Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Ana K. Rodriguez-Vizcaino and KaTaylor Price
Wooddale and Collierville High
While you might not see Black Girls Code on television, it is still a national program that reaches out to young women of color to expose them to computer science. Kimberly Bryant, a native Memphian, founded the program.
When Bryant entered the field of bioengineering, she realized that there wasn’t that many black women at her job or any other science, math, or technology fields at all. After sending her daughter to a technical engineering class and realizing that there were only three girls there—with her daughter being the only African American—she wanted to change that.
“Her vision is to make computer science just as common as Reading and Math. In Computer Science departments, there are more people named ‘Dave’ than there are women,” said Meka Egwuekwe Memphis Technical Lead for BGC.
Since then, the program has expanded to more than ten cities across the country and Johannesburg, South Africa and has educated more than 2,000 girls across the country.
“By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills to at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up,” Bryant states on her website.
For the Memphis chapter, it all started in June 2012 when Egwuekwe reached out to Bryant through a twitter status that said “My two daughters are both interested if you bring a chapter to Memphis!” tweeted Egwuekwe. This status soon turned to multiple conference calls and planned meetings. In September, Bryant was invited to speak as a panelist during the Indie Memphis Film Festival. Around November, a core team of volunteers had assembled.
In December 2012, Egwuekwe took his daughters to a BGC Atlanta workshop to further understand how the program worked. He says that many of the kids are “kicking and screaming” before the class. Once in and after class, it is a different story—they feel empowered. When they returned home, Upstart Memphis 48 Hour Launch Women’s Edition, Nibletz.com, and the Commercial Appeal were ready to hear about the children’s experience in BGC.
Almost every workshop is different. The one-day workshop during February 16th in Rhodes College was about coding websites with HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Workshops hosted in February and March both sold out. The workshops planned for August 10th (ages 10-12) and 24th (ages 13-17) in Central Library will be about mobile applications. Attendees will have an app of their own finished in that same day.
“If you have the skill, the idea, and the hard work behind it,” said Egwuekwe, “you can make something happen.”