What are NFTs and why should Black people care?



NFT.Jonathan Jackson 1
Photo by Charles Hallman jonathan johnson

The world’s first NFT (non-fungible token) conference is now history. Held last weekend at the Minnesota Vikings’ downtown stadium, VeeCon 2022 organizers called it “a super conference.” [for] everything related to entrepreneurship, marketing, culture, business and innovation”. It is estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 people attended.

However, aside from a few scattered presenters and faces of color, the crowd seemed to lack diversity.

Local businessman Jonathan Johnson was among the VeeCon attendees. He has a “lifestyle brand” business called Homegrown. He told the MSR that although there weren’t many blacks he met at the event, he was there to learn more about NFTs and connect with others.

“Sometimes we’re in spaces where we don’t see a lot of people that look like us,” Johnson acknowledged, “and that’s uncomfortable. But sometimes you just have to take a chance and just dive in, risk learning something you don’t know. That’s really why I’m here.”

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photo sent simone berry

“I can count the number of us in this room,” said creative consultant and entrepreneur Simone Berry, co-founder of the People of Crypto (POC) Lab. “Our approach is to educate and engage people of color, the LGBTQ community, really focusing on in ensuring that they participate in this space,” Berry told MSR. She provided a quick tutorial on the most commonly used words and phrases heard throughout VeeCon:

  • NFT – A unique unit of data used to record and authenticate digital content such as videos, audio files, and images.
  • Cryptocurrency – often called crypto, a digital currency
  • Metaverse: a virtual space where users can interact digitally
  • Web3: a new version of the World Wide Web

the next new thing

Black Enterprise reported earlier this year that nearly 25% of African-Americans own cryptocurrencies compared to 11% of whites and 17% of Latinos. Berry advised that Blacks get more involved in the new digital economy, such as Web3 and NFTs, especially entrepreneurs, artists, and other creative types.

“We need to be part of this conversation,” he said. “The problem is that a lot of the people who are creating are not diverse. You will see projects that represent diversity, but the teams behind them are not the same.” He expressed concern that Black people are being overlooked and not seeing this as an opportunity to become more financially independent.

NFT..Spike Lee and son Jackson Lee
Photo by Charles Hallman Spike Lee and his son Jackson Lee

Filmmaker Spike Lee and creative marketer Monica Hyacinth were among VeeCom’s 150 scheduled speakers. Lee will soon release the NFT of him based on the character of Mars Blackmon from his movie She She She’s Gotta Have It.

He explained during a media scrum after his appearance last Friday, which included the MSR, “I reviewed selected 35-millimeter film footage of Mars from the movie,” nearly 4,000 hand-selected original stills from his first commercially successful film.

The legendary director told MSR that he agrees that more black people should participate in NFTs. “This is the new thing,” he stressed, adding that his two adult sons urged him to get involved.

“Like I said before onstage, a lot of my new purchases that I buy online are from artists of color,” Lee noted. His son Jackson Lee noted that he and his father “are both learning this together. It’s fun.”

Before his scheduled appearance, Hyacinth said, “We’re at ground zero when it comes to Web3 and NFT and all that.” He has two decades of experience building brands for media and music companies.

“I run a Metaverse company called Cyber,” he continued. “We work with artists to help them tell their stories in new and interactive ways, and we take all of their creativity, their art, their music, and create virtual worlds and virtual events online. It is a platform for music, digital art and entertainment.”

Berry reiterated that Black people cannot afford to be outside watching Web3. “I don’t even know if it’s a next frontier… I want more [Black] people would start to investigate. I think there is a community for us.”

NFT.Monica Hyacinth
hyacinth monica
Photo by Charles Hallman

“Statistically speaking,” he said, “Black and brown people are adopting crypto faster than any other demographic. The reason we started [POC Lab] was to ensure that our communities get the education they need and are brought into the systems to see where they fit.

“We cannot be blocked at this time again,” Berry concluded. “We have the moment right now to change that paradigm.”