These student leaders are the future — here’s what they’re doing to make it better for the rest of us

This year, eight student leaders were recognized for their work and offered exclusive scholarships from Hilton to attend the AfroTech conference in San Francisco. As Hilton heads into its 100th year in 2019, the company acknowledges the next generation has valuable leadership skills worth investing in.

Hilton, which made the 2018 Fortune Change The World list, recognized the need for students to have access to these opportunities. AfroTech is a yearly conference that unites people of color in tech for one info-packed weekend, full of networking opportunities, potential business partners, chances to learn and opportunities to share the innovative things attendees have been working on all year long.

We spoke with JeanClaude Dorsainvil, a recipient of the Hilton scholarship, about his experience at AfroTech. Check it out below:

AfroTech: How did you find out that you would be able to attend AfroTech with the Hilton scholarship?

JeanClaude Dorsainvil: Several weeks before the conference I reached out to AfroTech  Morgan DeBaun, the founder of AfroTech, proposing a sponsorship collaboration. My aim was to send 5-10 highly motivated Black students from UC Berkeley to AfroTech 2018. In my request, I emphasized how impactful the event would be for our students. AfroTech presents a unique opportunity to experience Black innovation, networking and excellence in a comfortable and immersive setting. Several days later I received an email informing us that Hilton wanted to sponsor 10 student-level scholarships to the conference. I was overjoyed. Ultimately, we selected students who demonstrated a desire to innovate, who had a strong understanding of the need for diversity in tech, and who had a hunger to create opportunities for their community.

AfroTech: Can you tell me a bit about your experience?

JCD: From the moment I stepped foot into the conference venue, I was taken aback. The sheer number of people was beyond what I had envisioned. I downloaded the AfroTech app, connected with some of my classmates, and then created a game plan for how I would tackle the day; there were simply too many awesome things to see and not enough time. I was amazed by how open the entire community was. Folks were eager to talk to me and the feeling was mutual. Every booth was excited to share the opportunities that they had and give insight into company culture. I was most impressed by the type of talent that AfroTech organized and attracted. Everywhere that I turned I ran into someone who I had either seen on TV, follow on Twitter, or read about on Crunchbase. The experience was the perfect blend of professional development, cultural diversity and fun.

AfroTech: What were your favorite sessions and speakers at the event?

JCD: My favorite parts of the conference took place primarily at the Entrepreneurship Stage. The highlight of my day on Friday was watching the StartUp pitch competition. There were seven unique companies pitching and the panel of judges was: Erik Moore, Monique Idlett-Mosley and Jewel Burks. The beauty was seeing what these founders had created and the journeys that they took to make their ideas a reality. From BitMari to Remodelmate, each team was unique, hungry and eager to prove that they were the real deal. My favorite session on Saturday was when Everette Taylor gave his talk about “How to make millions without raising capital.” His experience highlighted a very raw form of entrepreneurship, driven by the necessity to create. What resonated the most was when he said, “There is no blueprint to this. You can’t teach people step-by-step how to be successful. Every business is different and every founder is different.” The authenticity and passion of the speakers and facilitators made the experience truly enjoyable.

AfroTech: When did you get interested in tech?

JCD: Last summer I interned with BBVA Compass Bank in San Francisco with their Corporate Responsibility Team. Our office was also home to the New Digital Businesses Unit, which is incubating businesses in BBVA’s Silicon Valley-based fintech lab. At the time, there was one startup whose work and team I truly admired, Azlo. Azlo’s mission is to improve access to core financial services for entrepreneurs from all walks of life by offering transparent business banking services. Despite being a part of a different team, the Azlo group truly made me feel welcome. I had the opportunity to learn about the tech that was driving their platform, as well as the plethora of other processes that factor into creating a product and experience that customers truly enjoy. From that point on I’ve been fascinated by how the integration of technology into essential industries, such as banking, can revolutionize the future.

AfroTech: What do you hope to accomplish in tech?

JCD: At the beginning of summer 2018, I began working on a project called Bold Venture Partners. We are a team dedicated to supporting black and brown student founders in our ecosystem. We aim to increase access to funding opportunities, mentorship and other strategic resources which can help accelerate their start-up growth. It’s clear that technology-powered startups are making the biggest waves throughout entrepreneurial communities and my goal is to make sure that people of color don’t get left out of the picture.

