Black Girls Code, a non-profit that teaches computer programming to African-American girls, is getting a permanent home in New York City.
On Wednesday morning, the organization held an event at Google's New York headquarters to celebrate the launch of its permanent bureau, which is housed within the tech company. The new office will be used as a classroom and an outpost for Back Girls Code's East Coast programs.
The 6,000-square-foot space--reportedly worth $2.8 million--was donated by Google, as the company aims to support the creation of a more diverse pipeline of talent. Google has previously been criticized for its dismal diversity statistics: African-Americans make up just two percent of the company, according to the most recent available data.
Bonita Stewart, Google's vice president of global partnerships, hopes the new space will allow Black Girls Code to establish a solid presence in the city. "It will enable the organization to build relationships within the local tech industry, so you're able to tap into all of our extensive resources across the Google campus," she said. Since 2014, Google has invested more than $3 million in Black Girls Code, according to the non-profit's founder and CEO, Kimberly Bryant.
The launch event gathered together students and public figures, including Minerva Tantoco, the city's first chief technology officer, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, to discuss the challenges that women and people of color continue to face in the tech industry. To kick off the event, Bryant cited lyrics from "Formation," a song from Beyoncé's latest album: "I dream it, I work hard, I grind 'til I own it," Bryant said. She was met with roaring applause.
Of the 2,200 women-led tech startups in the U.S., just 88 (four percent) are run by African-American women, according to recent data from #ProjectDiane. Overall, of the seven major Silicon Valley companies that have published their diversity numbers, just two percent of tech workers are African-American.
At five-years-old, Black Girls Code is already beginning to rectify that discrepancy. Since launching in 2011 in Oakland, Calif., Bryant says the program has reached 6,000 girls and counting. The organization is primarily run by volunteers, who teach students to create algorithms through a coding language called Scratch. The New York chapter is the nonprofit's first official location outside of the Bay Area.
"Break glass ceilings, go beyond, and reach the sky--because the potential, my young sisters, is in your hands," said Letitia James, New York City's Public Advocate, and the first African American woman to hold citywide office.
Echoing James, Tantoco -- as the city's first CTO -- encouraged students to pursue entrepreneurship. "The best way to be the best at something, is to be the first," she said. Tantoco started her first software company, Manageware Inc., in Silicon Valley back in 1985. The startup was acquired just five years later.
Perhaps the most compelling speech was delivered by Michael Blake, Assembly member for the 79th district. Speaking with a poetic cadence, he reflected that African-American women were behind many landmark moments of the civil rights movement--a fact that is often forgotten by history. It was Dorothy Irene Height, the late activist, for instance, who organized Martin Luther King Jr.'s march in 1963 -- after which he delivered the epochal "I Have a Dream" speech.
"Thank you to Kimberly [Bryant] that we make sure that black girls understand your greatness, that you understand all the remarkable abilities that you have, that many times, when people look at black folk they make it seem like we're not doing incredible things. Please remind them differently," Blake said.
He, like Bryant, went on to quote an R&B musician:
"In the words of the great philosopher Fat Joe: Nothing can stop me, I'm on my way up."