OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 09: Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson and Blavity Inc. CEO Morgan DeBaun attend AfroTech 2019 at Oakland Marriott City Center on November 09, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Robin L Marshall/Getty Images for AfroTech)

Why more American firms are investing in diversity and inclusion programs and conferences.

The vision behind Afrotech was through the lenses of C-Suite Executives of Blavity, Inc. Morgan DeBaun CEO, Aaron Samuels COO and Jeff Nelson CTO Blavity, Inc.

Blavity, Inc. is a media company and home to the largest network of platforms and lifestyle brands specifically serving black millennials through original content, video and unique experience. Since 2014, the company has grown into a market leader for black media, reaching 30 million millennials per month through it growing brand portfolio.

The 3-day event attracting a sold-out city, with the pulsation loud enough to invite the best and brightest talents from ivy league universities, top tier tech companies, from fortune 100 tech startups and more. 

Afrotech left us thirsty, and in-search for more forums like these which unifies and electrifies the ingenuity and creativity of our future. Imagine, a place where every conversation started leads to an ideation room of ideas driven by the love of tech-novation and expansion into uncharted waters. 

Denise Williams President & Cofounder of SVNED interviews CNN International Political Analyst Angela Rye at the AFROTECH 2019 Media Lounge (Photography by Jordan Shimizu).

SVNED had the honor of interviewing the most prolific talents and political leaders of tomorrow’s world. Starting with CNN International Political Analyst Angela Rye. Angela Rye, dressed to head-to-toe in currency notes of the new’ $20 Bill by Moschino, a tribute to Harriet Tubman original. Harriet Tubman, an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped and subsequently made several successful missions to rescue enslaved people, using the network of anti-slavery activism and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. 

Angela Rye, credited the success of AFROTECH to political leaders like Barbara Lee, who has echoed the brilliance of Oakland, CA on Capitol Hill. Now Oakland, CA has become a flavorful hub, that embraces diversity in talent and is inclusive of people and various ‘cultures’ from all paths of life. 

Angela Rye, issues one request to her younger generation of talented minds leaving colleges to enter into the workforce, she states, reach out to your supervisors for ways to improve yourself ahead of time, and, on an ongoing base. Ask them, how you can add value to the organization you are serving. She closes by stating, we need more forums and conferences like AFROTECH, where anyone of color in tech for the very first time, is able to be themselves and feel at home in a professional setting, even in the tech space. 

Enters Isa Watson.

Isa Watson Founder & CEO SQUAD

Tech world, gear up, this woman leader is making moves and is already being compared to the likes of the best from technology history to-date. SVNED sat down with Isa Watson learn about her creation Isa Squad. Watson recalls: “Isa Squad is an app that helps people build their offline + IRL community” Watson found herself, and an increasing # of her friends and mentees inundated with social media, feeling really lonely as a result and unfulfilling IRL. Growing up in a community-oriented immigrant household, Watson leaving Wall Street, found Squad was full circle move for her. She explains, “Squad launched in NYC this summer, raised nearly $4mm in venture capital funding and has scaled rapidly. We expect to expand into dozens of cities, globally, in 2020”. 

To Join the Priority Waitlist: text SQUAD to 474747 to join an exclusive list to be notified when Squad comes to your city, and get first access.

SVNED had one direct question for Isa Watson, who’s current venture has raised $4 Million, How do you get to the YES?! Watson, responded with three direct tips for young and diverse startups and founders. Firstly, connect with Investors who are interested in, investing in diverse or women-led founders and startups. Secondly, connect with other founders and startups about funding solutions and engage with their networks through a direct introduction to a member of their community, like SVNEDIsa Watson explains, there are more peer-to-peer benefits when connecting founders with other founders. Lastly, Watson shared, many founders and startups when pitching are not representing the value of their industry honestly. She recommends for founders and startups to spend some time on substantiating the numerical value of the industry and problem they are solving. Carefully, measure the market size and volume of the untapped and penetrable industry. With this information at hand, founders and startups can demonstrate to investors the value your startup would bring to their investment portfolios. 

Morehouse Man, Gerren Wilson and Head of Patient Partnerships, Alliances and Advocacy Relations, Genetech (Photography by A. Weaver Photography)

SVNED also sat down with Gerren Wilson a young leader in healthcare, with an 8-year upward trajectory career at one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world, Genetech. We asked Gerren Wilson, what was important to healthcare leaders these days, and the subject matter was directly geared at the African American Community and how we are participating in health discussions through focus groups, health research studies designed to better understand the needs of our communities.

Additional research finds, that in 2003, the Institute of Medicine released Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, a comprehensive review of disparities in healthcare treatment. The attitude expectations and behaviors of providers and patients were examined. Conscious and unconscious differences in treatment based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender were reviewed. These documents reviewed the biases, stereotypes, and communication obstacles impacting the interaction of providers and patients and their utilization of the healthcare system. Findings in the study concluded that: “Bias, stereotyping, prejudice, and clinical uncertainty on the part of healthcare providers may contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare”; and that, “a small number of studies suggesting that racial and ethnic minority patients are more likely than white patients to refuse treatment”.

The current picture is clear; the greatest health disparity between the total US population and any ethnic group is found in African Americans.

The study adds: “Access to preventive, curative, and rehabilitative care must be assured to all persons including African Americans. Access is a lifelong need. Care for the potentially pregnant women is crucial and may have long-term consequences for her and her offspring. Comprehensive care for the infant, child, and adolescent is the key to their lifelong health and also their ability to function as productive and creative people. Adults often must be reminded that there are standards for healthcare from which they will benefit, and, as the population ages, access to appropriate and comprehensive care must be assured for elderly African Americans.” (Public Health Review: Improving the health of African Americans in the USA: an overdue opportunity for social justice).

(Right) Starlett Carter, the Founder & COO of Kanarys. (Photography by A. Weaver Photography)

Our interview concluded with the profound and eloquent, Starlett Carter, the Founder & COO of Kanarys. An organization that is committed to holding industry accountable for meeting their respective diversity and inclusion goals. Kanarys provides company reviews and survey data on diversity, equity and inclusion issues — all posted anonymously by employees.

Overall, AFROTECH was an incredible experience, worthy of its praise and social media sensation created. The event’s publicity and talent relations was provided by Code Six.

This article was written in memory of Kaiser Permanente’s CEO, Bernard Tyson.


  • Denise Williams

    Business, Lifestyle & Entertainment Journalist

    Denise Ajayi Williams is a bestselling children's book author of Akiti The Hunter (1st African Action Superhero) and Founder of WM-Journal platform created by millennial women.