MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Donning black-rimmed glasses and a bright red tee, 12-year-old D.J. Comeaux of Minneapolis beamed as he sat inside the A Mill Artist Lofts Sunday.
Just hours earlier he had launched a new initiative called Afro Bot Boyz, pairing his love for robotics with the goal of inspiring young black men and women to pursue careers in technology. “I want it to become something everyone can rely on,” he said, working to explain his signature brand.
“An Afro Bot Boy is,” he said, pausing for a moment to consider. “Okay, I’m going to break this down for you--he’s me, basically, with no glasses."
The Afro Bot Boyz logo, a winking cartoon of a boy with brown skin and thick hair that resembles D.J. himself, was boldly printed on D.J.’s shirt, nearby memorabilia and even a freshly baked cake.
“He’s winking to let anyone looking at him know it’s going to be okay,” D-J said, noting he drew and digitally created the logo himself. “I wanted to boost the confidence of people that look like me, more likely to be interested in being in robotics,"
The pre-teen’s project comes as recent studies continue to reveal black men and women are underrepresented and under-compensated in the tech industry. To combat that trend D.J.’s mission is to inspire, educate and collaborate with black youth to help eliminate those disparities.
D-J’s website bills the initiative as a means for black youth to come together, encourage and support one another by combining resources, creating teams and partnerships.
“We support this industry, why are we not supporting them to create and work behind the scenes and create the coding, the tech, and the language to have their own companies?” Kayann Comeaux, D-J’s mother asked.
The entrepreneurial 12-year-old lists his mother as one of his heroes, and says seeing the movie "Black Panther" was a key source of inspiration for the project--though perhaps not from the character one would expect.
"[I was inspired] not by Black Panther the superhero, but his sister Shurie," he said. "She used to create all of the designs and technology so I kind of really like that."
It's a sentiment that's not lost on D.J.'s mother and others who know him, saying the film has already helped countless young people see a bright future for themselves.
“A lot of times children lack confidence for various reasons, so to have confidence in this, in something that’s smart, educational and maybe not as popular?" Kayann said. "Black Panther gave him confidence to be that guy behind the boards."
D-J’s inspired action by way of the Afro Bot Boyz launch further proves the power of Ryan Coogler’s masterpiece and how the film already helps young people see themselves as nothing less than positively worthy of bright future.
“This face is not perfect,” Kayann said, pointing to the Afro Bot Boyz logo. “Neither are we. None of our faces are perfect, none of our hairlines are perfect, right? So I wanted to make this a big deal to show him and other children like him that you don’t have to be perfect to pursue your passions. You just need to be willing to go out there and get it.”
To learn about Afro Bot Boyz and how you can join D.J. for his upcoming Summer Meet-Up, click here.