TitleAl Mansour, Kamal oral history
DescriptionIn his oral history Kamal Al Mansour tells how went from practicing intellectual property law at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to creating the first major Afrocentric content for personal computers as an artist. Growing up in Los Angeles, he had shown little interest in computing. As a child he'd dreamed of being an artist, and was mentored by African American artist Varnette Honeywood. He majored in political science at UCLA and then went on to UC Hastings law school in San Francisco, from which he ended up at JPL. His job got him interested in technology, and also showed him how little room it offered for African-Americans or their culture.
It was a TV show that changed the course of his career. A Princeton professor was showing off a new disk called "Culture" and Al Mansour noticed that while it covered the Greek Parthenon, it left out all of Africa's contributions from the Pyramids to the obelisks of Aksum. He realized he could act.
He started with CPTime Clip Art, the first major disk of Afrocentric imagery for personal computers. The title wryly reclaimed the expression "Colored People's Time," a stereotype that African Americans run late. For Al Mansour it became a call to action: “it’s our time, it’s time for people of color to be online, to be digital.” He also started a dial-up service for research and messaging, CPTime On-Line.
He followed up with "Who We Are," a program with hundreds of questions and answers about black civilizations. Soon Al Mansour had a catalog of titles addressing different topics and a program that sought to raise the self-esteem of black youth. His materials were being bought by school districts and universities, and covered in major print and TV media.
But as bigger organizations like NetNoir began to provide Afrocentric content for the exploding online world, Al Mansour chose not to follow. He became a fine artist full time, working with both Afrocentric and universal themes. He is the author of DIVINE CONSCIOUSNESS: From a Dystopian Diaspora to Afrofuturism.
|Al-Mansour, Kamal, Interviewee|
|McIlwain, Charlton, Interviewer|
|Weber, Marc, Interviewer|
PublisherComputer History Museum
Place of PublicationMountain View, CA
Collection TitleCHM Oral History Collection
|102792716||Al Mansour, Kamal oral history|