How Black Inventors Have Made Life Better

November 27, 2022— I believe it’s very important to help youth develop a vision for their lives by exposing them to information about the bold and daring work of others. That’s why I am urging the readers of Arts & Culture Connections to share widely Black Inventors Got Game, a film and lively panel discussion featuring pioneering Black inventors.

Sponsored by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) as part of its November Standing in Solidarity series, the program was curated by the Black Inventors Hall of Fame Museum. You can watch the documentary at this link and watch the recording of the panel discussion here.

The panelists represented a diverse cross section of industries: Nicole Murphy, CEO of Barter Black; David Vonner, a toy designer known for Marvel superheroes and Mattel toys; Elliott Eddie, inventor of The Entrepreneur Game, and Albert White, internet pioneer and author of Race for the Net. Joseph Jones, the actor who provided the voiceover for the documentary, also participated in the panel.

These were my key takeaways from the film and panel discussion:

One of the amazing stories in the documentary was about the late Charles Harrison, a consumer products designer and the first black executive at Sears & Roebuck Co. Mr. Harrison was dyslexic, a diagnosis that didn’t exist at the time he was growing up, but he used it to forge a personal philosophy for his work—make things simple. He also had to drop out of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago because he didn’t have the resources to pay for his education Still, he broke through many barriers and became known as the “Jackie Robinson of industrial design.” Best known for his work on the View-Master, Mr. Harrison also designed the first rectangular, plastic trash bin with wheels, and created manufacturing processes that led to the heavy household machines becoming lighter, such as the Kenmore sewing machine and the portable hair dryer.

During the panel discussion, Ms. Murphy shared that she feels as if she needs to work extra hard as a woman in a male-dominated field. Mr. Vonner said he experienced marginalization based on age since he entered the industry as a young designer. Mr. Eddie discussed how he pushed back against people who wanted him to enter security or day laborer jobs and instead followed his passion for problem-solving and entrepreneurship. And Mr. White talked about how his company’s accomplishments in the early days of email were never recognized in spite of the technological revolution they ignited.

Mr. Jones noted that parents with African American children need to make a conscious effort to teach them Black history. “If you don’t understand the greatness of Black excellence, of your ancestors, those who walked before you, you’ll never have a vision of how great you can be,” he said.

These panelists, as well as the other inventors featured in the 30-minute film, overcame tremendous obstacles to pursue their dreams. Their stories of perseverance in the face of little support and limited financial resources represent the power of conviction and determined belief in their own dreams. The website of the Black Inventors Hall of Fame Museum also offers many more inspiring stories about Black inventors.

We can all benefit from learning about the work and contributions of Black inventors, especially youth. I hope you will help open this potential pathway to the future for as many people as possible by encouraging them to check out the film, panel and the website.

As always, I would like to know what you think. I invite you to share your thoughts and comments below. In what way were you impacted by learning about these Black inventors or viewing the Black Inventors Hall of Fame Museum website?

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