So far this month, we’ve covered a lot of Black tech history. We started by highlighting some of the world’s forefront woman innovators and inventors, learned about just a few pieces of technology created by Black people, and discussed some of the organizations and companies that are helping to bridge the equity gap in the tech world.
With technology being introduced and integrated into life younger than ever, Millennials and generation z are taking the lead on the next wave of technology and innovation. From biotech to SaaS, entrepreneurship to nonprofits, the leaps and bounds from the 38 and younger crowd are indicative of great things to come. For the last installment of our Black History Month blog series, we want to look towards the future of tech and highlight some of the young innovators in the industry.
Blessing Adesiyan helping caregivers balance work and life
A young single mother, Blessing Adesiyan became intimately familiar with the unique struggles that caregivers face when trying to balance their responsibilities at home and in the office. Frustrated with the chronic lack of compassion and unwillingness to accommodate caregiver’s situations at her first post college job, Adesiyan created Mother Honestly to help employees get the support they need.
What started as an effort to aid mothers and parents specifically has turned into a resource for caregivers of any type. The company was renamed to MH Work Life to better portray their message in 2022. MH Work Life acts as a “virtual wallet” and middleman between benefits and employers. Employees can link their personal debit card to their MH Work Life account, which scans for benefit related expenses that can be reimbursed by their employer. On the back end, employers are able to access valuable data that allows them to see what benefits employees are using the most. This allows them to allocate funds towards the benefits employees need most. Adesiyan also founded WorkLife Africa, which provides “actionable and data-backed strategies to government agencies, corporate leaders, and employee resource groups” (WorkLife Africa). Through both of her companies, Adesiyan has helped countless caregivers receive the benefits they need while giving organizations the insight to support them.
Dasia Taylor and her color changing sutures
If you need some reassurance that the kids are all right, look no further than the science fair. Two years ago, high school senior Dasia Taylor became a finalist at the countries most prestigious science competition, the Regeneron Science Talent Search, for developing sutures that change color in the presence of an infection.
Taylor, as told by Smithsonian, was inspired to create a better way of identifying post surgical infections after learning about the especially high rates present in developing countries, specifically for mothers after receiving c-sections. She wanted to create a solution that was not only effective but accessible to communities without the funds for high-tech options. She discovered that the color of beet juice changed in the presence of an abnormally high pH, going from bright red to dark purple. The pH that causes this change is the exact same one that becomes present when a wound is infected. Taylor found that the beet juice could be soaked into cotton-polyester blend sutures to yield the perfect result.
Now a student at the University of Iowa, Taylor has submitted a patent for her sutures that, pending its approval, she’ll use to continue her development and help distribute them to communities in need.
Jewel Burks Solomon sale of Partpic to Amazon
Success is no stranger to Jewel Burks Solomon. After graduating from Howard University in 2012, Burks Solomon noticed that the process of identifying parts was clunky and inefficient for industrial manufacturers. While working at Google in 2013, she and her co-founder decided to create Partpic, a technology that was able to identify and locate parts that customers needed through a simple photo submission. In 2016 at only 27 Burks Solomon sold her technology to Amazon where it was renamed to Amazon PartFinder. After the sale, she quit working at Google to help Amazon integrate Partpic’s technology into their framework.
A couple years after the sale in 2019, she was offered a job as the head of Google’s new division, Google for Startups. In her current position, Burks Solomon is able to help startups with underrepresented founders get their feet off the ground. The program provides networking opportunities, education, and has distributed $5 million in cash infusions to Black founders.
In addition to her work at Google, Burks Solomon continues giving back through her position on the board of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. The program helps underrepresented entrepreneurs effectively scale their businesses to enable sustainable growth.
David Moinina Sengeh’s prosthetic socket
Technology has made massive improvements in the area of prosthetic limb replacement. But following Sierra Leone’s civil war in the early 2000s, biomechatronics engineer David Moinina Sengeh noticed that the prosthetic options available to amputees were uncomfortable to the point of being unwearable.
After getting his bachelor’s from the Red Cross Nordic United World College in Norway, Sengeh began to work on his project as a PhD student in the MIT Media Lab. He worked with amputees from a variety of backgrounds to start developing a solution that would be both effective and comfortable. Using 3D printing, Sengeh developed a prosthetic limb socket that is personalized to each wearer through medical imaging and anatomy. Sengeh’s technology has made it so amputees can get full, pain free use out of their prosthetics.
After developing his invention, Sengeh has gone on to become the minister of basic and senior education in Sierra Leone. He also co-founded NGO Global Minimum Inc. (GMin), a competition to prompt scientific innovation and exploration for high-school students in Africa.
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Through this series, we’ve looked at a diverse array of inventors, entrepreneurs, and innovators in the Black community. But outside the very tight confines of a couple thousand-word articles, we need to look behind the curtains and face what’s going on in the real world. The chronic lack of investment in minority communities across America has barred millions from the same resources and opportunities that white communities have been handed for centuries. We can highlight as many minds, contributions, and creations as we’d like, but it doesn’t change the fact that part of the reason these stories are so inspiring is because they took place in spite of a system that does everything it can to work against Black people, particularly Black women.
Black History Month is an opportunity for us to be mindful of these realities, and we thank you for taking the time to learn about some of the incredible Black innovators of modern history. As always, you can learn more about the people we’ve discussed at the links below.
Dasia Taylor - Smithsonian Magazine