With and Beyond: Ideas and Gems from #AfroTech16

(Downtown Oakland one day after #AfroTech16)

In the middle of this year, I made a serious commitment to myself, for myself, to heavily invest in my mental health and my body of work. I love creating, curating and developing, and I realized some of my sanity depended on that. This was truly food for my soul. And, now, at the age of 26, almost 27, I had questions:

1. How could I take myself and my work to the next level?

2. How could I take the Diamond that was in my head and enhance her existence?

By day, I’m surrounded by books and digital media. It’s an understatement to say that I’m more than privileged to be around such knowledge. But, I realized something quickly: it was time to step from behind the page and from behind the screen. It was time to start actively taking advantage of opportunities, in person, by placing myself in environments with like-minded people with diverse concepts. This realization landed me at #AfroTech16.

AfroTech, developed by Blavity.com, is “a conference to connect founders, techies and employees with the fastest-growing tech startups.” But, to me, #AfroTech16 was more than that. #AfroTech16 was a vibrant space of inspiration, innovation and connection. #AfroTech16 was for a diverse group of black creators and creatives who navigate through tech, uniquely . There were hardcore software developers, simple social media fanatics, trained and untrained coders, students, librarians, financial advisors, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, scientists, and just any other profession you could think of.

What tied us together? A dream of creativity, black connection, and an understanding that tech could get us there. It was such an honor and a beautiful sighting. More than that, a beautiful feeling. To see faces like yours in one room, for one dynamic cause, under one powerful title…AFROTECH.

So, what did I take away? What are some actionable steps we can use for ourselves and for our bodies of work? Well, let me share with you what #AfroTech16 shared with me…and many others. These are visual notes taken by my friend, Ashley Stanfield, a black creative/”techie” with her own big dreams of using tech to follow her heart.

(Visual Notes by Ashley Stanfield| ashley)
(Visual Notes by Ashley Stanfield| ashley)
(Visual Notes by Ashley Stanfield| ashley)
(Visual Notes by Ashley Stanfield| ashley)
(Visual Notes by Ashley Stanfield| ashley)

More spaces and opportunities like these are needed. It’s important that we expose ourselves to this very… exposure. It is of our own responsibility to make sure we are connected — — connected to inspiration and communities — -not only for our work but for our minds…and for each other. QuintaB, one of the speakers at this conference(you may know her work from Buzzfeed) presented an amazing concept. Diversity not only includes skin color, but new viewpoints, as-well. Let’s keep that alive.

These are resources that will help us to navigate through the world, through our “tribes” and through ourselves. We got this. We got next. We got now. Thank you Blavity and thank you #AfroTech16. This was truly light at the end of our tunnels.

Photos from #AfroTech16

(Tara Reed, Tech Entrepreneur. CEO of Kollecto & AppsWithoutCode.com)| Tara Reed
(Jessica O. Matthews, Founder & CEO at Uncharted Play, Inc.)| (@Jess_O_Matt)
(Michael Seibal CEO of the YC Accelerator Program)| (@mwseibel)
(Everette Taylor, Serial Entrepreneur, Marketer, Public Speaker-(@Everette)| Quinta B., Actress and Comedienne, Buzzfeed-(@quintabrunson)|Rashad Drakeford, Director of Content Development at REVOLT Media & TV- (@RashadDrakeford))