Courtest of Brandon Fuller

With an estimated 13,000 attendees, the popularity of SXSW Interactive — the technology segment of the 10-day South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, which also focuses on music and film — has exploded. It featured 15 venues as well as hundreds of high-profile collaborations, including a surprise concert from Jay-Z (thrown by American Express to promote its new sync service).

The party circuit was alive and well: Since the first official Blacks in Technology meet-up back in 2008, the Blacks in Tech event, hosted at the Carver Center, has been a must-attend happening for the black digerati who want to make connections. The Austin Chamber of Commerce also reached out to black entrepreneurs with its own pre-conference event on March 8. With the black film Gimme the Loot winning the grand jury prize for best narrative feature, African-American tastemakers are having a moment. 

It's impossible to condense five days of parties and panels into a tips list, but here are the panels that are worth downloading when the podcasts come out.

CNN's "Black in America/Silicon Valley: Aftermath"

CNN's Black in America series took to the SXSW panel arena to follow up on its controversial hit "Black in America: The New Promised Land — Silicon Valley." Soledad O'Brien joined entrepreneurs Wayne Sutton, Hajj Flemings and Hank Williams to discuss the fallout from the hourlong program. Audience members were excited to continue the conversation and discussed how to get young African Americans more invested in the digital space.

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Key tweet: Starting Point CNN (@StartingPtCNN) live-tweeted the full event and made sure to record Sutton's note that bias will always be there but "we can make progress."

Panel audio: Can be heard here.

"Social Media Sharecropping"

Gina McCauley, lead writer for What About Our Daughters and creator of the Blogging While Brown conference, focused on a different element of Twitter: the lack of avenues for wealth creation, a pressing issue in the era of user-generated content. McCauley posed hard questions about whether or not social media was a new form of sharecropping: Are black users of Twitter making someone else rich off their labors? The provocative panel prompted some soul-searching by those in the audience, particularly when McCauley explained that starting a blog to get rich was a fool's errand.

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Key tweet: Linn Groft (@linngroft) shares McCauley's key thoughts on what holds black digital entrepreneurs back, including "debt cycles."

Panel audio: Can be heard here.

"How to Read the World"

The star this year was Baratunde Thurston. A longtime member of the community at SXSW, Thurston emceed last year's tech awards and hosted and participated in several panels, including a 15-minute solo talk on "How to Be Black," which became his top-selling book, published in January. This year he graced the stage as a heavily anticipated keynoter — the only African American to receive top billing at the Interactive festival. Oglivy Notes, which provide visual representations on major talks, provided two artists for Baratunde. Speaking of his family history, his mother's history of protest and a man named El Dorado, #keynotunde was by all measures a success.

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Key tweet: Owen Thomas (@owenthomas) said, "Takeaway from @baratunde: Subversive Web satire is doing more for regime change than soldiers and spies ever could. #keynotunde"

Panel audio: Can be heard here.

"Tech Superwomen: Mentors and Mentees, FTW"

Cathryn Posey, the founder of Tech by Superwomen, had a problem. Why was there such a huge gap in women's participation in technology fields? Her answer: mentors that were missing in action. During her panel, Posey convened some of the leading minds in tech and business and asked them how they saw the problem.

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Key tweet: Digitas (@digtias) points to the relevant statistics: "Women represent less than 10% of corporate board seats & 3% of venture-backed companies. We need to change that - @nilofer #TXSW" #sxswi"

Panel audio: Can be heard here.

"Race: Know When to Hold It and When to Fold It"

(Full disclosure: I stepped in to moderate the panel after the original moderator bowed out. I did not have a role in the planning or pitching.)

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Do African Americans need to be the ambassadors for the entire race when moving in white tech environments? While the panel Adria Richards envisioned focused on solutions for folks diversifying tech conferences, the conversation quickly moved on to discussing the realities that professionals of color face in their careers.

Key tweet: Jorge Rivas (@thisisjorge) quotes Anjuan Simmons (@anjuan): "We should always be ambassadors … I'm always one data point in people's perspective about black people."

Panel audio: Not yet available.

Latoya Peterson is the editor of Racialicious.com and a contributing editor to The Root

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Latoya Peterson is a hip-hop feminist, anti-racist activist and deputy editor of Fusion’s Voices section, opining on pop culture, news, video games and everything that makes life worth living.