We want the entire family to have the time of their lives! ESSENCE Fest is a multi-age experience and we want every single person, from 8 to 80, to leave fulfilled.
Still, here are 5 things you and your kids can do at ESSENCE Fest 2015.
1. ESSENCE Fest's Family Day of Service
On July 2nd, we will kick off the Festival with a family day of service. To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we are putting everyone who volunteers to work by rebuilding the community of the beloved city of New Orleans. Plus, this is a great way for you and your kids to bond while giving back.
2. ESSENCE Empower Youth's #YesWeCode
In partnership with Nola For Life, ESSENCE Fest is bringing back our phenomenal event, #YESWeCode Hackathon 2015. In an effort to inspire our youth to think outside of the box while planning their careers, we and our partners are teaching teens how to code in the digital space. If you would like to bring your child who is interested in Science, Tech, Engineering and Math, we'd love to help build their expertise with our expert teachers.
3. Send your teens to see their favorite artists at the Hot Right Now Superlounge presented by Ford!
You may not have heard of Nico & Vinz, Adrian Marcel, Mali Music, Sevyn Streeter, SZA, Lianne La Havas and more, but your teens definitely have. Explore the hottest music of today and see what your kids are listening to. You may find a new favorite artist for your iPod.
4. Discover new crafts, jewelry and more at the ESSENCE Arts & Culture Marketplace.
Other than uber talented musicians and food so good that you forget about your diet, the city of New Orleans is home to a unique group of craftsman and artists. Support their work by bringing your family to see the culture of The Big Easy through the eyes of its' most noteworthy artists.
5. Engage your kids in new activities and initiatives at ESSENCE's Community Corner.
Sign up to be a part of the greatest arts, science and technology groups in and around New Orleans at the ESSENCE Community Corner. Your child will be exposed to new ways enhance their knowledge about the various types of fun activities and adventures they can embark on while meeting people who enjoy the same hobbies they do.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 1.4 million new computer science jobs could soon be available in the United States, but only 400,000 students will be enrolled in such programs at the nation’s universities. This disparity is often referred to as the STEM gap. Only 1 out of 10 high schools in the U.S. offer computer science programs. And, in a sign that the national education system is far from modernized to meet the demands of the 21st century economy, 25 states still do not even allow computer science classes to count toward high school graduation.
Computer science-related jobs are growing at twice the national average, but there is a huge gap between STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related jobs and the number of young people who are studying to qualify for them. And this gap is hitting urban and minority students much harder than other populations. Expanding STEM education opportunities in minority communities is one key to helping young people rise out of poverty and filling the job gap.
To that end, #YesWeCode, a joint partnership of Dream Corps Unlimited and Thrive Networks, advocates for STEM inclusion and wider access to computer science education across the country. Co-founded by Van Jones, Amy Henderson and Cheryl Contee, the nonprofit ties technology and social justice together, and emphasizes the expansion of computer science education for urban and at-risk youth.
Established last summer, #YesWeCode already has a bevy of corporate partners, including Facebook, Ford Motor Co., Google and Comcast. Its overall mission is to act as a “catalyzer and connector,” and lead in raising awareness about computer science education among students. Part of the organization’s agenda involves a robust schedule of hack-a-thons. The most recent event, which took place in Detroit, aimed to reach students with latent skills but who otherwise would not consider a career in computer programing.
“Detroit has a reputation as a ‘bankrupt’ city, but its renaissance is driving a growth in technology,” says Michael Nobleza, deputy director of #YesWeCode. “I was inspired by the resilience that the city is showing.”
Nobleza was also inspired by watching students work together with Google engineers and developers “during this weekend of pure science.” He added, “[I] hope that these kids can achieve their dreams and capitalize on future opportunities.”
How do we rev up the technology engine -- so that the Motor City, Detroit, and others like it, can make a strong economic comeback? How can youth leverage technology to solve some of the biggest issues confronting them?
On March 27-28, nearly 100 middle-school students from the greater Detroit area converged at the Ford Research and Engagement Center for a two-day hackathon that explored these questions.
Students came up with innovative tech solutions to educational issues including:
A virtual report card that can be accessed by students and parents, so they can have a real-time read on student performance
An online resource for students who miss class
A literacy app that pops up the definition and background of an unknown word a student is reading
An app that connects music to mathematics.
The hackathon was co-hosted by #YesWeCode and the Ford STEAM Lab and powered by the Level Playing Field Institute. Thanks to the Ford Motor Co. Fund, each participating school walked away with an award -- with the winning school taking home a $15,000 cash prize!
