Prominent filmmaker to headline return of Black Tech Week to Cincy

Filmmaker and social justice advocate Ava DuVernay will headline a star-studded lineup of prominent African American leaders in the technology and innovation spaces when Black Tech Week returns to Cincinnati this summer.

Black Tech Week brings together investors, entrepreneurs, tech professionals and creatives from across the United States for several days of curated content, social events and incredible energy. Beyond offering a showcase to highlight talents and big ideas, the conference offers a forum to discuss – and address – diversity and inclusion within the tech sector.

Since its inception in 2015, the annual technology showcase has grown into a cornerstone event for the industry, attracting thousands of attendees from around the globe. The event relocated from Miami to Cincinnati in 2022.

This year’s event – July 16-18 – is taking place at its new home, the Aronoff Center for the Arts in downtown. DuVernay will be on center stage.

DuVernay has directed films such as “Selma,” “13th” and the critically acclaimed series “When They See Us.” Her storytelling has earned her numerous accolades, including an Academy Award nomination and multiple Emmy Awards. She’s also a founder, creating the an independent distribution company ARRAY.

“We are deeply honored to welcome Ava DuVernay as the keynote speaker for Black Tech Week 2024,” said Candice Matthews, owner and operator of the event. 

“Ava’s dedication to creating opportunities and platforms for people of color aligns deeply with our commitment to supporting diverse founders,” she continued. “Her insights and experiences will certainly inspire our attendees to continue pushing boundaries to drive change.”

Investing in the Queen City

Black Tech Week is a culture-driven celebration of creativity, innovation and connectivity, according to Matthews, co-founder and CEO of Cincinnati-based Lightship Capital and its nonprofit arm, Lightship Foundation.

Matthews described Cincinnati as the perfect backdrop for the event. The city is known for its vibrant culture and growing tech scene, such as the University of Cincinnati and its 1819 Innovation Lab, REDI Cincinnati, Main Street Ventures, Cintrifuse, the Cincinnati Innovation District, Social Venture Partners, Aviatra Accelerators, to name a few.

She also noted the enthusiastic support local business and government leaders have shown in embracing the conference’s mission and contributing to its success.

In December, representatives from Cincinnati City Hall and community organizations came together to announce that after an extensive nationwide search for a possible new home, Black Tech Week would remain in Southwest Ohio for at least the next two years.

Candice Matthews

Matthews said at the time that partners such as the city, Jobs Ohio and others presented a “compelling proposal” that made them feel “welcome and supported.” The proposal included details about the new-look Duke Energy Convention Center and surrounding Convention Center District. Matthews stressed that being able to relocate Black Tech Week to the Aronoff Center was crucial as the event continues to expand.

Black Tech Week attracted sold-out crowds of more than 3,000 attendees to Music Hall in both 2022 and 2023.

The conference generated an estimated $10 million in economic impact for the Greater Cincinnati region last year, according to the Lightship Foundation. An event spokesperson said Lightship arrived at that figure based on information provided by partner organizations and businesses including the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

“Lightship Foundation successfully brought Black Tech Week to Ohio several years ago and we’ve experienced what this powerful gathering of the tech community can do to ignite passion and inspire the future of the tech industry,” Jobs Ohio President and CEO J.P. Nauseef said in December. “The collaboration … to expand this important event and keep it in Cincinnati will continue to position Ohio as a leading state for black tech professionals and entrepreneurs.”

What to expect in 2024

Registration is now open for the 2024 Black Tech Week. As always, the schedule promises a mixture of tech-focused panel discussions, dozens of speakers, hands-on workshops and a range of formal and informal networking events across Cincinnati’s urban core.

As keynote speaker, DuVernay joins an illustrious group of leaders and influencers who’ve come before him/her. The list includes the likes of actress Issa Rey last year and tennis legend-turned-entrepreneur Serena Williams, who was the featured speaker in 2022.

Black Tech Week guests will enjoy a special screening of DuVernay’s latest work, “ORIGIN,” inspired by Isabel Wilkerson’s best-selling book “Caste,” which explores the mystery of history, the wonders of romance and a fight for the future of us all.

Black Tech Week plans to announce the lineup of speakers closer to the event date.

“Each year we work to make the experience more enjoyable and valuable for the founders, funders, students, professionals and creatives who travel from around the world to Cincinnati to be a part of the incredible energy surrounding Black Tech Week,” Matthews said. “I’m really looking forward to welcoming returning guests back, and meeting all those who will be joining us for their first time.”

 Black Tech Week 2024

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