A Great Day in Harlem - written by Larry Irving

There is an iconic photo entitled “A Great Day in Harlem”. It chronicles a gathering of almost all of the great jazz musicians from the late 1950s.

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Last week there was another “Great Day in Harlem” as Silicon Harlem held their first summit. It was a wonderful event and a wonderfully diverse event with men and women of every ethnicity and every profession gathered to discuss how to better utilize technology in Harlem and to discuss what will be needed to turn Harlem into atechnology hub. Attendees included one of the most senior members of Congress, the former chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; The Manhattan Borough President; the head of the Economic Development Office for the Mayor of NYC; a senior member of the State Dept. staff and representatives of the Commerce Dept., FCC and major city and regional universities. Also in attendance were bankers and journalists and entrepreneurs and real estate developers and technologists. It probably was the most diverse tech conference I ever have attended in the past 30 years.

Sadly, this wonderful event had absolutely no support from the technology community or any major philanthropy. I mean ZERO support. No one from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Samsung or even any of the myriad Silicon Alley (NYC based) companies or any of the NYC or Silicon Valley venture firms could take a train ride uptown (they all have NYC offices) to discuss technology and economic development or tech and the arts or tech and education or tech policy or tech and entrepreneurship. NOT ONE tech company invested in this event or could be bothered to attend. Not one. Not one…

So, the next time you hear a tech company exec lament that they can’t find minority talent or minority ventures to invest in or minorities interested in doing business with them, remind them that they could have had a “Great Day in Harlem”. There were dozens of talented, credentialed and experienced young people of every ethnicity with whom they could have engaged. It was just as disappointing to witness a total absence of support from major foundations and philanthropies. If folks truly want more diversity, these are precisely the type of events that need and deserve support.

Silicon Harlem will continue to grow. I hope the tech community will figure out a way to participate. If you know anyone in that community, tell him or her that if they attend next year I will spring for the cost of a ride on the IRT or if they bring some friends I will pay for a trip via Uber… October 2015 there is going to be another Great Day in Harlem. Harlem will be there. Will Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley join in? Or will they continue to mouth platitudes about diversity with little or no actual investment in efforts at inclusion?

 

Larry Irving - Bio