Tech headlines often spotlight the latest gadgets and groundbreaking software, but you usually don’t see the incredible stories about the brilliant minds and talent behind them. For Black History Month, we’re highlighting the bold innovators, unsung heroes, and creative changemakers who have made their mark on the technology industry.
Morgan DeBaun is the CEO and founder of Blavity, Inc., a leading digital media company that builds products, brands, and content for a young, diverse audience. She has received much recognition for her work in the industry, with acknowledgment as one of The Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans (2016) and Forbes’ America’s Top 50 Women in Tech (2018). In 2023, DeBaun was added to the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement.
DeBaun’s work with Blavity, Inc. and other initiatives has significantly impacted the tech industry. Her nonprofit, Blavity.org, dedicates itself to empowering Black entrepreneurs to thrive and create generational wealth. Beyond this, her successful ventures continue to foster economic advancement for the Black community while advocating for diversity in corporate America.
Did You Know? At the age of 25, DeBaun became one of the first Black women to raise over $1 million in venture funding.
Kishonna Gray, Ph.D.
Dr. Kishonna Gray is a prominent interdisciplinary, intersectional digital media scholar focusing on culture, video games, and Black Cyberfeminism. She’s currently an Associate Professor in Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky.
Dr. Gray has achieved notable success in her academic career, authoring books such as Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming (2020) and Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live (2014), and contributions that have been featured in journals and volumes (Feminism in Play, Woke Gaming), and renowned publications like The New York Times.
She has made numerous contributions to the technology field with her research. She’s been instrumental in highlighting how various identities intertwine in online spaces, the unique experiences of Black women gamers, and the digital tools and platforms that empower them. Dr. Gray’s dedication to this work continues to shape our understanding of technology, gaming, and identity in the digital age.
Did You Know? In an interview with Sequart, Dr. Gray notes that one of the first video games she ever played was Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega.
Neil Jones, also known as Aerial_Knight, is an indie game developer known for his 3D side-scroller, Aerial Knight’s Never Yield, set in a futuristic Detroit, MI. His dedication to designing diverse video game characters that offer new perspectives has gained the attention of multiple major media outlets such as IGN, The New York Times, and NPR. He also received the Indie Game Developer Award from The Black in Gaming Foundation in 2021.
Although he is still early in his career, Jones’ first solo work, Never Yield, has garnered many positive reviews, highlighting its visually stunning art style and animation, engaging story and world-building, and positive representation of Black characters. This success demonstrates the potential for independent developers to create truly innovative and impactful games with a broad narrative. Today, Jones continues to advocate for increased representation of Black characters and creators in video games. Be on the lookout as Jones will be announcing his newest gaming project this month.
Did You Know? Jones notes that anime inspired Never Yield’s soundtrack, citing Cowboy Bebop as a primary influence.
We also featured Black creatives in animation, read more here.