Brothers Code Comes Back to Oakland

Students sit in on a session at last year’s Brothers Code event. This year’s fourth annual Brothers Code event will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 at Merritt College. Photo courtesy of The Hidden Genius Project.

The Hidden Genius Project, an Oakland-based organization that aims to connect young black males with opportunities in the tech sector, will host their fourth annual Brothers Code event from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 at Merritt College.

The event takes place during National Computer Science Education Week, and is part of the larger Hour of Code initiative focused on introducing people from across the country to the basics of coding education.

Young men of color in middle and high school are invited to attend; however, the event is free and open to the public.

Brothers Code is designed to demystify what it means to work in tech, while also addressing the cultural roadblocks and barriers African Americans face in its trajectory.

“The most important thing that the event attempts to highlight is the misunderstanding of tech, and what that is,” said Akeem Brown, Programs Director at The Hidden Genius Project.

“Every company is a tech company, or technology is what serves as the backbone behind their product or service.”

Brown said that by exposing young people and their families to the tech sector and its various career prospects, events like Brothers Code provide a more communal approach to learning.

“What I really love about the event, is we bring families out,” said Brown.

“The kids will go to one track. The older folks in the family will go to another track. They both will be exposed, some in non-traditional ways. The fun part for everybody is the hands-on coding.”

Participants old and young, can look forward to flexing their coding and programming skills, exploring education pathways and career opportunities in the tech sector, and networking with tech professionals.

About 2,400 black male youth have been served since The Hidden Genius Project was founded in 2012.

However, one of the main challenges the organization currently faces is addressing the growing need for their free services in the Oakland area.

In addition to their Immersion Program, a 15-month intensive boot camp and mentorship program for black male students, the organization also provides mental health referrals, and case management services for local youth.

“We feed our kids, we pull up at their school and request transcripts,” said Brown.

“You can’t just expect to sit a kid down at a computer without understanding what they’ve been through during the day.”

Brown said that the one thing he hopes young people walk away with from Saturday’s event is exposure to a multifaceted tech sector, right alongside peers from their community.

“We’re not a farm system for Silicon Valley; we’re not training them to ‘get out the hood,’” said Brown.

“We’re training our students to create their own companies as big as Facebook, and Apple, and Google. We want them to create companies just as big in their own communities.

“We don’t leave the hood, because when you get out the hood you leave it open for gentrification.”

Although the Brothers Code event is aimed specifically at black male youth, all participants are encouraged to find various ways in which they can leverage technology to strengthen their communities and reach their goals.

For more information about The Hidden Genius Project, visit http://www.hiddengeniusproject.org.


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