By Olivia Butler
Google wants more Black men in tech and not in prison.
What do we say to that?
In fact, Google gave a $1 million grant to the Hidden Genius Project in Oakland. For those of you who don’t know, the Hidden Genius Project is an organization dedicated to increasing the representation of Black male youths in technology.
Google.org principal, Justin Steele, wrote about the event and the grant in a blog post:
Coding is evolving and influencing how we think about all industries, including fashion, music, and art. But even as CS becomes more important across a wide variety of fields, millions of Black, Hispanic and female youth aren’t unlocking its benefits.
One reason behind a lack of representation is perception; according to our research with Gallup, students are five times more likely to take an interest in computer science if they often see people who look like them in that field. As we often say, “you have to see it to be it.”
I first met The Hidden Genius Project when they were finalists and then winners in our 2015 Google Impact Challenge. Since our initial $500,000 grant, they’ve reached more than 1,700 Bay Area students through their 15-month intensive CS and entrepreneurship boot camp program, as well as events and workshops exposing young Black men to mentors, basic computer programming, and various careers in tech, like sports analytics and video game design.
Not only is Google focused on increasing the number of Black men in tech, but they are also working to reduce the incarceration rate and they’re not afraid to put their money where their mouth is.
Google has invested $11.5 million in new grants to organizations across the country working to reform the criminal justice system!
That’s great work.
In a blog post from February 23rd 2017 Steele writes, “Mass incarceration is a huge issue in the United States, and a major area of focus for our grants. The U.S. penal population has exploded, growing by 400 percent since 1984 to more than 2 million today, with Black men sentenced at over five times the rate of white men. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, dwarfing the rates of every developed country and even surpassing those in highly repressive regimes.”