AfroTech: How do you think AfroTech might help you get closer to achieving your goals?

JCD: I hope to run my own venture capital fund someday. I want to be in a position where I can help manifest the ideas of brilliant entrepreneurs. At this year’s AfroTech conference I was starstruck when I met some of the amazing VCs who are making enormous impacts in our community. I had the chance to sit front row as Charles Hudson spoke about founders maximizing their leverage to secure the best deals. I sat right next to Erik Moore as he judged this year’s pitch competition and discussed how he conducts his analysis. I was able to tell the brothers from Harlem Capital, in person, how inspirational they are to me. This all happened over the span of two days and I can’t think of another circumstance under which this would be possible. I had the opportunity to connect face-to-face with people whose stories I had been following online for quite some time. Over the course of the weekend I networked with folks that could very well be my future partners, colleagues and mentors. AfroTech creates synergies that will continue to bring me closer to creating a lasting impact in my community.

AfroTech: What advice do you have for other students who think they might have an interest in tech?

JCD: My advice to any student even remotely interested in tech is to take that enthusiasm and run with it. Tech is on track to impact every aspect of our lives, and the best part is that there is a place for everyone. Whether you’re interested in computer science, business or arts and humanities, you can leverage your experiences to bring value to the team. The most diverse teams are the most successful. Tech is such an enormous world that it comes down to finding which areas of tech are most aligned with your interests and passions. If you think you might want to work in tech, career fairs and networking events are great ways to learn about company philosophies, missions and culture. You have to jump in with both feet and follow your curiosity.

“Dorsainvil’s experience is one that aligns with Hilton’s values of empowering the next generation of leaders as well as our Travel With Purpose initiative and our commitment to the world,” said Andréa Richardson, Director of Multicultural & Diversity Relations at Hilton. “Many of our efforts are focused on leveraging local and global investments of time and resources to create economic opportunities for all people.

The experience of AfroTech provided to Dorsainvil and the other scholarship winners is just one way Hilton demonstrates how travel and purposeful intentionality can connect young people to the world of business and technology in an authentic, diverse way. Students deserve opportunities like this.”

“AfroTech was inspirational to me,” said Dorsainvil. “Seeing so many people dedicated to the success of Black people made me feel as though anything is possible. I left AfroTech even more driven to make an impact. The conference was a manifestation of hard work, dedication, and community. I look forward to taking the resources given to me and reinvesting them in any way that I can.”

This post is brought to you by Hilton.

How USDS Is Helping To Digitize Immigration, Making It More Efficient Than Ever

Photo: Women of Color in Tech

The black immigrant population has increased fivefold since the 1980s according to a report this year from the Pew Research Center. Immigrants made up 10 percent of the black population in the U.S. in a 2016 population survey. And now, thanks to the United States Digital Service (USDS) and their partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the immigration processes are becoming more efficient and, in turn, more accessible.

USDS has partnered with USCIS to create modern tools and systems for processing immigration applications, made green card renewals faster through a streamlined review process, and introduced iPads into interviews for better applicant experience. These modern systems enabled USCIS to build online applications, where immigrants can apply for naturalization and renew their green card online. Now, USCIS’s new online applications help people find the immigration options that work for them and their unique situations, providing more accessibility and options for those in need.

The U.S. Digital Service is a tech startup at The White House, founded by President Obama in 2014. USDS applies modern design and technology practices to improve government services for all Americans. They operate a network of teams, including the Department of Homeland Security team, that work to transform critical public-facing services, such as immigration and citizenship, making them more effective and user-centered. To accomplish this mission, USDS hires technologists to do short-term tours of duty, ranging from three months to four years, bringing fresh skills and new perspectives to partner with government’s brightest civil service talent.

USDS is working with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) to digitize the most common benefits and services. There are more than seven million immigration applications and requests each year and digitization increases efficiency and reduces costs and backlogs. Since USCIS and USDS launched the new digital tools to process applications for naturalization in October 2017, USCIS is now processing nearly 50% of its new workload digitally, as opposed to less than 10% in 2014.

Whether new Americans need to renew a green card or want to become naturalized citizens, USDS is working to streamline the process and empower government officials and new Americans with the tools they need.

