Is Diversity in Technology the Next Civil Rights Fight?

South by Southwest banners hang in the atrium of the Austin Convention Center in 2012. This year’s annual interactive, film and music festival begins March 13.  ROBERT MACPHERSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
South by Southwest banners hang in the atrium of the Austin Convention Center in 2012. This year’s annual interactive, film and music festival begins March 13.
ROBERT MACPHERSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

It isn’t exactly news that the tech world has a diversity problem. At this year’s South by Southwest Interactive—the tech portion of the annual music, film and interactive festival known as SXSW, which begins Thursday in Austin, Texas—black tech leaders will be looking at ways to address it.

SXSW Interactive—which draws more than 30,000 registered attendees (pdf) alone–does not keep track of registrants by race, but the number of black attendees seems to increase every year.Donell Creech, founder of MVMT50 (pronounced Movement 50), guesstimates that there are 500 to 1,000 black registrants, while others put the number at around 2,000. MVMT50 wants to grow the number of black attendees by offering programming that speaks to issues encompassing diversity and African-American concerns in the technology field.

The organization began as Blacks in Tech four years ago but changed its name in 2014 to better reflect its agenda, Creech told The Root. He said that part of the idea for the name “MVMT50” came from the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, but instead of looking back, the company is looking forward.

“For the next 50 years, we believe the [civil rights] movement needs to be focused through technology and innovation,” said Creech.

MVMT50 helped SXSW land the Rev. Jesse Jackson as one of the featured speakers at this year’s fest. Other big names attending SXSW Interactive include Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments; Jeff Clanagan, president at Codeblack Films;  Van Jones, co-founder of #YesWeCode; and NBA legend Charles Barkley.

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Source: The Root |