Black Girls CODE (BGC), a Bay Area startup that aims to redress the on-going lack of paticipation of minority women in tech careers, took to the New Parkway theater in Oakland to re-launch its educational program with a new Summer Camp in Oakland, a 10 city Summer of Code tour, and an Indie-GoGo cloud funding effort. The unique program for minority girls inspired filmmakers Shanice Johnson and Janet Robinson to create a documentary which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival last month. 
The standing-room-only Parkway event brought together 150 entrepenuers, educators,  parent volunteers, their daughters and potentially supportive Oaklanders who contributed thousands to the BGC program.  This week, their campaign is at the $15,000 milestone, with only about 25 days left to reach their $100,000 goal to expand their program of technical education to another 2,000 girls of color.  Some 140 supporters have contributed to the Indie-GoGo campaign so far. 

Kalimah, Kimberly, and Shanice.

Kalimah, Kimberly, and Shanice.

The Parkway event was MC’d by Kalimah Priforce, a 2013 Black Male Achievement Fellow who co-founded Qeyno Labs and also works with the Hidden Genius Project, a program similar to Black Girls Code aimed at Afican American boys. He is one of this year’s Black Male Achievement Fellows, a program that runs 18 months and carries a $70,000 stipend. “I remember when Kimberly first approached me with Black Girls Code and she shared her vison and its has been pretty amazing what has manifested from that vision,” Priforce told the Parkway audience. In the last 2 years, the BGC program has  introduced close to 1,500 girls to programming via web site construction, game-building competitions, robotics, and visits to the tech campuses of Facebook, Google, and other major tech companies. The target of BGC efforts are girls of color (their definition encompasses African Americans, Latinas, and Native Americans) since this demographic has less than a 3% representation in technology fields.  They focus on girls between 7 and 17, encouraging their natural curiosity before ‘Geekness’ becomes a negative socially.

BGCode and Bryant have won many awards, including a Google RISE Award and a place in the Top 10 Black Innovators of 2012 by Blacks in Technology (BiT).

BGC’s dynamic founder, Kimberly Bryant, has had a long career as an Electrical Engineer and Biotech professional. But Math and Computer Science have been her life-long loves.   She founded Black Girls Code in 2011 after seeing so few women of color at Silicon Valley events.

Bryant explained her long-term goals to Oakland Local: “We are slowly but surely changing and shaping the image of the computer science professional to include women and girls of color and driving the narrative around the importance of women and girls as creators in technology.  The work we are doing is vitally important both to the students we serve and to the industry as a whole. By continuing to expand and build our programs, and with continued community support, we will, indeed, change the face of technology.”

Bryant added that while her office is in San Francisco, “we call it the San Francisco / Oakland chapter. And, to be honest, most of our students come from Oakland.  So we do spend a lot of our time here.”
Now this innovative Bay Area program is scaling up nationally and coming to other US cities.
Recently, Black Girls CODE  partnered with the Latino Startup Alliance (LSA) and MEDA to offer our compelling Build a Webpage in a Day class in Spanish. The May workshop taught participants to build their own webpage in a day using games and activities to introduce HTML, CSS, and basic web structure.  Earl;ier in the year they ran a special workshop for girls of color in conjunction with the SXSW Festival in Austin.
In 2012, the BGC Summer of Code encompassed 3 cities:  New York, Atlanta, and Detroit.  This year, there will be workshops in 10 cities, funding permitting.  The target cities are currently San Francisco/Oakland, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, New Orleans, Memphis. Also last year, the BGC Summer Camp was held over 2 weeks, the first in San Francisco and the second in Oakland. This year, the Summer Camp is being held entirely in Oakland on August 5-9 at La Escuelita.
Last October, in conjunction with ThoughtWorks South Africa, Black Girls CODE ran their first workshop on the African continent with 30 girls, the majority from the Kliptown Youth Program and Trust Tomorrow.  BGC intends to continue running its workshops across the US and internationally.
Volunteer and parent participant Kelley Torrey told Oakland Local, “It’s critical to society that we have wide participation whether it be hacking for civic causes,  healthcare, social and gaming technology other a gamut of other industries.  If a solution is being built for girls or women it’s  important to have their perspective injected into the process.  The program exposes girls to their options for participation, teaches them the skills and show them a path for entry and further development.”

Torrey was also very supportive of the program expansion.  “The overall BGC experience is enriched by a diverse community and perspectives from girls from all over – Detroit, Atlanta, South Africa, etc.  It would be amazing to have them continue their connection using Skype or maybe come together from time to time over the course of academic careers and support one another into their professional lives!  The BGC Sorority!”

See the video for the BGC campaign here.

Below are some images from the Parkway mixer and HERE is a link to the larger, full-sized slide show from the Re-launch evening.