Our Detroit hackathon highlights what #YesWeCode does best:
Communicate: The hackathon saw extensive national coverage, with MSNBC doing a special “Growing Hope in Detroit” documentary. MSNBC commentator, Joy Reid, was on site at the hackathon, to train kids on delivering compelling pitch presentations and to cover the event.
- Hip-hop artist and Detroit native, Big Sean, gave a personal message to the students via Skype while on his concert tour in Japan. He shared his thoughts on how technology has impacted the music industry.
- Hashtags #growinghope and #yeswecode were tweeted hundreds of times over the weekend, reaching millions of users.
- Convene: #YesWeCode worked with Ford STEAM Lab and the Level Playing Field Institute to pull together a diverse cross-section of stakeholders committed to connecting youth to opportunities in technology. This includes the Mayor and Chief Technology Officer of Detroit, leaders from the Detroit Public Schools, technology companies, and partner coding education groups.
- Catalyze: The hackathon gave participating youth an immersive experience designed to expose and excite them about technology. More than developing new technology, our hackathons aim to inspire students with confidence and a new outlook on what’s possible for their lives
Thank you to the students, adult mentors, technologists, sponsors, and #YesWeCode supporters who all made this hackathon a success! For more information, check out our Facebook page or check out our Hackathon Storify.
And check out our first national commercial on msnbc:
Marlin Page, founder of Sisters Code, speaks with Joy Reid about efforts to close the gender gap in coding and emerging technologies. Plus: Sisters Code graduate Sherri Crowe, #YesWeCode founder Van Jones and the Detroit Free Press' Stephen Henderson join the discussion.
A problem that has been secretly weighing on Silicon Valley for years, rose to the surface last June, when companies like Google and other tech giants revealed their diversity reports. Data from Google, in particular, showed that among their employees worldwide — only 2% were African American, and only 3% were Latino.
While many have demanded solutions to the tech industry’s diversity problem, people like Van Jones, founder of #YesWeCode, are working to ensure that the next generation of tech revolutionaries and innovators are diverse and given equal opportunities.
#YesWeCode is an initiative working to become the United Negro College Fund (UNFC) equivalent in the computer coding education space.
“The UNCFC does a great job of getting scholarships to African Americans who want to go to black schools, but unfortunately nobody is doing that yet for African Americans, Latinos, and Native American students who want to get a specialized education in computer coding,” Jones said.
#YesWeCode wants to find and finance the next Mark Zuckerbergs and Sheryl Sandbergs in communities where no one would be looking for the next big tech luminary.
For Jones, whose background includes working for grassroots organizations, the White House, and for championing various social causes, the idea for #YesWeCode first came about when Jones and Prince, the legendary musician, were discussing racial issues that followed the murder of 19 year-old Trayvon Martin.
“Prince pointed out that every time you see a black kid in a hoodie he’s a thug, but if you see white kids in the same hoodie, they think he’s Mark Zuckerberg,” Jones explained.
“He said, it could be that we haven’t created enough black Mark Zuckerbergs, and maybe we need to be focusing on that, so that the next time you see a black kid in a hoodie, you think he’s on the way to a million dollar startup.”
The #YesWeCode initiative is striving to reach 100,000 underserved youths. They hope to train a future generation of high-level computer programmers.
#YesWeCode is ultimately set on showing those who are disadvantaged that opportunities exist in industries they may have never considered for themselves before.
“We probably have a million black kids playing basketball this weekend, imagining themselves going to the NBA, but the NBA only hires 15 kids a year. There’s only 450 playing basketball in the NBA pros. Mathematically, that doesn’t make sense, meanwhile the technology sector says that they’re going to be 1,000,000 workers short in 8 years,” Jones said.
The program is taking steps toward reaching their goal of 100,000 youths by creating hackathons, where programmers and developers come together to code and create new products.
Their first hackathon, in partnership with Qeyno Labs, was held last year in Oakland, California.
“The ideas and the products that the kids were coming up with were so original and extraordinary. They were coming up with apps to help kids in foster care, help kids with the criminal justice system, and even helping prevent kids from being professionally trafficked. It was a very different set of problems than just another photo sharing app,” said Jones.
#YesWeCode is currently using hackathons and bootcamps — fast and intensive programs that train individuals to be developers — to catalyze their movement. But they still face their biggest challenge of scaling their efforts.
“Trying to figure out a way to help the bootcamps scale and include more people from our community has been our biggest challenge, but that’s where we’re also going to meet our biggest success,” Jones said.
Right now the program is preparing to host more hackathons, launch a scholarship fund, and they will launch loan fund this fall, which is intended to help those between the ages of 18 and 25 attend a bootcamp.
