As we all know, February is Black History Month. It’s a month where we honor those who have made an impact on American culture for equal rights, those who have invented, those who have a helped others and those who have inspired everyone to be the best they can be, not only as a person of color but as a human. Last year for Black History Month, I started an online series called 28 Days Diversity where I would feature someone new everyday during the month of February for just being awesome in their own right. Even though it’s black history month, the goal for 28 Days of Diversity is to feature not just African-Americans but other minorities in the web/tech space. Also note that 28 Days of Diversity is not a popularity contest or an influencer list but a list of thought leaders in the social web sector, including entrepreneurs, bloggers, conference organizers, IT professionals and friends not ranked in any particular order who I have either met in person or followed online. Each post will include a picture, bio, two links from the selected person and this paragraph.
For 2011 I wanted to not just feature individuals but also address a topic that affects everyone. For 28 Days of Diversity 2011 each post/person will answer the question “How can we use technology to close the digital divide?” So for the next 28 days, come back to visit SocialWayne.com/tag/28daysofdiversity and 28daysofdiversity.com to see who’s on the list. For day 10, I would like to introduce to some and present to others:
The digital journey of Kiratiana Freelon has been a circuitous, but fruitful one. She became a blogger in 2005 when started writing Black Girl in Paris. The blog became a favorite read for women around the world who wanted to fulfill a dream and live in Paris.
When she returned to her hometown of Chicago in 2006 she sought a job that would allow her inspire people and travel around the world. She felt compelled to divorce herself from digital media for the sake of corporate America and let her blog, and facebook profile go dormant. She soon snagged a great gig working to bring the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games to Chicago. She worked there for from 2006 to 2009 promoting the Olympic movement among Chicago’s youth through marketing and educational programs.
During this time, social media exploded and the Chicago Olympic bid started using social media as a promotion tool. Kiratiana soon returned to her blogging and digital roots and started a corporate blog, opened a twitter account (@kiratiana) and diligently used the Chicago2016.org website, twitter, youtube, facebook and flickr accounts to capture the bid’s every move. Unfortunately, 95,000 facebook fans, 345 Youtube Videos, thousands of flickr photos and 1200 twitter followers could not convince the International Olympic Committee to bring the Olympic Games to the United States.
With idle time on her hands after the bid’s end, she dove further into the “social” part of digital media. She started, yet another blog, http://kiratianatravels.com, attended multiple digital conferences (Travel Blog Exchange, SXSW 10, Blogging While Brown, Blogher, Social Development Camp Chicago…). She even snagged a job in the field.
She now works as the editor and web content manager for BlackAtlas.com, a multicultural social media travel website sponsored by American Airlines. As the editor and web content manager she creates and implements strategy to increase registered users and traffic, optimize the brand’s social media, and to manage community on the site.
As an entrepreneur herself, she was prompted to pitch the “100% Viable, 1%Visible, Minority New Media Entrepreneurship,” by an article she saw on Black Web 2.0 and the lack of diversity she sees in digital entrepreneurship. She plans to use her 12 minutes in the Future15 series to address this issue and inspire minorities to jump into the digital jungle.
How can we use technology to close the digital divide?
Will the black technology entrepreneurs please stand up? The reason I pitched my SXSW panel, “100% Viable, 1% Visible, Minority New Media Entrepreneurship” is because I wanted to address this issue of few visible black technology entrepreneurs. Yes, we are out there, but do young black people know them?
I will tell you a secret. Before I started working full time with technology, I didn’t think I could be a technology entrepreneur. Now I realize that all it takes is an idea, a developer and designer. Do young black kids know this when they are downloading ringtones, when they are facebooking with friends, when they are sending text messages? Unfortunately they do not.
So if I, a person who went to Harvard, couldn’t even perceive of myself creating a technology company, then what do you think a poor kid in the hood thinks (excuse my language). Somehow I feel part of my destiny is to change that. We have to make minority entrepreneurs 100%VISIBLE so this won’t happen anymore.
And when young minorities start to take over their own destiny through technology entrepreneurship, the digital divide will disappear.
You can follow the status of 28 Days of Diversity 2011 on http://28daysofdiversity.com and http://socialwayne.com/category/28-days-of-diversity/