AfroTech 2019: Personal Reflection

This past weekend I attended Blavity’s 4th annual conference for Black techies, AfroTech.

Going into the conference I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was excited. Excited to be surrounded by Black intellectuals that are contributing to this industry we call “tech.”

Before the conference began, there was an opportunity for attendees to upload their resume in the resume book. This gave recruiters from partnered vendors a chance to look through prospective talent and invite them to networking events/mixers, and some companies were even hosting on-site interviews.

They packed the conference line-up with amazing speakers which included: Charlamagne Tha God, Angela Rye, Hannibal Burress, Angelica Nwandu, and many more.

The Presentation on Automation

My favorite talk was “The Autonomous Vehicle Space: Where Hardware and Software Meet” by Austin Curry from Ike Robotics. In his presentation, he talked about how automation is revolutionizing the transportation industry: creating safer highways, lowering the rate for car accidents, etc. One quote that really stuck with me from his talk was “AI could alleviate almost every form of oppression known, or conversely make it worse.”

Curry also didn’t hesitate to point out some ways it will negatively impact Black people. AI will replace the jobs of many Black men because we are over-represented in occupations affected by automation: driving (trucking, taxiing, etc.) and warehousing.

I felt this talk was very insightful because he talked about the potential benefits of automation and how it’s detrimental to us as people.

I’m Not Alone

It seemed like everyone I came in contact with had a story to tell. Everyone was open and honest about their experiences, both negative and positive, within the workplace.

Hearing other folks’ stories was impactful. We shared our professional journeys with one another and it allowed me to know that we are all going through some of the same things: dealing with microaggressions in the workplace, non-Black colleagues undermining our intelligence. Sharing and listening almost acted as therapy.

This conference showed me I am not alone. In many situations, like many other Black folks, no one looks like me in my immediate professional setting. It gets tough because there’s a constant feeling of being an “outsider,” or even a “token.” AfroTech gave me a sense of inclusion, belonging and provided a space for Black folks who continue to challenge the status quo.