I am old enough to have been through seasons that were not necessarily progressive seasons for African-Americans, and know there is going to be a struggle. It’s going to be a difficult time for us to advocate and advance some of the issues that will level the playing field for the current and future generations. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a hard battle, but that’s the story I’ve seen. It’s going to be very difficult.
I was saddened by Trump winning the presidency because I felt that a lot of the work organizations and advocates such as myself and Black Girls CODE had achieved over the past four years would take a step back.
Look at some of the changes that President Obama’s administration has ushered in: The CS for All initiative. The White House Science Fair. Elevating STEM and technology in a way to the forefront. Being very active in terms of bringing folks who have been working in the tech industry in Silicon Valley and New York and other places onto the administration to really also be advocates for the work of organizations such as mine.
I think STEM was not something in the cognitive minds of the general population. Now, it very much so is. I absolutely credit President Obama and his administration for really making it cool to be smart, making it cool to be a geek.
I’m concerned that we will lose that focus with this new administration. We’ve finally gotten to this point where I’m seeing just a sea of movement with STEM and computer science being implemented and advocated for on the local level.
This was something that was not happening just five years ago. I have concerns about what that will mean even at the local level, not necessarily the national level.
What will happen on a local level with this sea of change and perspective that we see coming now in terms of the voices that are the most active and loud but not necessarily focusing on these issues?
I’m concerned about the next generation having a voice, an active voice in politics, not just the tech. I think the skills are one thing, but I also want to make sure that our young people, and the girls who are coming through our programs, are also building leadership skills. I want to be sure that there’s a seat at the table for them as leaders in the future, not just as technologists. I think this sort of alt-right movement that we see could be a barrier to that happening.
I think the next four years call for folks to step up and lead in ways in which we haven’t done before. I think times of great struggle call for times of great leadership, so we need to lead and we need to be courageous about leading. I think even for me as I work in my role within Black Girls CODE, I’ve been pretty singularly focused on this issue of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, and that’s really been the focus of my work over the past five years.
And it was no clearer to me that my role here is not just to teach these girls to code than it was the day after the election when my daughter texted me and told me the kids at her high school were staging a walkout to protest the election. I need to look outside of the tech bubble and look at ways that I can address other issues going on around me and be active in those. Active in issues on the politics side, both nationally and locally. To see how I can make a difference in some of the things that are impacting our girls outside of the school zones. I think that every mom needs to do the same.
— As told to Tomika Anderson
Kimberly Bryant is Founder and executive director of Black Girls CODE