What is the future of Black America in technology? How can we become a major contributor in Computer Science and developing of circuits, transistor, and other pertinent components?
Everyday Technology takes another leap into the future. With antonymous cars on the horizon, the future is looking bright for battery powered cars and alternative fuels. With that said, I wondered to myself how are black Americans faring on the economics side of the Technology boom. With the success of Black Twitter, the use of Facebook, and the number of digital phones and apps we buy, you would think we have made strides in the digital age.
But that is not the case. We have managed to increase our overall presence in several important tech occupations, such as computer programming and operations research. We only make up 11.9 percent of all workers but only 7.9 percent of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workers. Unfortunately, the trend is going in a more dire direction with even less jobs coming to minorities from the Technology sector. On top of that, 49 and 43 of the largest metro areas have seen their representations of black people, respectively, decline since 2010. In General, black under representation appears worse in the historically “black-white” metro areas of the Midwest and South where increased numbers of black people tend to live.
Silicon Valley has not reached out to build and consistent pipeline of minority STEM workers throughout the digital boom. Black Americans share of STEM employment, for example, falls short of their workforce share in 89 of the 97 largest metro areas according to Brookings.edu. More programs specifically aimed at technical occupations that offer stability and the ability to mobilize Black Americans into pertinent roles like tech CEO’S. Which would be a critical to addressing the minuscule roles blacks play in today’s tech companies. This must be expanded at the higher ends as well as the entry level fields to expose efforts to expand the skill set of more minorities.
Most efforts will take place in grass-roots environments, combined with the high-end industry leaders providing training in coding, ATX, and engineering. This needs to be a focused work-based accelerated learning to career highway that encapsulates Computer Science education from kindergarten to graduation. Here are a couple models that have began campaigns. Major Contributing programs like Year Up; ethnically oriented “boot camps” and coding programs like Hack Reactor’s Telegraph Track, Black Girls Code, or #YesWeCode; all help to fight the degrading of black representation in the tech world. This helps to get things going in the right direction. The emphasis on learning high level tech, or even entry level groups like Byte Back and Per Schola are helping by proving programs computer certification classes. Tech conglomerates like Google and Microsoft has stepped into the forefront in Computer training also focused online curricula for certifications in basic office productivity programs.
We are increasingly focused on technology as a people. With major conferences in today’s world like AfroTech, their ability to combine black culture and technology to create a conference to help up entrepreneurs with their startups is needed and amazing. Techies, engineers, and innovators of various technical backgrounds converge in Oakland for the 2020 AfroTech Conference it takes place Thursday, November 12 through Sunday, November 15 in Oakland, California (If Covid-19 provides). This is proof of the growth of technology in black America.
Now lets honor some of the technical genius that have paved the way for more Technical influences in the future.
Joe Booker – He became a Technician at IBM, working in manufacturing; he moved up to management in 1969 at Memorex, then helped start-up pioneering hard disk manufacturer Shugart Associates, where he became Executive VP. In 1982, Booker founded his own firm, Vertex Peripherals, which later merged with Priam Corp. Since then, he has been involved in several high-tech start-ups in Silicon Valley.
Jerry Lawson – He worked for legendary Silicon Valley semiconductor firm Fairchild. While there, he proved instrumental in the development of the world’s first cartridge-based (read: computerized) video game system, the Fairchild Channel F (1976). Lawson did electronics design for the console, went on to find his own video game company, VideoSoft, and was then a mentor at Stanford.
Ed Smith – got his start in Brooklyn working on traffic control signal for Marbelite. From there he went on to co-design an early cartridge-based video game system, the APF MP-1000 (1978) for New York-based APF Electronics. He also worked on its computer attachment, the Imagination Machine, which competed with products from Apple and Atari in the late 1970s. After his time at APF, he became a successful electronics salesman, a career he continues to this day.
As I conclude this article. I want to talk about my journey into the IT field. As a teen I dropped out of high school and decided to become a statistic. My mother was a strong woman, raising three boys all alone. She worked long hours to keep my brothers and I clothed and feed. She went to school advanced her career, moved us out of East St. Louis to the suburbs in Edwardsville. Her struggle to become a nurse was a great inspiration for me, but the streets were even bigger.
After years of selling drugs and living a substandard inadequate lifestyle. I decided I was done. I moved with my girlfriend at the time to Phoenix. It took a while to get acclimated to not being in the streets. Once I decided to become a part of normal society by getting a job. I quickly realized, I had little to no experience with any occupation. I was taught at a young age how to get a job, so that was not an issue. I wanted a career. I started at Fry’s electronics, after talking to a friend I stated gaining an interest in computers. Fry’s Electronics was a great place to learn. I was able to figure out the intricate hardware and components in ATX and networking. I was surprised at myself. I went on to get a job with a friend Wabeh, He taught me how to build machines from scratch with more confidence and speed. I went on to get my G.E.D and then go on to get my degree in Computer Science.
I tell my story in hopes it inspires someone to take a different road. Or just to realize you must become the change you want to see. I hope we can gain more perspective on the technology career path, and how it can become an intricate part of the black communities rise in the future.
Damon Diplean Ellison