March 15, 2023
Six years ago to the month, a young, determined entrepreneur addressed the Forum. She was asked what Charlotte could do to attract more young, determined entrepreneurs to the city.
“I Iike real simple steps” she said. “I don’t think we need 20-40 page business plans. I don’t think we need to sit and meet a million times…. How can we reuse the spaces we already have?”
Sherrell Dorsey spoke of a Bronx storefront that was transformed into a vital community asset combining an Internet café, a training center where people could get their first tech job by testing software products for quality assurance – with the same space used at night as a place for beat cops to hang out and Xbox challenges to be held. “Can we replicate that?” she asked. “We can turn something that was maybe abandoned into something that everyone can be a part of.”
Later, Dorsey left for Atlanta, wrote books, gave keynote addresses, consulted, kept of lots of balls in the air. Today, she announced she would let one of them drop.
Going forward, there will be no “The Plug,” which had been being published for a year before she addressed the Forum. The Plug has helped dig into the decision-making that has left people of color vastly underrepresented in the tech industry. Her post said the paid subscribers would find a new home in another publication to be named later.
Dorsey is not one to mince words. In 2020 in The Plug and reprinted here, she reacted this way to the widespread corporate angst over George Floyd’s death:
“I predict the vast majority of those 190+ companies and CEOs that have shared a statement and donation in the name of Black Lives Matter will atrophy their commitments as the months fade away from our memories and business returns to usual. I predict that the lack of internal accountability will remind us that reading our syllabus is not worth it. That they will never see us as their peers, and that yes, we will still be required to do our work and eat from a place of disproportion.
“I’d like to be proven wrong, however, and for the leader of a futuristic society to be a deep systems thinker that has read our syllabus and has an appetite for emotional, empathetic, and the social intelligence to build the kind of tools we’ll need in the new world to ensure that everyone is fed.”
Rashaan Peek is chief of staff at Charlotte Center City Partners. She is a former director of BlkTech Interactive, which Dorsey founded in 2016 with Freda Hendley and Enovia Bedford. The project’s intellectual property was sold to Henry Rock and City Startup Labs in 2021.
“Sherrell is one of the pioneering voices in technology, equity, and information,” Peek wrote Wednesday. “The Plug has been a ‘literal’ resource for anyone interested in the State of Blacks in Technology, data, news, funding opportunities, and job postings. I am grateful to have been a subscriber and look forward to seeing what greatness Sherrell innovates next.”
Dorsey is one of six speakers at a TEDxBinghamtonUniversity event Sunday designed to “showcase speakers from various fields whose passion drives their work and their efforts at bettering their communities.”
Perhaps Dorsey will give Peek an inkling this weekend about Dorsey’s next venture – via a TEDx talk.