Jessica Matthews is inventing new ways to make use of everyday happiness to produce energy. Jessica is from Poughkeepsie New York. Her parents are Nigerian and she is a dual citizen in the US and Nigeria. She is a graduate of Harvard and is an inventor. I found Jessica through Blavity’s “Afro-Tech” conference which highlighted Black folks doing amazing things in the tech world. While in school, Jessica used some of her course work and projects to create a project that would be inspired by her many visits to family in Nigeria. Millions of people live without regular electricity, something I take for granted. They use kerosene lamps and gasoline powered generators. Jessica found a way to use a soccer ball to generate electricity. After many prototypes she invented a soccer ball called “Soccket” that when played with generates and stores electricity that can later be used with lights, cell phones, radios, etc. Since the invention, she taught herself some things about electrical engineering and she co-founded a company called “Un-charted Play” that re-envisions everyday objects like a luggage wheel, jumprope, pants (rubbing together), and the soccket to create electricity. Jessica has been featured in various publications and invited to many places such as Forbes, The White House, the Harvard Foundation, and Black Enterprise.
Sources: Blavity/Afro Tech, The Aspen Institute, UnchartedPlay.com
Tracy Chou is an advocate for diversity in the Tech industry. A Bay Area native, she was born in 1987, and attended Stanford. She has written articles, spoke at conferences, and confronted the issue at large companies as an insider. Tracy’s name kept coming up on my feed over the past few years just researching more about the field of technical and non-technical founders. She is a part of a much larger voice of women, people of color, queer folks, and white ally’s working to bring in more voices into these companies that are affecting and changing the world. Tracy grew up in Silicon Valley, and actually has two parents who were involved in engineering. She started as an intern like many do in the tech world at companies like Google, and went on to work for some of them who were start ups such as Facebook, Pinterest, Rocket Fuel, and Quora. While working she became aware of the glaring fact that these spaces were mostly white and mostly male. So, like many others who have spoke out or founded their own initiatives she started to investigate. She wrote some pieces on medium and began collecting data about how many women were working at tech companies in technical positions. This was four years ago. Companies were shy to release the stats because they knew it would reflect a huge problem. Companies like Google, Intel, Apple, and more started to show what their staff’s diversity or lack there of looked like. And sadly, things are not changing fast enough. Props to Tracy for being an advocate for bringing more women, queer folks, and people of color into the fields. Not only that, but trying to encourage young girls to get into tech and putting up with the backlash from people who may never “get it”. Tracy has been interviewed or featured on sites or in spaces such as Tech Crunch, Vogue, Fast Co, Wired, CNN, Mother Jones, Today, and many more. She now works in New York and is continuing to code and to fight. Check out her articles “Where are the numbers” and “Why I care about diversity in tech”.
Sources: We Code Harvard, Medium, Mercedes Benz, Twitter, triketora.com
You can purchase this piece, email me at email@example.com $40 (includes shipping) , i will donate a portion to Tracy’s next mission to promote diversity.
Kimberly Bryant is the founder of “Black Girls Code”. She is an electrical engineer from Memphis, Tennessee born in 1967. She earned her degree at Vanderbilt college and began working for companies like Westinghouse, DuPont, Pfizer, and Genentech. But Parenthood has a way of opening your eyes to things that were not as noticeable before. BGC was founded because Kimberly’s daughter took an interest in computer programming, but could not find a program as diverse as her city. So, she made one. It started in Oakland in 2011 at the HUB with Bryant teaching her daughter and some of her friends some basic coding. It has expanded to other cities in the Bay Area and has gone across the U.S. teaching young women of color in more inclusive spaces that reflect them rather than turn them away. If you are unaware, in the last 3-4 years large tech companies we use everyday started releasing their numbers and much to the tech communities surprise the number of Black folks and people of color were tiny. Founding BGC was a ground breaking move because it helped spark a conversation in the Black community, a movement of girls of all backgrounds to get into coding, and it helped Bryant secure funding to bring the program internationally. If you can see it, you can be it. And if an invite is extended people will come. Kimberly has been recognized by Forbes Magazine, Business Insider, the White House, Fast Co, Tech Crunch, and more.
Sources: SF Chronicle, BlackGirlsCode.org, Wikipedia
I met both Zakiya and Susan several years ago here in Oakland. Susan Mernit and Zakiya Harris are the Co-Founders of a ground breaking Oakland based organization called “Hack the Hood”. The organization brings in mostly African American and other students of color to learn about the tech field. From the interview I heard with Zakiya on “Blacks in Technology” it sounds like a stretch for some at first, but they soon realize that everywhere they go they are no only participating in the tech industry but they can be active makers and producers in it as well. The students learn basic and complex coding skills by building websites for local businesses. They are not only learn coding, but they learn people skills, how to work with clients, and what it takes to run a business-therefore bringing more people of color into a extremely white, homogenized, and exclusive field. Along with other organizations like Code 2040 they are changing the landscape of tech and empowering young people to be creators.
Susan comes from a background in tech, working for corporations such as Yahoo, Aol, and Netscape. She also founded or Co-founded several media and tech savvy businesses here in the Bay Area such as Oakland Local. She is the CEO and Executive director of “Hack the Hood”.
Zakiya I know from Oakland’s historic arts culture of music. She was one half of the group Fiyawata, is currently working on a solo music project called “ShapeShifter”. Zakiya has a long history of community organizing and youth education through organizations such as Grind for the Green at Ella Baker Center, TED, The Youth Leadership Institute, Global Exhcnage, and countless others. She is also a founding member of Oakland’s Impact Hub which is the only HUb out of many worldwide run by Black women!
Sources: Blacks in Technology (podcast), http://www.hackthehood.org/our-team.html(site)