Deborah Bey didn’t expect it to work.
All she knew was that, after seeing the film Hidden Figures on a Friday, she felt inspired to take a bunch of low-income kids to see it too. All weekend she couldn’t shake the idea, so she struck a deal with the Regal Cinema in Chinatown — $1,000 for 100 kids. She put together a GoFundMe page, but fully expected to bear the brunt of that $1,000 herself. It’s fine, she thought. I just won’t go out for a few months.
But, well, that’s not how it turned out. “To be honest with you I was really surprised by the whole process,” Bey told Technical.ly.
The GoFundMe went live on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Bey posted the page, informed Shannon Turner at Hear Me Code (Bey took part in Turner’s intro to Python class about two years ago) and went to work. Six and a half hours later the project was totally funded, so Bey upped the amount, hoping to add more kids. Twelve hours in she’d raised $4,000. And by Jan. 18 her story was leading a BBC trend piece on crowdfunding campaigns and the movie Hidden Figures. (We covered a follow-on effort in Philly on Jan. 24.)
As the reality of the campaign’s success set in, Bey added another element to her project. She didn’t just want the kids to see the movie — she wanted them to meet some real live local technologists as well. Especially those with non-traditional backgrounds.
“It’s not only that you can’t be what you can’t see,” she explained, “but also that you can’t be what you can’t see how to make happen.”
Once again with the help of the Hear Me Code listserv, Bey gathered speakers for an after-movie panel, swag donated by companies and volunteers to help run the whole thing.
All in all, Bey raised $9,700 from GoFundMe, and an additional $1,500 via a single donation. Over the course of two Saturdays that money enabled more than 300 kids and their families to see the movie and get an introduction to the local tech community (117 members of which volunteered to help out) and its resources.
“In 17 days we kinda built this network,” Bey says, off all those who attended, helped, or wanted to attend (the screenings had a waitlist 590 deep).
Bey describes the first screening (which took place Jan. 28) as “crazy.” “People who attended didn’t notice,” she laughed, “but there were some hiccups.”
By contrast, though, the second Saturday on Feb. 4 “went like a charm.” “It was really festive,” Bey said, of the atmosphere. “It was really a celebration and a coming together.”
— Jessica Garson (@jessicagarson) February 4, 2017
Bey left the event totally exhausted (it had been a long 17 days). The next day “I woke up to all these emails.” The outpouring of thanks, Bey said, was overwhelming. “I don’t cry easily,” she told Technical.ly, “but I was crying like a baby at some of these messages.”
And Bey is far from done.
With this newly built “network” she hopes to host a hackathon for the kids — Code for DC and the Tech Lady team are on board to help, she said, and some schools have offered to host. Keep an eye out, world.
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