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Bringing Beats+Bites+Backgrounds to Austin

The networking experience by Black creatives for Black creatives was recently introduced to the Austin, Texas community.

The Diversity in Design (DID) Collaborative and _OFCOLOR, a non-profit organization elevating diverse creators, hosted the Beats+Bites+Backgrounds networking experience in Austin, TX, on March 14, 2023.

Nearly 1,000 attendees, the majority of whom were Black creatives, participated in a variety of live design labs run by local Austin artists and designers, connected with their peers, listened to outstanding guest speakers, and ended the night with a live music showcase.

Read on for a glimpse into this unique experience.

Immersive Design Labs

Schelli Jones of Nina’s Needle Co. powered by Tarkett and MillerKnoll used upcycled textile swatches to create a new work of art highlighting the importance of unity and connectivity of people from all walks of life. Participants could also take pieces of fabric to create masterpieces of their own.

Guests were invited to make their own custom air freshener sprays in the Scents Lab with Monique Parker of Blow Candle Co. powered by Fossil Group and Corgan.

Woman sniffing fragrance samples

Office Hours was created and facilitated by Moyo and powered by DID. This design lab took participants through a personal questionnaire and interview process that challenged them to consider their identity in new ways, then take a portrait for all to see.

Moyo hanging pictures on portrait wall
Interviewing a guest

The Drop powered by Dropbox featured a bodega-style set up where guests enjoyed photo ops, interaction with Dropbox team members, and freebie items like snacks, toiletries, stickers, and more.

Speaking from the Soul

Near the end of the evening, we hosted a panel discussion with representatives from DID member companies. The lineup included Timothy Bardlavens of Adobe, Sheri Crosby Wheeler of Fossil Group, Candace Charpentier of The Freeman Company, and Chris Oladapo of Dropbox.

“A mentor is a mentor. But a community goes much deeper. Are you in a place where you feel safe? We’re all speaking the same language? We all speak English, but your community speaks the same sub text,” said Oladapo.

Panel speakers shared their experiences and insights as Black creatives moving through their careers. The topics of finding your community as well as the importance of representation in the workplace were at the core of the conversation.

“I’m one of the few Black executives in tech and for me to show up every day as myself helps dispel myths that you have to show up as someone else more formal and buttoned up,” said Bardlavens. “The power of DID is helping to build connections and legacies. These types of initiatives are beautiful when there’s more of them out there available to people who can benefit from them.”

Guest speaker Jeffrey Beckham Jr., CEO of Chicago Scholars shared his life and career journey while creating an acrylic painting in front of the live audience.

Beckham also shared how he coped with the loss of his friend who warned him of the importance of prioritizing self-care. This friend tragically passed away shortly after said warning. Beckham turned to painting to move through his grief.

“I felt like creating was a healing space for me,” said Beckham.

Alongside acrylic painting, Beckham runs the non-profit organization Chicago Scholars which aims to help young people from underrepresented groups with their academic and creative pursuits. The organization won an award at SXSW the same week for an app it created to gamify the college and career search for young people.

“I’m just a brown boy from the south side of Chicago that loves to create art and help people,” said Beckham.

Rounding out the list of speakers for the day was Paola Mathé, Founder and Creative Director of Fanm Djanm – a line of unique and stylish headwraps and headscarves.

Mathé spoke to the audience on the importance of audacity and fear, which she credits for her success and actions today.

“If my chest is rising, my knees are buckling and my voice is shaking, then I know I’m in the right place,” said Mathé.

From growing up in Haiti, moving to New Jersey then New York, working in hospitality, starting a blog that quickly gained popularity, Mathé took a chance on herself by starting her own line of headwraps and scarves. Mathé’s story highlighted the possibilities that open through perseverance and refusing to settle.

The Beats

A live music showcase closed out the night with beats provided by DJ Lauren Light and DJ GNiice. The photos speak for themselves.

Thank you to our sponsors Adobe, Big Spaceship, Corgan, Dropbox, Fossil Group, Freeman Company, MillerKnoll, and Tarkett for your support and commitment to the Black creative community. A special thank you to _OFCOLOR and their community of volunteers who helped produce, curate, and execute this spectacular experience.

If your organization is interested in joining DID, fill out this form. For questions or comments about Beats+Bites+Backgrounds email For all other inquiries please reach us at

Photos Courtesy of: Leta Kathryn Photography

Posted: DID Team 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Tags: #programs

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