As Jones looks forward to this fall, he explained that his ultimate goal for #YesWeCode is not just to change the culture of Silicon Valley. Rather, he also wants to change the culture in the hood.
“Nobody is telling our kids that it’s fine for you to be able to download an app, but you’ll really impress me when you can upload one. I tell young people all the time, don’t show me your rap, show me your app,” he said.
“The future is being written in code. We need to have a big movement for inclusion in Silicon Valley. If our young people have the tools to not only get jobs, but to solve problems, then the future could be very bright.”
A few weeks ago, I was talking with the team behind Growth Strats, a Detroit-based consultancy that aims to create a nationwide model for incubating new ventures from urban entrepreneurs. All of the Growth Strats co-founders happen to be men of color.
I asked the Growth Strats partners about access to capital and resources, and why women and minorities often feel like they’re excluded from many of the tech opportunities taking root in Detroit.
Terrence J.L. Reeves, a corporate lawyer with Growth Strats, put it like this: “I went to a fundraising program last year. A prominent investor on the panel said, ‘If you don’t get introduced to me by someone I know, I won’t respond.’ In an area like Detroit, venture capital firms are mostly run by Caucasian or Jewish people, so what that means to women and people of color is, ‘I won’t respond to you.’ In Detroit, where we have a city that is 80 percent minority, that pro
cess is still the case—I understand people are busy, but I think that criteria is totally misplaced.”
It’s a conversation happening in every tech hub from Silicon Valley to Boston: How can the community help kids in urban centers like Detroit capitalize on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) career opportunities? What are the best ways to help young people who are interested in coding, software development, and entrepreneurship breach barriers, real or perceived, and access the resources needed to launch a tech startup?
Those questions are central to a two-day hackathon for Detroit middle-schoolers being held this Friday and Saturday at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center at 2826 Bagley Street. Called the Ford STEAM Lab—that’s STEM plus an “A” for arts—the educational program is being sponsored by the automaker, the Oakland, CA-based #YesWeCode and Level Playing Field Institute, and local tech-training organizations Sisters Code and Grand Circus.
One hundred tweens will gather to learn coding skills and then present their ideas for apps to a panel of celebrity judges that includes Van Jones, the author, environmental activist, and founder of #YesWeCode; Detroit-born rapper Big Sean; and Detroit Free Press opinion editor Stephen Henderson. The students are competing for more than $30,000 in prizes and scholarships, and MSNBC will be on hand to broadcast part of Friday’s activities live.
Michael Nobleza, deputy director of #YesWeCode, said his organization was born out of a conversation Jones had with the rock star Prince. The pair were chatting at a holiday party in 2013, not long after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, FL.
“Prince asked why a white kid in a hoodie is seen as a techie, but a black kid in a hoodie is seen as a thug,” Nobleza explained. “He said we need to produce more black Mark Zuckerbergs and Sheryl Sandbergs.” And with that (plus a celebratory Prince concert), #YesWeCode was launched with the goal of training 100,000 minority youth in high-level computer programming.
Nobleza said by 2020, there will be approximately 1.2 million tech jobs open in the United States, and #YesWeCode wants to make sure that urban communities are helping to fill the pipeline of prospective employees.
“There’s untapped genius in communities of color, and we want to lay the groundwork and infrastructure for growth,” Nobleza said. “We get stakeholders together and connect them to create a pathway for middle- and high-school students to succeed.”
The Dream Corps team attended its first-ever SXSW Interactive in Austin!
It was five days of non-stop learning, inspiration and meaningful discussions about diversity in tech and criminal justice reform, thanks to engaging panels featuring our own Van Jones and Shaka Senghor.
- Shaka joined a panel of ex-prisoners and advocates for a powerful conversation on the need for criminal justice reform.
- Van and Maxine Williams, Facebook's Global Director of Diversity, took the stage to talk about #YesWeCode's mission and what Facebook is doing to increase diversity in its workplace.
- Van also shared the main stage with civil rights hero, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., to discuss pathways for inclusion in tech -- including what the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and #YesWeCode are doing to make change in Silicon Valley.
Check out our storify of SXSW below:
Austin American Statesman: SXSW talk: Rev. Jesse Jackson on innovating diversity and inclusion in tech
Date: 11 a.m., Tuesday
The gist: On a diversity in the technology industry panel at South by Southwest Interactive Tuesday, the story may have been less about who was there — Van Jones of the #YesWeCode initiative interviewing the Rev. Jesse Jackson — than who wasn’t. Fewer than 100 festival attendees were scattered in the large Ballroom D of the Austin Convention Center, which can hold nearly 2,500. Jackson joked, “It’s not my first time at a morning session after a long night,” Jackson said at the start of the presentation. Interviewer Van Jones pointed out to the small audience the ways that Jackson has been pushing tech leaders such as Google and Apple to be more inclusive in hiring practices. Many people, he said, don’t know that Jackson successfully led the effort to get Silicon Valley tech companies to release diversity numbers, which appears to be leading to changes. “It revealed what we suspected,” Jackson said, “that the deck has been stacked against women and people of color.” Jones also tied in Jackson’s civil rights work in Selma, which has gotten attention of late due to the Oscar-nominated film “Selma” and the recent march there to commemorate the movement.
