For a long time, Black women in tech was a hard find. Sure, our faces were within the attendance, but when it comes down to being the creators of a tech company, speaking on panels, headlining the events, or even creating it from the ground up, there was a severe lack. Nowadays, not so much. There are currently 88 tech startups created and run by Black women, and Blavity, a startup of its own geared towards delivering news about Black millennials BY Black millennials, is one of them. Its co-founder, Morgan DeBaun, understands just how much of an impact her company is making, for it was the lack of Black women like her at events surrounding tech and women that inspired her to create a space where those two spaces intersect, and THEN some.
Founded in May 2014 and curated by a group of Black techies, Blavity has taken lead in the digital space for becoming the site that caters to Black millennials and the conversations they want to have, whether it be about the resurgence of Black filmmakers to the necessity of Black voters going to the polls. The site contains both articles, essays, Top # countdowns, videos, and more, allowing for any Black millennial with an angle they best feel needs to be posed, the ability to do so. In the two years it’s been active, its Facebook has over 100,000 likes, over 88,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram, nearly 1 million views a month, and continues to grow. But Blavity isn’t done, and Morgan is determined to eradicate the lack of intersectionality between Black women and their passions by creating the EmpowerHer conference.
On May 21, Blavity is having their first ever inaugural conference geared specifically towards Black women, where for an entire day, Black women will be hosting, speaking, interacting, and attending, where the conversation surrounds creativity, its cross within technology, and how much of an impact that’s made for Black women today that may very well change the face as we know it. With speakers of many demographics, such as plus size fashion blogger, Gabi Gregg, sex positive writer and editor Feminista Jones, health and wellness guru Franchesca of Hey Fran Hey, and #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign, the conference is sure to give all women in attendance the chance to hear and engage with Black women in the field, who can instruct the ways in which we, as a community, can not only show up in spaces we don’t believe we belong, but can learn to CREATE them.
Since this is Blavity’s first conference, and surely not the last, I reached out to Morgan to ask a few questions regarding EmpowerHer. Check out the interview below!
1. How did the idea for the EmpowerHer conference come about?
A lot of my girlfriends have been to conferences where Black women were simply discussed or referenced, but weren’t the focal point. I got tired of that, so I decided to do something about it. We’re multi-passionate. I’m building a tech company, but I’m also a creative. EmpowerHer is bringing those things together into a space where we hope people can connect their passions and ideas with the people and tactics that can move them forward.
2. What was the process like planning for the event?
It’s been the best kind of crazy! At Blavity, we move quickly, so it’s been a test of how well we can execute inside of some pretty tight deadlines. I’m happy with what we’ve come up with, and excited to share the final product.
3. How did you go about choosing your panelists/speakers?
We wanted our panelists to reflect that the breadth and depth of Black women across industries and sectors. There isn’t a place our excellence hasn’t affected, or an industry we aren’t shining in. I want EmpowerHer to bring all of those things to the forefront, so more women can be the people they were destined to be, by getting access to the examples and tactics they need to do it. It’s hard to be what you can’t see, so when we see and celebrate each other, we become even more powerful. There are countless ways to win, and our speakers and panelists reflect that, on their own terms.
4. What are a few things that you’ve learned building this conference?
Time is precious.
We gave ourselves a tight deadline to execute on building this conference, which made us focus on only the essentials.
Delegation is key.
I try to set my team up with everything they need to be successful, and let them go from there. I trust them, and that empowers them to…
Sweat the details, not the mistakes.
We want this experience to be the absolute best for our partners and participants, and there’s a ton of planning that goes into it. There have been hiccups along the way, but I’ve learned to focus on outcomes. Mistakes are part of the process, but when you know the end goal and focus on it, it makes things simpler.
5. What do you hope this conference delivers into our community?
We want to create a space where women of color can learn, engage, and connect to the things and people that move them. If you’re an aspiring yogi who wants to make a living from it, Lauren will be there to show you how. If venture capital and technology funding fascinate you, then Lenore will show you her journey. We have always been makers, visionaries, entrepreneurs, activists and creatives. This isn’t an event to miss.