JCSU hosts historically Black college gaming and esports conference

PHOTO | LUKENN SABELLANOJohnson C. Smith University will co-produce 2021 ASCEND, an HBCU esports conference and career expo, on Feb. 5.

Johnson C. Smith University continues to break ground in esports and gaming for historically Black colleges and universities.

JCSU will co-produce 2021 ASCEND (Accessing Sources to Catalyze Esports/Gaming Needs & Address Diversity) HBCU Esports Conference and Career Expo on Feb. 5 with MetArena, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based technology company. It will be the first event of its kind to be hosted in a blockchain ecosystem.

JCSU students, faculty and staff representing the school’s Esports and Gaming Trifecta will be involved in planning and executing the event. They will also moderate panel discussions, introduce speakers and manage an HBCU Madden tournament.

The event, scheduled to take place from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., will provide attendees access to insight about esports and gaming industries. While the focus is on HBCUs, it is also designed to include the Latinx community, which also faces socioeconomic obstacles present in the Black community, and a growing representation of students enrolled at HBCUs.

JCSU became the first Black college in 2020 to launch an esports and gaming management program for undergraduate students with a four-course, non-credit bearing certificate program that provides insight from professionals in esports and gaming industries, as well as an esports lab, an esports club and a minor.

“As the first HBCU to boast an Esports and Gaming Trifecta, JCSU is proud to be an instrumental component in co-producing this historic Conference and Career Expo, which will singlehandedly propel the Esports and gaming landscape for HBCUs, one controller at a time. We are not just representing JCSU Esports, but CIAA Esports, as well,” JCSU professor and esports and gaming founder/advisor BerNadette Lawson-Williams said in a statement.

The event will feature a pitch competition for esports and gaming entrepreneurs. Judges will include serial entrepreneur and investor Steve MacDonald and Angel Rich, founder of the Wealth Factory, which designs and builds games focusing on financial literacy and workforce development.

Event speakers will represent for-profit and non-profit organizations within the esports and gaming ecosystem, including Erin Ashley Simon, a multi-media personality, host and producer; Polycade’s CEO Tyler Bushnell; Riot Games’ Alex Francois; Nacon Gaming’s Vice President Corey Rosemond; Sugar Gamers’ founder and CEO Keisha Howard and Marcus Kennedy, senior director of Intel’s esports and gaming segment.

GAME Credits, the world’s first gaming cryptocurrency, will allow the event to be hosted in Decentraland.

“This marks a historic first with an esports event of this size being hosted in a decentralized metaverse and may well open the door for more esports companies to adopt the virtual world,” Jason Cassidy, CEO of GAME Credits said. “This event will introduce attendees to blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. Blockchain and cryptocurrency are evolving the future of tech, and it is imperative that HBCUs keep the Black community involved in that future.”

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Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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