Check out our special guests for the Black Nerds Expo!
Kal Smith is a SAG actor who loves to cosplay in the community and has been in a numerous films and TV shows, including the rebooted All That. He was invited by Nickelodeon studios to come and be apart of the magic!
Harry Lennix is a distinguished film, television, stage actor and producer. For the last seven seasons, he has starred as Harold Cooper, Assistant Director of Counter Terrorism for the FBI on NBC’s The Blacklist. NBC recently announced that the series will return for a ninth season. Moviegoers know Lennix from his breakout role as Dresser in The Five Heartbeats, General Swanwick in Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Commander Lock in The Matrix and The Matrix: Reloaded and the Oscar® winning Ray. He also played as superhero Martian Manhunter in Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Snyder’s animated series Army of The Dead on Netflix. He is regularly seen on Showtime’s Billions.
Born in 1935 in Dallas, Texas, Shelby Jacobs is a retired engineer most known for adapting the camera technology that captured the iconic film of the first and second stages of the Saturn V Rocket.
When Jacobs was 8 years old his family moved to the small all-Black community of Val Verde in California, known as the “Black Palm Springs.” Although Val Verde was mostly Black, William S. High School in Newhall, CA where Jacobs graduated, Blacks only made up just 1% of his class. Jacobs remembers his high school principal telling him that many doors will be closed to him because of his race, and to consider not aiming too high for fear Jacobs may be disappointed.
It was after taking an aptitude test showing a high proficiency for math and science that helped Jacobs earn a scholarship to UCLA, and after college Jacobs was hired at Rocketdyne, a program contractor that built rockets used in the Mercury, Atlas, Jupiter and Thor programs. At that time, only eight of Rocketdyne’s 5,000 engineers were black.
In the 1960’s, Jacobs transferred to Rockwell in Downey, spending the remainder of his aeronautical career there, working the space shuttle program as a project manager of the external tank disconnect systems before retiring in 1996.
It was about ten years ago when Jacobs started receiving the attention he deserved for his work, after he was named a NASA “unsung hero.” Shelby Jacobs currently lives in Oceanside, CA with his current wife, Elizabeth. His daughter, Michelle “Shelley” Modaff, wrote a book about his life called, Shelby Jacobs African-American Aerospace Engineer.
Claude Jones, has a passion for creating opportunities to help others succeed. And for over a decade, his life’s mission has been focused on encouraging, inspiring, and motiving others through his words and actions. A seasoned technical leader, with over 20 years of experience. He is currently the VP of Engineering at Strava building a culture of engineering excellence to the worlds largest connect fitness platform.
In his spare time, Claude runs the Elevate Foundation, an organization he started focused on giving back to the community by helping others in need. The Practical Leadership Guy, where he offers services for motivational speaking, life coaching, and his leadership thoughts on common sense leadership techniques through his blog encouraging others to be the best they can be.
He is also the CEO of San Diego Tech Hub, an organization focused on connecting businesses, organizations, and individuals, leveraging their resources, passions, and talents to build a stronger San Diego tech community through collaboration.
Recently, Claude created a series of children’s picture books aimed at fostering the development of leadership skills in children, ages five to eight, helping them cultivate a mindset of equity and inclusion.
BLERDcoMIXed is a podcast about Blackness and Blerd stuff from a couple of Mixed Black Blerds. Hosted by Sharmane Fury & BlerdVision. Sharmane Fury is also co-owner of Gulf Coast Cosmos ComicBook Co. in Houston, TX the first Black-Blasian-Queer owned comic book shop in Texas.