Summer Recap Article: Black Girls Code

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Black Girls CODE Teams With Verizon And Break The Cycle

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On June 7th and 8th, 2014, Black Girls CODE collaborated with Verizon and Break the Cycle to present girls-only hackathons in Brooklyn, New York, New Orleans, and Oakland, California. The theme of these competitions was “loveisrespect”, using technology to encourage young women, 12-17 years-old, to think outside the box while creating apps and solutions that encourage healthy relationships among peers. Girls as young as 10 enrolled in the New York event. The third and final Hackathon series was held during the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

Out of 1.5 million students in high school, 72 percent of girls in the eighth and ninth grades who are dating will suffer physical abuse from their partners each year. Overall, women and individuals of color are extremely underrepresented when it comes to technology, or STEM fields. In fact, of people earning computer science degrees, only three percent of African American women and under one percent of Latinas graduate from this field.

In an effort to bring girls together and let them experience the great opportunities technological fields have to offer, these major organizations spend a weekend with young women from across the U.S. teaching important aspects of designing software and implementing healthy techniques for developing relationships among peers. The girls involved in the competitions said that the most important information they will take with them from the event was the knowledge of how to recognize good and bad qualities in relationships.

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Executive Director of Break the Cycle, Darlene Kiyan, stated that young people need to hear this message and the goal of the competition was to provide marketable apps that would be available to children and parents. No one deserves to go through domestic abuse, and often parents do not speak to their children about it. Young people need to hear and know that there are positive ways to avoid and overcome abuse, whether physical or mental.

In essence, parents should always think about their children. Whenever they get into the car, they buckle up their children. When it is cold outside, they make sure their children are warm. Food and clothing are provided because the well-being of the child is in their hands. The problem centers around the fact that parents do not realize or potentially acknowledge there are other issues that threaten their children, such as domestic abuse. Out of a group of 10 parents, only two will have spoken to their children about healthy relationships.

The main objective of this competition was to get girls excited about how they can be a part of making a difference in their communities. Kids do not have to fall through the cracks. Break the Cycle made it clear that this was not a time to judge but a chance to support and build up the young people involved in order to tear down the barriers that often hold them back. This support should never stop at the door to relationships. It should encompass all humanity including girls and boys whether they are gay or straight.

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During the first morning of the event, participants went through relationship training. In addition to listen to important concepts, they engaged in activities to learn about teamwork and to solidify the concepts into their own experiences.

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The girls were all assigned into teams of five who worked together to create apps based on what they learned. Once the judges selected the winners, those girls received college scholarships.

Charisma Island was the emcee for the event. The Black Girls CODE New York core team hosted the event – in fact, the team planned and executed this event in conjunction with BDC headquarters, a volunteer with the BGC in Dallas, Texas, hosted the event. The judges included:

Darlene Kiyan (Executive Director for Break the Cycle)

Cameka Craford (Manager of Multicultural Communications and Community Relations for Verizon)

Merline Saintil (Head of Global Engineering Operations, Mobile & Emerging Products for Yahoo!)

Alexis Ohanian (Co-founder of Reddit)

Lyndsey Scott (Model & Mobile App Developer)

Janine Hausif (Founder of the Around the Way App)

Malcolm Jones (Development & Operations Engineer for Behance)

The winning team in New York was “Step One” which included 4 young women from grades 6 to 11. It is the hope of Black Girl’s Code, Break the Cycle and Verizon that this was an unforgettable experience for these girls that will reshape their lives in a positive way. In turn, as they walk away with this change, they can touch others and give them the chance to excel in both relationships and reach for their dreams, whether or not they involve technology and the Computer Information Industry.

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About author

Ese Ofurhie

Editor and Co-Owner/Founder of ENSPIRE Magazine.