Malik Ducard – The Curator
Malik S. Ducard is the Director of Content Partnerships at Google where he is in charge of premium film, TV and new media partnerships for YouTube. Prior to joining YouTube, he served as senior vice president of digital distribution for the Americas at Paramount Pictures and oversaw the distribution of films to online, mobile and digital platforms including iTunes, XBox, Netflix, and a range of mobile, online and device technology partners. A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Malik earned his B.A. in Film and African-American Studies in 1995 from Columbia University and his MBA in 2000 from the University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Management.
Will Lucas – The Advocate
Will Lucas is one of the few young African-American TEDx organizers in the United States, running TEDxToledo. As founder and CEO of Classbag, an online lifestyle resource directory, his passion for curating his own TEDx event developed out of a desire to help inspire his midwestern town, renowned for its manufacturing and automotive industries, to take advantage of the rapid growth in STEM-based opportunities.
Jill Ford – The Player
Jill Ford is a San Francisco Bay Area-based business development executive and angel investor who is transforming a variety of industries with strategies forged in mobile gaming. As Good Technology’s new VP, Jill is spearheading the next generation of Good Technology’s consumer business. Her experience includes heading Disney Mobile’s worldwide distribution to mobile manufacturers and running Motorola’s global games usage. Jill has guided the gaming experiences of over 100 million consumers and continues to be the mastermind behind the launch of compelling mobile experiences. A global citizen, Jill ran a company in Ghana that discovered, developed, and funded new entrepreneurs in Accra and has traveled to more than 15 countries as a business woman, adventurer, or swing dancer. Jill combines a Wharton MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management with a technical background through work as a technology consultant and architect for Trilogy. She has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Harvard University.
Erin Horne Montgomery – The Orchestrator
Passionate about emerging technology and diversity, Erin Horne Montgomery serves as the president and executive director of the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs (NAMDE). She is also a graduate researcher at Howard University studying the participation of women and minority entrepreneurs in the innovation economy. Mrs. Horne Montgomery has nearly two decades of non-profit management, telecommunications policy, and marketing communications experience as an award-winning professional in various areas of the media industry.
Katrina Miles – The Informant
As co-founder and the Chief Strategic Officer at Roscoe Labs, Katrina lives a fast-paced day, every day. Roscoe.tv is a mobile television news app designed to bring casual and professional reporters together, on the same platform, to report and distribute local news. Leveraging the low ratings that traditional televised news programs are experiencing, Miles is making certain that additional perspectives are offered. “Ultimately, I believe Roscoe.tv will cause us to redefine what it means to be a casual or professional journalist, and hopefully, change the way we communicate and use technology,” stated Miles.
Christopher Martin – The Educator
Having played a large part in contributing to the global growth of hip-hop
culture as “Play” of the beloved rap duo Kid ‘N Play, Chris Martin is on the come up as a formidable content producer in the digital space. Martin uses technology to provide and bring attention to important information and positive news that he feels is under-represented. “I really want to champion the education community and continue to be an advocate for higher learning through the best of both worlds — positive hip-hop and advanced technology,” he explained. “I present news and documentaries with Brand Newz… on AllHipHop.com.”
Shaun Evans – The Revolutionary
Shaun Evans is the CEO of OMBO Apps, which is becoming one of Atlanta’s hottest tech companies ready to take on the mobile industry. His start-up company develops cutting-edge mobile applications targeting the African-American market. Shaun is a game changer with one hit already under his belt, Urban Gossip FREE, the No. 1 black celebrity news app for iPhone and Android mobile devices. OMBO aims to disrupt the app ecosystem by creating an app network targeting African-American consumers, who are leading the mobile revolution.
