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AfroTech 2023: A Mirror Everyone Deserves

Helen Telahun (EN '24)
December 7, 2023

Last month, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend AfroTech, the nation’s largest annual Black tech conference and a hotspot of innovation and excellence. I was elated to see what possibilities this brought for my startup, Article 26, a personal finance platform connecting mental and financial health and wealth. Although I went looking for career opportunities and connections, much like the other 20,000 attendees, I left with a perspective of a reality I had never seen before.

Helen outside AfroTech 2023

Stepping into the grand halls of Afrotech, the air buzzed with electricity. Currents of potential, hope, and passion flowed through the air, seamlessly connecting every attendee. Through all the booth jumping, networking, and knowledge sharing from speakers, I realized one must find time to pause and truly take it all in.

By taking a step back, I realized that not only was this my first conference, let alone a tech conference, but also my first time in a space quite like this one. Growing up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I didn’t have role models who looked like me, let alone a whole community doing what I set out to do surrounding me. It was my first time in a massive, predominantly black space, and I couldn’t imagine a better place for such an essential first. Black CEOs, Black Founders, Black Brands, even a Black-owned diaper brand!

On the outside, AfroTech is precisely what I stated: a central hub of black excellence in technology and innovation. Looking deeper, it is a true manifestation of what is coming. It is a grand mirror where aspirations are reflected, giving a perspective of how far our dreams, passions, and knowledge can go to those who wouldn’t and don’t have it otherwise, alongside leading innovators and visionaries of color.

What struck me the most was the unspoken yet overwhelming sense that we were not individual peaks racing toward the horizon but a mountain range building past Everest. As I shared my vision of Article 26 and Beri the Budgeter, our AI-powered mentor, I received nods of understanding, offers for connections, and advice that instilled the motivation to persevere. The energy of collaboration and dedication to one another’s pursuits and betterment was impactful and empowering.

AfroTech has granted me a perspective I didn’t realize I had been missing and one that everyone needs and deserves. It showed me that the unique spaces and positions I previously deemed intangible are not just dreams but destinations. It provided a place for those with otherwise scarce opportunities to share their voice, ideas, and vision. Beyond just a conference, AfroTech is a call to action, a match in the fire roaring to rise, reach, and realize that our destinations will go as far as we dare to dream.