Black in Tech: How My Experiences With the Entertainment Industry Prepared Me For Pop Icon Clashes

By: Richard Willis, Jr.

When you’re the “lonely only” in a place, you feel it.

When you’re one of the only Black men in the space, you feel it even more.

It’s not unusual for Black men to feel like outliers in spaces that weren’t designed for them. Surely, there’s no shortage of thinkpieces on the thinly (or maybe not) veiled ravages of systemic racism. Whether overt or covert —and whether born of deliberate malice or well-meaning ignorance — the ravages of racism are still felt to this day.

A recent report from the Harvard Business School outlines what, exactly, systemic racism means for Black men in the tech sector. In 2018, according to Silicon Valley Bank, only 1% of venture capital dollars went to Black start-up founders and Black employees made up only 2.8% of Google’s technical roles and 4.8% of their entire workforce. More recently, Twitter reported that Black employees made up only 6% of their staff and Facebook reported that only 3.8% of their employees were Black.

All of this contributes to an environment that continues to be hostile toward African Americans, one

that tell us, “You are not welcome.”

Fortunately, though, I come to the table in this sector with a different type of experience: experience in the film, television, and music industries. I was the producer for the Hip Hop Hall of Fame Awards in 1996, at a time when Hip Hop wasn’t the mainstream cultural touchstone that it is today. I served as a producer for two critically acclaimed films, and I continue to forge a path in an industry that is notoriously exclusionary for men that look like me, sound like me, and act like me.

And now, I’m bringing that expertise to the tech sector with my new game, Pop Icon Clashes. I’ve teamed up with Ransom Notice to bring a unique user experience to gaming — think “Celebrity Death Match” meets stan wars — to unite one and all under the umbrella of gaming. No matter where we

come from, or what we’re up against, we all unite as one when we play a game together.

I know it won’t be easy. I know I will face things that no one should face. I know what is said about people that look like me behind closed doors.

I’ve been a Black man all my life.

But it doesn’t matter. If you’re not invited to a seat at the table, create your own table — and then feast with your family and true friends.

God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.

And I’m ready.

Richard Willis Jr. is an award-winning script writer, producer, and entertainment industry mogul who co- created Pop Icon Clashes with Brian Ransom of Ransom Notice. Download the app for Apple here, and for Android here.