Coming back from SXSW 2016, I felt the need to do more — to have a broader impact on black college students’ exposure to entrepreneurship and ultimately their career trajectory. That’s why I made the “pledge” to NCCU, Hampton and North Carolina A&T to bring five exceptional business or engineering students to attend SXSW 2017 as a guest of Black Wall Street. [Read more on charge in the second of this three-part series.]
*Originally Published in Exit Event.
As the famous idiom goes “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”, and as we say in Hip-Hop culture via re-appropriation, “A Picture is Worth a Billion Bucks”.
Remember these two historical dates — August 12, 1958 and March 13, 2016.
On the first date, history was made in New York when a group of jazz musicians united on a block in Harlem to take what would become a photo of “legend” (above). I consider it safe to say that the genius of the men and women in this image was broadly known by black culture and jazz enthusiasts.
On the other hand, I would argue that they were not much more than a blip on the conscience of the world outside of the closed room jazz sessions, speakeasys or the weekly Cotton Club performances in Philly, Baltimore, NYC and Chicago. But however obscure these people were during the shooting of this image, many would grow to super stardom. Pictured above are Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver and Mary Lou Williams. Like many other ‘greats’, these musicians practiced and instituted the 10,000-hour rule to reach the pinnacles of success in music.
In a similar vein to the black music and art renaissance, we have a contemporary group of Black Genius practicing their 10,000 hours in the fields of entrepreneurship and technology. Their faces came together during the 2016 SXSW Interactive in Austin.
On March 13, 2016, history was made again by hundreds of black entrepreneurs and technology workers at The Urban Co-Lab in Austin Texas. They include Jewel Burksof Partpic, Angel Rich of The Wealth Factory, Michael Hall of Digital Grass, Natalie Cofield of Urban Co-Lab, Shark Tank consultant Brandon Andrews, Ofo Ezeugwuof WhoseYourLandlord, Dawn Dickson of Flat Out of Heels and Brian Williams of Purchase Black.
My point in writing this article is straight-forward — the genius is plentiful — just look at these two photos. And note that thousands of photos were taken during SXSW — these exhibit just a fraction of the Black Genius on display during SXSW 2016.
The photo above was taken at the SXSW #WeDC House on March 13, 2016. And the narrative of the people in the photo present some important connection points:
Funding — Check for Jason Towns of The Towns Group LLC.
Co-working Space — Check for Natalie Cofield of the Urban Co-Lab (Austin).
Business Boot Camp — Check for Michael Hall of Digi Grass.
Tech Editorial Writing — Check for Sherrell Dorsey
Diversity in Hiring — Check for Stephanie Lampkin of Blendoor.
Co-working Space — Check for Aaron Saunders of Luma Lab (D.C/Howard University)
Impact on Black Girl Education — Check for Marissa Jennings of Socialgrlz.
Tech & Innovation Support — Check for Erin Horne McKinney of the Office of the Mayor (D.C).
Literacy Education Tech — Check for Gil Perkins of Words Liive.
Innovation in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems — Check for Joey Womack ofAmplify 4 Good.
As the discussions about equality and inclusion regarding Blacks in tech-related entrepreneurship continue to flood our timelines, let’s take a minute to shine the floodlights on the brave entrepreneurs that are forgoing large salaries, job security and immediate gratification to build companies for the future. These are the companies that will continue to make America great.
I look forward to seeing everyone again next year in Austin. In the meantime, please remember one thing —
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain
Talib Graves-Manns, Contributor
Talib Graves-Manns is the Entrepreneur in Residence with Google for Entrepreneurs and Code2040 at the American Underground in Durham. Talib is the co-founder of three businesses: Point AB, Life on Autopilot and Black Wall Street Homecoming. Across all three organizations, he is responsible for business strategy and growth. He is an expert in problem solving and new product introduction.