Inclusion, Technology, Uncategorized

Blacks in Tech Make History in the State of Georgia

A Super Proud Moment in My Life & for the state of Georgia

I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010. I have met diplomats, Presidents, and other high level officials, traveled to 8 different countries representing the state of Georgia and been a part of some great legislative changes to help the 9 million Georgians within this state. But I have NEVER had a prouder moment, outside of being elected by my constituents, than I had on Nov. 8th, 2017 at Atlanta City Hall. Over 150 attendees flooded Atlanta City Hall Old Chambers for a historic event in the state of Georgia: The 1st EVER Georgia Blacks in Tech Policy Conference, an intersection of technology and innovation and policy making and policy makers. Epic is an understatement. (Pictured above: Me and co-chair Rodney Sampson before event.)

The Vision Is Born

So how did I come up with this event? Well, I had an opportunity to attend a blacks in tech networking event in Atlanta in May of this year. I expected there to be up to 100 blacks in tech at the event. But when I entered the room, there had to be almost 1,000 blacks involved in tech! Imagine my shock and excitement at the same time. The purpose of the event was to talk about the Atlanta black tech scene and how to move forward for creating better opportunities. After I heard presentation after presentation, while the suggestions were good, I realized there was something that was missing: policy. To be honest, for whatever reason, policy seems to almost ALWAYS be missing from the conversation whenever an industry in the black community wants to discuss change. Something had to be done to underscore the importance of involving policy makers in tech change. Luckily, I had to the ability to do something about this. And so I set to work.

NOTE: I had NO money, NO volunteers, NO co-chair, NO venue and NO way of knowing how I was going to pull this off in May of this year when I came up with this event so let me take the time to say THANK YOU to not only the planning committee, but each one of the sponsors that took a leap of faith to put their trust in me for this 1st time event.

Policy Meets Technology

No matter if you vote or who you voted for, policy affects us all….every last person in the United States and Georgia. So either you get in the game or you will find yourself only being able to talk about change without actually doing it. As it is often quoted in politics, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”

I was lucky to have been just featured in a Huffington Post article by Mr. Rodney Sampson, who is one of the most politically active technology personalities I know in Georgia. In this article, he listed 25 people best positioned to scale Atlanta’s growing inclusive technology ecosystem. I thought to myself that these individuals should form the Host committee for this historic event. No vetting necessary! I was off to a good start!

After some discussions with Rodney, he accepted my offer to become Co-Chair for this event. His participation was VITAL to it’s success. I can bring the policy makers to the table but if there is no tech credibility behind this venture in the black tech community, it’s dead on arrival. So what you ended up having for this event is a leader in state policy and a leader in tech joining forces for to advance the black tech ecosystem here in Georgia through policy. This conference was well on its way. So I booked Nov. 8th for use of the Georgia State Capitol House Chambers, appropriations room, South wing and 2 of its largest rooms. I was ready to go!

No pain, no gain

Here is the ugly truth, pure D.K. style: There are those that were scared and did not want a bunch of black people at the State Capitol. Period. End of story. Nothing can change my mind about that. And they had a reason to be scared; there is POWER in numbers and 30% of Georgia is black. And we were coming with specific, policy requests from influential technology leaders in the state. I was ruffling some feathers…as I tend to do at times.

Long story short, we ended up having to change the location from the Georgia State Capitol to Atlanta City Hall. To that end, I would like to personally thank Councilman Andre Dickens and his team, specifically Ali Carter, for whom I shall be eternally grateful for helping us through the location crisis. Kiona Byrd, Logistics Chair for the conference, helped tremendously being an employee of the City of Atlanta and working on the ground everyday. Their contributions to the success of this event cannot be overstated. (For those of you that are the Christian faith, Romans 8:28 comes to mind.)

Just when you thought an abrupt change in location would be the only catastrophe that happens when planning an event, there was more in store. ANY and EVERYTHING that could go WRONG with a conference, went wrong with this one. Ladies and gentlemen, I am NOT exaggerating. And although I have planned literally thousands of events, all with their own hiccups and problems, this conference has specifically prepared me to take on ANYTHING I may encounter for future events. And for that reason, I “count it all joy” each of the problems below.

