At this year’s Essence Festival, New Orleans youth will join technologists, developers, designers and community leaders in a hackathon to build their own solutions for problems affecting their neighborhoods.Hack the Hood is one of several Oakland-based nonprofits to participate in the event, along with Black Girls Code, Hidden Genius Project, and Level Playing Field Institute, thanks to sponsorship from the Kapor Center for Social Impact and an invitation from Qeyno Labs and Rebuild the Dream, organizers of the #YesWeCode hackathon.
2014 is a momentous year that marks both the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 20th anniversary of the Essence Music Festival, the largest event dedicated to African-American culture and music in the United States. #YesWeCode’s hackathon is seizing the opportunity to further the inclusion of underrepresented populations in tech, a field with a rapidly growing workforce that so far does not reflect the country’s gender and racial diversity. “Technology hasn't had this level of cultural influence since the printing press,” said Damon Packwood, Program Manager at Hack the Hood, who is attending the event. “Ubiquitous computing, network interconnectivity; these are not just new toys, these are bona fide changes to society. If new tech is truly a reconceptualization of culture it has to be represented by the melting pot that we are so proud of."
July 3 through July 6 at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, an anticipated 250 youth and technologists will build apps centered around education, environmental sustainability, restorative justice, music/entertainment and health/wellness. Numerous organizations will be offering free tech programming in the #YesWeCode village. Hack the Hood graduates will lead a free web design workshop, while Packwood and Co-Director Zakiya Harris will present information about the program’s impact.
“We are very excited that Hack the Hood has been selected by #Yeswecode as model organization working at the intersection of workforce development, youth empowerment and technology,” said Harris. “We are also excited that three of our young people have the opportunity to engage in this event by teaching others the tech skills they have acquired. They will also have the opportunity to connect with other like-minded young people across the country participating in the #Yeswecode village.”
Register here for the #YesWeCode hackathon. Participants are invited to attend even if they do not know how to code. Everyone will come to the table with ideas and knowledge that shape the apps, and walk away with a sense of accomplishment that they contributed to both an important app and a growing movement for inclusivity in tech.
If you are interested in being a technical mentor, please apply here. To contribute to the event as a partner or sponsor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mary Fuller, Hack the Hood
In case you haven't seen, Google just released its diversity numbers, admitting they aren't where they want to be (see their blog post.) Among their Tech employees, only 17% are women, 1% are black, and 2% are Hispanic.
Google isn’t alone in the disparity, they’re just one of the only tech companies brave enough to release their data (so far). Check out this graphic from a 2013 Census report titled Disparities in STEM Employment by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin.
The fact is we can’t solve the employment disparity problem until we fix the educational and job training disparity problem which starts in middle school, gets worse in high school, and reaches dismal levels in college and post-grad. Women, African Americans, and Latinos are way underrepresented in computer science and other STEM degree programs.
Here’s some numbers that show the work we have to do to build a pipeline for a future tech scene that is diverse, and as a result creating solutions for a diverse nation and world:
Researchers offer many (and interrelated) explanations for the ongoing achievement gaps. They agree that “family and community differences, school context, low expectations, and lack of exposure to role models, information about career opportunities, and advanced courses affect minority students’ success in mathematics and science.” (link- see page 5)
We think that Google releasing these numbers takes guts and shows both leadership and a desire to work to change this. They have partnered with one of our favorite leaders in promoting diversity in STEM: the Kapor Center for Social Impact to address their diversity problem. As a Google Bay Area Impact Challenge Top 10 Finalist, Hack the Hood is also proud to be able to partner with Google to begin to plug the leaky pipeline in order to change the tech workforce disparity.
Hack the Hood is committed to reaching youth who are slipping through the cracks. Here are our demographics from last year:
We simply can’t afford to waste the potential of our youth. We need their creative minds to attack some of the biggest challenges that face us as a nation and as a planet. We need to unite around providing quality education from preschool through post-graduate education for all our youth. We need universal access to technology and tools for success. We need real, meaningful, and formative opportunities from an early age. Our solutions have to be practical, and relevant to diverse youth. We have to build on the assets we have, and bridge communities to make this happen. Only then will we start to see these numbers change. Only then can we raise a new generation that is strong, smart, diverse, and ready to attack everything from poverty to climate change.
Please advocate for long term reforms in our educational system, and support schools and organizations who are already doing this work in the meantime.
One thing you can do right now is help Google support diversity in tech by voting us into the top 4 in the Google Bay Area Impact Challenge.
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