Black Tech Week 2015 - Miami, FL

Sometimes, when I write a blog post, I simply sit in front of my computer, open iA Writer, and tap away at the keys until it’s done. Other times I find myself locked away in a room with the computers turned off, the lights dimmed, the phone nowhere to be found, and instrumentals playing in the background. These are the times when I feel I have to put pen to paper and let my thoughts, feelings, and reflections flow through the ink. This is one of those times. There are so many thoughts I’d like to express and shout outs I’d like to give, but I’m going to do my best to keep it brief (especially after this relatively long introduction).

I’m generally secure in who I am. But every once in a while something happens makes me feel much more proud of a certain aspect of my identity. I mean truly proud. A few weeks ago I attended the inaugural Black Tech Week conference in Miami, Florida. I left the experience feeling unapologetically proud to be black—not unlike the first time I heard James Brown’s, “Say it Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud,” Stevie Wonder said “Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision,” or an elder says, “Hi family.”

I don’t normally enjoy conferences very much. I usually find myself trying to figure out what the real purpose is. That’s not to say I don’t find value in going, I just don’t normally like going very much. Something about Black Tech Week was different—a little more intentional and real than I’m used to. It was obvious (and I use that work sparingly) that Derrick, Felicia, and all those who came together to support this event held the participants in the high regard throughout the entire process. It seemed as though every decision made was in the interest in crating the maximum a amount of value for those in attendance as possible.

There is much to say, but I don’t intend to turn this into a review or comparative analysis by any means. If you would like to know more about the program and presenters please check out their website. The community is still very active and, between the participants, organizers, and speakers, there are tons of interesting, innovative, and inspiring people, projects, and organizations to look into and build meaningful relationships with—and it’s a very well-designed site.


Highlights and Takeaways

It felt really good to be surrounded by such an entrepreneurial, motivated, socially-engaged, and talented group of black people.

The technology sector has a reputation of excluding people of color and people who identify as women. It was good to see us are out there and making it happen.

There is no lack of talent in the black community.

At the end of the conference there was a day0long hackathon featuring teams of young people. The winning team was a group of five young, black women. Their idea is one that could potentially change local and global communication. This illustrates that there is not a lack of talent in communities underrepresented in tech, but that we need to focus on developing the skills and removing the institutional barriers preventing access.

We all need to work together.

Special shout out to Diane Freaney. She’s been serving as the CFO of For The Children, working alongside Ms. Reginale Durandisse for several years now for free. One of the things I respect the most about Diane Freaney is that she doesn’t do this work as charity, but because she truly believes in the inherent all people and that the unique talents, skills, and creative thinking of marginalized communities can help usher in the future she wants to exist.

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There’s a lot already being done. Now it’s time to connect the dots.

One of the most impactful things on me was seeing how many people are already working to increase access to technology and to use it as a platform for economic and social empowerment and development. There were many people in the room with a very intimate understanding of the systemic issues and are actively working to address them. Within minutes of my arrival, I was already thinking about the people I know who would have a lot to offer and gain by being there. I’d love to see David Harris, Alma Lorraine Bone Constable, and a large number of youth be a part of this movement.

Okay, this is getting lengthy, so I’m going to go ahead and bring this to a close. Kudos to those who made Black Tech Week happen. I’m excited for all of the creations and connections that are emerging from this conference and I’m looking forward to next year. I’m saving the date for February 23, 2016.

Shout Out: Stacy Flynn

Shout Out: Stacy Flynn

Stacy Flynn

This year I’ve had the honor of spending more time with Stacy Flynn, creator of The Future Resource Collective and Evrnu. I’ve truly found her tenacity and resilience inspiring. 2014 was both a challenging and rewarding year for her. After putting just about all of her time, energy, and soul into bringing her concept to reality, she received first place in the SVP (Social Venture Partners) Fast Pitch in Seattle, presented at the Cradle-To-Cradle Conference in NYC, and ran a successful $25,000 Indiegogo campaign. Watch out for this one. She’s on a mission to change the apparel and manufacturing industries specifically, but aims to create processes that can change the way we fundamentally do business. I’m proud of you Stacy!


Stacy can be found online at:

Hello 2015

Hello 2015

Hey there everyone,

As we embark on another year I wanted to provide a quick update. Below is the content from my most recent newsletter. Here's wishing the very best to you and yours as we reflect on last year and move forward into this one.

