There are once in a lifetime generation “Trailblazers” like former President Barack Obama, Michael Jordan in Basketball, Jim Brown in Football, Jackie Robinson in Baseball and then there’s Ken Granderson IT Guru, Wunder Kid, Game Changer in the world of “Computer Science”.
Since 1992, when he left his hi-tech job to work on his own software creations full-time out of his basement apartment with a self-built computer and second telephone line, this “Do or Die in Bed-Stuy,” section of Brooklyn resident has been conceiving, creating and deploying software solutions that educate individuals, put businesses, organizations and communities online, and have even enabled a national government to deliver accurate and timely information to their citizenry.
We talked about why he chose the field of “Computer Science” Ken adds: “I didn’t want any constraints on my creativity, no old boy network, no licensing, no capital required (which is why I quit my job on Route 128 from my basement apartment with 1 extra phone line for my 9600 baud CompuServe dial-up account). I wanted to create unparalleled opportunity for boys and girls from the ‘hood to write our own tickets and do our own thing starting at the same point as everyone else”
After graduating from MIT in 1985, Ken returned to New York in 2018 in search of better networking and collaboration opportunities than those available in the Boston area. Ken shared that he “experienced the early online age as a meritocracy, where despite my lack of capital or connections, I was selling software creations in over a dozen countries, and despite my ethnic background, was doing remote programming work and selling one of my products through the catalog of a company in Arizona (which was not honoring Martin Luther King Day then), and was owned by two high-ranking Mormons (who had only started accepting blacks into their priesthood in then-recent history).
I asked Ken to name some of his mentors, “I never had any mentors because I was pretty close to the front of the wave. However, I have had a few folks who have stood out as inspirations to me”
Bill Gates, because his company bought affordable graphical computing to the masses, because he has been doing progressive things towards the Black community since 1995 (over 2 decades before it was cool), and because he’s the type of billionaire I would be.
Oprah, because she had the #1 talk show based on positivity when folks thought you had to be a Jerry Springer to succeed, and she’s another example of the type of billionaire I would be. And because we share a birthday.
The third person, because I always related to his creativity, individuality, prolific output and uncompromising stance on living life by his own rules would be Prince.
So, when he launched his software development company Inner-City Software in 1992 with the slogan “Brains in the ‘Hood” (RIP John Singleton), and his first product ended up in a PC Magazine editor’s book available in CompUSA stores nationwide, Ken made this commitment:
“To help close the Digital Divide by establishing world-class leadership in the technology space by creating technology products and solutions by and for people of African descent”.
Over the next decade, as you will see in the ‘Highlights’ section below, he spearheaded a variety of initiatives that introduced Boston’s communities of color to computers and the Internet, put many local organizations, Boston’s black newspaper and the entire community itself online with online presences that were world-class for their time, and promoted economic development in the area with online presences for several economic development organizations and an interactive web application that connected businesses throughout Boston’s Empowerment Zone.
Despite all these projects that were way ahead of their time that garnered Ken a wall full of awards, proclamations for his efforts:
African Scientific Institute Fellow – 2020
MOBE (Marketing Opportunities in Business & Entertainment) Influencers and Innovators of the Internet and Technology, 2002
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters – Salem State College – 1999
MIT Community Fellow, 1998
Black & White Boston Small Business Award – 1998
University of Massachusetts Boston Minority Business Entrepreneur of the Year – 1998
Microsoft Most Valued Professional – 1997
Ken was never able to secure external financing or establish industry connections that would get him access to high revenue contracts, and he ultimately shut down Inner-City Software in 2004, and eventually returned to New York in 2018 in search of a better environment to launch progressive ventures.
Ken encourages everyone to look at the info below that he has saved over the years. There is a lot, so bookmark www.kengranderson.com and come back as your time permits, but please look at least some of the newspaper articles or TV programs that give you a window into what he was thinking, saying and most importantly, DOING over 20 years ago. You will find that pretty much all of it is just as relevant today (and still has not been done at a significant level).
Ken added: “If you would like to help make ideas like these come to fruition in the present, please share this page with others who may be in positions to help make things happen, those who may be trying to do similar things but like myself, are not connected to like-minded folks, or folks who just need to be encouraged that there are folks who understand and master technology who are truly committed to using it to create better opportunities and futures for ‘the rest of us.”
All that needs to get the ball rolling is for folks with the technical expertise and commitment to connect with others who have the resources to make things happen, and it’s ‘Game On,’ and I as like to say – “The only game I am interested in playing is the one called ‘Changing The Game'” So please help us all Play to Win the Game by sharing this page with someone else who you think will appreciate it!
Ken is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, American Mensa,
Board Member, Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard & MIT and adds that his ultimate goal and past time is to “create software to uplift the race.”
As the Co-Founder of BlackFacts.com over the next 5 years he envisions a small development teams in the East Caribbean, East Africa (Uganda/Kenya/Rwanda), and 3-5 US locations. Probably not more than 50 folks total, “you really don’t need a lot of people if you know what you are doing (Inner-City Software had 4 developers including myself, and everything I have built since I did on my own).”
On the business side of things, our Wakanda Technology Framework is powering several thousand small-medium businesses on our Freemium business / organization online presence and basic functionality platform across the Diaspora (think Wix or SquareSpace, but owned and operated by Black folks) and creating custom design and development opportunities for designers and tech consultants in urban communities once the businesses outgrow the template-driven functionality, as well as digital advertising sales opportunities for folks into digital marketing, through our DiasporAds Ad Network.
On the educational side, the BlackFacts Education Foundation is powering Black History Project and School presence sites for K-12 schools across the US, Junior Griot Local News sites for aspiring Black journalists, and world-class online presences, events and fund-raising sites for the USA’s 104 HBCUs.
And finally, on the social side, we have launched BlackPeople.com as an online social and professional networking site that connects people based on shared geographic, cultural, professional, political, philosophical and lifestyle identities, on a platform 100% Conceived, Coded, Created and Owned by Black Technology Experts.
Reach out to Ethnic GEM Ken Granderson and thank him for his vision, passion in making technology relevant for the Ethnic Community!