Oakland Hackathon Aims to Engage Communities of Color
Silicon Valley touts itself as a meritocracy where people climb the economic ladder based on the power of their ideas. But many people of color can’t even find that ladder, let alone climb it.
They’re not part of the valley’s white-male-dominated “bro culture,” advocates say, and aren’t connected to the social and educational networks where companies recruit talent.
“Shame on Silicon Valley, but shame on the rest of us, too,” said Van Jones, a former veteran Bay Area activist and current co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire.”
His Oakland nonprofit, Rebuild the Dream, is one of the driving forces behind Start-Up Weekend Oakland, which began on Friday at the Impact Hub Oakland. More than 300 participants are expected to take part in a hackathon with an overriding theme of driving more African Americans and Latinos into the tech world’s recruitment pipeline.
It’s part of Rebuild the Dream’s national campaign dubbed Yes We Code.
Organizers say their goal is “a Silicon Valley that lives up to the dreams of Dr. King.”
Stats prove that it doesn’t.
“Communities of color have to bear responsibility for not making this our No. 1, 2 and 3 priority and pointing our kids to these opportunities,” said Jones, who will speak at a Saturday evening reception along with Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code and Mitch Kapor, inventor of Lotus, who now focuses on race in tech at his Kapor Center for Social Impact.
“You still have way too many kids of color who think that they’re going to be basketball stars or entertainers or Barack Obama,” Jones said.
“We have to tell young people that here is this pathway where you can make $90,000 to $111,000 and the cops aren’t going to come knocking on the door. You can keep the money. You don’t have to win ‘America’s Got Talent,’.” Jones said. “And it’s right there under the noses of people living in Northern California.”