Jesse Williams: Ebroji was a way for Blacks to own a piece of the technology they made popular Actor, activist and Budding techpreneur speaks at 2017 Future of Wealth Summit

The Center for Global Policy Solutions’ 2017 Future of Wealth Summit attracted hundreds of people over the course of three days (April 26-28, 2017) for a much-needed dialogue about “Technology, Inclusion, and Social Change.”

Jesse Williams with moderator Ruben Harris.

Nearly three-dozen panelists from a range of backgrounds, professions, and disciplines guided the conversation – driving home the urgency for real solutions to the tech sector’s inclusion problem and for tech-based tools to lift up those who have historically been left behind.

The Opening Night Reception on Wednesday, April 26 featured the star-power of headlining speaker actor Jesse Williams and attorney and television personality Star Jones, who served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Journalist and tech entrepreneur Ruben Harris engaged Williams in a lively one-on-one in which the “Grey’s Anatomy” star focused on Ebroji, the gif-curating app he co-founded in response to the dearth of gifs that featured African-Americans and celebrated Black culture.

Star Jones introduces Jesse Williams and Ruben Harris.

“Like everything else in America, Black culture really drives the trending topics, conversations and phrasing … We wanted to do something that was fun, and something that embraced our culture and met our community where they were in terms of the language they use,” Williams said of the inspiration behind Ebroji.

He said starting the app was also a way for him and his team of co-founders to take ownership of a small piece of the tech pie. Black users are the lifeblood of social media, but they own few of the tech tools that power these platforms, he said.

The smartphone era has changed the nature of language, Williams said, with spoken words taking a backseat to texting and now gif’ing. The former grade-school teacher said he does not see the trend of abridged communication as necessarily harmful.

The crowd responds with applause to a point made by Jesse Williams during his one-on-one with Ruben Harris.

“Language can be simple without being reductive; it can be complex without being cluttered,” he said.

CGPS Solutions CEO Dr. Maya Rockeymoore welcomes guests to the 2017 Future of Wealth Summit.

Williams shouted-out users of social media for turning police shootings of Black men in cities like Ferguson, Mo., into international causes and criticized corporations, including Hollywood studios, for merely talking about inclusion instead of actually practicing it.

“This word called diversity is so meaningless to me,” he said. “(Just) stop excluding us … (Don’t) treat blackness as an act of aggression when we walk into the room.”

Watch the event in its entirety here.

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