#BlackTechMatters—gaming, coding and apps; African Americans face obstacles

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 5/25/2017, midnight
Anari Sengbe, who comes from a family of immigrants from Sierre Leone, is now one of the most sought after ...

Anari Sengbe, who comes from a family of immigrants from Sierre Leone, is now one of the most sought after coders and app creators in America. He is part of a class of burgeoning “techies” rising from all walks of Black life.

Sengbe, for example, got his start playing games on a PlayStation when he was a kid, coming from the African coast to equally sunny California.

Late in April, NBC News reported a growing hashtag #BlackTechMatters. According to the news network and other media sources, more and more Blacks are getting into advanced technology, and the result is a new class of developers being sought after by major companies.

Tabonia Evans & Patricia Wilson-Smith

Tabonia Evans & Patricia Wilson-Smith

But it’s not all good news, say some. Sengbe says media coverage, even in Black media, and the awareness within the Black community of the opportunities in the app development and coding arenas remains disproportionately low. And then there’s the issue of funding for programs to attract Black students.

But talk to Sengbe and you will hear an amazing array of accomplishments that have companies such as Mercedes and DirectTV hiring the Sierra Leone immigrant to develop apps that attract young consumers enthralled with new technology, especially if it revolves around their smart phones.

Sengbe believes that if former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had given him the time of day, she would have won the election.

Aleeta Bell

Aleeta Bell

“If she’d used my app, she would have won,” Sengbe claims while talking about GoVote, an app he built for the Clinton campaign. GoVote allowed volunteers to wait in line for voters and it also allowed donors to cover the ride share cost of voters unable to make it to the polls on their own for health or other reasons.

“If only three people volunteered to wait in line in Pennsylvania… then we know something is up in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Companies, schools making effort to develop Black techies

Some companies, such as Google, despite the political climate revolving around a current president who is distinctly unaware of the alarming disparity of African Americans in high-end technology positions, are seeking diversity for their work forces and designing programs to make that happen.

And right along with those companies is a bevy of universities also developing programs - along with scholarships - to expand the class of Black techies entering a high-paced and well paid work force devoted to advancing technology even beyond today’s saturation.



In fact, California was host recently to the first ever Silicon Valley Black Youth Hackathon, sponsored by the Silicone Valley Black Chamber of Commerce, Jack and Jill of America, Yes We Code, Rocket Fuel, Bay Area Tutoring and Black Enterprise. It was open to Black youth ages 16 to 24 years. At the “code fest,” attendees were divided into teams that included coders, engineers, product designers, marketers and presenters who had to learn to collaborate to develop a solution to a problem.

“This event brought together some of the most talented young African American minds in the Bay Area,” reports Carl Davis Jr., president of the Silicone Valley Black Chamber of Commerce. “We are gathering to design, create and present the best software solution to a pre-determined challenge using not only STEM, but also business principles.”