Frank Lamar has a simple yet poignant theory about web-based technology and the wave of coin-based opportunities taking the world by storm.
“It shouldn’t be happening to us, it should be happening for us,” he said. Lamar, 37, is one third of the team behind HBCoins, a Black-owned NFT (non-fungible token) company that has created Historically Black College and University-themed NFTs. Along with Lamar, a back-end web 3 developer, is Samiria Percival, a fine arts and digital media specialist and Jalon Jackson, a digital engineer.
The team behind HBCoins has all the tools to create something of an anomaly in the present NFT space, coins that represent Black colleges and universities.
“Financial literacy is very important and every one of our skills have come together for this project,” said Jackson, 27, a graduate of Prairie View A&M University. Both he and Percival are part of the first graduating class of Digital Media Arts students at the 146-year-old Texas-based university. Lamar is a Florida A&M University graduate.
Of the importance of an HBCU-focused NFT Percival said, “The most important thing is that our people have been left out of so many financial opportunities, and that cannot keep happening. This project is extremely important.”
What is an NFT?
Non-fungible tokens, a uniquely identified digital currency, is a non-interchangeable unit of data that can be stored on a blockchain. The difference from NFTs and cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, is the fact that each NFT coin is unique. Think about a handful of five-dollar bills. They all look the same and are each worth $5. A handful, or better said, a digital wallet full of HBCoins and other NFTs vary depending on their appearance, rarity and what they represent.
Why HBCoins are different from so many others?
In the case of HBCoins, the unique quality of the coins will be what separates them from the hundreds of options on the NFT market. HBCoins founders promise that all 107 HBCUs will be represented at some point but the first round of coins that’s set to drop, NFT talk for becoming available for purchase, will be of some of the 50 most popular HBCUs, including both of the founders’ alma maters.
When asked if the entire Atlanta University Center, which includes Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Morris Brown College, Spelman College and the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), was going to make the first-round drop, Percival quickly answered, “We want all of us to be represented in this space.” The first drop will have a limit of 1,500 coins.
The coins will come in multiple versions of the school colors with members able to place bids via Discord, a virtual town center. Joining the HBCoins Discord is free, and the link can be found via the company’s Instagram and Twitter social media accounts. There’s more incentive to join the community as All HBCoins members will get a free NFT following the drop. As part of the Gold Star NFT group, used to note early members of the community, there are even more incentives like learning materials for those of us still learning about NFTs.
HBCUs are particular spaces created hundreds of years ago to be safe havens for Black men and women looking to be educated without the threat of racism and exclusion. HBCoins are looking to maximize that place in Black culture by being an option for those looking to both represent their culture and the school that either shaped them or someone they know and love. The expectations for the drop are high among the founders of HBCoins and they should be, according to Lamar.
“Yes, my expectations for the project are high,” he said. “We are expecting for this NFT community to continue growing.“HBCUs have a certain vibe, you can’t define it, you can only feel it.”
Lamar described that feeling like the difference he experienced being on campus as an undergraduate compared to what he feels in the professional world.
“Being an engineer and at the forefront of this technology, there aren’t a lot of people that look like us,” Lamar said.
Jackson’s visions are even broader still. “I’m expecting all HBCUs to come together and use these coins as currency among one another,” he said.
Regarding the business side of the program Lamar is a bit more realistic if not practical, “I’m not necessarily looking to quit my day job though,” he said with a laugh. “I want this program to be sustainable.”
Better prepared for what’s to come
To start a business, especially in the tech sphere, there are crucial positions that must be filled in order to get off the ground. HBCoins were in a great position before they even began the business with each founder having a unique skillset.
“This really sparked my interest and it’s what I went to school for,” Jackson said.
As a digital engineer Jackson is vital to the existence of the NFT. The same could be said for Percival who draws the coins. A published artist, Percival makes the coins look good while Lamar, a Metaplex backend Web 3 developer, his work saves the company some $250 per hour on average, which equals between $120-$180,000 a year, according to web3career.com.
The HBcoins team wants to give back to HBCU students and future students in the form of 50 individual $1,000 scholarships totaling $50,000. A lofty goal, but nothing successful and world-changing happens without dreaming big.
“I see us being able to increase, maybe even double, the number of scholarships we can give back,” said Percival. “The scholarships will be for any member of the HBCoins NFT community whether they buy coins or not.”