Baratunde Thurston is a New York Times best-selling author, comedic commentator, and technology philosopher. He has an uncanny ability to crack the shell of any uncomfortable topic through a personal, accessible, and gracious point of view.
With an ancestry that includes a great-grandfather who taught himself to read, a grandmother who was the first black employee at the U.S. Supreme Court building, a computer-programming mother who took over radio stations in the name of the black liberation struggle, and an older sister who teaches yoga at her donation-based studio in Lansing, Michigan, Baratunde has long been taught to question authority and forge his own path. It helps that he was raised in Washington, D.C. under crackhead Mayor Marion Barry.
His creative and inquisitive mind, forged by his mother’s lessons and polished by a philosophy degree from Harvard, have found expression in the pages of Fast Company, the screens of HBO, Comedy Central, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, the sound waves of NPR and roughly one bajillion podcasts, including “Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race,” which he co-hosts with Raquel Cepeda and Tanner Colby. He has hosted shows on Discovery’s Science Channel, Yahoo, AOL, YouTube, and Pivot TV.
Far from simply appearing in media, Baratunde is also helping define its future. In 2006 he co-founded Jack & Jill Politics, a black political blog whose coverage of the 2008 Democratic National Convention has been archived by the Library of Congress. From 2007 to 2012, he helped bring one of America’s finest journalistic institutions into the future, serving as Director of Digital and politics editor for The Onion. He has been a judge for the Knight Foundation News Challenge, an affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and a director’s fellow at the MIT Media Lab. His book, How To Be Black, was published by Harper Collins in February 2012 and is a New York Times best-seller.
In 2012, he co-founded Cultivated Wit with two former Onion employees, Brian Janosch and Craig Cannon. The company produces Comedy Hack Day, during which developers and comedians collaborate to make intentionally funny tech projects. Cultivated Wit also produces smart and funny media objects for clients.
The ACLU of Michigan honored Baratunde “for changing the political and social landscape one laugh at a time.” He was nominated for the Bill Hicks Award for Thought Provoking Comedy. The Root named him to its list of “100 Most Influential African Americans,” and Fast Company listed him as one of the “100 Most Creative People In Business.” He has advised the Obama White House and serves on the National Board of BUILD, an organization that uses entrepreneurship-based experiential learning to propel underserved youth through high school on to college and career success.
When he’s not staring at glowing rectangles, Mr. Thurston, which he goes by toward the end of his bio, cooks, does yoga, and rides his bicycle (but it’s not a fixed gear because he’s not annoying like that). Mr. Thurston travels heavily within and beyond the United States and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
"Baratunde was a hit in Cleveland. Like, truly. Our attendees LOVED him. He was our first plenary speaker and it was such a great way to kick of our Conference. His remarks hit home for us and tied so nicely into the themes we were addressing at the Conference, around engagement, equity and inclusion. Couldn’t have gone any better! He also had the longest book-selling line of any of our speakers. "- Theatre Communications Group
"Baratunde was terrific, start to finish - smart, funny, prepared and professional. We had tons of compliments throughout the night on his hosting."- Integrated Marketing Director, ADWEEK
"He was absolutely awesome. I can't tell you how much we appreciated you moving heaven and earth to get him there for the end of our day. Please tell him we are overjoyed, he is wonderful."- Senior Program Officer Media Rights & Access, Ford Foundation
"He is one of the smartest, most real, most creative people I have met. A++++"- GM, AOL Original Video
"The feedback we've gotten from Beam employees has been extremely positive. We so appreciate you coming to Chicago to share your expertise and humor with everyone. Your presentation was fantastic. It was engaging, funny, and compelling. The social media teams really loved the content and gave them a lot to think about. Thanks for being a part of our session. "- Beam Inc.
"Baratunde was beyond our expectations. He was funny, inspiring, and poignant. As a testament to his impact, lawyers, who don’t wait in line for anyone, queued up for 45 minutes so that they could get their books signed. We couldn’t have been happier. He really set the tone for the fantastic day of work that followed. "- Chief of Staff, Verna Myers Consulting Group