I’ve always shied away from writing about race because I wanted to be recognized for my passion instead of my skin color or where I come from. That’s become completely unavoidable now. Race has moved to the forefront of what’s become one of the most important topics about the future of technology: inclusion.
I’m reminded of a blog I wrote to Susan Mernit a few years ago. Susan pointed out the lack of women on an “elite bloggers” list. I argued that the list wasn’t about gender, but missed the bigger picture Susan painted: inclusion. She was talking about real inclusion; the kind that acknowledges everyone sitting at the table.
Social media is inclusive by nature. This inherent inclusive was helpful the moment I arrived in Durham, NC. I was there to give a keynote presentation at AT&T’s 28 Days, but bad weather ruined my plans to explore the streets of Durham. I sent some direct messages via Twitter and within an hour I was graciously hosted by Jen Lawrence (@JaelDesignsInc) and her beautiful family!
Inclusion in Social Media
AT&T’s 28 Days highlights February as more than a reflection of the past, but as an unimaginable footprint to what the future holds beyond Black History Month. That future is inclusive of those in our own backyard, as well as around the globe, without ignoring the special ways and days that we honor our rich diversity. Social media is the same way because anyone can participate in the conversation. In my keynote, I spoke on how I’ve used social media to add my voice to conversations impacting my future that I normally wouldn’t have any access to.
In doing so, I’m able to get others to listen to what I have to say. Add a phenomenal team of people like the folks behind AT&T 28 Days, and you get a beautiful and unique opportunity to catalyze voices and ideas that the world has yet to hear.
Empowering Others to be Included
While some people might jump at the chance to join the conversation, others might not. How can you voice your opinion if you don’t understand the tools you’re using? This was the case for some of the parents attending the STE(A)M panel I spoke on at Black Girls Code‘s Robot Expo held at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta shortly after AT&T’s 28 Days.
I developed my passion for technology without much input from my parents. However, they encouraged me often even though they had no clue what I was doing. My mother was especially curious and would ask me a lot of questions. This had a big impact on why I continued to cultivate my passion for technology.
Parents are the biggest influence on how open a child will be to new ideas. On the other hand, it can feel embarrassing to not know about things impacting you and your child’s future. With a panel of four brilliant black women and one cool dude, we shared resources available locally and online to help others feel informed and confident about using technology. Online resources included Codecademy, Khan Academy, edX, YouTube EDU, Coursera and Udacity.
Inclusive New Beginnings
I like to remind people that they don’t need to be an expert in technology. There’s a huge opportunity right now to simply enjoy learning from others. In doing so, we can create a future that continuously reflects the places we all come from.
I have a new understanding of how my background influences the uniqueness that I bring to any table. This awareness inspired a sense of duty in me to extend my insights and opportunities to others just like me. With a little push, I’m doing just that inside of an innovative, inclusive, and incredibly fun platform called A Third Place.