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AfroTech 2018: A Convention for Us, by Us

Latoya Burris


If you’re wondering where the Black people reside in tech, look no further than the rapidly growing convention — AfroTech.

At first it may sound sort of like a corny futuristic superhero, but it’s definitely not. This technology conference was first launched in 2016 by the millennial media powerhouse Blavity. It started with only 1,500 participants and is growing stronger. Why am I writing about AfroTech? Well for one, I am a bonafide nerd. Second, I think it’s imperative that people of African descent create their own opportunities, share their ideas and learn from leaders in Big Tech who look like them, even if that number is very small.

It’s no doubt that the home of Big Tech — Silicon Valley — is still lacking in diversity. According to data probed by CNN Money’s article “How diverse is Silicon Valley?,” there are only 754 Black professionals in businesses like Dell, Ebay and Intel, out of 24,100. Compared to their White counterparts whose number — by no surprise — is 11,876, this means that Black professionals only occupy about 3% of the jobs in Silicon Valley. That figure doesn’t even include higher level positions like managers and such. Therefore, we can conclude that Silicon Valley isn’t that diverse and that needs to change.

In light of this, I’m grateful for AfroTech and their mission, which is to establish:

“…a conference where the founders and employees of some of the fastest-growing tech startups will present the tactics & strategies they use to grow their products and businesses.Conversations will range from raising venture funding, combining tech and culture, user design workshops and growth hacking.”

Credit: Andre Pennycooke | Attendees at the 2016 AfroTech conference

Credit: Andre Pennycooke | Attendees at the 2016 AfroTech conference

Now, mentally nosh all that for a minute. We have a conference with people that look like us who are working and creating tech startups, giving gems to students and entrepreneurs. It’s almost too good to be true, but the truth is, it’s true and it’s great.

I was unable to get in contact with any of AfroTech’s organizers, but according to their site the number of participants has increased dramatically since their first event in 2016.  Let’s not forget their incredible partnerships with powerhouse tech businesses like Facebook, Pinterest and Lyft either, just to name a few. So kudos to AfroTech and the work they are doing in addressing the issues related to diversity in tech.

The 2018 AfroTech conference will be taking place at 12:00 pm on November 8th and November 11th at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, CA. Register today to take advantage of their early bird pricing. May the #AfroTech be with you.

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