Black Tech Conferences Canceled, Financial Losses Mount as COVID-19 Fears Spread (LIST)

Khalia Braswell was just about to book flights and hotel rooms to bring a group of middle school girls to the annual #BlackComputeHer conference in Washington, D.C. when she got the news: COVID-19 was pressing pause on the event.

Braswell, a computer science doctoral candidate at Temple University, is executive director of INTech Girls Camp based in Charlotte. Last year she began taking aspiring technology students from her program to the conference to further expose young Black girls to Black women mentors in the computer sciences. 

“BlackComputeHER is a conference that I look forward to every year because the community is unlike any other conference that I’ve been to. While I am glad that they’ve decided to postpone instead of canceling the event altogether, I was looking forward to attending in April and bringing our INTech community for the second year in a row, as our scholars were very excited to attend,” said Braswell. 

Earlier this week, organizers postponed the 2020 conference until further notice as the initial April 2–4 dates bumped up against what is still a very uncertain public health climate in the growing coronavirus pandemic. 

Five girls and two chaperones, including Braswell, will now stay grounded as efforts to curb social gatherings continue to mark the fate of declined travel and canceled events like SXSW which deteriorate major economic activity in cities that won’t see the revenue generated from the tourism and hospitality. 

“We’re out about $75,000. Hopefully, we can recoup half-ish if we reschedule by end of year,” said Quincy Brown, co-founder of the BlackComputeHer conference.

“It’s so hard to even predict when we should reschedule and whether canceling a second time will cost us money we really won’t have. We’re not the only ones and I can only imagine the losses for larger conferences.”

Shila Nieves, a fund manager with Zane Venture Fund in Atlanta, was scheduled to host the Founders Roadmap Forum next week in NYC, but was forced to move the discussion to a digital experience. Two of the scheduled in-person events included a VIP reception for founders and funders with a full day of programming for founders. 

“The change really slowed down the momentum of the work we have scheduled for the diverse founder community. So, we lose the opportunity to scale our work economically,” said Nieves. 

Others in the same realm of gathering Black techies together for training and networking were also put on hold. Total economic losses remain uncertain for these niche group conferences. 

Sherrell Dorsey

She is the founder and CEO of The Plug—a distinctive, Black tech news and insights platform covering Black innovators in tech, venture capital, future of work policy, and more. Follow Sherrell on Twitter @Sherrell_Dorsey.