Pages tagged "news"


The New Yorker: Van Jones and Kayleigh McEnany Try to Fight the Right Way

On Monday night, a day before travelling to Las Vegas to cover the final Presidential prizefight, the left-leaning CNN political commentator Van Jones took the stage at Southeast Missouri State University, in Cape Girardeau, to debate his right-leaning CNN counterpart Kayleigh McEnany, in front of a thousand Trump-leaning students. Jones is a forty-eight-year-old Yale Law School graduate and the president of a social-justice accelerator called the Dream Corps; he worked in the Obama Administration and supported Bernie Sanders before Clinton won the nomination. McEnany is a twenty-eight-year-old Harvard Law School graduate who interned in the second Bush Administration and has supported Donald Trump since the primaries. This was the first time they’d met on a stage, at lecterns, with their own debate moderator—Rick Althaus, an avuncular professor of political science at the university—to discuss what Jones later described to me as “this dumpster fire of a campaign.”

Despite their obvious differences, Jones and McEnany are friends. After walking onto the university stage—Jones in a charcoal suit and his usual rimless glasses, flashing a peace sign; McEnany in a blue dress and heels, waving queen-like to the crowd—they embraced. There were humorous digs here and there: McEnany, after coughing loudly, said, “I guess I have more in common with Hillary than I thought.” Jones, after McEnany cited what he considered suspect economic figures, said, “I’m as anti-establishment as anybody, but I’m not anti-math!” But their debate, which ran a little more than an hour, was as amicable and consensus-oriented as the actual Presidential debates have been pejorative-laden and divisive. This was what Trump would call a love fest.

The most striking moment of accord came toward the end of the debate, when Jones gave an impassioned civics lesson on two words from the Pledge of Allegiance. Republicans are strong proponents of liberty, he said, but unchecked liberty can lead to the tyranny of corporations. Democrats, meanwhile, prioritize the pursuit of justice, which can result in the tyranny of the government. “See, that back and forth: liberty and justice,” he said, gathering momentum. “That’s America. And it’s tough business. And it’s back and forth. And it’s heated. But when we do it right you get Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton. You get Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. When you get it right, you get a great country.” He paused. “Your generation’s job is not to never fight. No! These are important issues. Like Kayleigh said, you’ve got to fight. But you’ve got to fight the right way. What we’re doing now is not the right way.”

McEnany nodded her approval as the audience roared. “My friend Van Jones is the real deal,” she said. After the debate had ended, as the crowd was filing out, a young man in a John Deere hat turned to another young man and said of Jones, “I’d vote for him straight up, right now. At least he knows his shit.” When told of this comment later that night, Jones responded with a pundit’s wry chuckle: “I’m not running for office. I’d rather be the stick than the piñata.”

We had repaired to the hotel where he was staying. There, Jones contrasted the influence that Trump is having on the national discourse with the influence once wielded by a friend of his: Prince. A decade ago, Prince made a large, initially anonymous donation to one of Jones’s green-energy nonprofits. (Given its size, Jones insisted on knowing its source.) Within a few years, Jones was spending time at Prince’s Paisley Park home near Minneapolis, talking politics and playing the tambourine or cowbell (“terribly,” he says) during mandatory-participation jam sessions. “At a Prince show,” he said, “it was every color, every class, every gender, every sexuality, every age. All of them of one accord. Like, he could hit that one note and see every person united. So he knew it was possible. And he wanted us to see that.” He added, “When you’ve seen the Prince effect night after night, and then you see the Trump effect—everyone divided by someone with the same gift for mystique and attention-grabbing—you can’t be quiet. Because I know people can get past all this stuff to a different place.”

McEnany told me she’d been conservative since she was sixteen. “I carried around a Ronald Reagan quote book,” she said. But she and Jones had found common ground. “Among Republican circles, people are, like, ‘Van Jones, that left-wing energy guy for Barack Obama,’ ” she told me. “But he’s so much more than that ideological profile. When I met him, the first thing he said to me was, ‘Oh, Kayleigh, you’re wearing your cross. That’s so great.’ He appreciated the outward expression of my faith. It was so kind and welcoming.” Jones, she said, has since helped her better understand the Black Lives Matter movement.

