_OfColor was founded in 2018 with hopes of creating a better representation in the arts for the BIPOC population of Austin. Their first event, Black Art WKND, was held February of 2019. It showcased 4-5 artists and a DJ, and offered light bites and refreshments to its attendees. Event-goers stated they didn’t know these kinds of events existed in Austin. So _OfColor sought to create more Black and BIPOC focused events.
AfroTech is a national conference, hosted in different cities across the United States each year. It brings its guests all things tech, from engineering to cryptocurrency. This year, you can expect panels, fireside discussions, meetups, and even live music performances by Bas, Bia, Wale, Zaytoven, DJ Hella Yella, and many more.
Upon hearing that AfroTech would be held in Austin this year, _OfColor knew they had to be involved and decided to host an immersive photo exhibit highlighting the voices and images of Black professionals in Austin’s technology workforce. So they put out the word for local tech professionals to apply for a chance to collaborate for this exhibit, sharing their stories of joining the tech industry, being Black in that same industry, etc.
_OfColor co-founder and official event photographer, Steven Hatchett, stated the concept of the exhibit came from wanting to know not only what it means to be Black in tech but specifically to be Black in tech in Austin; what does it mean to be Black in Austin; and how could working in tech affect/change the Black community. They’ve also partnered with Versailles, a startup tech company looking to bring more people of color into the company, to help attendees interested in joining this industry or who may be looking for a change.
Steven handled entry-level talent recruitment for agencies across the US and was also previously the director of career services at Huston-Tillotson University here in Austin. He noticed that if you go a very specific route, it was pretty easy to get into the tech industry, but now that he works in the more executive realm, he sees that even being 2 years detached from the “traditional” route (college, internships, etc), almost removes you from the opportunity altogether. He wants to help bridge that gap for people who may not have access to college by showing how they can enter the tech field by building off the experience they already have or how to gain experience.
Whitney Hamilton, the event’s curator, and _OfColor’s small events board member didn’t start wanting to work in tech but after speaking with mentors, she decided to take a leap of faith and return to school and start her new journey. When asked if partnering with more conferences and festivals would be in _OfColor’s future, she and Steven both confirmed this to be a goal for the organization.
“If asked, we’d definitely be open to working nationally with these types of events, as long as something like our organization doesn’t already exist in the city the event is being held,” Steven said.
Then Whitney added, “We also challenge events like these to reach out more to local organizations and businesses so they can be more involved and be able to expose the city’s culture and chemistry to the non-local attendees of these conferences and festivals.”
All Kinds of Black in Tech will be Monday, November 14, 6 pm-10 pm, at Native Bar & Cafe. This is a ticketed event, open to the public. You don’t need an AfroTech pass to attend.
AfroTech 2022 will take place November 13-17, 2022, at the Austin Convention Center. For more information or to register, follow this link.