In a Webby exclusive, Eric Hysen, a former Google employee who was an early engineer at USDS, talked about how people do not expect the skills of engineers, such as coding, to help refugees. But their department became one of the easiest to get people to work on.

If you are interested in being a part of an important program like this within USDS and you share their values, you can find out about potential opportunities and apply here to work alongside the team in a 3-month or longer tour of duty.

This post is sponsored by USDS.

Bank of America’s Global Human Resources Technology Executive Shares Insight on Diversity in Technology

Photo: Courtesy of Bank Of America

Lisa Buford Armbrister is the Global Human Resources Technology executive at Bank of America. After taking time off from a different company, friends encouraged her to consider Bank of America. She joined about 15 years ago and has held six different positions within the company, each one challenging her to grow and try something new.

Bank of America is purposeful in seeking out diverse talent and has development programs designed to help empower employees to own their career development journey.

Armbrister has been able to achieve a successful career in technology because of her ability to think outside the box, her entrepreneurial spirit, and her leadership skills.  In addition, the firm’s commitment to diversity and the culture of supporting employee development efforts has helped support her career journey.

On Diversity

Bank of America’s approach to diversity is “pretty bold,” says Armbrister. There is a deep commitment to ensuring a diverse and inclusive work environment and within the Global Technology and Operations organization (GT&O), the leaders are vocal, open and focused on diversity.

“There’s a culture of speaking up,” she says. “We encourage people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to proactively share their perspectives. To step forward and be bold. At the bank, diversity has become a lot more than just a label, we think about it as a mindset.”

This commitment to embrace diversity and have open communication is one that encourages diverse voices to be heard. “We understand that we’re not perfect, but progress is evident because Bank of America is consistently named one of the best companies for women in Tech,” she says.

Bank of America seeks out diverse talent by finding and investing in people who have attributes that will help them grow in their career. Employees are encouraged to leverage their strengths, and continue to gain experience by taking advantage of robust training resources.


Armbrister oversees a technology team that supports HR requirements, including employee assistance. Each morning, she makes time to connect with teams around the globe; another large part of her day is spent connecting with business partners.

“I go in; I try something new. I squeeze everything that I can out of the role in terms of learning and opportunities,” said Armbrister. “The bank is a great place if you like challenges, if you like to try new things – you’ll have the opportunity to do that here.” The encouragement from her teammates to experiment and take career risks is part of the culture she most values at Bank of America.

Armbrister has a strong focus on relationships, which helps make the bank easier to navigate; the culture is all about making connections. It’s an environment of community, camaraderie and support. Of course there are challenges, but Armbrister values that everyone works together to overcome them.

Bank of America has a culture that provides benefits and resources programs to encourage work/life balance. The environment allows Armbrister to work in a manner where she can prioritize and complete her work. She also balances her time to focus on what’s important to her outside of work, like her family: her husband and six children ages, 12 to 29.


Another value that she sees at Bank of America is a dedication to innovation. “The bank doesn’t stay idle,” she says. “The firm that I work for today isn’t the firm that it was last year, five years ago or 10 years ago. It’s constantly changing. There are always new things going on, new ideas are encouraged, and we embrace how we can do things better.” Bank of America is the top filer of technology patents in the financial services industry overall, and in the top 125 of businesses overall in the U.S.

“I think most technologists tend to be pleasers,” she says. “When a business partner has a problem, there’s a tremendous amount of pride and desire to bring a solution to that problem.” Bank of America has transformed into a simpler, more efficient company focused on growing the real economy through a strategy of responsible growth.

Armbrister thinks innovation and creativity are skills which the tech industry needs most right now, and candidates with those skills are in demand in technology.

“The most powerful people I see in technology today are the ones able to think about it from more than a tech perspective, but also have enough business acumen and experience to blend those two things together,” she says. “They’re able to bring solutions to the table that are creative in ways that could be hard for someone who just had one skillset.” Bank of America’s infrastructure and culture allows women to succeed as great technologists and leaders.

We partnered with Bank Of America for a recruitment event in D.C. earlier this year, focusing on promoting diverse candidates and employees. Check out the video below to find out more about what Bank of America is doing to have thorough representation at all levels of the company.

Are you interested in a career at Bank of America? Find out more info and apply here.