  • I had a large sponsor who tried to get out of sponsoring, i.e. paying the money, for the event at the last minute after almost 2 months of promoting and expenses incurred. Luckily, that was resolved rather quickly.
  • I lost members of the planning committee. When I say “lost”, I mean they either decided that they could no longer participate or were removed from the committee. We went from 26 people who wanted to “help” to 10, the “Talented Ten”. My standards of execution, even if on a volunteer basis, are remarkably high. I don’t do mediocre.
  • I had a caterer charge my credit card for an amount I didn’t authorize and having to wait days for it to credit back to my account. Ultimately, we went another more FABULOUS caterer.
  • The program and policy proposals had to be updated several times due to unread emails and misunderstandings. This cost us time and money—neither of which we had much to spare as a planning committee. We eventually got it all worked out.

I have never had an event where I have experienced every type of emotion there is to experience: happiness, sadness, excitement, anxiety, frustration, anger, delight, and everything in between. It was quite a learning experience—-but keep reading! It was well worth it.

In the end, we did it!

However, after all of the above, we did it! (Pictured above with Ali Carter from Councilman Andre Dickens office, Planning committee member/Logistics Chair Kiona Byrd, myself, Rodney Sampson, conference Co-Chair and Councilman Andre Dickens present us with proclamations from the Atlanta City Council.)

  • Over 305 registrants, 105 attendees
  • 27 GA legislators
  • Over 25 volunteers, including 12 full time volunteers on the planning committee
  • 14 black tech vendors displaying products or services
  • 13 sponsors, including TriNet and Microsoft
  • 8 superstar honorees making a significant impact in the Atlanta black ecosystem
  • Press: 1 interview on WABE-FM’s “Closer Look” with black tech entrepreneur Ben McFarlin, GA House Press Release and Article in On Common Ground News and UrbanGeekz article (more to come in the following weeks and will be posted on webpage)
  • Comprehensive and direct policy proposals for consideration by members of the Georgia General Assembly made up of 180 House Representatives, of which I am one, and 56 Senators

Call to Action: We are not done!

What I told attendees at the conference is what I am telling you all reading this: We are not done! The conference was only the beginning—policy proposals are one thing; getting them introduced and passed are a whole DIFFERENT ballgame. We need your continued involvement to see positive change in the state.

I invite you to sign up for my enewsletter and to join the Facebook group to stay informed about what is going on from blacks in tech from a policy perspective. I will also upload future pictures from the event and video once available.

Additionally, I have developed a follow up “Day of Action” and on the same day a Communications & Tech Symposium, hosted by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. These are two (2) separate events so if you would like to attend BOTH, please separately register for BOTH.

I hope to see you Feb. 6th under the Gold Dome!

Looking Ahead to 2018: Join the planning committee or sponsor

THANK YOU to everyone that made this historic event possible. And certainly a big THANK YOU to the sponsors and even more THANK YOU to the planning committee, all of whom you can see their pictures and some bios on my webpage.

As we look ahead to the 2nd Annual GA Blacks in Tech Policy Conference, I could not be more excited about making the conference BIGGER and BETTER in 2018. You can always visit my webpage for opportunities to join the planning committee or to sponsor next year’s event. I hope to see you all under the Gold Dome in the fall of 2018!

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I am Chief Diversity Activist and Consultant of Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC. We curate and execute customized initiatives, programs and events for organizations to meet their specific diversity & inclusion objectives and provide results. Visit us online to request me as a speaker, set up a time to chat about your diversity goals or view upcoming events.

I practiced private securities law for over a decade before this transition to more meaningful work. I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond. 

I serve as a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development society, Founder and Board Chair of Minority Access to Capital, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to educating and empowering minorities on how to access capital to grow their business and create generational wealth and I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010, serving over 54,000 Georgians in DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties each year at the State Capitol.

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Politics, Uncategorized

Georgia Governor’s Race Has 2 Super Heroes…and they both happen to be women

Super women reside in Georgia

You may have heard that it’s that time of year in Georgia —the time to pick the next Governor for the State of Georgia. You may also have heard that the movie “Wonder Woman” opened up last week with rave reviews and topping box offices. (Source) Well, what you may not realize is that we have many “wonder women” right here Georgia. They are in every level of government from both parties. So, you don’t have to look to Hollywood to be inspired. There are super women all around you. However, I’m especially proud to announce that we have 2 super heroes running for Governor…and they happen to be women.

Now as good lawyer let me give you what may be a SHOCKING disclaimer: I am a Georgia bred, fierce Democrat. But this article is not about partisanship—-I am writing to celebrate diversity in our political process. We have 2 wonderful women running for Governor on the Democratic side that I want to highlight. (Sidenote: If you know of anyone other than a white male running on the Republican side, please let me know. I’ll be waiting…)

Noted candidates on the Republican side include Senator Michael Williams (pictured above) whom just served with me on a TAG Corporate Development Society event on Venture Capital, current Secretary of State Brian Kemp who has moderated a TAG Corporate Development Society panel, current Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and Senator Hunter Hill. And I am proud to say that I personally know them both, having served with them both for the past 6 years in the Georgia House of Representatives. It’s a lot of “Girl Power” that’s about to be unleashed. Are you ready?

Why am I so excited about this race?

It’s Georgia. It’s in the DEEP South. You know, home of Dr. King AND the KKK. Georgia elected its first Governor in 1776, Governor Archibald Bulloch. Fast forward 241 years and you will see something very consistent….and not in a good way. ALL. WHITE. MEN. (Source) Come on folks. It’s 2017. We just finished 8 wonderful (I warned you I was partisan) years of the first black President of the United States, President Barack Obama. And we almost….almost….*sheds tears…..elected our first woman President. I’m excited about the prospects of a change in the Governor’s mansion in Georgia. This is particularly since “progressive” is not necessarily the adjective that comes to mind when people think about my dear home state. And I am not just saying you should support them just because they are women—-but they are QUALIFIED women. THAT should excite you, especially if you are another woman. Now in yet another disclaimer (lawyers are good at those), I am supporting Stacey Evans for Governor for a variety of reasons. But I could not be prouder of these 2 super hero women that I have served with for the last six (6) years.

Introducing the 2 super heroes: Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and House Democratic Caucus Chair Stacey Evans

“The Year of the Stacey”

Let’s get rid of the OBVIOUS elephant (or donkey depending on your political preference) in the room. Yes, both of them are named Stacey. What are the chances right? It’s the “Year of the Stacey” here in Georgia apparently. If your name is “Stacey”, you should be proud. These are amazing women. Both caring, both super smart, both young and did I mention both women?

Stacey “Barrier Breaker” Abrams

Have you met Stacey? If you have, I assure you you’d remember it. She’s very witty—and I think I am pretty witty but she gives me a run for my money. She is currently my House Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, leading 62 Democrats in an 180 member House. I have often remarked that I don’t see how she does it. Leading followers is one thing; leading other leaders is a task that seems terribly impossible and exhausting. But she was up for the job and was elected to lead our caucus in 2010, when I was first elected.

Current title: Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives

Elected Since: 2006

Residence: DeKalb County (where I was raised and currently serve)

Profession: Tax attorney (Attorneys that understand math are the world’s 8th wonder of the world) and romantic suspense novelist (that’s just bada**)

My Memory of Stacey: When she drove “all the way to Lithonia” (which note is NOT as far as you ITP [Inside the Perimeter] people think) for a fundraiser breakfast at my House. She’s the Leader so I am sure she was extremely busy that day and could have went elsewhere. Since then, I am the legislator that lives “out there” which is fine. I know where the Governor’s Mansion is—and I accept invitations.

Her Superhero Powers: The ability to SHUT DOWN illogical arguments. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or one of those tree people, when Stacey rises to ask you a question on the floor or in committee, you had BETTER have your arguments and facts together. No “fake news” will be getting past her. You can disagree with her politically—just make sure it makes sense and you can back it up. Otherwise, by the time you are done, you’ll leave retreating with your tail between your legs. I’ve seen it happen numerous times folks. It’s not a pretty sight.

