(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
It’s a time to create space, and listen.
Amid large-scale civil unrest sparked by police violence and systemic racism, it’s a time to meet the moment. There’s the action of raising a voice, donating money if you can and, if you’re a Baltimore resident, voting.
But, as leaders from Baltimore Corps and other local innovators often say, the people who are closest to the problem are the best positioned to figure out the solutions.
When it comes to racism, that starts with amplifying Black voices.
In a majority-Black city, it’s not a surprise that there is no shortage of such voices to follow. We’ve learned a lot from them in recent years.
And we’re thinking a lot about those lessons now. This month was already Racial Equity in Tech Month in Technical.ly’s editorial calendar. As if that wasn’t reason enough, this weekend and this moment further reminds how important it is to support perspectives and messages from Black people. And it’s important to amplify their work, too: As we saw in Baltimore after the uprising that followed Freddie Gray’s funeral in 2015, working to end systemic racism also means extending economic opportunity and creating more intentional pathways into industries where Black people are underrepresented, like tech.
In that spirit, below, find a very simple, very small step: a list of 10 Black voices in technology who are active on social media and in the Baltimore tech community. They’re engineers, coders and designers. (Check out more community organizers in our recently published RealLIST Connectors.) Some of them we’ve reported on for years, and others we’ve seen speak at events. All are voices worth seeking out and following if you don’t already. I’ve learned a lot from them.
Here are just a few of their quotes that are sticking with us:
Brittany Young, founder of B360
- Bringing together Baltimore’s passion for dirt bikes with opportunity that comes with teaching STEM skills, “it’s become my mission to better get people and organizations ready for STEM students of color,” she told Technical.ly last year.
Baltimore is a Black city that you choose to be apart of. Empathize and know once again it’s people are hurting and now is not the time for silence from “allies”
— B.Young (@cntknockBhustle) May 31, 2020
John Foster, COO of Fearless
- Working at the downtown digital services firm for more than a decade, Foster has played a leading role in a company that built a culture oriented toward civic tech and making an impact in Baltimore. He’s also been thoughtful about building companies. “Where we’ve always operated was understanding the strengths of the individuals and putting people in the roles that we know they can do and they can succeed in, and then trust in them to do that,” he told us last year as he and founder Delali Dzirasa transitioned to C-level roles.
We all know the truth: more connects us than divides us. But in times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe – Black Panther
— John Foster (@JohnLFosterII) May 19, 2020
Deirra J. Footman, senior network engineer
- The 2019 RealLIST Engineer blogs on technical and career topics at ccieby30.com, moderates three Slack channels, and is active on #BlackTechTwitter. A big passion: mentoring and encouraging folks seeking to enter technology fields.
If Anonymous has inspired you to learn cyber security, please start with some networking. Courses & books below:
— Deirra | #SecureTheTechBag (@ccieby30) May 31, 2020
Devin Weaver, network engineer
- The RealLIST Engineer created an internet exchange point for Baltimore. In a conversation last year, it was clear he’s thinking just as much about the city’s economic footing as the technology behind the system. “When we’re exporting capital like that, it puts Baltimore at a further economic disadvantage compared to our neighbors,” he said of his push to keep internet traffic local, instead of sending it through points in other cities.
Ashley Jean, software engineer at mdLogix
- The RealLIST Engineer is mentoring and organizing at events like the Baltimore Hackathon, Bmore on Rails and Code in the Schools. “I feel that it is my duty to give back to that same community because it has to be a domino effect — if we want more people, especially people of color, to be in the tech field we need to give back,” she told Technical.ly last year.
Dr. Leshell Hatley, principal investigator for Coppin State Lab for Artificial Intelligence and its Applications
- Check out her keynote from Code in the Schools’ Girls in CS Summit and her computer science nonprofit, Uplift, Inc. She’s passionate about bringing students into technology. “I started teaching because I’m a computer scientist and a computer engineer and I know I enjoy it. So I felt other kids should be able to experience it for themselves and learn about technology,” she said.
This is true if you teach Black and Brown no matter the topic…. https://t.co/Je7fDUd8Fy
— Leshell Hatley, PhD (@Leshell) May 30, 2020
Wilbert Pierce, 3D design and additive manufacturing
- A welcoming and connective voice, we’ve met him at NET/WORK events in recent years. “You’re working in Baltimore. What are you doing for Baltimore the city?” he told us in 2017. “A big part of the job search is sustainability for the community as well as myself.”
Danyelle Ireland, Ph.D., associate director of UMBC Center for Women in Technology
- An influential voice for underrepresented groups in STEM fields, she has spoken at events like the 2018 State of Black Women in Tech, where she talked about the power of students seeing role models who look like them succeed.
Bashirat Are, organizer of the Baltimore Black Techies Meetup
- With this meetup, Are is connecting technologists in Baltimore’s black community.“We want them to succeed and we want more of our people in the tech industry. Baltimore is already a growing hub and we need to be part of that success story,” she told me at last year’s Super Meetup.
Jeremy D. Brown, professor in Johns Hopkins’ Department of Mechanical Engineering and leader of JHU’s Haptics and Medical Robotics Lab
- Late in 2019, we heard his thoughts on career paths at Ingenuity Project’s Innovators’ Breakfast. Brown talked about the importance of mentorship from Dr. Willie Rockward, a former Morehouse College professor who is now on the faculty at Baltimore’s Morgan State University. “He told me, ‘You have what it takes to get a Ph.D.’ That stuck with me through the years, knowing that someone believed in me,” Brown said of Rockward.
It’s so easy to get consumed by the “pre” and “post” research (i.e. proposals and papers) that I barely have time l to enjoy the “actual” research taking place in @hamrlabJHU. Today was not one of those days. pic.twitter.com/r3xzhb13ir
— Jeremy DeLaine Brown, PhD (@Dr_Jdelaine) November 15, 2019
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