Over the past year, Jones’s conciliatory approach has resulted, notably, in a moving five-minute exchange with CNN’s conservative pundit Jeffrey Lord, on Donald Trump’s relationship to the Ku Klux Klan. (“I really wanted to make my point, but I also really wanted to not break community, because that’s what these demagogues want,” Jones recalled.) He has also won over young Trump supporters working for the Web site Infowars, who engaged him in a half-hour “street debate” that could have easily turned ad hominem, this past July. His willingness to criticize élites in both parties, including Clinton, tends to bolster his credibility. As does his firm belief in the dialectical process.

“You want to have an ecosystem of ideas, not a mono-crop,” Jones said. “A lot of times, NPR liberals are, like, ‘If only everybody thought like us, everything would be great.’ Sometimes we on the left get so indulged or outraged that we actually break community with our conservative sisters and brothers, and it’s just arrogant how it comes across: ‘If only these dumb Republicans were better educated, they’d vote like us.’ I hate that.” Also, he added, “I actually want us to be challenged.”

So, a challenge: How would Jones approach a debate with the Republican nominee, which he’ll analyze on the air tonight? “I wouldn’t study any policy at all,” he told me. “I’d study Trump’s children. That’s what he cares about, his family. And I would try to figure out a way to make my points so that every one connected back to something his children had done or cared about. That would be it. Literally, I would say, ‘I want to quote Ivanka Trump on something.’ You put him in a position where, in order to attack you, he’s got to attack his kids. And then he’d get very quiet, because he’s not going to do that.”

After the final Presidential debate, McEnany told me, she and Jones and the rest of the CNN commentating team will more than likely share some pizza and beer. “There’s something to be said for good old-fashioned getting in a room together and hammering out a solution over a long conversation and developing a mutual respect,” she told me. “But, with these candidates, I don’t see that happening.” Then she said goodnight to Jones and left to catch a plane to Vegas.

(via The New Yorker)


NYT Magazine: Van Jones Can Empathize With Trump Voters

Interview by Ana Marie Cox 

It seems as if what you’re best known for, at least in pop culture, is being the guy Glenn Beck hounded out of the White House, and also for owning Jeffrey Lord on CNN. What would you like to be known for? I’m a serial, successful social entrepreneur. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about being known for something. I spend a lot of time trying to solve problems.

What you actually do — opening the solar industry to communities of color, bringing urban youth into Silicon Valley, among other things — is largely trying to tackle fairly intractable problems. Where have you seen the most growth? It’s amazing how much progress is possible if you remember that most people, on all sides, are fundamentally good. Most people spend their time defining the problem. If you start with the solution — Hey, let’s get these kids jobs! — people quickly find an enthusiasm to work together across all lines.

I also believe that people are fundamentally good, but this election cycle has tried that hypothesis for me. I have a great deal of empathy for the Donald Trump voters. When you listen to them talk about feeling hurt, scared and left behind, they sound like the Black Lives Matter activists.

How so? The elites have failed the people so thoroughly that tens of millions of people, on any side of any issue, can legitimately say they don’t think the system is working for them anymore, if it ever did. Now, I don’t like bigotry. We have to beat Trump. But hurt people holler. I will fight Trump, but I don’t want to fall into this cheap reverse-­Trumpism, where liberals are just as rude toward the Trump voters as Trump is toward them.

How do you envision bipartisan respect, even in disagreement? Even while you’re trying to win on the battleground, you should be trying to figure out the common ground. Everybody’s thinking about Tuesday, Nov. 8. I’m thinking about the day after. Neither Clinton nor Trump voters are leaving the country. Liberals need to take responsibility for our role in the polarization from the left. We’re so invested in being correct, but we’re not right about everything.

A lot of people are mocking the idea that you can explain the bigotry at a Trump rally by writing it off as simply a response to economic anxiety. There are elements of racism, xenophobia and misogyny in the Trump movement, and there’s also all kinds of legitimate of anxieties. The rise of Trump is a judgment on the progressive movement that has adopted a style that doesn’t leave much room for a 55-year-old heterosexual white Republican living in a red state to feel that he has any place of honor or dignity in the world progressives are trying to create. We see the disrespect coming from them, but there’s a subtle disrespect coming from us, the NPR crowd, that is intolerant of intolerance. Nobody wants to feel as though they don’t count.

What does the left need to do to include that sort of person? In a sane world, it would be like a marriage, with respect for what each partner brings. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with each other, we just have to understand and respect.

