Carl Settles Jr. – Gateway Apartments

Carl Settles Jr. – CEO

Carl Settles is the visionary Founder and Chief Executive Officer of E4 Youth, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and technology start up in Austin, TX whose mission is to Engage, Empower, Educate and Employ the young talent of color an equitable future demands by ensuring that they are Seen, Heard and HIRED. Mr. Settles is also the creator of What Once Was, a location-based mixed reality (XR) platform that explores the impacts of gentrification by leveraging the power of storytelling and Web 3.0 technologies to build community and close the digital divide. Additionally, Carl leads the Cultural IQ Initiative, which is a national coalition of schools, nonprofits and businesses that takes a systems approach to measuring and developing cultural competency to improve education, economic and health outcomes for people of color. Mr. Settles serves as Chair of the City of Austin Economic Development Corporation and former VP of Education / Information Technology for 100 Black Men of Austin.


Keisha Townsend Tait – Harlem

Keisha Townsend Taitt – Chief Inclusion Officer

My aspirations in advertising brought me to New York City shortly after graduating college. Realizing I couldn’t afford to live near my office in the East Village, the place I called home for a decade was Harlem. Known as the “Black Mecca” of the world, my newly renovated apartment was a signal of the gentrification trickling in.

I moved around a lot as a child, but always in an suburb versus a big city. Needless to say, there was a lot to get used to living in New York City. It was also the first time I lived in a location where Black people were the majority.

I didn’t realize it then, but my experience living in Harlem is what prompted my pride in being Black and greater appreciation of Black culture.

When I first got there, I also realized how societal conditioning and perpetuated stereotypes impacted me. Living across the street from housing projects, or the “Pjs,” as we affectionately call it, was a new experience for me. And when I first moved in, I was afraid to walk out of my apartment at night. Was there crime in my area, yes, but the longer I lived there, the more I realized that most of the people I’d come across were just like me, trying to survive. And the community was a lot more familial and friendly that it is often portrayed.

On the weekends, I would find myself never leaving Harlem! I stayed “at home” between 110th and 135th and it had everything I needed. Arts and musical entertainment, shopping, beauty supply stores and my stylist, my church home and my absolute favorite foods.

Eating with friends is my favorite thing to do, and we did a lot of that in Harlem. Brunch, dinner, or a snack, we never needed a reason to go eat. Some of my favorites include Rusty’s Flavor (the BEST Jamaican food), Red Rooster (when someone came to town and I wanted to impress them) and Lolita’s (to this day, my favorite Mexican food).

Harlem was also home to me for so many pivotal moments: my first promotion, bringing home my new dog and finding out I was pregnant with my daughter.

The neighborhood continues to change every time I go back, but I don’t think (and hope) gentrification will ever fully remove the essence that is Harlem.

Jackie Venson – Antone’s Nightclub

Jackie Venson – Musician

It is legend that a blistering Jackie Venson guitar solo knocked Pluto straight out of planetary existence.

Venson’s “…astonishing mix of raw soul, superb musicianship and laid back grace…” (Austin American Statesman, June 2014) has been compared to the likes of Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse and fellow Austin native Gary Clark, Jr. Originally a classical pianist, Jackie picked up the guitar, shortly after graduating from Berklee College of Music, and made the giant leap from the tradition of classical music to the raw and gritty blues.

Enthralled with music since the age of 8, this young singer/songwriter/musician instantly captures your attention with a vibrant musical soul and passionate control of her instruments, that reach far beyond her tender age. As she mindfully blends Blues, Rock, R&B, Soul and more, with her introspective lyrics, the message is clear. When you’re listening to Jackie you hear the “Truth in Music”.

In recognition of her dedication to her craft, said “Venson is no dilettante, wannabe performer, however a real staple of what a musician can achieve when they put in their 10,000 hours for both musical schooling, and late night pub sessions for practical honing.”

Her live performances revisits what makes music so powerful: emotion and passion. She thrives without the flash, instead favoring a clean sound, genuine soul, and meaningful connection with her audience. Music is not only what Venson does – but also defines who she is and reminds her where she wants to be: performing.