Professional

I am currently living in upstate, NY working on a contract with a consulting firm who does culture change through diversity and inclusion. We’ve been working together to do some interesting things with both large and small organizations, as well as in the community. The contract goes through February 4 and we’ll see where the journey goes from there. I’m excited to see what 2015 will bring.


Personal

On of July 10, 2014 My sister Jessica and her husband Michael II made me a very proud uncle after they brought Michael III into the world. After four months I met the nibbling (gender-neutral term for nephew/niece) over Thanksgiving. Uncle Michael loves you M3.

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Current Projects

The pilot for the “Peace by Piece” empathy journaling project has officially launched. Five people have committed to serve as the initial beta group and all have received their journals. The purpose of this project is to allow people to take their time to share and reflect their inner thoughts, experiences, and feelings with others with whom they may not normally share time and space. I mail a journal to each person and ask them to fill the pages in whatever way suits them.

After 30 days I’ll email each participant a prepaid shipping label for them to return the journals. Then each person will receive somebody else’s journal along with a blank one. At this point, they will be asked to reflect on the other person’s entries for thirty days. Only after both journals have been returned will each person learn who they’ve been sharing with.

The pieces will be viewable online and I'll be working with various places to display them physically as well. If you're interested in participating, let me know and I'll send you a journal as well. Also, if you know anybody who might be interested, please feel free to share with them. I'm hoping to get enough feedback to modify the process, increase its effectiveness, grow the scale, and build series around various themes.


What I'm Reading

Big thanks to Dyana Valentine for sending me I Wanna Take Me a Picture by Alexanra Lightfoot and Wendy Ewald. I’m currently doing my first read-through and am enjoying how it’s making me think more critically about how I approach photography, visual literacy, and sharing in learning. Plus it’s just a fun read.

Another book I’m reading is To Be A Slave by Julius Lester. It’s a relatively short collection of first-hand accounts of slavery—actual stories from the actual slaves—not recreations. I’ve found it is difficult to read and while also providing me with a great sense of pride and hope. I've been losing a lot of sleep over what’s been going on around Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The events and our responses have given me a lot to think about. This book is one that reminds me just how resilient we can be. Plus it has inspired a project I hope to do in partnership with the African American Museum in Seattle.


Friend Brag

Nina Carduner

You may have seen the “100 Years of Beauty in 1 Minute” video around the Internet recently. It was a collaboration between some very talented women with a well-executed concept. What you may not have seen, though, is the person who takes center stage in the video, Nina Carduner, is not only a model, but holds her MBA from Bainbridge Graduate Institute, has been very involved in the startup and technology movement in the West Coast, and is currently working in sustainability efforts. Plus she’s a fun person to be around. Get it Nina! Congratulations!

Stacy Flynn

This year I’ve had the honor of spending more time with Stacy Flynn, creator of The Future Resource Collective and Evrnu. I’ve truly found her tenacity and resilience inspiring. 2014 was both a challenging and rewarding year for her. After putting just about all of her time, energy, and soul into bringing her concept to reality, she received first place in the SVP (Social Venture Partners) Fast Pitch in Seattle, presented at the Cradle-To-Cradle Conference in NYC, and ran a successful $25,000 Indiegogo campaign. Watch out for this one. She’s on a mission to change the apparel and manufacturing industries specifically, but aims to create processes that can change the way we fundamentally do business. I’m proud of you Stacy!


Free Photo



I promised that with each newsletter I’d be giving away a free download of one of my photographs. Here’s one that many have expressed interest in. I hope you enjoy. Download link is below.

Links From This Newsletter

• I Wanna Take Me a Picture

• To Be A Slave

• Nina - Carduner 100 Years of Beauty in 1 Minute

• Stacy Flynn - Future Resource Collective

• Free Photo - Seattle Boats

What's new in your world? Best wishes the beginning of your 2015!

Warmly,
Michael

Shout Out: Nina Carduner

Shout Out: Nina Carduner

Nina Carduner

You may have seen the “100 Years of Beauty in 1 Minute” video around the Internet recently. It was a collaboration between some very talented women with a well-executed concept. What you may not have seen, though, is the person who takes center stage in the video, Nina Carduner, is not only a model, but holds her MBA from Bainbridge Graduate Institute, has been very involved in the startup and technology movement in the West Coast, and is currently working in sustainability efforts. Plus she’s a fun person to be around. Get it Nina! Congratulations!


Nina can be found around the web at: