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Howard Hosts Fifth Annual Black Blockchain Technology Summit 

Black Blockchain attendees conversing at the Black Blockchain summit in Howard University’s Interdisciplinary Research building on Georgia Avenue. Photo by Sariah Adams.

Howard University hosted its 5th annual Black Blockchain Summit. The Black Blockchain summit is a conference that brings people together to learn and connect with other Black people about the Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency spaces. Student organization DAO labs (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) also began its first hackathon and pitch competition at the summit.

From Sept. 22 to Sept. 24, The 5th annual Black Blockchain Summit commenced at Howard University’s Interdisciplinary Research building located on Georgia Avenue with hundreds of people in attendance. The summit included an array of fireside chats, discussion panelists and presenters with various backgrounds discussing topics about blockchain technology, investing, software development, research, policy, education and the ways Black people and people of the African diaspora can use them to their advantage in social, economic and environmental settings. 

According to Harvard Business Review, “…blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. The ledger itself can also be programmed to trigger transactions automatically.” Blockchain technology is notable for its role with cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. Blockchain is known for maintaining secure and decentralized records of transactions.

The Black Blockchain Summit first began in 2018 and was organized by Sinclair Skinner, an entrepreneur, mechanical engineer, and Howard alumnus. This year’s summit also included a memorial service held to honor the founder, STEM advocate and Howard alumnus, Dr. Gary L. Harris for his contributions to creating a space for Black innovators and students in these spaces. 

Many of the panelists included companies such as Gemini, Galaxy, Citi, Bithub.Africa, Blockchain Association, the Black Woman Blockchain Council and numerous Black owned start-up companies. 

Skinner emphasized the importance of exposing and educating the Black community to these topics for the purpose of liberation and having ownership.  

“It’s 1.5 billion Black people on the planet. That’s a good amount of folks, if we can liberate that, we can probably help liberate everybody else,” Skinner said. 

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“Literally, we think it’s important to use every tool we have available to use for this liberation and one of those tools we think is the blockchain,” he said. “This particular technology is super scaleable and gives us the opportunity to leverage that and liberate as many of our people as possible.”

A panel in session from the Black Blockchain summit. [from left to right] Cleave Mesidor, Aaron Klein, Shay Hawkins and Chris Brummer.  Photo by Sariah Adams.

While speaking on a panel, Executive Director of the Blockchain Foundation Cleave Mesidor said, “We have Black people coming from all over the country, from Ohio… El Paso, from everywhere, but we also have, you know, a delegation coming from the continent of Africa” She has focused on working with cryptocurrency for six years and spoke about the importance of Black and Brown individuals being included into the Blockchain and cryptocurrency industries. 

 “Black and Latino people are using Blockchain technology to solve problems, to tackle inequalities. For us, it has always been about ownership and empowerment. It’s about creating opportunity and that’s what this conference is about.” 

In addition to the summit, HU DAO Labs, a Howard student organization, hosted its first Yardhack and Pitch competition from 7 p.m. on Sept. 23 to 2 p.m. Sept. 24. The object of the competition was to incorporate a system called Whive.io, an open source peer-to-peer blockchain protocol, by whatever means they chose. 

Team 3 Yardhack winners. Junior Micheal Scholis to the left. Junior Olivia Washington in the middle. Junior Annia Matthews to the right. Photo by Sariah Adams.

Team 3, the winners of HU DAO Labs first YardHack, pitched their product called NAC (Notarized Art Co-op) composed of Junior Micheal Scholis, Junior Annia Matthews and Junior Olivia Washington. 

When asked for the inspiration and how the team developed the concept within the limited timespan, one team member, Michael Scholis, a 21 year-old junior interdisciplinary studies major from Monterey, California, explained how the idea was already in the works. 

“If I’m being honest, I’ve been thinking about this since last spring at our event called Future Proof. So, it’s been in the works throughout the summer,” Scholis said.

“So this is a platform for us, a platform for us to speak in a space that’s comfortable and open to hearing us and that is receptive to our ideas. We had some interest in continuing this idea with  the consulting and further investment,” he said. 

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Team member Olivia Washington and Annia Matthews agreed and expressed that this experience would be something that they take with them as they continue their journey with HU DAO labs. 

“For me personally I was like ‘ I have nothing to do with this, I don’t belong in this space,’…it just opened my eyes to the possibilities of the DAO” Olivia Washington, a junior marketing major said. “You don’t have to know anything about Web3, you could have learned about it yesterday and you still have the opportunity in the space, it’s been really encouraging and I feel great. 

Araj Shah, a 19-year-old freshman computer science major from Nepal said. The team he was a part of, Team 2, placed second in the competition.

“The feedback was pretty good. I mean, we worked pretty hard and we were expecting the first place, but it’s okay,” Shah said. “ I feel what we’ve done is really good and I’m really proud of our team. And what we’ve done and we look forward to working on it more.”

Another member on Team 2, 20-year-old freshman computer science major from Nepal Rahual Rai, agreed with Shah on the positive experience they gained. 

“At the end of the day, it was the friendship we made along the way,” Shah said.

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HU DAO labs is working on ensuring engagement with members and that everyone is aware of the opportunities to attend events similar to this year’s Black Blockchain summit. In the past, the summit has been hosted many times on Howard’s campus and will be held again next year at Howard University, the date at which is unspecified.  

Team 2 Yardhack runner-ups. Araj Shah in the middle with a cream shirt. Subrabhat Rijal to the right in a red hoodie. Rahual Rai to the left in a green shirt. Photo by Sariah Adams.
Team 3 third place in YardHack. Photo courtesy of Sariah Adams.

Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee

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