I worry that if Hillary Clinton wins, she’ll think there’s no need to listen to the left, just as there’s no need to listen to the right. Do you remember that song from the ’80s, “It Takes Two”?

Sure. “It takes two to make a thing go right.” That’s my understanding of politics. It takes two kinds of leadership. It takes a president who is willing to be moved, but it also takes leadership in the streets to do the moving. This fantasy that all you just have to do is elect the right person — this is not “The West Wing.” Come on. This is reality.

I’ve read that you’re a science-­fiction and comic-­book nerd and that you’re close with Newt Gingrich, who has written a few novels about alternate histories. Why do you think a lot of people who love policy wonkery also have an interest in science fiction? Because we’re all nerds.

(via NYT Magazine)


Van Jones: 4 things to know about the 'You can't polish this turd' CNN contributor

CNN contributor Van Jones went viral Wednesday night for his critique of Donald Trump’s performance in the third and final presidential debate. Jones took issue with the Republican presidential nominee suggesting that he might not support the result of the election if Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wins. “You can’t polish this turd,” said Jones during CNN’s post-debate analysis. “This man has demonstrated an appalling lack of patriotism.”

Later, he used pop culture to describe Trump: “I’m going to have to go all the way back to old school hip-hop and quote LL Cool J in his first album and say, ‘He lied about the lies that he lied about.’"

However, there’s more to Jones than these colorful soundbites. Here are four things you should know about him. 

1. He is an environmental and human rights activist 
Jones, a graduate from Yale Law School, is most known for his activism. He has founded several not-for-profit organizations whose goals range from finding solutions to improve our economy to training people for jobs in the green sector. In 2014, he launched #cut50, an initiative attempting to cut prison population in half over the next 10 years, and #YesWeCode, a national initiative that will provide 100,000 men and women from underrepresented backgrounds with the skills and training necessary to succeed in the technology sector. 

2. He was an advisor for President Barack Obama 
In March 2009, he was appointed Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. However, he resigned in September due to several controversies about his past work as an activist and because of his past comments about Republican lawmakers. 

3. He made the TIME 100 list in 2009 
“A pioneer in fusing economic opportunity and social justice with environmentalism, Jones, 40, represents an important progression in our country’s perception and thus our approach to combatting global warming,” wrote Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio about Jones in 2009 when he made the list. “Steadily — by redefining green — Jones is making sure that our planet and our people will not just survive but also thrive in a clean-energy economy.” 

4. He has published two New York Times best-selling books 
Jones is the author of 2008’s The Green Collar Economy, which puts forth a plan to save both our economy and the environment, and Rebuild the Dream (2012), his memoir about going from an activist to a White House policy advisor. 

See Jones in action

(via Entertainment Weekly)


Our Man Van

It was quite a week for our fearless leader, Van Jones. He took courageous stances on the national stage and stood up for progressive causes we care about. Here are a few of the hits:

Van Takes on Rape Culture:

Van speaks out against police brutality:

Hillary notices Van's support:

And he kicked off the week with a Facebook Live video -- now at 10 million views and counting!

We are proud to have a leader like Van -- not just for our organization, but for our nation.

Keep doing what you are doing.

All of us at The Dream Corps are behind you.

Van launched the Dream Corps to provide a home for changemakers. We are focused on bringing Americans together to solve our common problems.  Sign up to join us


Van Jones Statement on Tulsa Officer’s Indictment

Dream Corps Stands in Solidarity with the Black Community

“Yesterday’s indictment of the Betty Shelby, the police officer who killed Terence Crutcher, is an important step towards healing and justice.  

No human being should play the roles of judge, jury, and executioner in one moment.

The violence against black communities in the last week only deepens the pain and frustration African Americans have with our biased criminal justice system.

Good people on both sides of this divide have legitimate fears and frustrations. We cannot let the reservoir of empathy run dry in this country. We must find a way to work together to stop this madness.”


Article 3 Advisors: The Crisis of the American Criminal Justice System is Bad News for Everyone

static1.squarespace.pngWritten by Richard Branson and Van Jones, exclusively for the A3A criminal justice blog series.

From the perspective of philanthropic institutions and individuals, criminal justice is not a distant problem that primarily concerns governments. The failures of the criminal justice system, from mass incarceration to egregious racial inequalities, have had such profound corrosive impacts that they can no longer be ignored. 

