Coders and entrepreneurs will gather for hackathons this month in San Francisco and New York in hopes of creating new tools and companies that can bring an end to police violence and other social injustices.
Reboot Safety, the organizer of the events, is hoping its civic hackathons will provide a forum for innovative solutions that can prevent the police killings of minorities. The hackathons were conceived as a direct response to the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile earlier this month. They are also a response to the country's drastically split reaction to those shootings.
"We've got ridesharing. We've got homesharing, couch surfing, companies like Amazon and Google Express. Why is it that we are doing policing the way we're doing it today?" says Linda Maepa, one of the Reboot Safety founders.
Behind Reboot Safety are Maepa, Angelica Coleman, and Anticia Whitehead, three African-American women who work in tech. The group is hoping the hackathons will be able to support, promote, and launch initiatives that can challenge the status quo and bring about equality for minorities. The first hackathon will be held in San Francisco on Saturday and Sunday with a second event held in New York the following weekend. The group, which is accepting donations, is calling on technologists, entrepreneurs, and creatives to gather to build these solutions.
"I don't buy the motto that 'It is what it is.' It is what it is because someone made it this way, and nobody challenged that. I'm very much challenging people to look at things differently," says Coleman, who hopes to use the hackathon as an opportunity build a tool that can help users find black-owned business who they can shop from. Other potential projects include solutions for tech's diversity hiring woes, such as a LinkedIn-type service specifically for candidates from underrepresented groups.
Reboot Safety is only three weeks old and its founders are expecting a modest turnout for their event, but already the group's efforts have been recognized by civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson.
"This work is putting technology to use in the highest form--dealing directly with people's lives in ways that can make a positive impact on our communities," Jackson tells Inc. "It blends technology with social justice and human rights."
For the founders of Reboot Safety, the hope is that at least one product or company to come out of the hackathons can spur change.
"I'm hoping a real change comes about. Even if just one product gets built, I would be thrilled to see that because it means people are getting serious about it, and it means people want to make a difference," Coleman said.