Uplifting and elevating her Austin, Texas community comes as naturally to Nyeka as taking her next breath. Each inhale is rooted in her family’s legacy within the state’s capital city, and each exhale amplifies the voices of her community.
“I'm a sixth-generation Austinite. My sixth-grandfather, Reverend John Henry Winn Sr., that whole colony, St. John's community is named after him. It's in my blood. This is blood, sweat and tears. This is our street and these are our homes,” she shared.
Nyeka dove into community work in 2020. She has already worked on initiatives with the mayor and a number of city council members.
“One of the first projects that I can remember that I ever did that I'm proud of, was a George Floyd March. We rallied from Huston-Tillerson [University] all the way to the state capitol. We collaborated with a whole lot of organizations, and they brought out over 60,000 people,” shared Nyeka.
It was a springboard for her community activism.
“Me being able to speak my experience and my vision and my intentions and act on them, that was dope. My whole life I've always been a leader and spoke up. I just started stepping into my power.”
When a snowstorm crippled Austin in 2021, Nyeka immediately connected with local agencies and organizations to help residents in her community find warm shelters and food.
“It felt like we didn't need any bureaucracy or any other system because we created our own. The fire people, the police, they weren't there, they couldn't get there in the snowstorm, so we created our own system and it felt good that we could lean on and trust each other. We were able to do what we needed to do for our community in that disaster.”
Nyeka learned about the UpTogether community through a friend she met while doing advocacy work. Later, she received direct cash assistance through The UpTogether Equity Fund, which was established to support Black leaders across the country working tirelessly on formal and informal, paid and unpaid initiatives for their community.
“I'm doing a lot of community work and you know, you don't always get paid for your power, but you got to access the resources that you do come across out there. I felt free and powerful, like I'm a real leader.”
As much as she pushes to make Austin a better place to be for everyone, the rising cost of living in Austin could make it a hard place for Nyeka and her two children to stay.
“I want to raise my kids in Austin, but it's sad that it is getting unaffordable. It's unlivable.”
Nyeka and her seven-year-old son enjoy painting and making s’mores together. She loves watching him dote on his three-month-old sister.
“He is an amazing big brother. He's an amazing son. If he hears her coo, or laugh, or if it sounds like a cry, he's on top of it,” shared Nyeka.
She is raising her children to care about others and honor their family’s legacy.
“I was raised in disenfranchised and marginalized community projects. I experienced the struggle, I experienced being in projects. So instead of me wearing my pain, I want to just wear my power.”
Nyeka is the youngest of three siblings. Her family is close-knit, and they “talk all day” in a phone group chat. She was moved, but not surprised, to find out that her mother reached out to UpTogether to suggest her life’s story be profiled.
“My mom, I love her. That’s my heart, she’s amazing,” Nyeka shared proudly. “She is my testimony, she has her own testimony. She lost everything, but she still kept building. She didn’t stop.”
Nyeka doesn’t stop either. She started a nonprofit, ‘The Healing Project,’ which amplifies the voices and stories of families who live in housing projects. Their first action was to create something she calls the Project Baby Ambassador project.
“We ultimately advocate for disenfranchised communities in Austin. We want to go to different projects in Austin, and get different groups of individuals, so they can learn how to advocate, organize, and navigate for their community.”
Nyeka is both a community activist and an author. While it’s clear that marching for change is important to her, she also believes in the importance and power of self-care. Her first self-published book, “Stay Healing,” is a reflection of that.
“I know no one wants to hear it, but we have to accept the fact that we are never going to be completely healed from anything, but we can make healthier choices. And that's what I expressed in ‘Stay Healing,’” said Nyeka.
Whether it’s healing, advocacy work, or commitment to her community, Nyeka’s core qualities are on full display. She says her hope is to leave a long-lasting imprint on Austin and a life worth emulating.
“The end goal is to have a lot of mini Nyekas running around. If it's my kids, if it's my grandchildren, if it's a neighbor, if it's a stranger, I don't care who it is. I want to be able to continue to move with pure intentions.”