More about her campaign: Stacey Abrams for Governor

Stacey “Hope for All” Evans

Again, have you met Stacey? If you have, I assure you you’d remember it. She is currently my House Minority Caucus Chair in the Georgia House of Representatives, chairing 62 Democrats in an 180 member House. We were elected at the same time in 2010 and sworn in in 2011. Stacey Evans and I have a lllloonnnnggggg history. We both served in Young Democrats of Georgia at the same time. We also both went to UGA law, although not at the same time. We both went through the White House Project’s “Go Georgia Run” program. Also, we both ran for office at the same time and both got elected at the same time.

Current title: Minority House Caucus Chair of the Georgia House of Representatives

Elected Since: 2010

Residence: Cobb County, which went to Hillary this last cycle (Source) and home of the new Braves stadium

Profession: Securities Litigation Attorney (Since I do securities work as a lawyer, we speak the same language which is refreshing.)

My Memory of Stacey: Lots of them as a personal friend. But most memorable was as a 19 year old sophomore at Oglethorpe University. I interviewed for a position with Young Democrats of Georgia as their Youth Coordinator for the 2002 cycle (ugh—the bad memories of THAT political beating). Anyway, I entered a room at the Democratic Party of Georgia headquarters when it was off Spring Street in Atlanta. There at a table were 3 people: Tharon Johnson, Rashad Taylor and Stacey Godfrey, as was her name at the time. Long story short, they gave me my first political job! Since that time, there have been baby showers, karaoke (we have done a Salt and Pepper duet that will go down in history) and weddings that we have shared. My latest memory is Stacey being on a panel I put together for the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Corporate Development Society, where I serve on the Board, to discuss venture capital policy in Georgia. She didn’t have to take time out her busy day and away from her daughter Ashley, (whom I refer to as “Little Dar’shun”), but she did.

Her Superhero Powers: The ability to WORK WITH Republicans. Now, anyone who knows me know I am a work in progress when it comes to this. Luckily, Stacey has figured out how to work with people of different perspectives and sometimes annoying reasons. Because of this, she has been able to pass some meaningful legislation. The biggest of these were the HOPE Scholarship and Grant reforms in 2011 and other pieces of HOPE legislation during that time. (Source) For those of you that don’t know, HOPE is Georgia’s scholarship program for Georgia students based on merit that gives scholarships and grants to high school students if certain GPA requirements are met. (See more info) Listen, the reality is that this is admirable and necessary in a state that is currently controlled by Republicans in the House, Senate, Governor’s mansion and EVERY STATE CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICER. Now hopefully that changes soon…very soon. But until then, it is what it is.

More about her campaign: Stacey Evans for Governor

Wrap Up, Call to Action

Maybe I am over exaggerating over the prospects of having Georgia’s first female Governor or, hold on to your seat, our first female AND African American Governor. Maybe because of my “day job” and civic volunteerism, I see the disparity and gap in quality policies that affect me as a woman because women aren’t at the table making the decisions. But maybe, just maybe, this is an opportunity to rally around smart, capable, experienced women to give a new perspective to Georgia politics. It’s probably a combination of all these things.

Either way, I’m ready for the “Year of the Staceys” for 2017 into election year of 2018. I hope you will consider expanding your horizons to consider supporting diversity in ALL levels of local, state and federal government. We do well as a state and nation when we have a variety of opinions and perspectives within the halls of power.

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I am a Diversity Consultant & Owner of Kendrick Advisory and Advocacy Group L.L.C. providing “hands on” consulting services to organizations that want to promote diversity in business and government decisions. More information can be found online at www.DarshunKendrick.com about our vision for “Driving Diversity in Decisions.” I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Inclusive Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond.

I am a lawyer by trade, owner of Kendrick Law Practice, business attorney. I have 2 B.A.s from Oglethorpe University (2004), a law degree from the University of Georgia (2007) and a Master in Business Administration (2011).

