By Jeneva Hall
This past month we reflected on the contributions of black people throughout history, their resilience, and their ongoing struggles for equality and justice. Our goal for Black History Month was to raise awareness and appreciation for the rich and diverse heritage of black culture through a series of events and activities that showed how black artists, scientists, writers, and inventors have made a powerful difference in the world over time. We were thrilled to see so many Jam Citizens commemorate this important month.
We highlighted 28 black inventors and asked Nwaka Onwusa, the first African American Chief Curator and Vice President of Curatorial Affairs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to share her expertise. Michael Raeford, Director of Player Experience, provided a great presentation on the history of black characters and prolific black innovators in gaming. We also incorporated fun black history trivia to educate our employees on black music, arts, films, sports, and TV.
The black inventors we highlighted are a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of black Americans and black people worldwide. Despite confronting systemic racism and discrimination, black inventors have made significant contributions to the advancement of science, technology, and everyday household items throughout history.
Each day, we provided our Jam Citizens information about an inventor, their story, and the impact of their invention. Many of these inventors were sometimes overlooked, unable to reveal their true identity, or denied the right to be credited for their inventions. Here are some notable black inventors and their inventions:
Nwaka Onwusa spoke about the importance of preserving black history and the challenges that come with curating exhibits that accurately represent not only black musicians but also bipoc artistry. Her talk was enlightening and inspiring, and it gave us a deeper appreciation for the work that goes into creating museum exhibits. Nwaka is a storyteller, historian, and educator who represents what it means to uplift the voices and history of those who are unable to tell their stories.
Inclusivity in Games
For many years, black characters in video games were either absent altogether or perpetuate harmful stereotypes and reinforced negative perceptions. “Black History in Gaming: The Contribution, the Characters, and the Challenges” by Michael Raeford looked at the history of black characters in games, the groundbreaking work of Gerald “Jerry” Lawson, and the best practices for making diverse characters in games.
Gerald “Jerry” Lawson was a self-taught engineer who worked towards fair representation in gaming. Lawson is best known for his groundbreaking work on the Fairchild Channel F console, which was released in 1976.
Creating diverse characters is an ongoing process, and it is important for developers to continue to engage with diverse communities and strive for authenticity and inclusivity in their work. As a developer, here are some important things to consider when creating diverse characters:
As we move forward, we plan to continue promoting and celebrating black history beyond February.We are exploring new ways to educate ourselves and others about the experiences of others and to amplify their voices within our organization and in the wider gaming community. We recognize that this work requires ongoing effort, and we are dedicated to making it a priority.