RootsTech Day in Review: Celebrating African Heritage Day
Highlighted by LeVar Burton’s heartwarming keynote address, the inaugural RootsTech African Heritage Day was a huge success. Renowned genealogists and storytellers Kenyatta Berry, Sherri Camp, and Melvin Collier also spoke about family roots and how their African heritage blesses their lives.
Today was one of the most memorable days in RootsTech history! Highlighted by LeVar Burton’s heartwarming keynote address, the inaugural RootsTech African Heritage Day was a huge success. Renowned genealogists and storytellers Kenyatta Berry, Sherri Camp, and Melvin Collier also spoke about family roots and how their African heritage blesses their lives.
Entertaining music from the Calvary Baptist Church Choir and the Jambo Heartbeat/Africa Burundi Drummers helped carry the spirit of Africa throughout the day.
Gracing the RootsTech stage and helping kick off African Heritage Day in honor of Black History Month was keynote speaker LeVar Burton. Burton, the widely acclaimed actor and producer, spoke of his love for his mother, his time as an actor starring in Star Trek and Roots, and the power of imagination.
“It is through the stories that we tell each other that we literally create the world as a reflection of who we are,” he said. “It is our stories that have always provided the context for who we are, why we are here, where we are going, and even more importantly what our particular contribution be in the service of achieving our uniquely human destination. That upon which we focus our imagination is what we manifest in this realm.”
Following Burton’s remarks, Kenyatta Berry, host of Genealogy Roadshow, addressed the audience. Berry spoke of the power of a name and how her name serves as a reminder of her African roots.
“Kenyatta is an African masculine name meaning ‘Musician,’ and the most famous Kenyatta is Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of independent Kenya,” she explained. “My mother named me Kenyatta after Jomo because it is a powerful name. Her goal was to raise a child that wasn’t a burden to society and could live up to the power of her name. I wasn’t allowed to have a nickname growing up, and that is still true today. My name is a source of pride, uniqueness, and joy. It’s my connection back to Africa.”
Sherri Camp, president of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, followed Berry and spoke of her experience connecting to Africa through food.
“Traditions like Sunday dinners and Saturday night picking greens help me to know that a part of my ancestors is still alive in me,” she said. “The traditions that we have, that are unique to our families, help keep our ancestors alive and help us trace back to find them.”
Melvin Collier, author of Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery shared his journey finding his roots through DNA research.
“Recently, my genealogical journey took an even more fascinating turn with the help of DNA technology. DNA has allowed me and many others to get a wonderful glimpse of our African roots.”
Innovator Showdown Finals
The 2017 version of the Innovator Showdown was bigger than ever! Thanks to generous contributions from this year’s sponsors, including new sponsors Amazon Web Services and Kickstart Seed Fund, total prize reward totals for this hackathon topped $140,000.
This year’s grand-prize winner was Bill Nelson, creator of the OldNews USA app. With the OldNews USA app, you can quickly discover interesting stories and articles in U.S. newspapers from the Library of Congress Chronicling America collection of more than 11 million newspaper images from 1789 to 1992—right from your smartphone!
Louis Kessler came in second place for his Double Match Triangulator technology and was awarded $6,000 in cash and $20,000 of in-kind prizes.
Kathy Gilmore of Kindex, a powerful indexing app, won the People’s Choice award and took home $10,000 in cash and $5,000 of in-kind prizes.
If you missed the Innovator Showdown, you can watch it here.
The day concluded with the Cultural Celebration. Hundreds gathered in the Demo Theater of the Expo Hall to enjoy Latin music and dancing, African drums, Irish dancing, and more! Sponsors gave away prizes, and attendees came together to celebrate their diverse cultures and heritages.
What to Expect Tomorrow
With every thrilling keynote speaker and event throughout the week, the excitement of RootsTech has been building, and we’ve got a day planned tomorrow to put the icing on the cake—literally!
Saturday’s general session keynote features Buddy Valastro, the lovable baker from TLC’s popular show Cake Boss. Valastro will speak of his love for baking and how it connects him with his Italian roots.
Saturday afternoon Valastro will be the celebrity judge at the first-ever RootsTech cake competition! Dozens of beautifully decorated cakes will be on display, and attendees will have the opportunity to vote for a People’s Choice award winner.
Popular genetic genealogist CeCe Moore will also take the RootsTech stage to share her extensive knowledge of the latest DNA research and how such technologies can be used to solve family history mysteries.
Come enjoy the talents of BYU’s Vocal Point and Noteworthy. These a cappella groups will battle it out on the stage with some amazing harmonies. Cake will be also be served.