Bird Is Changing The Landscape Of Transportation — And The Face Of Engineering

Photo: Courtesy of Bird

Chances are you’ve seen Bird in your city. You might even have ridden one for fun on a beautiful day, or for a quick and inexpensive ride when you needed to get somewhere in a crunch. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like working at the startup transforming the way people get around, we spoke to Rodney Gainous Jr. and Alona King — software engineers at Bird— to get a deeper look inside.

Landing at Bird

Gainous moved to LA in January and noticed the high number of people riding scooters around town. After a friend finally convinced him to unlock a Bird, he realized how enjoyable the experience was. He further researched the company, reached out to Travis VanderZanden, CEO of Bird, who introduced him to Justin Balthrop, the CTO. Shortly after, Rodney was working on the iOS and Android apps as the youngest and one of the 10 first members of Bird’s engineering team.

Alona King began to see Bird as an affordable, accessible means of transportation that was going to completely change the way a large portion of our society moves after riding to the grocery store and back for $3.30. She immediately set up a visit to Bird’s electrified HQ through Gainous.

“Everyone I talked to was excited, humble and hungry,” King says, “Every engineer I talked to couldn’t stop talking about the incredible problems they solve day in and day out. Problems that no one had ever solved before. I decided right then and there that I wanted to join the team, and three weeks later I was the first woman to join software engineering at Bird.”

Growing at Bird

The ability to create solutions never stops, as Bird continues to innovate how people get around.

“Because of our growth, every day there are new challenges to face,” says Gainous, “What is a priority today may or may not be a priority tomorrow. I spend the majority of my time coding, typically working on new features.”With Bird growing so fast, the company is actively hiring in all areas. As Gainous describes, “Some days, my whole day is interviewing candidates because we have tons of positions to fill.”

Taking Bird international was King’s first responsibility. During King’s second week working, the CTO came to her to ask if she had what it took to take Bird to Paris. She jumped at the opportunity.

“During that time, a normal day for me was spent leading that project, coordinating necessary engineering work between teams and writing all the code necessary to take our app international,” she says, “A month later, thanks to that work, we were able to launch in Paris, and now Bird is operational in countries around the globe. Still, priorities change all the time.”

After taking Bird global, King led the rider team to implement Bird Delivery, a service announced in October that allows riders to have Birds delivered to their homes so they can have all-day access to it. It’s the next step for users who want to reduce their carbon footprint but need to take multiple trips throughout the day. In addition to Bird Delivery, Bird has also released Bird Zero, a new scooter that’s designed to have a longer-lasting battery, improved lighting and more. Continuing to innovate and push the mission forward is important to the team.

On the one-year anniversary of the startup, Bird celebrated by providing 10 million environmentally-friendly rides to riders in more than 100 cities. With a timely idea, a great product and the sense of freedom and accessibility that comes with the service, the team has set themselves up for an impressive growth trajectory, meaning more growth within in business and a cleaner environment.

Diversity at Bird

“As a black engineer, I can look to my left and right and see other black software engineers doing incredible work and that is a blessing to be a part of,” says King.

Even though many tech companies claim that black and brown engineers don’t exist, Bird sees and hires them.

“Bird has the most black engineers that I’ve ever worked with in 5 years,” says Gainous. “Compared to other companies, there is higher priority in improving the diversity of the engineering team.”

Gainous says that Bird is helping foster diversity and inclusion by listening to the concerns of minorities and actively working to address them. In addition to attending and recruiting at AfroTech this year, Bird has prioritized recruiting from HBCUs and participating in the annual Grace Hopper event to encourage women to join the team. In support to those recruitment efforts, the team must participate in mandatory safe & inclusive workspace training for all employees so that individuals can best work together in an understanding and comfortable environment.

Are you interested in joining the flock? Click here to learn more about Bird’s current openings.


This post is sponsored by Bird.

How Kapor Center Is Helping To Close The Technology Gap Through Programs With Deep Impact

Photo: Kapor

The technology industry is booming. More than ever, entrepreneurs, engineers and everyone in between are creating new solutions, landing high-paying jobs and creating long-lasting career paths for themselves. But despite all of this success, black and Latinx tech employees are still vastly underrepresented. And to change that is going to take implementing programs and initiatives that have deep impact, such as Kapor Center’s signature education program, SMASH.

