That’s a question Nikisha Brunson, a wellness influencer and the owner of Folie Apothecary, a line of all-natural skin and hair products, is still asking herself since moving to Austin in 2014. Brunson came because a friend of her husband visited during SXSW and recommended it. Great schools for their teenage son. A progressive atmosphere. Restaurant scene blowing up. But over the past year, as she has gotten her business on track and looked for a deeper social life, Brunson feels Austin’s lack of “flavor.” She finds the culture lacking, “whitewashed.” It’s stifling. “Maybe I should try to just mute it down a little bit,” she used to tell herself. “Mute myself down.”
I’ve been looking, too, since returning to Austin in 2014 after a year abroad. Absent the community I’d been a part of at UT, the city’s lack of diversity really struck me. That’s not to say UT, a school of 51,000, of whom black students comprise just 4%, is exactly a paragon of diversity. But there black student organizations proactively reached out to freshmen and created events. Even as I took classes where I was sometimes the only black student, my social life felt rich and connected. Besides, we had the Malcolm X Lounge, a public lounge within the largest dormitory on campus where black students always gathered and socialized.