Updated: Aug 1
The lights have dimmed, the echoes of endless conversations have subsided, and I'm back in the office, the swirling remnants of a week filled with knowledge and connections still fresh in my mind. It was not merely an industry event but more like an epic cultural symphony, beautifully orchestrated in the historical heart of one of Cincinnati's beloved institutions - Music Hall.
Think high-tech meets high-culture. The vibrant gathering orchestrated by the Lightship Foundation - unfolded in a symphony of innovation, collaboration, and celebration. Paying host to over 60 engrossing talks, this tech marathon boasted an attendance of more than 3,000 passionate individuals. "That beam of yellow light you see everywhere is a lightship. It works much like a lighthouse - guiding you to the light", explained Brian Brackeen, Investor in Residence for Lightship, as he officially opened Black Tech Week in Cincinnati. THIS is a sentiment I like. The movement away from the pornification of black suffering towards Afrofuturism and all it promises to be.
The massive "Welcome Black Tech Week" banners at the Cincinnati Airport gave the first taste of the exciting event. I cut my vacation short after nabbing a seat at the sold-out conference. The excitement continued the next day as I crossed the threshold of Music Hall, the architectural marvel from the 1800s. The pulsating beats of hip-hop and R&B welcomed me, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of a swanky social club than a conventional industry conference.
And so, this symphony of black tech excellence began at Cincinnati's Music Hall.
The Melody: Celebrating Black Excellence
From the very onset, the conference was a celebration of black excellence and ambition. The attendees made a distinct statement, their unique fashion and hairstyles creating a rich tapestry of cultural pride not seen at other conferences I've attended. Nestled within the ornate grandeur of the Music Hall foyer, the aroma of Black Coffee Lounge's free-flowing lattes amped the experience, and the elegance of just wearing black added a charm to the proceedings. I missed the memo to wear black, but I'll survive.
As each day unfolded, I was treated to various informative sessions. Each was a powerful note, contributing to the rich, melodic narrative of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. From enlightening explorations of Google Analytics presented by Lindsay Sims,Growth with Google Digital Coach to compelling tales of entrepreneurial perseverance, each session was an opportunity to drink from the fountains of knowledge.
The Crescendo: Sessions that Hit the High Notes
The symphony reached its crescendo with a variety of engrossing sessions. The Google Analytics Session was like learning a powerful new instrument, revealing its potential to harness data and refine marketing strategies.
The "Failing Forward" session, led by MoviePass Co-Founder and CEO Stacy Spikes, felt like a rousing call to resilience. It delivered a potent reminder that failure can be the prelude to success, a lesson every entrepreneur should hold close to their hearts.
INC's sponsored conversations were no less riveting. Nestled in the awe-inspiring Transept, the INC Founders House, I was privileged to be part of some profound discussions. From raising capital to commercializing mealworms, the brainchild of Akissi Stokes Nolen in her quest to seek "healthy, affordable, and accessible protein to help promote healthier communities, boost animal health, and restore the environment" these sessions unveiled diverse ways to drive digital accessibility and impact society positively. Not to be missed was an aha moment with Miyah Byrd, who in a few minutes, helped me refine a storytelling solution I had been struggling with for years!
The Harmony: Building Bridges and Protecting Innovation
Other sessions struck harmonious chords. The B2B Marketing discussion, led by Shauna Smith, The Knot Worldwide's Director of B2B Marketing & Demand Generation, sang a beautiful melody about building business connections and creating revenue for clients. AI Strategies and IP Protection sessions were like powerful riffs in the narrative of tech innovation, stressing the importance of effective marketing and protecting our innovations.
The Finale: Responsible AI and The Social Spectrum
As the conference reached its grand finale, an insightful session on Responsible AI echoed a poignant reminder: as we harness the power of AI, we must respect human rights and societal norms. Nicole Alexander, Global Head of Marketing at Meta delivered this message along with Ajay Bam of Vyrill while Dr. Tyra Oldham Sr. Advisor at Minority Business Accelerator, asked the tough questions on our behalf.
Away from the formal notes of the conference, the symphony reached delightful crescendos during cocktail events. I found myself connecting with fellow tech enthusiasts in settings as grand as Frost Brown Todd's welcome party at TQL Stadium, The Trancept's basement bar, a dinner sponsored by AWS at Butcher and Barrel, and connecting with friends from Together Digital as we caught up over lunch at Teak. During lunch, it wasn't lost to me that I was not the only one engrossed in the melodies of this conference, Together Digital Board member Lucrecer Braxton shared her aria-defying notes she had taken earlier while Amy Vaughan was visibly giddy with inspiration.
The Encore: Cincinnati's Ripple Effect
Black Tech Week has undoubtedly sent ripples through Cincinnati's tech landscape. This national event, buoyed by sponsors like CNBC, INC, and AWS, has marked the city as a hotspot for ideas, collaboration, and innovation. For me, Black Tech Week was no ordinary conference but a symphony of learning, networking, and celebration that will undoubtedly resonate in my future strategies and decisions as I navigate the ever-evolving MarTech landscape.
The memories of this extraordinary week will guide and inspire me. In the grand scheme of things, one meeting stood out - a rendezvous with a fellow Zimbabwean - Farai Gundan. We crossed paths in the hustle of the event. Farai, a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum, Mason Fellow and graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Govt, Farai has been a beacon of insight and initiative. Her illustrious career path is a colorful tapestry woven with contributions to Forbes, ESSENCE, and CNN. Today, she is a co-founder of a Fintech startup aiming to digitize payments in emerging markets, focusing on Africa. And Africa, dear readers, is the last frontier to bring digital to the rest of us.
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