I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives serving East DeKalb and South Gwinnett counties since 2011 where I serve as the ranking Democrat on the Small Business and Job Creation committee and chair the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Economic Development Committee.

In my spare time, I am also a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development board, the first sitting legislator to sit on any TAG board, and I am also the founder and Board Chair of a non-profit organization to EDUCATE and EMPOWER minorities on capital access called Minority Access to Capital, Inc.

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Policy

HIV/AIDS in Georgia: Startling facts & call to action!

AIDs Day.jpg

*Friday at 10:30 am I will be moderating a panel on “HIV and Black Women” so please join me under the Gold Dome for an insightful discussion on this important issue.

By now you know that World Aids Day was Tuesday, December 1st. One of the sayings on the World Aids Day organization’s website is “Kisses and Hugs Don’t Spread HIV. Ignorance Does.” Isn’t that the truth? The statistics and survival rates of HIV/AIDS patients has evolved since the 80s but more must be done by way of education to young adults and the population in Georgia specifically.

So here are a few facts you may not have known about HIV and AIDS specifically as it relates to Georgia.

  • Infection rates are high in Georgia and metro Atlanta, with metro-Atlanta ranked 5th in the country for new cases of HIV/Aids
  • Of the 19 public health districts in Georgia, 9 had an HIV/AIDS case rate above the national average.
  • Men who have had sex with men still represent the largest group of people living with HIV in metro Atlanta at 55%.
  • 16% of HIV/AIDS cases result from injection drug use, and the proportion of AIDS in women has grown from 4% to 19% since 1987.
  • While African Americans make up only 29% of Georgia’s population, they represent 77% of all new HIV/AIDS cases and 63% of all existing HIV/AIDS cases in Atlanta were among this group.
  •  Only 43.6% of Georgia residents diagnosed with HIV in 2011 were retained in HIV care, giving it the seventh worst ranking for retention in HIV medical care when ranked among the 19 jurisdictions (18 states plus District of Columbia) that have data for comparison.
  • Among HIV-positive Georgia residents who received HIV care at least once in 2010, only 54.9% had achieved viral suppression. Also, Georgia had the second worst statistic for viral suppression when ranked among 19 jurisdictions that have data for comparison.
  • According to Grady Hospital, by the time patients are diagnosed in Atlanta, almost one third have advanced to clinical AIDS, which greatly decreases the chances of survival from the virus.
  • African American women account for 87% of all women with HIV/AIDS in Atlanta.
  • 50% of new HIV/AIDS infections in Georgia are occurring in young adults age 16-24 years old.
  • According to Grady Hospital, by the time patients are diagnosed in Atlanta, almost one third have advanced to clinical AIDS, which greatly decreases the chances of survival from the virus.
  • Only 43.6% of Georgia residents diagnosed with HIV in 2011 were retained in HIV care, giving it the seventh worst ranking for retention in HIV medical care when ranked among the 19 jurisdictions (18 states plus District of Columbia) that have data for comparison.
  • Among HIV-positive Georgia residents who received HIV care at least once in 2010, only 54.9% had achieved viral suppression. Also, Georgia had the second worst statistic for viral suppression when ranked among 19 jurisdictions that have data for comparison.
  • According to Emory University, black gay men in Atlanta have a 60% chance of contracting HIV before their 30th birthday (Emory University)

Source: Community Foundation for the Greater Atlanta and the Georgia Department of Public Health (last accessed December 8, 2015)

Learn these facts and more about how policy makers will address this issue starting tomorrow under the Gold Dome. Join me and others to tackle this tough issue.

Discussion Question: What can state policy makers do, individually or collectively, to raise more awareness about this epidemic in Georgia?

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2015 At Desk

I have been elected to the House of Representatives since 2011, representing over 54,000 Georgians in East DeKalb and South Gwinnett counties. I currently serve on the Juvenile Justice, Interstate Cooperation, Judiciary Non-Civil, and as the ranking Democrat on the Small Business Development and Job Creation committee. I am a private securities lawyer by profession and a native of Atlanta, GA. Please visit my website , YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and slideshare account for more information on Georgia government.

 

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