Artist Ise Lyfe Gets Standing Ovation at IBM@TedTalks

The East Oakland native addresses cultural displacement caused by the tech community

Ise Lyfe
Image: Ise Lyfe

No one was ready.

Before the show, Black Enterprise sat down with Ise Lyfe to discuss his movement around popular culture consciousness and why tech needs to take responsibility for the displacement that it’s causing in communities.    

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Where do you fall when it comes to your placement in tech?

My career has always kind of been this dual lane where business and art meets tech so being here at IBM@TED is a cool intersection of those three things.

What have you been working on?

Over recent years, I’ve been working with Deloitte, Twitter, and I have a play right now that I’m doing with a tech writer at Google under my company, Lyfe Productives. Tech has major issues with diversity, and here in the Bay Area, it’s also impacting people’s human right to housing, so that’s what I’m focused on today.

What do you feel the biggest issue is with tech and diversity?

I have colleges from all around the world who figure out these amazing technologies with synthetics, with self-driving cars, and they tell me that they can’t figure out how to get more black and brown people in the office and the reason that they can’t, is because they don’t care.

They go to work without forgetting to stop at Starbucks. They care more about grabbing Coffee Bean then they do about an entire group of people in our society, so my work is to try to have an inviting, welcoming conversation around that, that’s measurable.

Why do you think that there are some POC who have “made it” versus others who have not?

There are plenty of black and brown people in the field who are the type of black and brown people that white people are comfortable with. They aren’t making a lot of noise; they talk about black and brown people in the third person as if they’re not. Powerful communities are people who talk about themselves in first person, who lead with who they are, however they identify. I think it’s important to tell young people from marginalized communities, no, you belong in tech. We’re going to do a lot of work to get you there.  

What do you plan to address today?

I plan to address the flag in the mud. These are tech companies or people who work in tech who come and kind of just stick a flag in the mud in communities as if they’re discovering them.

I will also address hope. There is an opportunity for us to really set a standard and a bar for how we move forward. I hope to gain perspective and allies.

We have to be comfortable acknowledging that we’ve gotten to a place where displacement and gentrification across the country are here because people don’t care about the issue.

We have to make displacement a stigma.

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The lights faded up and he was on. Before we knew it, he was spittin’ verse after verse like a seasoned rapper as cello strings ripped through the background played by cellist, Michael Fecskes.

“Are you a modern day pilgrim on a cyber-Mayflower hopping off a chip instead of a ship with no regard for the indigenous,” his words rang through the air. Line after line. Each penetrating deeper than the last.

And then… it went silent. All of a sudden, a black woman stood up tall in the front row, fist high in the air and slowly… the rest of the crowd, of mostly pale faces, began to rise until Ise was met with a complete standing ovation.  


Sequoia1Sequoia Blodgett is the Associate Technology Editor for Black Enterprise, Silicon Valley. She is also the founder of 7AM, a lifestyle, media platform, focused on personal development, guided by informed, pop culture.



3 Responses to Artist Ise Lyfe Gets Standing Ovation at IBM@TedTalks

  1. Kyle says:

    You realize there is plenty of diversity in tech. It is just that black folks are not in the mix. So the problem is not lack of diversity, it is that black folks don’t aspire to be in tech. Someone needs to check to see how many blacks are studying tech in colleges and compare the percentage with other groups

    • Shérre says:

      How can there be plenty of diversity in tech if Black folks aren’t in the mix? If there were PLENTY of diversity, all ethnicities would be in the mix.

    • Angela says:

      Plenty of Blacks in tech? I have studied this matter extensiveley. Actually the tech industry is made up of only one percent black folks Kyle.

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