Having finished her second tour of Europe and the recent declaration of “Jackie Venson Day” (May 21st) in the “Live Music Capital of the World” Austin, TX, there’s no doubt she has every reason to lead the way with the trademark smile that accompanies her magnificent musicianship.

Mayet Andreassen – San Francisco, CA

Mayet Andreassen – Assoc. Program Director, & Instructional Assist. Professor

This was my second apartment in graduate school.  I was in my mid to late 20’s and it was the early to mid aughts. It was the first time I really felt like a full adult. I was living by myself, going to school, working several part time jobs and dating. This was also the launching pad to my current successes.  I got my first two internships in my field of study while I was living on 935 Pine Street. It was the first time that I felt that my life was finally being steered in the direction I wanted it to go, and that their was a plausible reality for me achieving my dreams.
San Francisco is where I got my first industry jobs, and met my future husband. Me choosing to move to and live in San Francisco directly led to me living and thriving in Austin, TX.

Jenaya Zarrad – The Union Colony Civic Center

Jenaya Zarrad – StellarFi

This place really shaped me and my passion for the arts and is one of the few places in my hometown where I felt happy and where I could be myself.

Eric Collier – Richmond Heights

Eric Collier – Executive Coach

This is my childhood home. We moved there when I was 3 years old in 1950. Daddy was the ultimate provider and when he saw the opportunity to purchase a home for his family–at that time a family of 4 that included Mama, my older sister Gloria and me–he took full advantage. Eventually 2 more boys, Michael and Joseph; and 2 more girls, Retha and Theresa grew up in that house. Today, my surviving siblings (Michael, Joseph and Theresa) and I, think of ourselves as privileged. Not the kind of privilege that is attributed to white people in this country; the of growing up in a strong family with strong role models that included grandparents and my Aunt as well our mother and father. We are all well-educated, have strong values and life successes. This all started when my grandmother, my father’s mother, decided that her 2 children would be educated and took the steps that made sure that happened in spite of being on a sharecropper farm (or maybe because of it). Her values, strength and resilience are in our DNA and drive us today!

Suresh Sundarababu – Coimbatore, India

Suresh Sundarababu – Director, Board Advisor, Thinking Partner

MY PURPOSE: “Not trying to change the world, but want to change the world I touch.” Suresh Sundarababu has excelled as a change leader with 25+ years of experience in implementing strategies to scale and transform global organizations. He works with purpose-driven organizations with strong values to create impact and value to all stakeholders in the communities they serve. With a unique personal and professional multicultural identity and robust organizational intelligence, Suresh is a trusted leader and a strategic thinking partner to help leaders drive change

Jason Ford – Moonshine

Jason Ford – Product leader, technologist, entrepreneur, and mentor

Jason is the Director of PPC at Growth & Innovation division of Wpromote, a group dedicated to driving accelerated growth and scale for startups, venture backed businesses and challenger brands.


I was a tech geek in high school, but I was also creative, and no one told me those two things could go together. I ended up with a vocal jazz degree instead of computer science and started my career working in creative services. I launched a marketing tech startup, FeedMagnet, which I later sold to BazaarVoice. I’m currently a mentor and investor in multiple startups and leading the software team at ICON, a construction technologies company revolutionizing homebuilding using 3D printing robotics, software and advanced materials.

Rhiannon Ferguson – Akins High School, Austin, TX

Rhiannon Ferguson – E4 Youth | LinkedIn

Rhiannon reflects on her senior year at Akins High School as a pivotal turning point in her life and creative career. Dealing with social phobia worsened by the return to in-person classes post-COVID, fell into a cycle of depression and nearly dropped out. But being appointed editor-in-chief of the yearbook and designer, alongside supportive teachers, pushed her to face her fears. Through painting murals, designing the yearbook, and even publishing her own children’s book, she found her confidence, proving that Akins was more than just a school—it was where she found her creative voice and began to conquer her mental health challenges.