Technology sheds a light on injustice

Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the many other black people who have lost their lives at the hands of police brutality, may you rest in power.

The recent events showcasing police violence against black bodies continues to shed a light on the widespread and systemic racism that black people have had to continuously face for 400 years in this country. As an organization that works with underserved youth, many of our students represent the black community in the Des Moines and surrounding area. Some of our black youth come from families that fled civil wars only to come to this country and bear witness to another ugly form of violence. We want to say to our black students, we share your pain and grief during this tragic time. We are here for you. We promise to listen, care for, and work towards a more just world for you.

From the start of our organization, we have worked to bring about more inclusion and diversity within the STEM field across Iowa. We will continue to be a space for black students and other underserved populations to build technical skills. We believe in the inclusion of black youth voices in determining the state of future technology. It is crucial that black voices be included in artificial intelligence and technology that will define the condition of public safety. If our current reality of police violence towards black people is any indication of the racism in our institutions of public safety, one can only imagine the innate racial bias that is being programmed into the many technologies that are being used and will be used for purposes of law enforcement and public safety.

The inclusion of black experiences and voices in technology is not only the right thing to do, it is needed in order to save black lives and ensure a just system for black people. Organizations like PI515 have a moral imperative to bring about representation and diversity within technology. We must not be apologetic about our mission and goal. We ask that those who believe in bringing about progress through technology, fund and support the work that we and other organizations do. Far too often, the work we do is gone unacknowledged and is not supported from those with the ability to do so. They cannot say #blacklivesmatter but ignore our work to make sure black students have a voice and seats at the table. It is unacceptable to keep leaving our black community out of the room where tomorrow’s environment is being determined and planned for.

Technology is what has shed light to so many of the injustices we have witnessed against black bodies. What sense is it for us to not make sure that the same communities being affected by these injustices are at the forefront of developing and programming. To do such work, we must all support black youth and provide opportunities for them to learn these technical skills. Once we have provided them with the skills, then we must provide jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. This work we speak of is in the sense of PI515’s mission and goal. Our mission is to challenge, inspire and teach technology skills to students with potential and empower refugee and underserved youth to achieve success, garner influence and gain stability in their families and communities. We challenge you to support our work and continue to advocate for black lives. #BlackLivesMatter #STEM #Femalefounder #underservedyouth #Iowa #Tech #Community

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Nancy Mwirotsi — Founder and Executive Director

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