kYmberly Keeton | Movers & Shakers 2020–Innovators

Her job description involves curating and preserving African American history in the Austin area, but kYmberly Keeton goes well beyond that. She leads genealogy workshops to help African Americans trace their roots and organizes public forums that bring African American history to life for area residents and connect them with a sense of identity.

Sidsel Bech-Petersen

CURRENT POSITION

African American Community Archivist and Librarian, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, TX

DEGREE

MLS, University of North Texas, 2014

HONORS

Civic Futures Award, Central Texas, 2019; AT&T Aspire to Tech Scholarship Recipient, 2017

FOLLOW

kymizsofly (Instagram); library.austintexas.gov/ahc/growingy
ourroots
; artlibrarydeco.space; kreativeyoungmillionaire.net

Photo by Gene Smirnov

Rooted in Community

Her job description involves curating and preserving African American history in the Austin area, but kYmberly Keeton goes well beyond that. She leads genealogy workshops to help African Americans trace their roots and organizes public forums that bring African American history to life for area residents and connect them with a sense of identity.

"Archivists were traditionally behind the scenes, but a 21st century librarian is in front of the scenes," she says. "We’re more embedded within our community."

When she arrived in Austin in 2018, Keeton learned about the impact gentrification has had on the city’s demographics, forcing many African American families out to surrounding communities. She has made it her mission to preserve the legacy of these families and their contributions to Austin’s history.

As founder and curator of ART | library deco, an online African American digital art library, Keeton brings an entrepreneurial spirit to her work. With small grants from area organizations, she organized an inaugural statewide genealogy conference at Austin Central Library. This free event, Growing Your Roots, was held in early 2020, and had more than 500 participants.

Keeton draws inspiration from Martin Luther King’s "Drum Major Instinct" speech and its call to service: "I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity."

"I hope to be thought of as a person who is unselfish and always thinks about others," says Keeton. 

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