Combating Racism With Coding: Van Jones Discusses Teaching 100,000 Low-Income Kids How to Code

Van Jones #YesWeCode

All across the nation, the Black community has marched and rallied, chanted and sung, pushed and fought for justice after the slayings of unarmed Black men by white authorities.

As the community continues discussing solutions to ending the types of racial profiling that too often steals the lives of innocent young Black men, civil rights activist Van Jones hopes to unlock coding as the secret weapon in the war against racism.

The inspiration came shortly after the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen who was gunned down by volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was acquitted of murder.

Jones was discussing race in America with a music icon and his close friend, Prince.

“Every time you see a Black kid wearing a hoodie, you say: there’s a thug,” Jones recalled telling Prince during an interview with USA Today. “If you see a white kid wearing a hoodie, you say: there’s Mark Zuckerberg. I said, ‘That’s because of racism.’ ”

That’s when Prince delivered an answer that would light a fire under Jones.

“Maybe so,” Jones said Prince replied. “Or maybe you civil rights guys haven’t created enough Mark Zuckerbergs.”

From that moment forward, the challenge was on.

Jones launched Yes We Code as a new initiative under his Rebuild the Dream organization.

The initiative hopes to teach 100,000 low-income youths how to write code.

Prince was so excited about the initiative that he promoted it himself back in July as he headlined the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

Yes We Code also held its first hackathon in the city.

Prince’s rebuttal to Jones’ question made the civil rights leader realize that giving Black kids the tools they need to thrive in today’s economy is key to helping them overcome prejudice and change the way they are perceived by the population at large.

The Black community did, indeed, need more Mark Zuckerbergs.

“How do we create a situation that when you see a young Black kid in a hoodie, you think, maybe I should go up and ask the kid for a loan or a job as opposed to assuming the kid’s a threat,” Jones continued. “… Yes We Code aspires to become the United Negro College Fund equivalent for coding education. Yes We Code exists to find and fund the next Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg in communities you would never expect to find them.”

The initiative comes at a perfect time.

The tech industry is desperately seeking young, Black talent.

Some of today’s biggest tech giants were met with backlash when diversity reports revealed that companies like Google and Facebook had very few Black employees.

In addition to being met with backlash by the public, it also served as a reminder for the companies that there was an entire market of ideas they hadn’t fully tapped into because they were missing key voices from communities of color.

Black consumers are some of the heaviest technology users and yet they were hardly present in that industry.

Sadly, many children of color have no idea that they would be able to flourish in the tech space.

“Aptitude tests show one out of five kids of any color have an inherent aptitude for the kind of problem-solving that is required to be a computer programmer,” Jones said. “So that means one out of five kids out here in low-income communities, Native American reservations, Appalachia, housing projects, barrios, ghettos could be on the Mark Zuckerberg track. The problem is their mother doesn’t know, their father doesn’t know, the coach doesn’t know, the teacher doesn’t know, the preacher doesn’t know. So they all want to be LeBron James.”

The NBA welcomes a very small number of new players every year, which means many of these young kids with NBA dreams will be met with disappointment.

In the tech field, however, opportunities are vast.

“Meanwhile, the technology sector says they are going to be a million workers short in eight years,” Jones said. “And if we are not careful, we will have 15 Black Urkels trying out for a million jobs.”

For that reason, Jones believes the Black community has to focus on guiding the youths and helping them reach such opportunities.

That is the real forefront of the battle against racism — putting Black people, especially youths, in a position to succeed and flourish.

“The forward march of technology is unstoppable,” he said. “The forward march of communities wanting to be a part of the process of writing the future is unstoppable. The miracle that’s happening is that these two inevitable forces are coming together constructively. In the last century, this would have been protests, lawsuits and a lot of vitriol.”

In the midst of racial tensions across America, the war against racism has to be just as prevalent in the offices of Silicon Valley as it is in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.


International Hackathon Brings Technologists, Community Leaders Together

Join Tiphub for the Diaspora Day of Civic Hacking. The DDC is a global day of advocacy and international hackathon that brings together technologists and community leaders in Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; Oakland, California; Atlanta and Washington, D.C., to devise innovative solutions and build prototypes in support of our 2015 featured participants: Asante Africa Foundation, the Peace Corps, BudgIT, The Dream Defenders and the United Negro College Fund. Think the hackathon during TechAfrique but on a global scale.

Founded on the notion that the Diaspora and local communities innately hold the keys to their own empowerment, the goal is to leverage technology to unlock the insights and ingenious of Africa and members of the African Diaspora to improve quality of life for all.

During the day, attendees will convene at one of eight-plus locations: Nairobi; Accra; Johannesburg, South Africa; Lagos; New York; D.C.; Atlanta; San Francisco/Oakland; London and Amsterdam. Upon arrival, participants will break out into teams and spend the duration of the event strategizing on and building solutions to overcome technical challenges that our featured organizations, like the Peace Corps, are facing.

Register now by visiting

Software Testing Terms You May Be Executing at Work But Are Not Familiar With

I find that people are familiar with the more commonly used terms such as functionality testing, non-functional testing, usability testing, unit testing and regression testing. However, here are three terms that can stump you during an interview if you’ve never heard them used.

This list is presented by Aqueelah Grant at Blacksintechnology

Smoke Testing

Smoke testing is also referred to as a build verification testing, confidence testing and sanity testing. This test is solely for testing the major functional components of the software to ensure that a build is stable. Smoke testing should NOT be confused with regression testing as regression testing is an extensive test of major and non-major components. When the term regression is used that means full coverage testing has occurred. Full coverage consists of functional, cosmetic, new requirements, existing requirements testing and more. When it comes down to smoke test vs. regression test, be sure to use the correct terminology in regards to testing coverage.

Black Box Testing

Black box testing is a type of functional testing that mainly tests client requirements and specifications. Test cases for black box testing usually consist of valid vs. invalid input of something. This is an analysis of the software and does not often focus on the internal system structures. Black box testing is most often referenced in manual testing. So if you are a manual tester and an interviewer says, “Are you a white box tester or a black box tester”? let the interviewer know you are more of a black box tester.

White Box Testing

White box testing is the opposite of black box testing as it mainly tests the internal system structure. This type of testing is not necessarily designed to test client requirements and specifications, however, it does check for code weaknesses. Test cases for white box testing usually consist of viewing the system’s source code. White box testing is most often referenced in automation testing, so if you are an automated tester and an interviewer says, “Are you a black box tester or a white box tester?” let the interviewer know you are more of a white box tester.

In Summary:

Smoke testing can be done in a black box or white box structure. If you perform manual and automation testing, you can consider yourself a black box and a white box tester. You will often hear people say that even though an automation test is done, a manual test may still be needed. That’s because of the differences between what is considered white box vs. black box testing.

When it comes to overall software testing terminology, most of these terms are interchangeable. Depending on the way your organization is structured, you may use one term and not the other. However, as a testing professional, you should be able to speak to all industry testing terms. I’d personally never count someone out for not knowing these terms as long as they can explain to me what they do in full detail simply because it was not until later in my career that I began hearing a few of them myself.

Please note that this article does not cover every “test” term used in the industry. One thing I recommend is that if you’re going on an interview, learn about the company’s testing structure. This will help you know which key terms and buzz words to use during the interview.

Source: Aqueelah Grant at

CODE2040: Helping Minority Coders Find Their Way to Silicon Valley

Blacks in Technology recently sat down with Laura Weidman Powers (founding executive director of CODE2040) for a one-on-one interview about the CODE2040 program.

In case you aren’t aware, CODE2040 is an organization that matches high-performing Black and Latino undergraduate and graduate coders and software engineering students with Silicon Valley startups for summer internships, and also provides them with the insight, networks and support to ensure their successful participation in the high-tech innovation economy

When was the organization founded?
CODE2040 was founded in February 2012. We’re a startup, too!

Who is CODE2040 (employees and roles)?