With 2.3 million people in the US prison system, 7 million on parole or probation, and 1 in 3 African-American men expected to go to prison at some point in their lifetime, we are facing a crisis of dramatic proportions. The system is so fundamentally broken that its very capacity to deliver justice has to be called into question. Equality before the law, the right to a fair trial and due process are frequently and often quite deliberately violated, tipping the scales to a point that conviction or acquittal are no longer a question of guilt or innocence, but rather a matter of socio-economic status and race. If you can’t pay for a good defence, the odds are stacked against you. If you are black or Hispanic and can’t pay for your defence, you are screwed. 

It’s an unacceptable status quo that also weakens America’s moral authority abroad. Indefinite solitary confinement, life without parole for minors and the fact that one in nine death row inmates will eventually be exonerated do not exactly strengthen our negotiating position when trying to stand up for human rights elsewhere. 

Beyond the staggering facts, the broader consequences are quite clear: this crisis threatens to roll back and undo years, if not decades, of social progress, much of which was accomplished with passionate support from the philanthropic community. Public health goals are undermined by everything from stress related-illnesses to high HIV transmission rates within prisons. Family formation is interrupted; children lose contact with incarcerated parents. Economic development is undercut when large numbers of African-Americans have felony convictions that lock them out of the job market. No question, if the legacies of the civil rights movement, of the fight for equality and of the war against poverty are to endure, we are all called upon to join forces and help restore justice, dignity, fairness and equality – the bedrock principles of healthy, equitable and prosperous societies.

To be frank, this is a momentous challenge many philanthropic organisations have to come to terms with as they seek to find their own role in the 21st century. Much of philanthropy still prefers to treat symptoms, rather than pushing for systemic change. It’s time to shift our priorities. 

How can this be done? First of all, reform needs champions and resources. Modern philanthropy should be prepared to provide both.

Part of the exercise is to listen to the voices of the criminal justice reform movement. The wider public, as well as mainstream media, are only slowly beginning to understand the extent of the problem. As advocates, champions and thought leaders, philanthropies can help amplify awareness of the causal relationships between a broken system and its devastating impacts. There is enormous room for positive and meaningful programmatic work to highlight best practices, vocally support reform efforts and grassroots initiatives. 

The good news is that change is happening. Ballot initiatives and legislative proposals seek to undo years of injustice. Unlikely alliances are forming across party lines and ideological positions, recognizing that the human and economic cost of these continued injustices, estimated as in excess of $80 billion a year, is not just unsustainable, but also deeply un-American 

While the window for change is open -- with so much at stake for so many -- philanthropy needs to continue working open doors of opportunity, while doing everything possible to close prison doors. Both are necessary. 

Source: Article 3 Advisors


CNN: Getting Smart About Justice

cnn

(CNN) Everyone knows that ambitious, bipartisan legislation is completely impossible to pass in today's divided and dysfunctional Washington right?

Wrong.

By year's end, President Barack Obama could sign into law major criminal justice reforms -- passed because of the leadership and full engagement of the congressional GOP.

On Thursday, key leaders took a major step toward that outcome as Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, and Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act of 2015, a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that will start chipping away at our unjust, unaffordable system of mass incarceration.

Over the past 40 years, the United States has fought the drug war in the worst way possible -- by jailing those who simply needed help with their addiction or mental illness. Meanwhile, we have targeted and disproportionately sentenced black and brown Americans, as well as those from poorer neighborhoods. And we have created a system that costs too much, imprisons too many, and does too little to truly keep us safe.

Now, nearly 25% of the entire world's prison population is behind bars right here in the land of the free. The federal prison population in particular has skyrocketed, soaring more than 800% since 1980.

With all this in mind, there are three reasons we should all be excited about the SAFE Justice Act.

First, the act will safely and smartly reduce our prison population over time. It will refocus our prison system on those who are an immediate threat to others, not people caught in a police sweep with a small amount of marijuana. The act will also reform mandatory minimums to help snag big traffickers -- but without condemning nonviolent offenders to long prison sentences. Instead, it will expand the use of alternative sentencing like probation, drug courts, and medical treatment for addiction or mental illness. And finally, it will help people get their lives back on track when they get home.

It does all this in smart, sensible ways that have already been piloted and proven at the state level. Both red and blue states have shown that you can lower prison populations, reduce costs, and cut crime by instituting evidence-based alternatives to sentencing, giving judges more discretion, and allowing targeted releases of those who are unlikely to offend again.