SMASH was one of the earliest STEM education programs in the U.S. and has continued to serve students since its inception in 2004 on the University of California’s Berkeley campus.The comprehensive program continues to grow and make a difference in the lives of participants by providing them with a comprehensive STEM curriculum.

“A lot of our students are coming from communities that are facing a plethora of challenges — food insecurity, violence, poverty, lack of role models…” said Anne Sawiris, Site Director at SMASH UC Berkeley in the video above.

For five weeks, high-school-aged students stay on a college campus (the program is on seven campuses as of 2018) for three summers in a row. At the request of students, SMASH now offers year-round support in addition to the summer residential program through SMASH Virtual, which allows thousands more students to have access to the program, and SMASH CS, which is available to non-SMASH students in the Bay Area in order for them to expand their computer science education.

“In regular school it’s just textbook, look at it, test at the end of the week and then start all over,” says Amir Stills, who is a part of the SMASH Berkeley Class of 2019, “But in SMASH it’s not like that. It’s intriguing discussion that leaves you thinking, like, ‘wow, I really want to talk about this.’”

The flagship SMASH Academy program helps participants feel comfortable in that university environment and combats some of the potential issues that can arise if a student doesn’t feel like they belong on campus. While there, they are guided by professors who look like them, giving them an opportunity to find potential mentors and role models who can inspire them as they plan out their own futures. And because the lessons are interdisciplinary, the students aren’t just learning math or chemistry, they’re learning about the application of those skills and how they interact in the real world.

The leaders at SMASH guide their classes through a social-justice lens, a choice that teaches students to hone their civic responsibility and global citizenship. At Berkeley, there’s a food justice course that offers students an opportunity to fill a void in their communities, even if they aren’t used to having local farms or seeing gardens. They are introduced to how these changes can impact the communities they live in.

Students have the opportunity to network, attend different speaker series and participate in immersive experiences that help them to gain skills in socializing professionally with others in the STEM field. And beyond the professional networking students actively do, they’re able to meet other fellow students who look like and are interested in similar fields to them. These relationships become lifetime friendships and connections as the next generation builds the future of tech. SMASH alumni programming (SMASH Rising) keeps students engaged and gives them the opportunity to gain real-world experience at leading companies.

When it comes to tech, there’s a serious lack of resources where they’re needed. Many people of color lack access to STEM education, which creates a pipeline issue, which is hard to recover from. That’s why although we comprise 30 percent of the population, just 11 percent of science and engineering jobs and 9 percent of technical computing roles are held by black and Latinx employees. Throwing money to surface level metrics like serving a large number of people is a band-aid on a deeper problem, but real solutions lie in providing opportunity and resources to underserved communities early on like SMASH has done since 2004.

“What it would mean for me, an African-American male, to be striving,” says Stills, “…. not even for myself, but for young African-American males all across the country. I’m just setting a path for another person to come up.”

As these students become positively impacted through opportunities that open up because of SMASH, they in turn impact their families, their communities and the next generation of leaders.

Want to learn more about the impact SMASH has had over the years in the lives of students? Hoping to get involved in the life-changing, industry-shifting program? Click here and enter your information in order to see how you can get involved.

Brought to you by The Kapor Center / SMASH.

How Microsoft Is Tackling The Diversity Issues In Tech

Photo: Courtesy of Microsoft

Diversity and inclusion can be buzzwords in the tech world. That’s why it’s so important when brands invest in underrepresented communities and remain committed to centering diverse perspectives through every level of their business. One company that has been dedicated to diversity is Microsoft.

Founded in 1975 and publicly traded since 1986, Microsoft has long demonstrated an interest in increasing diversity in the industry it arguably transformed. For example, it established its first black employee resource group in 1989 making it the first and longest lasting diversity constituency at Microsoft. Beyond nurturing diverse talent among its ranks, Microsoft continues to cultivate new talent in the pipeline as well as in business.

Through partnerships with organizations such as Black Girls Code and Technology Access Foundation Microsoft is tackling intractable pipeline issues through education strategies and early exposure to tech. It helped Black Girls Code bring its 14th chapter to the U.S. with a program in Seattle, introducing technology and computer science to young black girls. Microsoft has partnered with TAF for a while now (the organization was founded by a former Microsoft leader) but this time it is investing in STEMbyTAF, which brings successful interdisciplinary STEM education strategies to schools to help equip students of color for success in college and in life.

