taught himself to read, to speak some Spanish, who built his own home and raised his daughter and his grandchildren, how could I not be motivated?” Her grandfather raised her and her siblings to believe they could do anything they put their minds to, and Smith took that message to heart. “There’s always going to be someone that doubts your abilities,” she says. “Don’t let one of them be you.” Like most Black female leaders, Smith’s ambition made her want the best for those around her. She took pleasure in creating the most diverse team of people with different personalities, and made sure to keep up with their families, often paying for professional development opportunities and prizes for hitting sales goals out of her own pocket. Smith’s employees and volunteers call her “Coach,” and after a two-hour converstaion over Zoom, it’s clear why. The time was one part interview and two parts pep talk. This desire to support other Black women and a love of coaching led her to create Black Women in Business (BWIB). “God actually gave me the vision for Black Women in Business in 2012, but I did not start until 2014,” Smith reveals. “I was worried about how it would be received, but I wanted to create a place for Black women who were so gifted and talented, but there were certain things they had missed along the way.” In conceiving of Black Women in Business, Smith wanted to create a place for all Black women of various experience levels to feel welcomed and seen. “I wanted there to be an organization where there were no big I’s and little you’s,” Smith says. “If you know, I expect you to teach, and if you do not know, I expect you to ask.” Black Women in Business is about helping the community, but also about helping Black women acquire the tools and skills they need to maximize their income. “I want women to compete not just for African-American dollars, but for all dollars,” she continues. “I wanted to see more Black businesses being considered for big city contracts because we dotted our I’s and crossed our T’s.”

An important part of having a seat at the table is first knowing where the table is. “These women did not lack intelligence or drive,” she says. “So many had started their businesses while working another full-time job and raising kids with less access to credit and capital.” Yet oftentimes Black women are overqualified and still excluded from the most powerful tables in Austin. “I see the same people getting the same accolades, the same opportunities year after year,” she laments. “I have women in my group who are ahead of them by leaps and bounds.” It is that old adage in Black families: You have to be twice as good to get half as far. “It is mentally exhausting,” says Jenny DuFresne, entrepreneur and board chair for the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce. “To know that you are best in class, that your team is best in class and you have done the work, [but] you are passed over or asked to work at a reduced rate. You have to take a step back and recalibrate everything to figure out [where you went wrong] and re-examine your entire process.” Both women agree that Austin could do better. DuFresne even points to the relative ease of client work in Dallas. “There’s a lot of talk about diversity,” Smith says. “But I often find myself the only [Black woman] at the table.” Smith will always go where she is invited, but she would like to see more accountability and follow-through. “Corporations need to identify Black women and Black-owned businesses and buy their food, procure their services and be public about it,” DuFresne adds. “Money demonstrates what you actually value as a company and what we value as a country.” According to a report by American Express, since 2007 the number of businesses owned by Black women has risen 164%. But according to a 2016 report by the National Women’s Business Council, Black women lag far behind when it comes to receipts. The report found that the average receipts for white-owned business was nine times that of Black-owned businesses. The disparity persists when broken down by gender. White womanowned businesses average $189,037 in receipts while businesses owned by Black women average $69,101. There are disparities in credit and access to capital as well. Black women are subject to higher loan rates and less likely to get the financing or investment capital they need. One report from the U.S. Small Business Administration found that women- and minority-owned businesses pay higher interest rates and are denied loans at higher rates than white business owners. (This remains true even when controlling for things like credit score.) Smith is a realist. She understands that money is important. But she also tells the women in her chapters not to let it hold them

“” I want women to

realize their power.