In short, the SAFE Justice Act will bring those who pose no danger back to their families by taking the best of state policy and implementing it at the federal level. That is how our system should work.

Second, the act offers a chance at comprehensive justice reform legislation.

The reality is that our system of mass incarceration is simply too interconnected and complex to fix piecemeal. It makes little sense, for example, to send people home from prison without changing the way the "felon" label marks them for life -- preventing them from voting, getting jobs, or even having roofs over their heads. Reforming re-entry into the community without revising mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug crimes leaves too many in jail for far too long -- far longer than other advanced nations. Reinvent prisons without transforming policing and sentencing, and you simply replace one generation of the needlessly jailed with another.

There are a number of good bills that have been introduced in the Senate that do in fact accomplish pieces of what the SAFE Justice Act does. But to reform an interlocking and tightly woven system, we need comprehensive fixes like this one.

Finally, the SAFE Justice Act presents a chance for bipartisan justice reform.

Both parties created this mess. Both parties must fix it. Richard Nixon may have declared the war on drugs, and Ronald Reagan may have turned it into a war on the impoverished, but Bill Clinton also helped create today's mass incarceration nightmare.

Republicans control both houses of Congress, meaning nothing will move without bipartisan support. Indeed, in the real world, there is no functional difference between holding out for justice reform with no Republicans involved and opposing reform altogether. It is time to come together, because suffering families do not have the luxury of waiting for ideological purity.

In states across the nation, leaders have taken a deep breath, stepped across the aisle, implemented serious reforms -- and it has worked. In fact, a range of existing justice reform legislation in the U.S. Senate has bipartisan co-sponsors. Criminal justice is one of the few issues where right and left agree, most recently demonstrated by a huge Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform in Washington.

That potential is coming together in a big way. Can such promise be fulfilled? I believe there is nobody more trusted to fix the prison system than Bobby Scott. And there is nobody more committed to cheaper, more effective government than Jim Sensenbrenner. If these two men can work together, then so can everyone else.

The next year will be full of partisan bickering and political grudge matches. But, just maybe, it will also see real bipartisan reform, sparked by two leaders who dared to think big.

Read full article at CNN 


The New York Times: Silicon Valley, Seeking Diversity, Focuses on Blacks

From left, Mohammed Abdulla, Isaiah Martin, Matthew Jones and Zebreon Wallace take part in the Hidden Genius Project in Oakland, Calif., a program that teaches technological development and entrepreneurial skills to African-American students.CreditPeter Earl McCollough for The New York Times

Having grown up in a single-parent home with an absent father who was frequently incarcerated, Mr. Young, 33, can identify with other young black men he now calls “hidden geniuses” — the promising male teenagers who grow up in challenging circumstances mere miles away, but light-years apart, from Silicon Valley’s tech money machine.

That experience led Mr. Young to found the Hidden Genius Project two years ago. The program immerses high school men of color in coding, web and app design, team building and other skills intended to give them a leg up in the tech economy. Mr. Young says he focused on young men because similar groups existed for young women, and because young males face particular challenges in school and their communities.

His project is one of a multitude of grass-roots efforts that have sprung up recently to address one of Silicon Valley’s most acute diversity problems: the scarcity of African-Americans in the tech industry.

“We are helping these young men to understand who they are and what they’re capable of,” said Mr. Young, who runs his education technology start-up, MindBlown Labs, in the same Oakland building as Hidden Genius Project. “We’re giving them a pathway and putting them on it.”

Silicon Valley has been engulfed in a diversity debate for more than a year, in part because data released by giant tech companies like Google, Facebook and others showed how overwhelmingly tilted the population of tech workers is to white males. The data highlighted that the low number of African-American tech workers is particularly acute, worse than even the dearth of women and Hispanics in the industry.

Google revealed that its tech work force was 1 percent black, compared with 60 percent white. Yahoo disclosed in July that African-Americans made up 1 percent of its tech workers while Hispanics were 3 percent. In areport last month, Apple said it had made progress increasing diversity in hiring in the last year, though African-Americans remained the smallest fraction of its tech work force at 7 percent, compared with 53 percent white, 25 percent Asian and 8 percent Hispanic; the rest were undeclared, multiple or other.

