If the past few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that not even a global health pandemic can quell racism and intolerance.
While COVID-19 has severely affected our ability to convene in large numbers, one Black techie is determined to help Black professionals celebrate Juneteenth nonetheless.
Michael Brown, a senior software engineer at Microsoft is hosting Juneteenth Conference, as a way for Black people to “take a moment to pause and reflect and celebrate where we are.”
In early June 2020, as he was reflecting on his Microsoft anniversary as well as current affairs in Black America, he decided he didn’t want Juneteenth to slide under the radar.
Brown decided to take advantage of society’s new relationship with virtual social events to create something special. He wasn’t sure he would be able to get everything ready in time for this year.
In fact, several of his friends told him that events like these take at least one year to plan. However, Brown pressed on with the hope that, if not this year, he would have a conference ready for next year.
“I put out a call on social media and in internal channels and so many people came forward,” Brown said.
Michael received answers from people all over the world, from as close as his Microsoft campus to as far away as Nigeria. With the help of volunteers, he was able to launch a simple website and court Black professionals all across the tech industry to speak at the last minute.
According to their conference’s website, Juneteenth Conference’s primary goal “is to provide a space that celebrates Black Excellence in technology for Black people in tech to learn and grow and to amplify their voices.”
While all the speakers have volunteered their time for the event, Brown says they’ve received enough donations to allow them to give all the speakers a small stipend.
“Exposure doesn’t pay the bills,” Brown said, adding that if you support Black and brown professionals, you should be willing to compensate them for their time.
The two-day virtual conference is 100 percent free to the public and will run from June 19 to June 20.