An Open Letter to the Austin Tech Community

Dear Austin Technology Leaders and Innovators,

In 1995 I was at the Pearl Jam concert at Red Rocks in Colorado. They played their song “Rearview Mirror” which spoke to me in many ways. This was four years post Rodney King’s beating by LAPD, three years post-riot.

While I don’t know the exact inspiration of the song, the lyrics “I couldn’t breathe, holdin’ me down, Hand on face, pushed to the ground” to me spoke to the gravity of what Mr. King must have felt.

This morning, as I walked the trail this song played, and I was struck again by those very lyrics, but this time my thoughts went to the picture of George Floyd with a police officer’s knee on his neck. It has been 29 years since Mr. King’s horrific beating, and nothing has changed in the violence against unarmed black men and women.

This past week has been a time for me to listen, to observe, and to contemplate my role and Austin Technology Council’s role in this discussion on race, equity, violence, and responsibility. We, as a tech community, can no longer afford to offer only “thoughts and prayers” or make unfulfilled promises to do better and try harder. This is a time of action.

ATC is ready to act.

I am committing to each of you that my team and I will work towards providing valuable opportunities to bring us together to discuss actions we can all take in creating diverse and equitable work environments. I am committing to each of you that these discussions will not be just “talk” that has no measurable outcome and will be open to everyone committed to understanding how combating bias (both conscious and unconscious) and racism in the workplace can lead to a safer community for all. I am committing to each of you that we will listen to learn and understand your experiences and how you wish to be part of the many solutions we will need to tackle this issue.

Next Wednesday, we will host our first Open Forum event at 11:30 am. This virtual panel discussion will include Lauren Washington, Cofounder of Black Women Talk Tech and Fund; Phil Walker, Managing Partner at Career Partners International; and Preston James, CEO & Cofounder of DivInc., sharing their experience and providing positive steps we can all take both personally and professionally to support our fellow Austinites in the African American community.

This will be an ongoing discussion reaching out to all and we will do our best to include diverse voices working together to solve the problems our tech community faces. I have said many times that the reason tech thrives even in the worst of circumstances is because we work together to solve problems. This is a problem that is long overdue for a solution and I hope you will join with me to do something about it.


In Solidarity,

Amber Gunst
Austin Technology Council