According to the United States Census Bureau, African-Americans and Hispanics have been consistently underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations. In 2011, blacks represented 11 percent of the total work force but only 6 percent of STEM workers. Hispanics were 15 percent of the total work force and 7 percent of STEM workers.

The figures released by the tech companies have led to a flurry of initiatives to address the issue. Spurred by advocates like the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., who runs the nonprofit Rainbow PUSH Coalition, there are now “black tech” summit meetings and efforts by historically black colleges and universities to produce more science, technology, math and engineering graduates. These have been joined by a growing number of professional networks, including a new Black Tech Employees Resource Group, and nonprofit groups like Black Girls Code and Code2040, which are bushwhacking the professional trail.

“A lot of African-Americans want to grow up to be LeBron James, Jay Z or Barack Obama,” said Van Jones, the CNN political commentator and founder of #YesWeCode, a year-old program that has raised $3 million to connect young adults in Oakland to apprenticeships in tech companies. “They don’t hear about David Drummond at Google, who is at the center of one of the biggest companies in the world.” (Mr. Drummond is a senior vice president and Google’s chief legal officer.)

The idea with all of the new efforts, Mr. Jones said, is to create a generation of black entrepreneurial “uploaders” — those who create profit-making apps instead of simply downloading them.

How effective some of these initiatives will be remains unclear. “No one new idea will drive systemic change,” said Rosalind L. Hudnell, the chief diversity officer at Intel, which has pledged $425 million over the last few years to diversity efforts. “There is no quick fix.”

At the heart of the issue, underrepresented minorities “are up against a series of barriers and obstacles that their Caucasian and Asian counterparts don’t have,” said Freada Kapor Klein, founder of the Level Playing Field Institute in Oakland, which sponsors programs to increase diversity in technology. “The farther outside the tech ecosystem they are, the harder it is.”

And entry into the tech firmament remains challenging, even for African-Americans with engineering degrees. Consider Erin Teague, 33, director of product management at Yahoo, who grew up in a predominantly black suburb of Detroit and later became the only black woman among 1,200 students at the University of Michigan’s engineering department.

At left, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and Van Jones, a civil rights advocate, addressed the Push Tech 2020 gathering.CreditPeter Earl McCollough for The New York Times

“Everyone around me believed in me and saw me as smart,” she said. “But there was an exposure and access gap. I didn’t know what to dream for.” Eventually she received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and became one of the first 500 employees at Twitter.

With only 1 percent of venture-capital-backed start-ups led by African-Americans, access to capital is also being viewed as a civil rights issue.

“If you’re a 20-something in Atlanta or Oakland, you might not have the familial wealth or the network you need to raise seed-stage funding from angel investors, who are mostly white men of a certain age,” said Monique N. Woodard, the founder and executive director of Black Founders, a group dedicated to increasing the number of black tech entrepreneurs.

Now new networking groups, both formal and informal, are trying to shift that equation. At a “blacks in tech” gathering in Oakland in May, nearly 100 African-American entrepreneurs and diversity advocates brainstormed about Oakland as “the soul city of tech.” A new Bay Area Blacks in Tech organization also met in July at the San Francisco offices of Pinterest, the online scrapbooking start-up.

“Seeing almost 200 black engineers gathered together isn’t a common sight,” said Makinde Adeagbo, 29, a Pinterest engineer and one of the organizers. “We heard about what awesome things black engineers were working on at all these different companies. Events like these remind you that you aren’t alone.”

Ken Coleman, who is African-American and chairman of the data analytics firm Saama Technologies, started a “More Diverse Silicon Valley” event in 2013 at the exclusive Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, Calif. — the Main Street of venture capital — with the goal of enhancing upward mobility and access to capital for blacks and others.

“The most important ingredient for a tech company is talent,” Mr. Coleman said. “It’s shortsighted to overlook talent anywhere.”

Promoting entrepreneurship and increasing the numbers of math, science and engineering graduates has also become an imperative for historically black colleges and universities. About 28 percent of all math and tech-related degrees awarded to African-Americans are from those institutions.

Two years ago, the United Negro College Fund collaborated with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and others to hold an “innovation summit” at Stanford University, which was attended by provosts, deans and faculty members of some of these colleges and universities and intended to forge closer relationships with tech companies.

“It was a very powerful event,” said Chad Womack, a director at the United Negro College Fund, who added that the group visited Facebook and was greeted by Sheryl Sandberg, the social network’s chief operating officer.

