CBCF Conference: Day 2 Recap – African American Inclusion in Tech and Black Lives Matter

Hot topics from the 45th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Conference

By Lauren Victoria Burke

Day Two at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. was heat with tech and justice discussions.  Though the theme of “CBC Week” this year is issues around liberty and justice, the importance of having African Americans engage in the tech sector also dominated many forums, along with the economic benefits that engagement would have.

TECH TALK: The Missing Link – African American Inclusion in Tech
During a two panel discussion around the questions of diversity and innovation and the need for African Americans to be included in STEM fields. This conversation centered around the question of whether or not African Americans have enough access to STEM fields and whether they’re positioned to capitalize on the massive growth in the cyber security sector.

Panelists discussed the currently wide open field of tech and the endless opportunities in the ever expanding sector for African Americans in STEM fields.

“The future is no longer being written primarily in laws in Washington DC.  The future is being written in computer code in Silicon Valley. That’s where they dream up the future, design the future and you just pull the future down on your smart phone. Nobody voted on that,” said moderator and CNN analyst Van Jones at the start of the discussion.

Panelists pointed out that 40% of the energy sector employees in America are now eligible for retirement and the industry is set to have a major generational overhaul. The point that the energy sector and issues around primate change will need a new and diverse pipeline of people to to fill positions in IT and  cybersecurity.

National Town Hall Black Lives Matter
Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, was part of discussion of at the national town hall on the movement. She was joined by Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who dealt with riots in the city after the death of Freddie Gray, 25, in April.

One of the questions the Black Lives Matter movement has been confronted with is “what is the ask?”  After Campaign Zero was launched last month and other activists are repeatedly being asked questions on “what’s the ask” of the Black Lives Matter movement and what legislation are they asking for?

Black Lives Matter’s co-founder Garza, addressed the question: “We have romanticized notions of what was, folks that have been involved in those movements will tell you that.  It’s absolutely critical that folks are involved at the local and state level but we have to understand that what we’re fighting for is not just criminal justice. We’re fighting
for the right of black people to live at our full dignity and our full humanity. What we’re trying to do on the state and local level is not just impact policies around black life but we’re trying to move culture change,” Garza answered.

Roland Martin, who moderated the discussion, asked everyone in the audience to do one thing one thing over next 365 days to advance the cause of Black Lives Matter and members of Congress who attended, including Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), discussed bills offered on the federal level over the last year in the wake of Ferguson.