Miami Techies Step It Up For Houston Flood Victims, Black Nerds

Written by Carol Thomson

Every Monday they meet in Wynwood Yard, one of the trendiest spots in Miami’s art district — home to a handful of food trucks, a bar, a garden, a restaurant and an open space with a diverse lineup of weekly programming.

One of those programs is a live talk show called Tech, Beats and Bytes, offering Wynwood Yard as a refuge for the city’s black nerds. The live talk show usually touches on the three topics suggested by its name.

“Innovation and technology is the ‘tech’ part. ‘Beats’ is entertainment, media and music and the ‘bytes’ is a play on words to represent food but to also talk about bites of information for things going on in the community,” said co-host Michael Hall of Digital Grass.

Digital Grassroots Innovation & Technology is dedicated to establishing a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Florida, working to bring diversity and inclusion to innovation and tech by providing assistance to affiliated companies. That includes providing minority and women-owned startups and established companies with access to mentors and investors.

The talk show is hosting a benefit concert at 4 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 4 for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, the Category 4 storm that devastated much of Southeast Texas.

Tech, Beats and Bites is funded by the James L. Knight Foundation, a Miami-based nonprofit that supports ideas advancing media innovation and quality journalism.

Launched in April 2017, Tech, Beats and Bites is now in its second season. Past guests on the show include singer-songwriter Teedra Moses, hair care giant Miko Branch of Miss Jessie’s, Ted Lucas of Miami’s own Slip-N-Slide Records and Marlon Nichols, general partner of venture capital firm Cross Culture Ventures.

His favorite part of hosting Tech, Beats and Bites is “being able to drink beer on the job,” Hall said. Craft brews, preferably. Incorporating spirits in the show is deliberate. It keeps the conversations casual, not stuffy, Hall said.

But there’s another reason Hall introduced beer into Tech, Beats and Bites.

“People typecast that the only people that like craft beer are young white men and that’s not true,” he said.

Miami techies
Tinodiwa Zambe Makoni, J. Steven Manolis

Tech, Beats and Bites is an opportunity to challenge misconceptions about people of color, while creating the diversity that’s lacking in technology and entrepreneurship, Hall said.

“Diversity and inclusion was a big thing about three years ago, and since then it’s kind of died down,” Hall said. “You don’t just complain. You create your own platform so you can control the things you complain about.”

The production team for Tech, Beats and Bytes is 70 percent women. Hall attributes its success to its diversity, both behind the scenes and in the audience. He envisions continued growth.

“I would love for our show to make it to Netflix or Hulu as a mini-docuseries. I love the (black) comedies, but I want to see some black nerd talk. We need intellectual content, nerdy content, to be just as big as WorldStar is. I want the nerd version of WorldStar.” Hall said.

LaToya Stirrup, Hall’s co-host, has worked in ad development in the tech industry for 13 years — evidence that people of color have existed in technology since its inception, she said.

Tech, Beats and Bytes is for those who are often the only black person in the room.

“It’s a matter of showcasing people who look like us to say, ‘Hello, we are here!’ and to shine a light on greatness. We want to make sure the platform that we have engages in that conversation and to highlight the challenges that are included in that space,” Stirrup said.

Proceeds from Monday’s benefit event will be donated to Global Giving’s Hurricane Relief Fund, and two Houston-based non-profits: Bethel’s Place and T.E.E.S. Miami — or Teens Exercising Extraordinary Success.

Tech, Beats and Bytes partnered for the benefit with House of Mac, a popular Wynwood Yard restaurant known for its mac ‘n cheese. Chef Derrick “Teach” Turton knows his way around a food truck. Turton worked in the music industry with global sensation and Miami native Pitbull and credits another artist, Bun B of Houston’s iconic duo UGK, for inspiring him to pursue his culinary dreams.

Turton will bring music and food together at a concert to benefit Harvey victims. Ever the humble human, Turton shied away from taking credit for his efforts, but said Texas will be in his thoughts.

“Bun B’s my brother and he’s been a good friend of mine for years and just looking at the people and what they’re going through out there and knowing that Bun’s there – this is about making sure the people who need it get it,” Turton said.

For more information about how you can help, visit: hurricane-harvey-benefit- concert-tickets-37432790484 or Tech, Beats and Bytes.