Takeaways: In about eight years, we’re going to have a shortage of about a million tech workers needed in this country. Fostering talent from historically black and Latino universities is essential to meet that gap. Not all these jobs are strictly tech jobs, but they are positions the tech industry needs. Jackson believes there should be an effort to forgive student loan debt as a stimulus effort and that early access to technology for everyone is necessary. “We must make access to this technology a crusade for everyone, not just for the few.”
Speaking at South by Southwest, the veteran activist said that opening the doors to the tech industry for people of color is the first step
Fresh off the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., the Rev. Jesse Jackson brought his message of going “beyond the bridge” to the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
Jackson said that while the 1965 march was a major moment in the struggle to get blacks the right to vote, the new challenge will be opening up access to technology and Silicon Valley.
“Voting has its place, but the fastest-growing industry, I believe, is high tech, so we need to get in there,” he said. “We must make access to technology and this new machinery a crusade for everybody, not just a campaign for the few.”
Jackson has been instrumental in convincing major technology companies to release their diversity figures, which have shown that on average, just 2 percent of their workforce is black.
When #YesWeCode founder Van Jones, who moderated the conversation with Jackson, asked how many in the SXSW audience knew that the veteran activist has been pivotal in making this happen, very few people raised their hands.
How Jackson went about getting companies to cooperate illustrated a new way of taking protest from the pavement to the boardroom, he explained.
“The magic is going from a protester to a shareholder,” said Jackson, whose organization the Rainbow PUSH Coalition bought shares in tech companies to push for change from the inside.
“Ours was a social-justice agenda to change the conditions,” he said. “The argument that we made was not so much of a negative one but of a value-added argument.”
And Jackson hasn’t just been giving speeches; he’s getting action, Jones said. Just last week, Apple became the third tech company this year to announce a donation of funds to help increase the number of women and people of color in the tech industry. Apple is committing $50 million to the cause.
In January, Intel announced a gift of $300 million, and in February Google donated $775,000 to Code2040, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women and minorities find tech jobs.
Jackson pointed out that blacks can be just innovative as whites and have been demonstrating this since the beginning of time.
“We can turn garbage into energy,” Jackson said. “Everyone has a place if you make room for them.”
He also wants to start an “underground railroad,” from Oakland to San Francisco, with the idea being to provide more inner-city black youths access to Silicon Valley.
Jackson said, however, that members of the black community have to do their part in forging their destiny in the tech world. “I don’t think we are doing as [well] right now as we should because people tend to be what they see,” Jackson said. “They don’t see it; they don’t want to be it.”
Technology must be taught in school, talked about at home and popularized through music, Jackson declared.
“It’s not just about being locked out; it’s about charging to open the door,” Jackson said, adding that it’s about not only opening the door but also being able to go through when it does open. 1 million-worker shortfall (pdf) in the tech industry. (Some, however, dispute that number.)
“If you start telling African-American and Latino and Native American grandmamas alone that their grandkids can make $70,000 a year if they work hard and study well for just six months, you’re not going to have a problem in terms of people wanting to be part of this,” Jones said.
He and Jackson are also pushing for big tech companies to start recruiting from HBCUs, not just from the usual feeder schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford.
Students from historically black colleges are just as qualified and should not be overlooked, Jackson said, adding, “Whenever the playing field is equal, we can make it.”
Julie Walker is a New York-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.
Ford STEAM Lab and #YesWeCode Bring Silicon Valley to Detroit, Empowering Students to “Hack” Education Reform
- Ford STEAM Lab, a Ford Motor Company Fund program, to host a hackathon for 100 middle school students to learn software coding skills, develop solutions to education reform
- Ford is collaborating with California-based #YesWeCode and Level Playing Field Institute, and two Detroit organizations, Sisters Code and Grand Circus, a tech training company
- Event features a high profile panel of judges including Stephen Henderson/Detroit Free Press; Van Jones/#YesWeCode; and Skype appearance by Detroit native and rapper Big Sean
- The hackathon will be held March 27-28 at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center in Detroit. MSNBC will broadcast live from the hackathon on Friday, March 27