Clark Sell
3 min read

Celebrating Black History Month

THAT Conference 2019 Keynoter Anjuan Simmons, 'Lending Privilege'

February is a month to celebrate African Americans who have changed the world. We’d like to take a moment to shine a light on a few who paved the road with technologies we use and work with everyday:

  • Katherine Johnson: Ms. Johnson may be best known for her mathematical calculations for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission for NASA in 1962. She states that her greatest contribution was the calculations that synced Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the Command and Service Module that orbited the Moon. Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her work in the space program.

  • Kimberly Bryant: Ms. Bryant earned a degree in Electrical Engineering and was spurred by her cultural isolation in her studies to form Black Girls Code. Started in 2011, the goal of Black Girls Code is to teach technology and computer programming to young and pre-teen girls of color through workshops and after school programs.

  • Mark Dean: Dr. Dean is co-credited for inventing at the IBM personal computer in 1981 and the color PC monitor. With co-inventor Dennis Moeller, he is also credited with developing the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) systems bus that allows for devices such as printers, monitors, speakers, and disk drives to be plugged directly into computers. Dr. Dean, who holds a ph.D in electrical engineering from Stanford University, also holds 3 of IBM’s original 9 patents.

  • Jerry Lawson: Mr. Lawson is considered a video game pioneer. In 1970, he went to work at Fairfield Semiconductor, where he created Demolition Derby, one of the first microprocessor-driven games. In the mid 1970’s, he led the development of the first video game console with removable cartridges which would allow users to buy and play a variety of video games in their own homes. This technology paved the way for our current video game systems.

It is important for us here at THAT to highlight some of these amazing individuals in our history, but to also continue to encourage change within our industry, schools and communities around us.

We reflect back on THAT Conference 2019 to Anjuan Simmons’ keynote on “Lending Privilege”, where he inspired each of us to lend our privilege to provide opportunities to others who didn’t have those same options open to them. Asking each of us to think about what opportunities and seats we had at tables, that we could give to another person who might not have that opportunity due to race, gender, education, etc.. That if we each lent some of our privilege, imagine how much we could move the needle as a community.

As we move forward in life and we get access to these seats of power, these tables of power, I want you to look around and make sure there’s diversity at the table.

Because you don’t come up with the right answer if everyone at the table looks the same and thinks the same and has the same experience – you never come up with the best answer. So when you get these seats at these tables of power, your obligation is to make sure the conversation is diverse.

When we pull together men and women, people of every background and colour and faith, immigrants who’ve come here from across the globe to make America their home – when we bring all of that brainpower to the table, anything is possible, even going to the moon, right?

~ Michelle Obama (at White House screening of Hidden Figures)

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