“Last year, only five percent of AP Computer Science test takers were African-American and only one-quarter were young women,” Microsoft shared in the statement announcing their partnerships. Regardless of age, race or class, providing access to computer science and tech is incredibly important. Corporate investments and initiatives like the one listed above bring our community one step closer to improving the pipeline diversity issues in tech.

At the business side of the tech spectrum, we here at Blavity know and love Backstage Capital — founded by the remarkable Arlan Hamilton. If you don’t know the VC fund, it invests in new companies that are led by underrepresented founders in the U.S. (and now London). Microsoft for Startups joined forces with Backstage as well as Black & Brown Founders, which provides community, education and access to black and Latinx entrepreneurs. Together the three are working to provide opportunities for diverse startups identified by Backstage Capital and Black & Brown Founders.

In a statement announcing the partnership, Microsoft for Startups notes that less than 10 percent of all VC deals go to women, people of color and LGBT founders. It went on to announce that through the partnership, Microsoft would become a premier tech and business partner of Backstage Capital’s new accelerator program, that it would sponsor Black & Brown Founders’ Project NorthStar conference in Philly, and that it would offer the benefits Microsoft for Startups offers to eligible startup members of the organization. This includes thousands in free Azure credits, tech support and more resources that matter (and add up quickly).

But perhaps more importantly, Microsoft offers ongoing training and mentorship to underrepresented entrepreneurs as they figure out how to conquer the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur. There are even 1:1 office hours for entrepreneurs to chat with Microsoft experts in order to get the mentorship and troubleshooting advice they would need.

Companies like Microsoft clearly understand the business case for diversity – that diversity fuels innovation and that diverse founding teams regularly outperform the market average. Which is why these impactful investments in diversity mean so much. Through investments that reach students of color and empower diverse startups, Microsoft is helping to make tech more diverse and more impactful.

Will you be joining us in SF for AfroTech this year? You can find out more about these initiatives and other Microsoft opportunities by stopping by the Microsoft booth at AfroTech 2018. Can’t make AfroTech? Learn more about Microsoft opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs here.


This post is sponsored by Microsoft.

Made In Memphis Entertainment Is Reigniting The Music Business In Memphis

Memphis is overflowing with rich history. One of the most important elements of the city’s identity is its reputation for being home to a sound that was part of America’s musical revolution in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Today you can take a tour of the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, The Memphis Music Hall of Fame, The Orpheum Theatre or even Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

Last year, Hall of Fame songwriter David Porter announced Made In Memphis Entertainment (MIME), a new music business venture with the goal of bringing back some of the city’s former musical glory. And this time around, the integration of tech will take things to the next level.

Made In Memphis Entertainment (MIME) has a $5 million studio complex east of Downtown Memphis and serves as a home to a 8-room recording studio, a label, a production unit and a publishing division. But it’s also so much more than that. MIME was founded with an indie spirit in mind, and in that same vein, they have made strategic investments in music and tech startups including Beatroot Music — distribution and artist and label services, TuneRegistry — automated publishing administration, and RoyaltyClaim — the Google of unclaimed royalties around the world. This ensures an investment in the ability for these companies to have autonomy and resources to survive and thrive in the space.

Earlier this year, MIME also acquired Heavy Hitters Music Group, a music synchronization and licensing company. The investment allows Heavy Hitters to have access to a catalog of songs from David Porter’s post STAX catalog and a group of emerging songwriters, giving Heavy Hitters Music clients access to more than 14,000 tracks, including authentic period music.

MIME’s investments in these companies further reiterate its belief that a successful music company needs the influence of tech. Rather than relying on a huge corporate influence, they are interested in the drive and passion that comes with tech startups. That same spirit is what’s making Memphis a serious contender to be the next Silicon Valley of the South. It has a vibrant spirit and a sense of community that can ignite innovation across industries through the utilization of technology.

It’s clear that Memphis has no shortage of local talent — but MIME is working to keep well-known global talent physically local to Memphis and use that to activate the new wave of the Memphis music scene.