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“I always think in terms of possibilities and not limitations. People want Black women to think they are less than, but I am a force all by myself.

back from building their dreams. “Take what you have, whatever you have inside of you and start with what you have,” she says. “Let your work speak for you, if you have not done the work what are you asking people to invest in? “The frustrating and unfair thing is that many of my ladies have done the work for someone to invest in,” she says, referring back to that age-old anecdote. “It seems like those who have done far less work show up and get all the investments. What businessperson does not want someone who can multitask, who can take a little bit and make it go a long way?” She laughs to herself. “You would be surprised what I can do with $20.” Given how she has kept her community fed for 10 months on a shoestring budget, surprise isn’t likely. Smith’s commitment to her community also matches research that suggests investing in women is one of the smartest ways to invest in communities. The United Nations has found that women invest more than 90% of what they earn back into their families. Black women often cite community and social activism as benefits of entrepreneurship. Says DuFresne, “Women reinvest in community because we are community builders, we are nation builders. But we also have businesses that take care [and] provide more jobs. Our businesses are more stable over longer periods of time because we’re running the budget and focus on things in a way that ensures sustainability and stability.” Smith remains deeply committed to the flourishing East Side, having founded the Authentically East Austin Food Tour in 2018 to highlight Black-owned restaurants in East Austin. The food tour has expanded into The Black Dollar Tour and includes more Black-owned brickand-mortar businesses. She has gotten the City of Austin to recognize the second week in February as Black Business Week and hosts an annual Black Women in Business event as a showcase for Black female business owners. “Black women business owners are showcased, but we want everyone to come out and support them,” she insists. The pandemic changed their plans, but both Black Women in Business and the Greater Black Chamber of Commerce keep vendor lists for any Austinite interested in spending their money with Blackowned businesses. Smith is adamant that Austin can do a better job at making African Americans feel welcomed in the city. 38 |  AUSTIN WOMAN | FEBRUARY 2021

She recalls trying to take ladies from BWIB with her to City Hall or other community meetings with sadness. “They felt uncomfortable because they felt unwanted,” she laments. Her suggestion is that decision-makers attend community meetings and visit local businesses and nonprofits rather than waiting for people of color to come to them. “Don’t just send someone who looks like us, you come too.” Denisha Jenkins, owner of Kardia Advisory Group, describes this as the difference between diversity and equity. “Diversity is being invited to [the] party,” she says. “Equity is who is on the planning committee, who is making the decisions, who determines the guest list, who sets the rules.” Smith would like to see more Black female business owners setting the rules. In her 50s now, Smith has some solemn advice for her younger self. She is introspective for several minutes before saying, “I wish I would have known that just being a powerful Black woman made me a threat. I wish I would have understood that some of the confrontations I endured were not about me, and seen that sometimes when people seem angry at you [it is because] they see a certain power or light in you and they sort of have to kind of get worked up to keep what’s in you from coming out. I wish I would have known that because I wouldn’t spend so much time arguing with people.” Smith wants women to understand the power they have within themselves and to be unafraid and unapologetic in letting it show. “I want women to realize their power. I want them to realize how amazing they are.” While acknowledging the challenges in the world and deploring the inequity, Smith says, “I always think in terms of possibilities and not limitations. People want Black women to think they are less than, but I am a force all by myself.” She has once again spun gold out of straw, and she is quite content. “I have so much peace throughout my day.” Others may get more instant attention or support, but with triumphs like the pandemic feeding program that began with small donations and now partners with Trader Joe’s and H-E-B, Smith knows she has the receipts to prove she is the best investment. Maybe it is the athlete in her. She has once again shown her detractors and would-be competitors that no one beats Coach Smith.


AN AUSTIN THAT WORKS FOR EVERYBODY Briona Jenkins and Rocío Villalobos dedicate their lives to bringing hope and true equity to Austin’s underrepresented populations. BY CY WHITE

