DIVERSITY DOING GOOD: Three Tech Organizations Led by Blacks – MyCovidMD, Blavity and Concerned Citizens Community Involvement…
This article was written by Karen Borchgrevink, the executive director of LA Tech4Good, which highlights tech initiatives that support and inspire social change. There’s a lot of synergy between LATech4Good, and inter-TECH-ion™, the new incarnation of OC Startups Now™, which will be reporting on issues at the intersection of tech + social justice on a regional level…
Yes, we are on a roller coaster. Those of us who strive for a more just world can be tossed around by daily events as much as anyone, with emotions of angst and fatigue mixed with action and hope.
MyCovidMD, Blavity and Concerned Citizens Community Involvement (CCCI) give depth to the Black Lives Matter movement across the realms of: public health & COVID-19 testing; journalism & the tech industry; digital access & community service. They show how tech can offer solutions. Even more, they show what’s possible and help to shine a light on the road forward – we encourage you to plug in!
You will read below about Blavity, a $30 million company which Forbes calls “America’s Black Millennial Newsroom”. The CEO and founder, Morgan DeBaun, says “finally there is a sustained moment in which everyone is paying attention.” At the same time, she pulls no punches: “For me, the systemic racism comes in the fact that I don’t ever get the benefit of the doubt,” and she speaks to difficult challenges that Black journalists face in this absorbing Digiday podcast.
This tension – between opportunities in this moment in time and racism that continues to play out, scream out – creates a framework to understand the important work outlined here.
Three community centered physicians – Drs. NanaEfua Afoh-Manin, Briana DeCuir and Joanne Moreau – all Black women – launched Shared Harvest | myCovidMD in March to help Black and brown neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. Pop-up centers for free drive-thru COVID-19 testing from South LA to Oakland have been their biggest initiative: “We show up where [people] are … churches, co-working spaces and parking lots.”
Tech partnerships with Emerge Telemedicine, Doximity, Mobilize, SignUp.com and MeterFeeder have created a seamless user experience with Shared Harvest Fund’s empathy-driven tech platform; and Posture was instrumental in quickly facilitating tele-health HIPAA security and compliance. Always tuned to community needs, they’ve been able to give away digital devices at pop-up events; their robust web presence provides culturally relevant myth-busting and information for people to make healthcare decisions for themselves, while galvanizing the people power of a diverse and strong volunteer corps.
After the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Morgan DeBaun set out to to create a platform for the voices and stories overlooked by traditional newsrooms. Now CEO of Blavity, DeBaun says this is “a very full circle moment for myself and for the company at large because this is why we were created… and we are ready for it.”
Blavity is also the force behind AfroTech, an annual multicultural tech conference. This year it’s going virtual, and will take place from November 9-14. (Last year it attracted more than 6,000 Black techies in Oakland.) In addition to being a valued experience for attendees, AfroTech creates space and agency for Blacks and people of color in the tech world, which ultimately helps shape technology in our world by challenging its negative effects and strengthening its positive contributions.
CCCI is a nonprofit that has promoted health, education and well-being in and around South LA for over 40 years. Their motto is StandUp and Give Back and they have provided a wide range of support to people in need – free healthy groceries (yes to fresh fruits and vegetables!), hosting two COVID-19 screening events that served approximately 500 people, and much more over the years.
Their latest initiative is Digital Bytes – to “take a byte out of the digital divide” – which provides Chromebooks and hot spots, educational scholarships for tech training, and connections to low-cost home internet access. In addition, their ongoing Limitless Initiative offers STEM training to youth. Under the leadership of Chris Baccus and with deep roots in the Southside Church of Christ, CCCI acts from the understanding that,“Digital equity solutions must target root causes of inequities in digital access, including historic divestment in communities of color, poverty, and language barriers.”
These three organizations – full of creativity, initiative and culture, focused on serving communities of color – represent a deep movement. At the intersection of tech and social good, their leaders have forged spaces of opportunity. Celebrate, be inspired by them and be inspiring! Whether COVID testing, journalism or digital access, we encourage you to connect and collaborate with these tremendously important initiatives.