Black History Month is upon us and ahead of this week’s Equitech Tuesday, I would like to shine a light on the legacy of innovation that exists in Baltimore.
Just like this Spotify playlist, Black Excellence lives here! Living legend Dr. James West, inventor of the electret microphone, holds over 250 patents (the most ever at Johns Hopkins University) and is a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. His legacy of innovation is represented by his daughter, Ellington West. She is one of only a few black women to raise over $1M in capital for Sonavi Labs, the company she co-founded and leads as their CEO.
From a living legend to a pioneer that left us far too young. Known as the ‘Father of the Blood Bank’, Dr. Charles Drew revolutionized blood storage and transfer. Spending 2 years at Morgan College (now Morgan State University) as a biology instructor and coach, he died from injuries suffered in a car crash at the age of 45. His legacy is represented by Dr. Liz Clayborne, co-founder and CEO of NasaClip, a revolutionary medical device created to stop nosebleeds and alleviate the cost and critical time waste associated with unnecessary ER visits.
Let there be light! Lewis Latimer is an inventor you probably didn’t learn about in school. His parents, George and Rebecca, who were 6 months pregnant with Lewis at the time, escaped slavery in northern Virginia and were defended in their trial as fugitives by Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass. Latimer would go on to be a draftsman for Thomas Edison contributing to the invention of the telephone and incandescent light bulb. His legacy is represented by Luke Cooper, former founder of Fixt and current Founding Managing Director of Latimer Ventures and Latimer House.
The first Black woman millionaire in America, Madam C.J. Walker was the parents’ 5th child and, born in 1867, the first to be born free following the Emancipation Proclamation. Walker would inspire a generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in the hair care industry, represented today by Baltimore-native Shawna Stepp-Jones, founder and CEO of Divaneering Labs, with their pioneering wig and weave drying technology Spundle and The MOST founder and CEO, Dawn Myers, whose product The Mint is advised by leaders Keurig and getting interest from major brands like L’Oréal and P&G.
From the first Black woman millionaire to the first Black woman billionaire, media mogul Oprah Winfrey got started on TV right here in Baltimore in 1976 with a show called “The People Are Talking”. We all know she went on to host the Oprah Winfrey Show from 1986 to 2011, start her OWN network that same year, and introduce her friend Wes Moore as Maryland’s first Black Governor in 2023. Well, now the people are talking about Crystal Berger, the founder and CEO of EBO, whose technology is “Uber-izing” talent booking for major networks and giving a voice to more diverse experts and influencers in media.
Black innovation is Baltimore’s history, present, and future. Baltimore’s renaissance includes the work being done to produce better access and outcomes for Black tech founders and our claim to the title: first Equitech city in the world.
“Born in Baltimore, Equitech is a thriving tech economy anchored by diverse leaders, equitable standards and practices, and a culture of belonging in tech.”
Let’s celebrate the legacy of innovation in Baltimore at a special Equitech Tuesday, 6 – 8:00 pm in Baltimore Peninsula (301 Mission Boulevard), kicked off by a live filming of the #1 Podcast in Baltimore, NoPixAfter Dark! Note: The NoPixAfterDark Podcast & Equitech Tuesday event is currently sold out. There will be a few additional spots available on a first-come first-serve basis. We cannot guarantee seating if you did not RSVP.
See you there!
P.S. For Baltimore region startup founders: UpSurge Baltimore is supporting a Morgan State research study on entrepreneurship, and we want to hear from you! This survey is an opportunity for Baltimore-area startup founders to share their experience and attitudes, and elevate their business’ visibility across the Baltimore ecosystem. Click here to learn more about the survey and incentives for completion. Take the Survey!
Don’t forget to 📸 a picture while you are there and #ThisIsEquitech when you post!