What does it mean to be a voice for the voiceless? To be a beacon of light for those who continue to suffer in the dark, in silence, without the resources to make it out of a desperate situation? The truth is, many (if not most) of us don’t have the stuff to do the work to help the helpless. Or we have the good intentions without the drive, follow through or just the mind and fortitude to do the work necessary to change the situation of hundreds, even thousands of people. However, for women like Briona Jenkins and Rocío Villalobos, this is the work they live for; asking the tough questions and digging in with their hearts and hands to find the answers. Their paths, while somewhat disparate, lead to one goal: creating the inclusive Austin everyone deserves. One of the worst-kept secrets in Austin is the very real resource disparity between white communities and those of their Black and brown counterparts. Let’s face it, the entire country still has an issue it hasn’t dealt with. In this seemingly endless fight for “equality,” saying we want things to change only goes so far. What it actually means to have the resources to be on real equal footing across the board is often lost in discussion. Where are the people who will get their hands into the thick of the problem and start making things happen? Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) historically are a means to bring much-needed resources and hope to those people and communities that have so little of either. Briona Jenkins and Rocío Villalobos—two women of color from different walks of life and with different missions. They’re right there in the trenches, fighting to make sure all communities have the same opportunities to meet the challenges that so many people avoid simply because of who they are and where they’re from. Jenkins has a long history with nonprofit work. She’s a veritable rock star of the space, rallying behind various causes to give all people the ability to survive and reach for excellence no matter their current circumstances.


“I just joined the Austin Justice Coalition (AJC) team as their director of development,” Jenkins reveals. “I am in charge of donor and partner relations and helping the organization to reach its fundraising goal.” Her work doesn’t end with fundraising. As the co-director of New Leaders Council (NLC) Austin—“the hub for progressive millennial thought leadership”—Jenkins has made it a mission to continue to train and nurture the current and next generations of voters so they might have the tools to enact change themselves. “In 2016, the NLC Austin chapter trained more than 90 progressives through the Institute Program, a six-month flagship training program hosted once a year,” she says. “These leaders are rising entrepreneurs, community advocates and nonprofit leaders, working to make Austin a truly progressive city. I have also worked at Register2Vote, Out Youth, United Way for Greater Austin and Foundation Communities. I have sat on the boards of Lone Star Victims Advocacy Project, Austin Black Pride and Keep Austin Fed.” Villalobos has taken a different approach to her advocacy. Since March of 2020, she has walked fully into the role of the community services coordinator of immigrant affairs for the City of Austin. “I started in this position in March of 2020, after our office transitioned to working from home,” Villalobos says. “This position was created thanks to community advocacy and with the support of the City’s Commission on Immigrant Affairs. In the future, our goal is to have an office dedicated to serving our immigrant residents in order to create a more welcoming and inclusive city.” As with Jenkins, Villalobos has a heart for advocacy and service. Alongside her mission to help provide security and aid to the immigrant community in Austin, she’s dedicated to providing mentoring and much-needed healing to immigrant youth. She also has a passion for helping young women in their development.


Photo by Shelby Sorrel.

Photo by June Gunaratne.


“I serve on the board of Youth Rise Texas and Ecology Action, and I’m a mentor with Explore Austin,” she says. “Youth Rise Texas is dedicated to uplifting the voices of young people harmed by criminalization and deportation so they may heal, take action and cultivate compassionate communities. Ecology Action of Central Texas stewards Circle Acres Nature Preserve, a former landfill and brownfield located in Montopolis, a neighborhood in Southeast Austin. Explore Austin uses mentoring, leadership and outdoor adventure to support youth in stepping into their power. As a mentor, I work with four other adult mentors. We are teamed up with a group of 15 young women we call ‘explorers.’ Each year, we focus on learning a different outdoor skill, and the year culminates in a summer wilderness trip where we get the opportunity to put our new skills to the test for a week in the wilderness.” Just like the communities it serves, the nonprofit sector is filled with a lot of inequity of funding, resources and support. It takes women like Jenkins and Villalobos working tirelessly to see people get the help they deserve. But what are we really talking about here? We can’t begin to address the issues if we’re too afraid to actually say what they are. Truth is, there are quite a few ugly truths about the state of inclusivity and equity in Austin. “Austin used to be a predominantly Black city,” Jenkins says. “Now I can go about three to four days before I see another Black person, and that was before the pandemic. Austin is not as diverse and equitable as we hope. This is made clear when looking at the school system, folks experiencing homelessness and the police and how they still tend to arrest, charge and shoot more folks of color than white folks.” “I grew up in East Austin,” Villalobos begins. “Have lived in Austin my entire life, and have felt deep sadness watching the neighborhood that I grew up in change as its residents continue to be displaced. This city has not progressed as far as people like to believe. When it comes to making critical decisions that can either uphold or work to dismantle white supremacy in our systems and institutions, I regularly witness people choosing to perpetuate racist outcomes. It takes courage to do things differently, and there’s a fundamental lack of courage in this city because people are more invested in having power.” So now that we’ve addressed the elephant(s) in the room, it’s time to get down to the business of actually doing something about it. Ignoring the issues has done nothing more than continue to stir the pot of mistrust and wariness within Austin’s communities of color, specifically those whose populations are predominantly Black and brown. For Villalobos, who has seen the heistancy of the non-POC population to actively dismantle the disease of white supremacy from their programming, a level of selfless valiance is the first step. “It’s critical to lead with race in the work that we do,” she says. “Courage is a muscle, and the more people are willing to exercise that muscle, the easier it will become. Though I’ve seen a lack of courage, I’ve also seen and been inspired by bold leadership.” As with every Black and brown person in this country, Jenkins understands that restructuring at the local government level is crucial. “I know the phrase ‘Defund the Police’ makes a lot of folks nervous,” she says. “So I will say that we need to reallocate funds from the police to EMS (we only have about 30-40 ambulances in Austin), to help house folks experiencing homelessness, provide universal pre-K for all children in Austin, rental assistance and much more. I would also

What do the words “inclusivity” and “equity” mean to you? BJ: For me, inclusivity means giving equal access, opportunities and resources to folks who might otherwise be excluded due to being a marginalized person. RV: I use the definition of equity that the City of Austin’s Equity Office uses, which is that equity is the condition where race no longer predicts a person’s quality of life outcomes. Whether you look at education, access to healthcare, life expectancy and more, race is a reliable predictor for how people fare. For that reason it’s critical to lead with race in the work that we do if we are to create truly inclusive communities.

What’s been the most rewarding experience you’ve had working with NPOs? BJ: As a development person I have had the chance to inform folks about the work that the organizations are doing. I am a big believer [that] people want to help, they just may not know how to be able. To be that connector is so rewarding. RV: I’ve loved the mentorship model that Explore Austin uses. As a mentor, I started working with my group of explorers right after they finished sixth grade and they are currently in 10th grade. We make a commitment to stay with our explorers until they graduate from high school so that we are learning and growing alongside each other while building deep relationships of trust. The experience has been incredibly rewarding, and it’s been powerful to see the way that our explorers are transformed, as well as the way that we are transformed as mentors. I feel proud to see these young women of color building their confidence and their ability to see themselves as adventurous and resilient leaders.


love to see an initiative to get more educators of color, tech people who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and folks who are looking to plant down roots in a city that can be a place of liberal hope. “We are working to make an Austin that works for everyone,” she continues. “Where everyone is employed, safe, housed, not afraid of interacting with the police, healthy and represented.” That’s the beauty and magic of the nonprofit organization. At its best, it’s a tool for healing, restructuring and hope for so many who just need one thing, anything, to motivate them to push for a better future for themselves and their loved ones. The respective work of both Jenkins and Villalobos, though different in terms of organizations, is similar in cause and purpose. Ultimately making a better, truly inclusive Austin. “Since my role at the city is housed in the Equity Office, I have the opportunity to both serve our immigrant communities as well as work with departments across the city as they begin to look inwards and look at the outcomes their department produces through an equity lens,” Villalobos says. “Our office believes that racial equity requires a cycle of normalizing, operationalizing and organizing, and that is at the heart of our work. Advancing racial equity is a lifelong journey and commitment.” Says Jenkins, “AJC serves people who are historically and systematically impacted by gentrification, segregation, over policing, a lack of educational and employment opportunities and other institutional forms of racism in Austin. We are working on combating higher ed, housing and much more to make Austin a more equitable place for BIPOC. The Austin chapter [of NLC] is constantly helping to mold the folks who will have an impact on our community.” Every triumph, however, isn’t without its harsh disappointments. Says Jenkins, “A lot of NPOs are kept afloat by the work of the direct client staff or staff that is not in the ‘executive suite,’ and 98% of that is majority people of color or women. While these folks keep the org going and assist the clients more often than not it is white, cisgender men who are the executive directors or the ones who ‘get most of the credit.’ It’s been one of the most disheartening experiences of working for NPOs—loving the work, your clients and your coworkers, but feeling as if the higher-ups couldn’t care less about your well-being or notice the work that you are doing.” “White organizational culture can be alienating,” says Villalobos. “It’s made it difficult for me to show up as my full self at work. I’ve had to navigate feeling both invisible and hypervisible in workplace environments. There have been times where I’ve showed up for work with a heavy heart and had difficulty concentrating following very public 44 |  AUSTIN WOMAN | FEBRUARY 2021

acts of white-supremacist violence that made national headlines. There was no mention of this at my workplace, no acknowledgment that those acts happened, which had the effect of making me feel alone and that the things that people of color have to contend with have no impact on the lives of the leadership of organizations. On the flipside, I’ve also had the experience of having white leadership turn to me, expecting me to have all the answers and solutions about race and racism.” Indeed, being a woman of color in this space, as with a great many spaces, doubles as an act of defiance and isolation. “I feel like I always had to be the one to speak up,” says Jenkins. “Whether it was when a coworker said something problematic or we posted something on social media that didn’t sit well. Additionally, as the fundraiser, I feel like I am constantly representing the organization I work for. I feel like I have to always be on point and not only represent the org but all (professional) Black women even when I am ‘not on the clock.’” In the end, however, the work is important. It has meaning, nuance, depth. When the dust settles, what women like Briona Jenkins and Rocío Villalobos do gives light to the darkness. “I have become pretty well known for the phrase ‘Change happens in the uncomfortable places,’” Jenkins reflects. “With January being a pretty wild month, especially after such a heavy 2020, I am hopeful we can continue to change for the better. I also hold on to ‘You have to see yourself beyond where you find yourself.’ My godfather, Pastor Kennedy D. Hampton Sr., has been saying that for as long as I can remember. It’s the gentle push I need when I feel stuck or unsure of what’s next for me. I know I am destined for greatness and that it will find me if I keep looking for it.” “I love the saying that this work is a marathon and not a sprint,” says Villalobos. “I entered the world of ultramarathons in the past couple of years. You need to have very different strategies for a short-term effort versus a long-term effort, otherwise you will crash and burn very quickly. It’s also important to remember that it took hundreds of years to get to where we are now, and it will take a long time for change to occur. This is where radical hope comes in because it requires you to believe that the world we need is possible and attainable, even if we don’t get to see it in our lifetimes. “This work can be challenging and draining at the same time that it’s rewarding,” she continues. “Think about what fills you up and makes the world feel a little brighter. Find those things that can nourish you so that your energy and spirit can be restored for the long road ahead.”









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Tarka Indian Kitchen reveals its popular Beyond Keema Curry as a healthy, sustainable option for Austinites. BY ALLIE JUSTIS


ince getting its start back in 2009, Tarka Indian Kitchen has been largely successful in the Austin community, due in no small part to COO and cofounder Rajina Pradhan who has opened eight Tarka locations across Texas. “For me, these past 10 years have been absolutely leaps and bounds in terms of growth, personally and professionally,” says Pradhan. “Last year was very challenging, but our team pulled together and overcame quite an amazing feat to get to where we are now.” Over her 10 years of being an entrepreneur, Pradhan has definitely not shied away from the challenges and has been a leader in the Austin restaurant scene in terms of health, sustainability and authenticity. These pillars of their business have drawn in many Austinites and have made Tarka a staple of Austin Indian cuisine. “We’re still a growing concept,” says Pradhan. “The Austin community was amazing, has been amazing and continues to be amazing. They continue to be very receptive to Indian cuisine, and there’s been overwhelming interest and acceptance. The Austin community is just amazing. They welcome us and we feel absolutely loved.” As for the recipe, Pradhan has personally chosen to reveal Tarka’s very popular Beyond Keema Curry recipe. She chose this recipe because it is healthy, delicious, sustainable and above all, it tastes just like meat. “As the world starts to realize that we need to eat more healthy and more sustainably, I felt it was apt to introduce this item,” says Pradhan. “This meal is great because it is so substantial and tastes just like meat, and I wanted to show people this great alternative.” As Pradhan’s last bit of advice to cooks at home, she emphasizes how the slow and steady process really pays off with Indian cuisine. “One thing I will say about Indian cooking is that towards the end you always will want to let it simmer a little bit on low heat so the flavor has time to come out,” says Pradhan. “All it takes is five minutes and it will make your meal so much better.” 46 |  AUSTIN WOMAN |  FEBRUARY 2021

BEYOND KEEMA CURRY Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients 1/2 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon kalonji seeds (or mustard seeds)

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 dried red chillies

2 lbs Beyond Meat, ground

1 cinnamon stick

2 teaspoons salt

1 bay leaf

1 cup tomato puree

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup of water

2 cups yellow onions, diced

1/2 cup tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup ginger garlic paste 2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 cup red potatoes, diced and boiled (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons ground paprika

1/2 cup green peas (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala

Directions 1. Heat the canola oil on medium heat in a large pan in preparation for toasting the whole spices. 2.When hot add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, kalonji seeds, dried red chillies, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and ground black pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the spices are aromatic and cumin begins to lightly brown. 3. A  dd onions into the pan and cook until they are lightly browned and caramelized. 4. Add ground turmeric and toast gently for 1-2 minutes. 5. Add the remaining ground spices and cook for 1-2 minutes. 6. A  dd the ground Beyond Meat and cook for 5-10 minutes, until browned. 7. Add salt and tomato puree and cook for another 2 minutes. 8. A  dd water into the mixture, along with the diced tomatoes, red potatoes and green peas. 9. Let it all simmer for another 5 minutes until it is mostly dry but still moist. 10. G  arnish with fresh cilantro, sliced red onion or sliced jalapeños. Serve with cooked rice or Pav bread.


Photo courtesy of Tarka.



Protecting your loved ones can’t wait. BY JENNY HOFF


here are some things we are happy to plan for: retirement, our kid’s college education, buying a new home, taking a trip or simply paying off credit cards. Then there are things we dread planning for—namely, our death. The problem is if we don’t make those plans when we are healthy and able, then we leave our loved ones to pick up the pieces and the financial burden that a death without any directive can cause. “It’s especially important for people with [fewer] resources,” says Austin attorney Pamela Hailey-Petty. “If someone has more resources they have more resources to fight with. If you don’t have the resources, you’re left with fewer choices.” The cost of not having a will When someone passes away, generally the next step is probate, the court’s process of authenticating a last will and testament and appointing an executor (if none is named or there is no will). It also involves determining whatever assets there may be, paying off bills and taxes and distributing the remainder to the rightful heirs. It’s a long and expensive process that can be even more costly without a will. Hailey-Petty gives an example of a couple that recently came to her saying their loved one who passed had $5,000 to $6,000 in a bank account, which they needed to access in order to pay for funeral costs. That happens to be the exact cost of administering an estate without a will. With a will, legal costs are about $3,000. Had their family member drawn up a will, they would have had money left over to help with the bills. If minors are involved, the court will determine where they go even if there is a verified will. However, the will plays a very influential part in that decision and can make the process much easier for family members


and, most importantly, the children involved. It also drastically reduces the costs, which can range between $10,000 and $15,000 without a will (as opposed to about $3,500 with one). For a family inheriting a large estate, the extra money may not be too damaging, but for many families who do not have a financial cushion, it can lead to putting the expenses on credit cards, which can quickly snowball into much larger bills if interest is added every month. A will not only helps your family in the wake of tragedy, but also helps protect you while you’re alive if it includes power of attorney—a person of your choice appointed to make decisions in your best interest if you are unable to do so. How to draw up a will The best way to draw up a will is with a reputable attorney you can meet with personally to ensure it’s done the correct way. LegalZoom and other sites may offer cheaper services, but if the will isn’t done correctly, it could be useless when needed. Typically, in Austin, the price of drawing up a will that includes powers of attorney is around $850 for one person or $1,700 for a couple. Some attorneys will offer sliding-scale options based on income to help make the process more affordable. There are also services in the Austin area where you can get a basic will drawn up for little to no cost if you qualify, such as with the Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas. Many law schools offer reducedcost will services where a licensed attorney will monitor the whole process. The best first step is a conversation to get all your questions answered, and most attorneys either provide a free initial consultation or one that is low-cost.

The final thing family members should avoid doing in the midst of grieving is making huge financial decisions.


Other ways to protect your loved ones

When an estate goes into probate, it can take months before the executor can sell a home, a car or access accounts to help the heir’s financial burden. One way you can ensure your family members won’t be left in financial limbo is to take out a term life insurance plan. Term life insurance lasts for a set amount of time (perhaps until your children are through college or until a spouse hits retirement age) whereas if you were to pass during that term, your family would receive the money from the plan you chose to keep them afloat. Since term life insurance is for a certain amount of time instead of staying with you until death, it is much more affordable than comprehensive life insurance. “The nice thing about life insurance, and any financial account like a 401(k), is that it is outside of probate, so you can get paid on that immediately

and it can help fund what needs to be done on the probate side,” says Hailey-Petty. She recommends getting a life insurance policy outside of work. If your job offers an affordable plan, it’s worth it to pay for it, but that shouldn’t stop you from shopping for a plan on the open market as well. If you lose your job, your work-tied life insurance plan will also go, and if you happen to be 50 or older, the cost of getting a new plan will go up dramatically. The younger you are, the better chance you have of locking in an affordable rate. In some cases, it might be wise to create a trust, which will help your family avoid the probate process altogether. It’s more expensive to create than just a will alone, and it takes some work to maintain, ensuring you add to it whenever you buy or sell assets, but it will allow your family to avoid the court system and legal fees when you pass. An attorney can help you determine if a trust makes sense in your specific situation. What you need to know The first mistake many family members make when a loved one passes is to start paying the deceased person’s bills that may come in the mail. While the court’s job is to make sure valid claims from creditors get paid, the process to file those claims is usually arduous enough that most credit card companies don’t even bother. That isn’t to say all debts will be forgiven, but don’t assume that there is nothing to inherit just because there may be a lot of credit card debt. The first step should be to talk to an attorney that will tell you what needs to be paid (electricity, homeowner’s insurance, car insurance) and what you can let slide during probate (credit card bills). During this initial consultation, the attorney will also help you determine if you need to go to probate or if the estate qualifies for a more simplified probate, which is much more affordable. The final thing family members should avoid doing in the midst of grieving is making huge financial decisions, determining who takes care of all the arrangements and start racking up debt they may not be able to pay off in order to cover funeral costs and legal expenses. If you become incapacitated, you also want someone you know and love to make decisions that are in your and your loved ones’ best interests. Through a last will and testament, you can give your loved ones peace of mind and guidance when they need it the most.

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Mixed-race queer rapper Mama Duke remembers the beautiful moments of her musical journey in Austin.

while someone makes a beat on a door with a Sprite bottle. The crowd grows louder, not because the young girl is necessarily spitting the greatest lyrics, but because…well she’s a female. Day after day, guy after guy, they line up and say the first thing that comes to their head. Next day, same thing. I am that 14-year-old kid rapping. I remember this particular day like it was yesterday. It was lunchtime and I saw the usual crowd gather. See, confidence is fickle. You have it until you need it desperately. Looking back, I can proudly say this moment changed my life. Going toe-to-toe with the guys, I don’t remember what I said, but I will always remember the feeling I had as the nods and “ohs!” started coming in. I think that’s where the itch started. The crowd, the hype, the nervousness, the satisfaction of the reward afterward. The ongoing acknowledgment throughout the day, the “You gonna rap tomorrow?” That shit was addicting early on. I didn’t always have the best grades throughout high school, but getting awarded “Class Clown” and “Most Spirited” when I graduated felt equivalent to getting straight-A’s. Let’s fast forward a bit. I’m a student at the Art Institute of Houston for photography. After a year, I realize that photography is a like and not a love. Music is my love. Somehow I hear that Austin is the “live music capital of the world.” I remember innocently thinking, “That’s where my dreams are.” So, you guessed it, I moved to Austin. My first show was at the Empire Control Room. It was an all-female bill, and I went on first. At the time I thought that was the best privilege ever! “I get to go on first!” Ha-ha! Now I know what that meant. Either way I was honored to be a part of it. After that experience, I couldn’t get enough! Shortly after I booked another show and then another show and then…boom! Mama Duke is opening up for Naughty By Nature. While my experiences have always turned out in my favor, the journeys through those experiences have not always been pleasant. I’m a mixed-race, half-Black, half-Mexican queer woman. Things aren’t naturally designed for people like me. A lot of my early shows consisted of cut sets or opening the show with no crowd to play to or just simply being overlooked. Now, you may be saying, “Well, that’s what you have to do when you first start out.” To that I say there aren’t enough pages in this magazine to tell you about all the times I’ve been counted out simply for being a woman. I truly wouldn’t change my experiences though. They shaped me. I almost enjoy it and get a bigger sense of pride when I accomplish something after being counted out. Plus, I’m in the music industry. You truly have to have layers of skin that you’re ready to shed daily. Being a mixed-race queer woman is having to pick which side of our stories we want to tell. I can show you the good. Here, watch. In the first two years of moving to Austin I was awarded Female Artist of the Year and Artist of the Year on the same night at the Austin Hip Hop Awards. I’ve been on tour, I’ve performed over 300 times and have been paid every single time. (I have to mention being paid because, believe it or not, a lot of these artists aren’t treated fairly.) I’ve been flown out to perform at a festival in Wisconsin. I’ve been nominated for an Austin Music Award. I landed


a voice-over role for a character called Hip Hop Hippo. I just dropped my debut album, Ballsy, and it’s being embraced by the city. I was one of 20 people picked in Austin for a songwriting camp for Universal Music Publishing Group during a pandemic. I was announced as the Austin American-Statesman’s Artist of the Month for January 2021. I could go on forever. As a person with a “Triple Whammy,” as I like to call it (being mixed-race, queer and a woman), I have a lot of stories full of hurt too. So when a new friend or a stranger in a group or a new colleague or, hell, even a rep at Austin Woman magazine asks to tell them what it’s like being all those things plus a woman in Austin, I say it’s an honor. It’s an honor to defy odds and throw out old blueprints. It’s an honor to speak about my accomplishments and not have to feel obligated to go in-depth about what broke me to get here. It’s an honor to be seen by you reading this. It’s an honor to be recognized for the things I’ve been chasing since I was that 14-yearold girl rapping at lunch. It’s an honor to be counted out. It’s an honor to be counted in. It’s an honor.

Photo by Morty Zapata.

Picture it: A 14-year-old kid rapping at lunch surrounded by the entire school













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