Kafilah Muhammad was selected to receive a Conference Grant from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. With this grant, she traveled to San Francisco to attend Afrotech. You can read Kafilah’s reflection below, read past grantee reflections here, and visit the PCSE website to learn more about all of our grant programs.
This quote was from one of the first talks that I went to at Afrotech. This quotes does not fully encompass my Afrotech experience but it surely sets the stage for what was a wonderful weekend of being surrounded by incredibly creative and novel ideas. With funding from different resources including the PCSE grant I was luckily able to attend Afrotech this year in San Francisco, California. As an individual who is immersed in the world of tech, it is enlivening to see a conference, which is led and attended by people of color. The world of tech has consistently been whitewashed and male-dominated so the fact that there was several students of color that were attending the event made me extremely happy.
Afrotech is described as a conference where the founders and employees of some of the fastest-growing tech startups present the tactics & strategies they use to grow their products and businesses. Conversations range from how to start raising money for venture funding, to combining tech and culture, user design workshops and growth hacking. There were several tracks that once could attend sessions on and I traveled between the Engineering\Design Lane and the Entrepreneurship| Start-up Lane. As a student who was attending the conference as an observer there were so many fascinating talks and spaces that I explored, so that I could hopefully come back and create a mini-tech day for students of color at Wesleyan.
In addition, there were several different talks that occurred during the two- day conference that were all phenomenal. From the Ceo of Pinterest to the singer Kehlani who has her own app geared towards individuals who are struggling with mental health, Afrotech was a beautiful and open space in which anyone could attend a session and leave feeling invigorated. There were several talks that I learned a ton from but one of my favorite talks was a tech talk that involved Big Data and displayed how data is genuinely used in every facet of our life to create products that are more inclusive as well as geared toward our collective interests.
Another talk in reference to design discussed the value of creations that are directly tied to advocating for human beings because you are building a product to serve and enhance their lives. Many of the sessions involved a ton of pumping up individuals but also a ton of advice relative to being authentic and hardworking.
Each day of the conference was a new opportunity to meet creatives and also learn about a new emerging technology that was being created or founded by a person of color. Afrotech is the only existing conference for black people and people of color in tech that combines several fields of interest with technology as well as gives tangible information for individuals to share with the communities they reside within.
As an extension to the largest tech conference for black millennials in the nation, Afrotech has developed AfroTech.com, which will operate year-round as the premiere digital destination for breaking tech news, exclusive unicorn spotlights, and industry leading resources that will take you to the next level. Although it was expensive to get there and enjoy the full experience I would definitely suggest applying ahead of time and also seeing how the experience could be tied back into the Wesleyan community. One last thing that I took from the conference, which was said by Wesleyan alumna, Bozoma Saint John, “No matter what you’re going through! One must stick their head up! Poke their chest up!”. I hope that future students will able to experience the beauty of the Afrotech Conference and establish a tech community at Wesleyan that is also as beautiful.