MIAMI – Daija and Desma Wimes never imagined they’d learn how to build their own web pages from scratch before they learned how to drive, let alone do so in one day.
But that is exactly what happened when the sisters, aged 13 and 14, students at Carol City Middle School, attended Miami’s first Black Girls Code’s “Build a Webpage in a Day” workshop with the Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Emerging Young Leaders (EYL) group on Saturday at Miami Dade College’s Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center, 6300 NW Seventh Ave.
Now the girls, who are being raised by a single working mother, see a future with endless possibilities. “It was hard sometimes to go places because my mom works a lot. But now with EYL we can do lots of things,” Desma
said. “We’re enjoying ourselves learning to build web pages. It makes me feel confident to know that I can be somebody in life because I see that other people have good careers and it shows no matter what skin color you are, you can be someone in life and do a good job.”
Daija echoed that sentiment. “It shows me that no matter what your color is, you can do something with your life and you are not what people think of you,” she said.
The workshop was the first in a series to be held in Miami by Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization started in 2011 in San Francisco by biotechnology/engineering professional Kimberly Bryant to help familiarize black girls with the technical world and bridge the digital divide.
Geared towards elementary, middle and high school girls, aged 7-17, the organization’s ultimate goal is to equip more young black women with the skills they will need to pursue careers in the Science,
Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) field. The program has seven chapters in cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, Memphis and New York City and several key leaders in Miami wanted to make sure the Magic City was not left behind.
The Miami launch was made possible through collaboration among Black Girls Code; H. Leigh Toney, president of the Meek Center; Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Feverish Pops; and the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust (MDEAT) which provided the funding.
“This is literally a dream come true. Science, technology engineering and math are the future of this generation,” Toney said. “I just can’t say enough about the genius of Kim Bryant … to help young girls
develop skills that will not only put them in a position to acquire some of the most in-demand and high paying jobs but will also make them creators and entrepreneurs. I think that’s among the highest and best uses of the Entrepreneurial Center.”
Hatcher was a full-time tech professional before she went into the gourmet popsicle business with her husband and business partner Derek Pearson. She said she understood what technology meant and saw what was going on in other parts of the country but not in Miami. The couple was on the team that took Black Girls code to Atlanta and saw a big need for it in Miami, she said.
“Once they get these hard technology skills, it can really take them in any direction that they want to go,” Hatcher said. “If they’re interested in fashion, for example, they can start a fashion app right now instead of waiting until they go to college.”
John Dixon, executive director of MDEAT, said his agency was happy to fund the program because it gave black girls viable career options.
“Our charge is to include Black Miami into the growth and development of Miami-Dade County, in general. Black Girls code is the perfect opportunity to get black girls to take a look at something that they may not have before, other than from a social standpoint,” Dixon said. “It introduces them to a possible career opportunity that they can make money from but they also enjoy doing.”
The workshop included a parent panel of experts in the engineering and technology and fields who explained the importance of young women of color becoming innovators in the STEM field.
“It’s time for us to capitalize off our own stories,” said Christine Johnson, founder of DiversiTech.