Still, the hope that a consortium of tech companies would get together after the event to collectively invest in pipeline issues has yet to materialize. “If you look at the scale and speed with which the Valley moves, if they wanted to solve this problem, they could,” Dr. Womack said.

At the still-fledgling Hidden Genius Project, progress has been incremental, but there is traction. In total, 33 young men have completed the program or are in it, including 19 who just started. Mr. Young said the project had improved the academic performance of young people like Matthew Jones, 18, a student from East Oakland who described himself as a onetime “knucklehead.”

Because of Hidden Genius Project, Mr. Jones said he went from being a C student to graduating from high school with a 4.0 grade point average. He starts college at California State University, East Bay this month, with plans to major in computer science and the goal of becoming a software engineer.

“It’s taught me critical thinking skills and made me a better person,” Mr. Jones said. “I want to keep going.”

Source: The New York Times


EBONY: 8 Companies Attack the Digital Divide

#YesWeCode is proud to included in this great roundup of companies attacking the Digital Divide. 


 

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Back in 2014, when it became public knowledge that the big tech players (Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google) weren’t hiring enough women and people of color, there became what seemed like a national call to action to get these underrepresented groups ready for tech careers.

With this big diversity push also came an increasing number of organizations creating tech opportunities for communities of color by launching coding academies and schools, providing programs that offer tech entrepreneurs much-needed resources, and directly connecting young people to tech careers and opportunities. Here are eight of them.

Starter League

Founded in Chicago in 2011 by two African-American men (Mike McGee and Neal Sales-Griffin, both Northwestern graduates) as Code Academy, Starter League is an 11-week program that teaches people how to build web applications. With a mission to teach people to solve the problems they care about with technology, the program also partners with Chicago public schools to train teachers how to code, so they can teach their students.

To date, over 1,000 people have taken classes at the tech school, learning everything from web development, HTML and even user experience. When the founders first launched the school, they did it because they find a dearth of in-person code training around the country. “So we decided to build it,” McGee told Emerging Prairie.

Black Girls Code

After working in the chemical engineering and biotech field for 25 years, in 2010 Kimberly Bryant decided she wanted to become an entrepreneur. After networking a bit, she kept hearing about the lack of women and people of color in tech. So she connected with a developer from Code for America and two biotech colleagues to launch a pilot program in 2011 in a low-income community.

Now in 2015, the San Francisco-based tech company, with a mission to increase the number of women in color in the tech space, has reached over 3,000 girls of color ages 7 to 17. With chapters in nine cities as well as pilot programs in Dallas and Miami, the program offers afterschool and weekend workshops and summer camps in programming, game development, robotics and tech entrepreneurship. There are also hackathons, where the girls work together to build problem-solving apps.

AllStarCode

AllStarCode prepares young men of color for full time employment in the tech industry by providing mentorship, industry exposure and intensive training in computer science. After seeing programs aimed at preparing women for careers in tech, Christina Lewis Halpern (a former journalist for The Wall Street Journal) discovered there weren’t many programs aimed at young Black men.

An increasing number of organizations are creating tech opportunities for communities of color by launching coding academies and schools.

“This is a group that doesn’t have advocates and needs more people who are able to speak for them in this industry,” Lewis Halpern told FastCompany. “I saw that that’s something I could do, and also it seemed that if I didn’t do it, I didn’t think anyone else would.”

The daughter of the richest African-American man in the 1980s, Reginald E. Lewis, Lewis Halpern credits her father’s success to the Harvard Law School summer program he attended when he was young. The program runs year-round workshops, hackathons and a six-week summer intensive. Some of the program’s alumni have gone on to run high school hackathons, intern at tech companies and win full scholarships to Ivy League universities.

Hack the Hood

Funded by the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth, and the Thomas J. Long Foundation, Hack the Hood launched its first full summer program in Oakland in 2013. The program introduces low-income youth of color to careers in tech by hiring and training them to build websites for real small businesses in their own communities.  

During workshops and six-week boot camps, young people gain valuable hands-on experience building mobile-friendly websites, executing search engine optimization, and helping businesses get listed in local online directories. In turn, the youth get to develop portfolios of the work they’ve done to prepare them for landing jobs in the tech sector. In addition to relevant technical skills, youth also learn critical leadership, entrepreneurship and life skills under the guidance of staff members and volunteer mentors who are professionals working in the field.

