By Terry Hart | March 31, 2019
On Saturday April 27th, 2019 the TEC Conference will take place in historic Leimert Park Village. The conference is a unique offering here in Los Angeles, as it focuses on highlighting the intersection of technology and entertainment to inspire individuals to embrace the opportunities that technological innovation is opening up.
Hosted by TEC Leimert, a local non-profit, the conference’s goal is to serve as a vehicle to increasing tech resources and investment in the area. While making sure minority communities don’t miss the opportunities opened up by technological innovation.
I sat down and spoke with Rashid Jones, co-founder and Director of TEC Leimert. He talks about the inspiration for beginning the conference, and the future they hope to help foment.
Why did you choose Leimert Park to host the conference?
Leimert Park is the current cultural epicenter, the black mecca of Los Angeles. It’s the center of the contemporary Black arts scene in Los Angeles. It saw people like painters Charles White and the Davis brothers Alonzo and Dale, singers Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald make residence here. More recently you have actor Issa Raye and producer Mel Jones, and Project Blowed, which is the longest running hip-hop open mic in the world.
Being anchored in culture, and art and tech, where else would we go? Most of us at TEC Leimert live in this community, and all of us have strong ties to it. We want to see it grow and prosper.
What was the genesis of the idea to bring a conference like this to Leimert Park?
This started as a reaction to some of the forces that we saw transforming our community, for good and bad. The realization that technological innovation was having far reaching changes throughout society, seeing how tech was changing the landscape providing more access and opportunity than ever before, but not seeing that trickle down into the South Los Angeles community was frustrating. For example, in 2016, venture capitalists invested over $4.2 billion into Los Angeles based tech companies, but hardly any of that was in the South Los Angeles community, it went to the more affluent areas surrounding South LA. We wanted to find a way to bring more dollars into the community. To bring more investment, capital and resources. To find ways to be more self-sustaining. To allow the community to thrive from an economic development sense. What does that look like?
So, we started brainstorming on those topics, how can we create those elements. We sat down and had a conversation…we asked what can we do to keep the pride strong, the culture vibrant, to keep what we know and love, what we grew up in. How do we protect that, while adding to it? It nurtured us and was good for us, so we wanted to see that benefit for others.
The idea we came up with was to leverage the pathways technology has opened up through disruption, create a platform that would allow for information and opportunity to be accessed to benefit the individual and the community. To create a platform that will cultivate talent.
Why the name technology entertainment convergence?
We are at a unique time in our history where technology is shifting paradigms and erasing boundaries, creating a new dynamic ecosystem that is creating opportunities for those in a position to grasp it. Technology has created a ton of new opportunities, and while Black people have a high propensity to invent technology or be innovative, our consumer spend is high.
If we could somehow flip the script to create a sort of supply and demand internally where we are driving the ideation, developing the products, creating the content, that would be fantastic. So then the question is (how do we get) access to the information. You shouldn’t have to go to Hollywood or Santa Monica or Austin for that matter to get information, it should be more accessible right here. We live in the entertainment capital of the world, and so we wanted to leverage that to create something for Leimert, for South LA. And by highlighting where tech and entertainment intersect, we feel we can create the most excitement leading to real change.
What will someone experience at the conference?
The core tenants we seek to address each year are centered on music, film and television, gaming, education, and culture. With that said, we have our panel, Music: Defining Pop Culture, which will look at how music is a main driver to pop culture and how to take advantage of the new pathways technology has enabled for artists to monetize.
Black Hollywood, our film and television panel, will look at how a new wave of content is being embraced by Hollywood. We will speak to the movers behind this and get their thoughts. What’s the business side? What’s driving this? How can I capitalize?
Our gaming offering, Get Paid or Played, takes on one of the biggest and fastest growing industries on the planet- E-sports. Multimillionaires are being made that are not even old enough to go to college, and colleges are starting to offer scholarships for their own e-sports teams to participate in that economy. That’s huge!! Besides, it’s gaming, and it’s fun.
Hacking Cannabiz will examine the new economy happening around Cannabis. It’s so dynamic and pervasive in southern California right now, with new laws and litigation making this industry an entrepreneur’s playground. We want to talk about the medicinal side of it, the business side, the corporatizing side, and some of the tech driving access. How do urban communities not just be consumers of it but become stakeholders?
And last but not least, is Black Genius, which will host thought leaders in the tech space and unpack new technologies, big data, and artificial intelligence.
We will also have several interactive experiences for attendees to engage with, and some surprises we have yet to announce. So stay tuned!
What do you want someone walk away from the conference with?
An experience like no other, unless you’ve been to the conference before (laughs). This is an energy, it’s electric. It’s a frequency, it’s like-mindedness, but on some empowerment vibe. It’s entertainment, it’s technology, it’s sexy. It’s forward thinking, you come out with a lift. And hopefully, you come out having met and made some good contacts; uncovered some new ways to think about your career; found some personal jewels of things to have in your tool belt to help you make better decisions in the future. And ideas about how you’re going to monetize your talent, how you’re going to move in the world.
What is TEC Leimert?
We are a non-profit organization that seeks to expose individuals to innovations in entertainment and technology through curated programming and connecting individuals in the South Los Angeles community to art and tech thought leaders.
We are members of the community who seek to preserve and uplift an area we find surprisingly lacking in comparable resources to other neighborhoods. We have a great team, made up of college students, urban professionals, entrepreneurs, and tech enthusiast, who work hard to make sure we provide relevant content.
Follow us on all your favorite social media hangouts for more exciting content. See you at the conference, and #tecyoself.