Whether we realize it or not, Black creativity is one of the world’s most lucrative assets and it’s time we take back control over our superpower – the power to shift the world’s dynamic and how it connects with our culture.
Through platforms like DNABLOCK, all Black creatives, and even non-creatives, have the opportunity to access and utilize the art of animation to personify our cultural experiences for the world to behold.
DNABLOCK — a 3-D animation platform that enables the world’s greatest creative minds to take their narratives from concept to creation — was founded by tech specialist Anthony Kelani, who had a vision to democratize a technical form of creative expression for Black and people of color.
The startup, which is loosely referred to as “Pixar for the people,” removes the barriers between tech and creativity to bridge the gap and empower these groups to take charge of their own narratives. By offering a unique platform to visualize and build our creations from scratch, Kelani is essentially offering us all a chance to learn firsthand how to become content creators without the need for prior animation experience.
Kelani — who has over 13 years of experience as a software engineer, data scientist and startup founder — was exposed to tech early on in his life living in Oakland, CA after his father immigrated from Nigeria to get his start in the industry. Seeing his dad work in a data center at the University of California sparked something in Kelani that fueled his own passion to follow a path in the tech world.
His passion growing up manifested in ways that enabled him to start building his own PCs and websites and then going on to work for a web design firm. From there, Kelani gained valuable experience working built technology for the U.S. Department of Defense and getting involved in mobile development early — which served as his first taste of entrepreneurship.
Years later, he met his co-founder Luc Schurgers and discovered they both shared common interests in the tech space. What started out as a small idea evolved into a startup company built around the world-changing 3-D technology both Schurgers and Kelani were developing, thus DNABLOCK was born.
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According to Kelani, DNABLOCK has grown to offer out-of-the-box animation tools that are bringing immersive cultural experiences to life. The end goal for the startup is to introduce people to what can become another widely-used resource for content creation.
“We are creating that big opportunity for people to participate in what we call the metaverse, which is [a place with] super immersive experiences that more and more people are participating in to be creative – it’s a future trillion dollar economy,” Kelani tells AfroTech. “The animation industry has been very exclusive and technical and has not been available really to a majority of most creative people in this space. As our society moves more online to immersive experiences, our vision really is to enable anyone to express themselves the way they want to in a 3-D world.”
The reason Kelani and his startup want to make this technology easily accessible is simply because he believes everyday people have a right to access this kind of technology without worry of financial barriers gatekeeping these skills and resources.
“We think this type of immersive storytelling should be available to everyone,” he says. “It shouldn’t take you having to go to an animation studio and spending millions of dollars to tell your story through animation. You should be able to do this on your own because the technology’s there.”
More importantly, this startup’s technology is being developed by the very people DNABLOCK is aiming to cater to. While it was created to be an inclusive platform, ultimately the startup wants to get more Black and brown people involved in its development to help create more trust in technology again.
“Exposure and inclusion [are] extremely important for technical teams that design product for the world. In my experience, I’ve been on teams that really skew in one direction, which is mostly non-Black,” Kelani shares. “I think it’s extremely problematic because it just contributes to bias. If you don’t have a data science team that represents the population, those systems become biased and affects marginalized people in a negative way when they don’t have to.”
“That creates a distrust in technology for people of color when we really should be embracing and trusting technology and actually being part of the creation and ownership of it,” he adds. “In this industry, this is how you gain economic power.”
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Through outlets like creativity, communication, security, privacy and funding, we’ve witnessed how impactful the tech space can be in different countries around the world. If other companies like DNABLOCK took the time to make their offerings more accessible to the everyday person, just imagine how much change could be made to create a better future for society.
Despite some of these barriers, that hasn’t stopped Black and brown people from creating tomorrow’s innovations — whether that’s brainstorming ways to share our narratives or discovering a new tool to benefit our well-being. Either way, the real key to this kind of progress is ownership.
DNABLOCK is on a mission to make its animation tools a more commonly-used resource for Black and brown folks. By making room for these creatives and non-creatives to produce new innovations on their own, Kelani and his startup are redefining the meaning of ownership for all of us.
“It’s important for [Black and brown people] to be able to share in the ownership of technology that we’ll be creating for,” he says. “Based on many platforms like Twitter and Clubhouse, we’ve been successful with our whole creativity, but it’s time for us to really own that.”
For more information about DNABLOCK, visit its website.