CBS Bay Area: Oakland Youth Empowerment Program ‘Yes We Code’ Part Of Superstar Prince’s Legacy

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The marquee of Oakland’s Paramount Theatre bears a somber tribute to Prince, whose passing on Thursday shocked the world. The superstar revealed audiences here a few weeks ago. Who would have dreamed then that down the street, the legacy of Prince’s music would live on in an ambitious tech program to give kids from low-opportunity backgrounds a chance to shine. It’s called ‘Yes We Code.’

It was inside Impact Hub on Broadway that Prince’s vision sprang to life. It all started in July 2013, when George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. It was a verdict that angered Prince’s good friend, CNN political contributor Van Jones.

Kelley Nayojahi, COO of Queyno Labs describes their ensuing conversation.

“Van was angry and he says, “It’s just racism,” and Prince said, “Maybe it could also be that we’re not turning out enough black Mark Zuckerbergs.”

And so ‘Yes We Code’ was born. It’s goal? To give 100,000 low-income kids the tools they need to write code and become dot.com billionaires.

Jones hooked up with Qeyno Labs in Oakland.

“We focus on high potential, low opportunity kids,” says Nayojahi. “We want the kids who normally would not have access to this, to expose them to coding and careers and the nuts and bolts of what it takes.”

Prince paid for their first hack-a-thon was held at Impact Hub in the Winter of 2014. It focused on creating social justice apps that could have saved Trayvon.

“Prince’s legacy isn’t just musical,” said Jones, in an interview on CNN. “He’s a humanitarian first and foremost. He’s not the kind of friend that was there for you when you don’t need him. But, if you do need him, he is there a thousand percent, whether you know him or not.”

When Jones talks about his late friend, he’s moved to tears.

“There are people right now who have solar panels on their houses in Oakland, California that Prince paid for and they don’t even know about it.”

Yes We Code is all inclusive. Hundreds of African-American, Latino, Asian, Native American and Appalachian youth have become part of the program. On the program’s website there is a page thanking the man who made it possible.

#YesWeCode would like to honor Prince and thank him for his inspired vision for #YesWeCode. Prince’s commitment to ensuring young people of color have a voice in the tech sector continues to impact the lives of future visionaries creating the tech of tomorrow.