Glennette Clark – The Connector
Glennette Clark is the founder Smarter Experiences, an event partnership company. Smarter Experiences produces the always sold-out UXCamp and MobileUX Camp in Washington, D.C. She uses her years of experience in the user experience and web design realms to help other professionals connect, collaborate and share through the Camps. She is an unwavering advocate for increasing the number of minorities in tech startups and has appeared on stage at the prestigious SXSW festival. Biggest achievement to date? “Knowing that an UXCamper met someone at the event who offered him a job. He took the job and now he is a UX (user experience) Director at one of the hottest tech companies in the world,” exclaimed Clark.
Jon Gosier – The Wizard
Jon Gosier is a tech entrepreneur and the founder of big-data startup MetaLayer, which provides corporate data-analysis and visualization solutions. He is also the founder of Appfrica, a technology consultancy based in East Africa. In 2012 MetaLayer was honored by winning the Audience Choice Award for best start-up at Strata, the world’s preeminent data conference, where he also gave a keynote speech. Jon has been invited to speak at TED conferences many times about his work in Africa, and will be speaking at the upcoming TEDxOrlando. Not content with his own successes, Jon also hosts a weekly podcast that offers advice to first-time minority entrepreneurs, GosTalk.tv.
Khisaun Ferguson – The Facilitator
Khisaun Ferguson is a real estate exe- turned-tech founder of the software company Dwllr (dweller). Dwllr is a “tech cocktail” of Google, Amazon, and Salesforce which help consumers and real estate professionals buy
and sell real estate online. Dwllr was selected as one of the seven
companies to participate in the NewMe Accelerator, a residential tech
accelerator for minority-led start-ups presented by Google, Andreessen
Horowitz, Tagged and other corporate sponsors.
The top blacks in technology. (Photos: Various Sources)
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Myth-busting has never been an easy task, particularly when it seems that the latest game in business is feigning that excellent people of color do not exist in a particular industry. The resulting excuse for their absence is that, therefore, they cannot be included. Is this belief a very convenient way to guard the ranks in order to generate greater prosperity for the insiders — or just a sad side effect of the all-too-small social circles of the business elite? Regardless of its origins, we must begin to move quickly past this prevalent phenomenon, particularly in the area of technology, because in that sector diversity truly offers the very best advantage in the form of ideas and creativity.
This is important to the very growth of the technology industry’s development, which is critical to the economic expansion of our country.
There are many interesting and intelligent people of color contributing in a number of ways within the tech space, although to look at most magazine articles and industry panels, one would not know it.
A prime example is a recent selection of panelists for an important conference that started out with an all-male line up of 22 speakers — none black, by the way — at an upcoming tech-related super-event called the Edge Conference. The event is sponsored by FinancialTimes Labs, Google and Facebook. A firestorm of commentary quickly developed in the tech world between those who believe the organizers are completely oblivious to the importance of including diverse perspectives and those that feel that the organizers are well within their rights to pick who they see as “the best.”
Criticizing the methodology used in selecting the speakers rather than promoting quotas, a blog post by tech developer and designer Aral Balkan was a particularly important and a thoughtful part of the analysis simmering over the issue. He urged his fellow white male technology insiders not to see diversity as a burden, but as a tool of perspective expansion.
Yet, no matter how well-meaning some input on the controversy has been, perhaps the most unfortunate part of the Edge embroilment is that most of the discussion has taken place between white males. It might strike some as ironic that they are actually deciding if diversity matters among themselves. Therein lies the crux of the problem today. This situation demonstrates the social hierarchy of ethnicity currently in place in the tech sector, because it is still white men deciding who get to determine what is valid and why. In addition, the Edge conference has caused outrage among many women (and their supporters) who are also facing the issue of being excluded from playing in the digital sandbox.
All too often either type of “outsider” can be eclipsed by a sandstorm of discouragement, get elbowed out of the way, or simply be ignored while hearing that there is no need for you on the playground, when in reality you just are not seen. This creates a dangerous new “invisible man” (and/or woman) effect, to steal a phrase from African-American novelist Ralph Ellison who first chronicled the pain of the minority experience.
Why do leaders in the tech sector and in the press continue to say “they can’t find any” of us when the time comes for showcasing bleeding edge thinkers and doers with visibility?