Are you interested in learning more about the future of music and tech in Memphis and MIME? Learn more here and follow the work the organization is doing on Instagram and Twitter.

This post is sponsored by Made In Memphis Entertainment.

How The Emma Bowen Foundation Is Dedicated To Diversifying Media

Emma Bowen, a Harlem-native and community activist, cared about the images of people of color in the news. So she came to Midtown, met with broadcast executives and struck a deal to create opportunity.

“They said, ‘You know what? We want to put talented people of color in positions so they can become the future of media,’” says Rahsaan Harris, PHD, President & CEO of The Emma Bowen Foundation, a program that continues her legacy by providing internships for nearly 1,000 students of color and career opportunities for its graduates during its almost 30-year history.

According to Harris, the partner companies are big broadcasters, cable operators, computer companies, PR companies and more. Today, the foundation prioritizes connecting leading media companies with promising students of color to create a pipeline of emerging leaders, which leads to diverse hiring, retention and advancement. Some of the current partners working with the foundation include Bloomberg Media, C-Span, CBS Corporation, Comcast, HBO, The New York Times, The Oprah Winfrey Network and NPR.

But that’s not all. If you’re a recent graduate or working professional who’s hoping to take their career to the next level, there’s opportunity for you, too. The Emma Bowen Foundation Alumni & Media Professionals “AMP” Network is an exclusive network of diverse skilled professionals of color across the country in journalism, media, entertainment, and technology. The AMP Network supports, celebrates, and connects members with their peers and career advancement opportunities with the ultimate goal of improving the hiring, retention, representation, and advancement of people of color within the media and technology industries across the country. Even if you aren’t an alum of the Emma Bowen internship program, you are still qualified to apply to be a part of the network.

For those chosen, they are given access to companies looking for authentic diversity in their brands through inclusion, not charity. These high-potential members are able to help companies define new market opportunities and execute them authentically and at the highest-possible quality.

Diversity and inclusion in the media is important for so many reasons, including accurate and informed storytelling, representation for future leaders, and diversity of content. When stories are told from research, information and authenticity, they are able to make an impact. With diverse newsrooms and office spaces, media as a whole gets better.

When young people see media professionals who look like them, they are able to aspire to work in the media or tech fields. And when you read a story about something you care deeply about, that impact is felt on a much deeper level when you see that the reporter is someone who can relate to your circumstances or who has taken it upon themselves to invest their time in and representing for underrepresented communities.

As Harris says, media and technology are two industries that are much broader and more advanced than they have been in the past. It’s about more than just the content of media, but also the business and innovation of media. Diversifying and being inclusive in all three of those aspects helps create new stories and opportunities.

Are you interested in applying to be a part of the EBF Internship Program or EBF AMP Network? Find out everything you need to know here.


This piece is sponsored by The Emma Bowen Foundation.

Scholly Is Expanding Its Team And Making Scholarship Opportunities More Accessible Than Ever

Higher education can be a pathway to growth and success for so many — unfortunately, money is often the barrier between where students are and where they want to be. But Scholly, a platform that connects students to scholarship opportunities, is using technology to bridge that gap.

By registering at Scholly, students are able to access personalized tools to help them find tailored scholarship opportunities, turning the search process from months into minutes!. One of the latest features that the growing team developed is the Scholly Editor, a tool that uses artificial intelligence technology help students instantly proofread and edit scholarship essays, college admissions essays, and any other writing assignments. Using Scholly is like having a personal assistant focused on paying for college. With these tools, Scholly is looking to fix the current outdated process of scholarship apps — one that requires students to fill out long, tiresome forms and then fail to deliver relevant results. And they seek to deliver these results all within the form factor of mobile applications.

Scholly was founded by Christopher Gray, a young black college student at the time who worked hard to earn himself more than $1.3 million in scholarships. He came from a single-parent household with no internet at home and very limited access to computers overall, a situation that many students find themselves in. Although he was able to pay for all four years of college with the scholarships he hunted down for himself, he realized just how hard it was to do so and that the process was simply broken.

Gray took Scholly to Shark Tank in 2015, where he closed a deal with both Daymond John and Lori Greiner giving Scholly more attention than ever before. It even topped the Apple and Google app stores for more than three weeks.