In 2014, the program was awarded a $500,000 grant after placing in the top four of the Google Impact Challenge—a contest that gave $5 million to nonprofits with innovative ideas to make the Bay Area stronger. By 2016, the program officers plan to train over 5,000 young people and build over 10,000 websites for local small businesses.

The Hidden Genius Project

The Hidden Genius Project trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship and leadership skills in hopes of getting them ready for the high-tech sector. In Oakland, not far from Silicon Valley, these young men are learning new languages like Python, HTML5 and Ruby on Rails. With companies like Pixar, Pandora and Ask.com housed in Oakland, it’s disconcerting that they’re not tapping into the talent right from the local community. The project aims to prepare young men for careers at those companies.

To join the program, the young men have to apply; once accepted, they must commit to attending classes twice a week, beginning with an eight-week long, 40-hour-a-week summer school. Over the course of two years, participants develop a mobile app from concept to completion. After the first year, students get to work on projects from paying clients.

Founded by Jason Young, Kurt Collins, Kilimanjaro Robbs, Ty Moore and others, the Project wants to create an ecosystem for tech talent. “The goal is, after we’ve worked with them for an entire year, to then have them stay involved at a different level,” Hidden Genius Project volunteer Kilimanjaro Robbs told Mashable. “Maybe they become mentors to the younger students while they’re still working on something at a higher level. But at the end of the day, the end goal is to make them all employable. That’s the bottom line.”

BLUE1647

Since August 2013, Emile Cambry’s BLUE1647 launched to provide a co-working space for local tech startups and serve as a learning lab for students on the south and west sides of Chicago. The organization also hosts a summer youth coding boot camp. Having worked with thousands of Chicago students, BLUE1647 is teaching a host of technology skills in web, mobile and game development.

“I saw a bunch of youth what needed jobs and opportunity. And I saw a lot of stuff in tech. I thought, lets try and educate the next group,” Cambry told ChicagoInno. High school students create projects directly related to their lives, like a DJ app program or projects in fashion tech, like necklaces created on 3D printing machines.

#YesWeCode

Van Jones, along with Global Social Enterprise expert Amy Henderson and Internet tech expert Cheryl Contee, started #YesWeCode with the plan of preparing 100,000 low-income kids for careers in technology. Launched at the 20th annual Essence Festival last year with a hackathon and headline performance by Prince, the organization (in partnership with Facebook) powered its website as a search tool for youth to find local coding education resources, linking them with coding schools like Black Girls Code and Hack the Hood.

#YesWeCode also launched a $10 million fundraising drive to provide scholarships to youth who can’t afford to pay for coding classes on their own. “#YesWeCode aspires to become the United Negro College Fund equivalent for coding education,” Jones told USA Today. “#YesWeCode exists to find and fund the next Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg in communities you would never expect to find them.”

CODE2040

Demographers believe that by 2040, minorities will become the majority in the United States. Tristan Walker and co-founder Laura Weidman Powers want to capitalize on that by preparing Black and Latino engineers to become part of the innovation economy. Less code school and more an internship mentorship program, CODE2040 started in 2012 to place the top performing Black and Latino engineering undergraduates in internships in tech jobs in Silicon Valley. Often tech companies say they want to increase diversity, but they don’t know where to find the talent. That’s the problem CODE2040 is helping to solve.

“The reason we called it CODE2040 is that in the year 2040, Black and Latinos will be the majority of the country. If we are not incorporating the perspective of what will be the majority of our country in 20 or 30 years, something is wrong,” Walker told Mashable.

On the other side, for students it increases awareness about the kind of careers that can be available to them and provides them with the access to those careers. Before entering the fellowship, applicants must pass a coding exam, a phone screen, and then a matching process with one of the organization’s host companies. This year, Google will back a new pilot program for CODE2040 in Chicago, Austin and Durham, North Carolina, giving minority entrepreneurs in each city a one-year stipend and free office space.

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Media Impact Forum 2015: Unlocking Opportunity in Diverse Communities

The Media Impact Forum kicked off its symposium with a moving presentation by CNN Commentator and former Obama Administration official Van Jones, who laid out a vision for greater inclusion in the technology industry, focusing on the #YesWeCode initiative run by his organization, Dream Corps, with support from The Atlantic Philanthropies.