Tristan Walker is the founder and chair of the board of CODE2040 and I (Laura Weidman Powers) am the organization’s founding executive director.
Amy Schapiro is CODE2040’s program manager, running point on all recruiting and summer programming.
Jonathan Brack leads program evaluation and alumni programming, ensuring we’re maximizing our effectiveness and supporting our alums.
Jocelyn Jarrett manages accounting and HR operations, using her expertise in helping set up nonprofits to ensure we’re making efficient use of our resources.
The rest of the board (beyond Tristan) is Ben Horowitz, Amber Saloner Tennant, Marc Hedlund and Bea Perez, and we’re fortunate to have an awesome group of advisers and volunteers as well.

What is the goal of CODE2040?

The latest census projections show that people of color will be the majority in the United States in the year 2040. And yet there is no indication that the substantial minority achievement gap will be closed by that same year. We launched CODE2040 to make a direct impact on the achievement gap by increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities participating in the high-value innovation economy – an economy centered in Silicon Valley.

How many students participate in the program?

We ran a pilot of the program with five students at five startups the first summer, 2012, and we’ll have around 20 students participating this coming summer. We’ll be continuing to scale from there!

In talking with the students, what seems to be the biggest thing they take away from the program?

My favorite thing is something one fellow said to me: Before participating in CODE2040 and hearing from all the speakers and meeting with her executive coach, she thought there was a mythical “entrepreneur” personality type that meant that you were destined to be a founder. After hearing firsthand from dozens of entrepreneurs, she realized that they were ordinary people with great ideas, great passion and great work ethic, and she could be a founder, too.

Read more at:

Code for Progress Fellowship Brings Politically Minded Organizers Into Tech Industry

The Code for Progress fellowship graduated its first-ever class of newly trained coders last week, introducing a new wave of politically minded entrepreneurs to the technology industry.

The graduation ceremony for the new class of coders looked more like a rally for slain teenager Michael Brown from the outside looking in.

According to, the ceremony kicked off with a freedom chant in honor of the slain 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri. who was fatally shot multiple times Aug. 9 by police officer Darren Wilson.

“What side are you on my people,” the chant asked. “What side are you on?”

The nation’s reaction to the shooting of Brown made it clear that when technology and political activism come together, a powerful movement can be created in an instant.

What began as hashtags on Twitter and Instagram spurred into nationwide marches, rallies and protests pushing for justice for Brown and all the other Black men who have been killed by law enforcement.

The Code for Progress fellowship has always acknowledged this powerful relationship and has been busy training classes of politically minded individuals to provide them with skills that will allow them to exceed in the tech industry.

The fellowship takes things far beyond the world of social media, however.

The new graduates spent four months learning from instructor Aliya Rahman.

Rahman taught the class a handful of different coding languages they will need to exceed in the tech industry.

While the fellowship focuses on bringing politically minded individuals into the tech space, it also caters to minorities and aims to help solve the diversity issue that currently exists in the technology field.

Diversity statistics revealed by companies such as Google and Facebook revealed that the vast majority of their employees are White males.

For both companies, about 60 percent of their employees were male with less than 5 percent of all employees being African-American.

According to Rahman, the fellowship can help improve those numbers by giving minorities access to the education they need.

“Folks who are in communities of color have a higher probability of going to a school that doesn’t teach computer science,” she said. “Seven kids took the advanced placement computer science exam in Washington, D.C., [last year] compared to hundreds in Maryland and Virginia.”

Rahman also pointed out that many women and minorities are intimidated by the college-level computer science course because they are “unwelcoming” and tend to have “unsupportive” faculty.

Lastly, the cost of the classes makes them largely inaccessible to many minorities, she added.

While Rahman believes the fellowship has the ability to train people of color and women to kick start a career in the tech industry, she believes cultural issues in America could still pose a serious problem.

She explained that when Google responded to backlash about its diversity statistics, the company immediately suggested free classes for women and people of color.

According to Rahman, however, many minorities and women are already qualified for the job but are passed up for leadership positions.

“I think affinity groups in organizations play an incredible role in creating community, but in terms of pipelining [people of color] into major positions of leadership – who holds the power?” Rahman said.

Despite the cultural obstacles, the fellowship will continue to push forward with its mission.

The Code for Progress has already made plans to graduate two more classes of fellows next year.