Scholly also helps to make the search for scholarships more accessible for future generations and prioritizes providing opportunities to underserved students who deserve to be at these schools and pursuing their dreams — without the financial stresses that keep people away.

Thanks to Scholly’s impact, more than $100 million in scholarships have been awarded through their search platform that serves nearly 3 million users. With a team made up of over 75% people of color and black leadership at the executive level (i.e. Christopher as Co-Founder and CEO, and actor and activist Jesse Williams as Chief Brand Ambassador, etc.) Scholly is putting its best foot forward towards diversity and inclusivity.

Based in Los Angeles, the small but growing team is even looking to expand into the fintech space, a move that will help students save money on textbooks and through the student loan process in the future.

The platform is clearly dedicated to helping students find scholarship opportunities that were created for them. Money for school is out there, and Scholly is making it more accessible than ever. Is this a cause you’re passionate about? Check out careers at Scholly and join the hardworking and innovative team.


This story is brought to you by Scholly

Clayborn Temple Serves A Key Role In Revitalizing Memphis

Photo: Courtesy of Clayborn Temple

Memphis is transforming. The city with a rich history spanning music, civil rights and so much more is also home to a group of young leaders who are determined to move the city forward through the cultivation of a tech community.

A major landmark in that change is Clayborn Temple, a historic site with plans to expand the footprint of the location.

Clayborn Temple started as a white congregation in 1892 as Second Presbyterian before being sold to an African-American congregation in 1949, where it was given its current name in honor of a local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop. It saw many years of activity, including playing an important role in the civil rights movement. During the Sanitation Workers’ Strike in 1968, the famous “I Am a Man” signs were distributed at the church – the same signs that many now see as a classic symbol of the fight for racial equality in American History – and encouraged by Union Organizer T.O. Jones lead to a historic vote which ended the strike.

Photo: Courtesy of Clayborn Temple
Photo: Courtesy of Clayborn Temple

But years later, in 1999, Clayborn Temple closed. Despite its period of inactivity, it has since reopened and is being restored. What was once a home to community, activism, and worship is now open for a whole new community. The spirit of the location pulses throughout, but a new generation is rebuilding its legacy.

Clayborn Temple is a living example of the juxtaposition of what’s happening in Memphis, moving a city full of history forward to one of the most innovative tech hubs in the South. The historically important landmark is located within one of the poorest neighborhoods and lies just across from one the richest areas of Memphis. With this in mind, one of the goals of those involved with the revitalizing of Clayborn Temple is to restore the neighborhood as a whole and encourage African American wealth and entrepreneurship in the space.

The goal of entrepreneurship aligns with the wider vision to use tech towards the fight for social justice – a viewpoint that’s reminiscent of the history of the building and the community. In an effort to drive tech a movement has arisen encouraging millennials to move to Memphis and cultivate the burgeoning tech community, and Clayborn Temple is poised to be a key space in that movement. This civil rights historic site has plans to expand the footprint of the location with the help of black-owned startups to best help execute that vision.

But tech isn’t the only thing Clayborn Temple is hoping to explore. It continues to prioritize creativity and music, as it has done historically as a congregation. Earlier this year they presented preview performances of “Union: A Musical,” which brought community members, activists, artists, civic leaders and more together to discuss the state of democracy in Memphis and America as a whole.

Clayborn Temple has partnered with groups such as Consortium MMT, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that’s working to develop a viable music industry in Memphis. Through music education and entrepreneurship, the two hope to empower their participants to stay in Memphis and recreate the music hub that once thrived, while blending tech towards an inspiring future.

These initiatives have already driven a wave of important recognition for Clayborn Temple’s movement. They recently were selected as a finalist in National Geographic’s Partners in Preservation: Main Streets campaign – a campaign to engage the public in preserving historic sites by highlighting how they play an important role in local communities.

On Sunday, Oct. 21, Clayborn Temple hosted an open house where attendees met the team, heard their vision and saw how they can be involved in this history in the making. You can vote for Clayborn Temple to win $2 million in the campaign daily through Oct. 26 here.

Clayborn Temple and The Consortium MMT will also be onsite at AfroTech this year in an effort to find partners for their cause. If you’re interested in making history and starting the new tech hub of the South, make sure to stop by!

Photo: Courtesy of Clayborn Temple
Photo: Courtesy of Clayborn Temple