As co-owner/founder entertainment firm Posro Media LLC for nearly 25 years, Roland Laird has become a leading national advocate in the ongoing mission to portray positive media images of African Americans. The “cultural entrepreneur” and seasoned corporate manager operates the development and TV/film/book enterprise with his wife, Taneshia Nash Laird.
In addition, Roland is CEO of MIST (My Image Studios), a $21 million state-of-the-art entertainment center based in Harlem, whose mission is to fortify the neighborhood’s ongoing revitalization. It was developed by Laird in a partnership with minority-owned real estate developer Full Spectrum of NY, and is set to launch in November 2012. The 20,000 square-foot facility comprises a 130-seat restaurant, 162-seat auditorium and two 91-seat theaters, and will serve as a forum for live music, spoken word and comedy—as well as a means of distribution for independent filmmakers—from the Black and Latino creative community. It also offers post-production film and digital media facilities. Laird’s wife Taneshia commandeers the role as Chief Marketing Officer for MIST.
Posro was founded in 1989 as one of the first Black-owned independent comic book publishing companies in the nation, distributing the series “MC Square: A Man with a Serious Game Plan,” and the nationally syndicated comic strip “The Griots.” The company allowed Laird to provide numerous young inner city artists with their first paying jobs in their chosen field. Since the company’s expansion into multi-media, he has become a sought-after analyst, interviewed by an array of national outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Source, Black Enterprise magazine, NBC’s “Sunday Today Show” and MTV’s “Yo MTV Raps.”
As an author, Laird’s book with Taneshia, “Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans,” issued most recently by Sterling Publishing, delivers the history of Black America—from the arrival of the first Africans in America in 1619 through Barack Obama’s groundbreaking presidential campaign—via a 216-page graphic-novel form. It has been heralded by both the New York Review of Books Readers Catalog and Entertainment Weekly, while syndicated columnist Kam Williams named it “one of the Top 20 Best Black Books” of 2009. The text has also been utilized in numerous educational curriculums, from middle schools to universities, in subjects ranging from history and English to sociology. Laird also contributes to The Washington Post’s TheRoot.com, MSNBC’s TheGriot.com and PopMatters, where he pens the online column “Write Black At You.” His essay “The Boondocks: Carrying On the Tradition of Subversive Black Comedy” is included in the college textbook “Signs of Life 7e: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers.”
Laird’s career before Posro and MIST further reflects his business acumen and tenacious drive to succeed, through numerous corporate positions as an innovator in software solutions and design. From 2002 to 2008, he served as VP of Application Development for Swiss American Securities Inc. (SASI), a subsidiary of Credit Suisse Group. There, he led a team of 35 business analysts, trade support professionals, software developers and operations staff. Working with the COO, Laird identified a means to streamline the company’s trading system to enable faster market execution. Over a five-year period, his software application solution resulted in a 60% increase in revenue.
Prior to SASI, Laird was a VP at online start-up and Swiss American Securities affiliate Streetline, where he recruited and managed the software development team for its core business: creating online trading solutions for mid-sized European financial institutions. Streetline’s “white label” trading solution allowed the firm’s clients to apply their own financial institution’s branding to its web-based software. Streetline recruited Laird after 15 previous years in software development and project management with such blue chip clients as Chase, Nynex, MCI, British Telecom, Pershing and the Central Intelligence Agency.
In the late 1990s, for MCI World, Laird developed a proprietary signaling server and other infrastructure solutions for pioneering product 10-10-321. As the first mass-marketed service of its type, the technology allowed consumers to bypass, or “dial around” their primary long-distance carrier to use MCI. By 1999, the signaling server handled 88 million calls per month and was the key component in the success of a $5 million dollar project for Laird’s then-employer Amarex, a small technology consultancy. His shepherding and development of software solutions for Amarex’s clients, particularly in user interactive voice-response, was instrumental in that company’s growth from 12 employees to 88 during his five years with the firm.
Laird earned a Master’s Degree in Computer Science for the New York Institute of Technology, and a Bachelor’s in Mathematics from Brown University. The native New Yorker lives in Trenton, N.J., with his wife Taneshia, and their daughters Imani and Naima.
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