For those unfamiliar with the organization, tell us a bit about the Chicago Chapter of Black Data Processing Association and its history?
BDPA is an international organization with a diverse membership of professionals and students at all levels in the fields of information technology, computer science and related STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Members are actively engaged in serving the community through outreach and charting the future of the IT industry.
The Chicago chapter of the National Black Data Processing Associates was chartered on March 15, 1986, as the 14th chapter nationwide with eight founding members:
Marvin Walker, president; Hazel Beason, vice president; Anthony Pittman, treasurer; Michelle Walker, recording secretary; Wallace Neal, education chairperson; Roy Peeples, public relations chairperson; Greg Walker, finance chairperson; and Fidelis Umeh, member.
The first monthly program meeting was held April 18, 1986, at the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago. Since that time, the Chicago chapter has consecutively sponsored a monthly program meeting designed to assist our membership in meeting their professional and personal goals. Since its inception, the Chicago chapter has continued to deliver fit for use programs to its membership. Chicago has the second largest membership base in the nation and was named Chapter of the Year in 2013. We are dedicated to serving our members through events that inspire.
How important is it to get young Black kids involved in the STEM fields?
There are few important facts that we should mention when talking about the need for more participation in this sector. For one, there is and will continue to be a larger human capital shortage in technology within the U.S. There is also a huge gap within the technology sector today because people of color and women are underrepresented in this fast growing space. