KVUE Highlights Black History Month: Celebrating Local Leaders and Innovators in the Austin Area

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

February is Black History Month. All month long, local KVUE news staff has highlighted black leaders and innovators making a difference in our community.

See the full article at KVUE.

Brenda P. Kennedy

Brenda P. Kennedy serves as judge of the 403rd Judicial District Court and as the Presiding Judge of the Travis County Criminal Courts. In 1982, she became the first African-American female assistant district attorney in Travis County. In 1988, she became the first African-American elected in a contested county-wide election and continues to preside over the Youthful Offender Program for felony offenders ages 17 to 25.

Rick Garrett

Rick Garrett is a local entrepreneur with ownership in TES Holdings. Garrett's work focuses on diversity in hiring practices for mid-sized and large employers across the country. He also brings healthy restaurants and concessions to traditional street-side locations as well as non-traditional locations such as ABIA. He serves on the board for RBI Austin, a non-profit that focuses on inner-city Austin youth engagement through athletics, academics, and spirituality.

Joel G. Baker

Appointed by Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk as Fire Chief of the Austin Fire Department in December 2018, Atlanta native Joel G. Baker began his professional fire service career with the City of East Point Fire Department (Georgia) in 1986. In 1988, he joined the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, rising through the ranks to Fire Chief, a rank he held until his retirement in February 2018 after 30 years of service. Chief Baker holds several degrees, including an Associate of Applied Sciences in Fire Science Technology, a Bachelor of Science in Human Resources and Policy Studies from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, and a Master of Public Administration from Columbus State University; he is also a graduate of Harvard University’s Senior Executive Education in State and Local Government program. Chief Baker’s commitment to the fire service and the citizens he serves has garnered him numerous recognitions from various public and private organizations throughout his career. Joi Chevalier

Joi started The Cook’s Nook, Austin’s first shared commercial kitchen and culinary incubator after spending nearly 20 years in the tech industry working as an e-commerce product manager and marketing director. She is also a graduate from the Auguste Escoffier’s School of Culinary Arts. The blend of her love of culinary arts and technology has allowed her business to help more than 30 businesses in the Austin area do research and development, develop products, hold staff meetings, put together business plans and more. In 2018, Joi became the first Black woman to run for Texas Comptroller. She’s also a two-time Austin Food and Wine Alliance Grant recipient. Joi serves on the Austin-Travis County Food Policy Board, which advises the city council on matters related to our local food system.

Tiffanie Harrison

Tiffanie Harrison is an educator, equity leader, community organizer, entrepreneur, designer and investor. Tiffanie spent eight and a half years as a high school marketing teacher in Round Rock ISD and now serves as a RRISD Trustee and Board Secretary. She's s general partner at the Radical Equity Fund, where she advises and invests in diverse founders and EdTech startups. She is also a consultant for schools, districts, and public and private companies around racial equity practices.

Daron K. Roberts

A fifth-generation East Texan, Daron serves as a partner with Notley Ventures and as founding director of the Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation at the University of Texas. His work focuses on creating conduits for wealth accumulation for people of color through venture capital and real estate investing. He also develops and deploys leadership and financial literacy programs through his work at UT.

TiWanna Kenney

The founder of Astounding Auctions and Fundraising Strategies, Kenney and her team lead onsite and virtual fundraisers for nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. This multi-talented mom does it all: instructs future auctioneers and hosts fundraising classes, serves as an engaging emcee and voice-over talent, champions diversity for the auction industry and is a full-time entrepreneur. She is also a member of the National Auctioneers Association, Texas Auctioneers Association and serves on multiple boards across Texas. She has been featured as a "Woman to Watch" in Austin Woman Magazine, was featured on the Summer ‘20 cover of Texas Meeting & Events Magazine and was a finalist for "2020 Austin Under 40" in the Innovation & Startup category.

Dr. Kazique J. Prince

Affectionately known as "KP," Dr. Kazique J. Prince is an award-winning founder and chief executive officer at Jelani Consulting LLC, based in Austin. Jelani Consulting LLC provides executive and leadership consulting and coaching services focused on diversity, equity and inclusion for businesses and nonprofits. Prince also serves as the senior policy advisor and education coordinator for the City of Austin's Mayor Steve Adler with racial equity, education and public safety in his portfolio. Recently, Prince was appointed the interim executive director of the Central Texas Collective for Racial Equity to continue the regional initiative to dismantle institutional racism and system inequities. He is also the father of two college students.

Tonya Nixon

Constable Tonya Nixon has been in law enforcement for 16.5 years. She was the first black female to hold a sergeant's position in any constables office in Travis County. She is now the first black female to run and be elected Constable in Travis County and the Central Texas Area. She believes the only way to effectively serve your community is by having a direct connection without an official request or directive.

Rudy Metayer

Rudy Metayer is the president and executive director of the Texas Black Caucus Foundation. He is now in his second term on the Pflugerville City Council. He is the son of Haitian immigrants. He is of the first generation in his family to complete higher education. Metayer also teaches at-risk children, co-authored an honor code for the University of Texas, and created Pro Bono legal advice clinics for U.S. military veterans. Michael Ward Jr.

Michael Ward Jr. is the President and CEO of Austin Urban Technology Movement. He began his career at Oracle in enterprise sales, focusing on cloud and on-premise technology. During this time, Ward Jr. also led Oracle's Black employee resource group, African American Business Leaders for Excellence (ABLE), which focused on the upward mobility of Oracle Black employees in the United States, Canada and Brazil.