Akilah Martinez (she/her) is an incredible rising star in the creative technologist landscape. As a Dine woman and New Mexican, Akilah is a fierce advocate for indigenous communities in our state. As a groundbreaking and fresh visual artist that uses tech in social practice, Akilah is an adept coder who blends philanthropic initiatives and advocacy with stunning, innovative XR development. Learning to code C# allowed her to expand her practice to include developing the groundbreaking app DigiNewMex, which highlights Indigenous foods and 7 Indigenous languages found in New Mexico including Navajo, Keres, Zuni, Jemez, Comanche, Apache, Nahuatl and even Spanish as spatial sound as a pathway to cultural preservation.
Driven by a deep connection to indigenous advocacy work, Akilah has jumped to grow as a technologist at every possible opportunity. Travelling to Los Angeles and New York City with the Crux XR Fellowship in 2019 gave her unique perspectives on developing AR technology in New Mexico: “I learned so much about creating equity for women/women of color in technology, and how we can shift philanthropic dollars towards underserved communities in STEM to empower people of color and women to leverage XR technology to tell their own stories.”
Akilah also acts as a mentor for Indigenous women participating in the New Mexico Community Capital program The Future Is Indigenous Women, helping participants gain digital literacy by introducing them to use up-to-date technology to find information, create content, optimize data, and to effectively communicate with others.
“I volunteer a lot of my time in efforts to establish a local XR tech industry for Indigenous tribes of New Mexico,” says Akilah. “This work invests in the advancement of the local tech industry because XR development and usage is nonexistent on the Navajo Nation and nonexistent on most tribal nations in New Mexico.”
Akilah also brings the personal to the wider world. She returned home after college to care for her grandmother, which spurred her interest in cultivating resources and awareness for caregivers. Her experience continues to motivate her, and she says prompted deep conversations and activism about the dangers of caregiver burnout and domestic violence. Shortly after, she experienced another hardship close to home:
“As a result of losing my Dad to Covid-19, followed by dark and hopeless months, I was forced to be introduced to my own version of highest human potential and the human ability to evolve, innovate, create and invent new possibilities,” said Akilah. “Having a daily practice to positively evolve myself and my community are components that gave me something to live for after experiencing loss and surviving tragedy, which is a personal accomplishment to me.”
Akilah has gone on to make profound impacts in the creative technology sector in New Mexico. Accomplishments in her professional career, all in support of developing XR experiences that revitalize Indigenous languages and culture, include:
- Receiving The Artizen Fund 2023
- Receiving Native Arts and Cultures Foundation LIFT 2022
- Awarded The Andy Warhol Foundation 2022
- Winning the AIBE Pitch Competition, 1st Place, for her idea to use XR technology to preserve and revitalize Indigenous languages and culture
- Inventing an interactive oscillator shoe prototype, using the code language C++, that was displayed at FATE Biennial 2013
Akilah is also already a part of the thriving technology economy in New Mexico:
“I apply my expertise on a volunteer basis to the local community by helping local businesses strategize how we can utilize XR marketing for their upcoming merchandise releases, free of charge,” says Akilah. “I believe that this type of XR development will help the local New Mexican ecosystem keep current with modern marketing tools that are valued throughout the world.”
As an Emerging Leader, we are honoring her accomplishments and supporting her future leadership with this incredible award. Akilah Martinez is an incredible young professional with an exceptionally bright future in technology! Join us on March 13th to celebrate Akilah and all of our 2024 Women In Tech Awardees.