Challenging The Tech Industry: AfroTech Comes To Oakland
AfroTech is among one of the largest growing all-black technology conferences to exist in this day and age. From funding early-stage startups to co-sponsorships with Fortune 500 companies like Google and Facebook, its parent company, Blavity, has upped the ante when it comes to providing a safe and educational space for one of the most underrepresented minority groups in tech to engage in conversation, network, and swag surf over new job opportunities.
“It’s our job to take risks, push the envelope, and ask for things that may not exist yet,” says Morgan DeBaun, CEO and Founder of Blavity and AfroTech. The conference seeks to bridge the gap between tech companies “diversity problem” and create opportunities for black people in tech by opening up a yearly space where all companies must do, is show up. Everyone there is more than eager to learn, seek opportunities, and most importantly, receive funding for their own black business.
The event has been held in San Francisco since its inception, pulling in a good 600 people in 2016, to well over 4,000 techies at its latest conference in 2018. However, during the concluding remarks at this year’s AfroTech, the Blavity Team made an exciting announcement that AfroTech 2019 will be happening in – you guessed it – Oakland.
The crowd erupted in sheer excitement over the news as a video montage of Black Lives Matters signs, an Oakland sideshow, an X’d out video of “BBQ Becky”, and a clip of Marshawn Lynch driving kids around on a golf cart flashed on the big screen, with rapper Vell’s 2014 hit “Oakland” playing throughout the hall. See Here.
This is important.
As home to the Black Panthers and social justice, Oakland is a hub for black culture. Unfortunately, the gentrification of black homes and businesses in Oakland, displacement of black Oaklanders, and misrepresentation of the city as a whole has been a constant battle for those throughout the Bay Area. Rather than tech companies seeking diversity by meeting people where they are, they are forcing those who are privileged enough, to seek them out via their own resources, if eligible.
Bringing AfroTech to Oakland not only provides an opportunity for the black community from all over to revel in Oakland’s cultural beauty, but a scene like AfroTech will open doors for more youth to get engaged in tech and will offer new and different resources and opportunities for black Oaklanders to build upon within their own neighborhoods. The tech industry is made up of less than 20% of black professionals with only 1-2% being represented within individual companies, and while companies claim to fight for equity and diversity, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and other tech giants maintain strikingly low numbers in those categories.
The new change for AfroTech will also challenge and shine a light on companies that are truly dedicated to bringing diversity into their workplace. San Francisco is very attractive to investors, CEOs and businesses, but it narrows the span of opportunity for lower-income, marginalized groups to get their foot into the field of STEM, while continually decreasing the support and stability of black owned businesses in and around Oakland. There is raw, authentic, groundbreaking talent in The Town and companies will either miss out or get ahead of the curve by embracing black techies really from Oakland though, not just those who align themselves with urban culture.
Black Oakland will be exposed to a new wave of approaching and engaging in technology. Seeing people who look, walk, and talk like you that operate drones, create AI/AR and code software, sans code-switching makes what was once impossible, possible and the unknown, known. AfroTech is impacting and empowering every facet of the black community all while disrupting the tech industry in the best, blackest way possible, and we’re here for it.
AfroTech is a media brand designed to help entrepreneurs and innovators create their vision on their own terms, and connect them with the resources to do it. Both an online platform and conference, AfroTech is where the founders and employees of some of the fastest-growing tech startups present the tactics & strategies they use to grow their products and businesses. Conversations range from raising venture funding, combining tech and culture, user design workshops and growth hacking.
ABOUT BLAVITY, INC.
Blavity, Inc. is a media company home to the largest network of brands specifically serving black millennials through original content, video and unique experiences. Since 2014, the company has grown into a market leader for black media, reaching 30 million millennials per month through its growing brand portfolio. For more information, please visit, BlavityInc.com
Article by Alyssa Steverson