A Hackathon between Police and Youth of Color? The Time is Now.
This weekend (February 17- 19, 2017), Qeyno Labs launches the first UbuntuHack — a hackathon between communities in conflict. As the newest member of Hackathon Academy, UbuntuHack in Oakland will take place at SPUR, MetWest High School, and the Oakland Museum of California and will focus on the relationship between youth of color and local police.
UbuntuHack will gather youth, members of the police community, and professionals who will be working alongside them to forge teams and produce solutions in the form of web and mobile app prototypes. Since the launch of the first hackathon for Black Male Achievement launched by Qeyno as the first Startup Weekend in Oakland, there hasn’t been a more controversial offering to the public. Since the announcement of UbuntuHack in the summer of 2016, we have faced critics from the activist community, resistance from organizations who also champion similar causes of introducing coding literacy to low opportunity youth, and have worked tirelessly to bring sworn police officers to participate just as much we do with recruiting youth and mentors.
Just as the Black Male Achievement Hackathon was considered controversial when it was announced in 2013, Qeyno embarked on a journey to make the impossible — possible. We created an experience that disrupted Silicon Valley by intersecting social justice with tech innovation, but it also served to inspire a generation of organizations around the world to take up the mantle of advancing “inclusive innovation” for their local communities.
The Origins of UbuntuHack
It began with the Mike Brown tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri. Long held tensions between communities of color and local police erupted across the country as protestors rallied and police forces were mobilized. Van Jones, CNN Contributor reached out to our Headmaster CEO, Kalimah Priforce, on the idea of bringing Hackathon Academy to the youth of Ferguson in hopes or creating opportunities and seed hope into their lives in the midst of social despair and economic disenfranchisement. The work of Qeyno is guided by our founding concept of “empathy spillover”. It’s why we create an experience with each Hackathon Academy geared towards diversity and fostering meaningful connection.
Priforce shared with Jones, “The images I am seeing on television, and from the reports I’ve come across about social conditions for Blacks in Ferguson, I am reminded of Apartheid, South Africa where low opportunity caused by marginalization is normalized. If policing is the problem, then the police have to be involved. Everyone needs to be brought together.” Priforce followed up his proposal for a hackathon based on reconciliation and innovation with multiple visits to Ferguson, Missouri.
Priforce met with parents, and youth, and activists. The greatest resistance to the idea of police and youth coming together came from activists who threatened to “molotov cocktail” any reconciliatory event and preferred forums that were controlled by them and hostile towards police presence. After numerous attempts to find common ground, the launch of UbuntuHack was postponed as news of scandals among Oakland’s own police force began to surface. Rather than addressing community-to-police relations in other communities, we decided to take care of home first and UbuntuHack as a model of what is possible.
UbuntuHack is a New Narrative for the “Next America”
The world’s first UbuntuHack has been met with resistance at home, but we continued to continue to reach out to communities, to connect with sponsors to provide resources from laptops to nutritious meals, enroll youth to become our Trailblazers, recruit mentors to become our Senior Developers, Designers, and Innovators to their junior counterparts. Certainly we have worked with local police forces to inspire them to “show up” and provide their narratives in an environment that will be a level playing field for all.
Conflicts between communities of color and police will continue to persist around the country, especially under our current political environment. News reports will flood our social networks, there will be an increase in riots and protests and police officers will continue to be mobilized with armed resistance to suppress public reactions to social injustice. There will be more stories of rogue officers slaying unarmed civilians and violent civilians killing police officers and our current private and public leadership will fail to provide a reconciliatory tone. We must be that leadership for the sake of our youth and the narratives they inherit.
As America continues to become increasingly diverse, we all have a responsibility to step out from those divisions, out of our comfort zones, and create new narratives to share about our potential as a country to move forward together, because their (our youth) potential is inextricably linked to the potential of our land, our nation.
A hackathon between police and youth is consider far too ambitious, but we are doing it anyway. UbuntuHack may be way ahead of its time, but the time has come to challenge the status quo on all sides to recognize each other and address parallel dehumanization and we need your help to make history once again.
Register to be a mentor or volunteer at UbuntuHack.com or ubuntuhack.eventbrite.com. For any questions of inquiries please reach the Team Qeyno at email@example.com and/or via Slack at http://bit.ly/qeynopublic.