By now you should know, but in case you didn’t: Silicon Valley isn’t the only place where technology startups run rampant. Innovation hubs are popping up in every nook and cranny across the nation, including the South Bronx.
Nevertheless, coding and programming jobs continue to be out of reach for low-income minorities. But leaders like Assembly member Michael Blake (D, 79th District – The Bronx, NY) are trying to find ways for the country’s tech revolution to transform joblessness in the South Bronx.
Last week #YesWeCode, an organization founded by former White House appointee, Van Jones, teamed up with Blake to organize New Faces of Tech, a broadcast event at the old Bronx County Courthouse. #YesWeCode, a Dream Corps initiative, works with partners to help train 100,000 low-opportunity youth of color around the country to become high-level computer coders. The historic courthouse recently underwent revitalization after having been abandoned for 37 years.
The event showcased Bronx-based tech exhibitors like Mass Idea, SCENYC, Knowledge House, Liquid Talent and many others. The entire event was broadcast live as New Faces of Tech on MSNBC’s Growing Hope Live from the Bronx and was sponsored by Ford.
“All of these incredible groups that have been doing phenomenal things that people may not be aware of…We want Bronxite’s to know about them so they can tap into these opportunities,” said Blake in a different interview on Bronxnet.org.
“We look at the courthouse as not just a place of former history, but new history,” said Blake. “We’re launching an innovation center at the heart of our district because we are committed to transforming the South Bronx into a global urban metropolis and getting Bronxite’s jobs and economic opportunities.”
New Faces of Tech will connect youth participants to some of the Bronx’s emerging tech leaders in augmented and virtual reality, digital design, motion, software development, and gaming.
“YesWeCode is a phenomenal collaboration. We are excited about that partnership. It’s a game-changer,” said Blake in the Bronxnet interview. “We’re constantly talk [ing] about our vision of turning the South Bronx into an urban Metropolis. We are not only going to do that through jobs and education. For the 139,000 people that live there, we don’t want you to be consumers, we want you to be creators.”
#YesWeCode’s presence in the Bronx is indeed necessary, as the area has struggled with persistent unemployment for decades. Almost 30% of the Bronx’s 1.4 million residents live at or below the poverty line. Among the boroughs, it ranked last in job growth between 1990 and 2014, at 17.7%, according to the state Labor Department. Additionally, less than 70% of adults living in the Bronx had attained at least a high school diploma; one of the lowest attainment rates in the country.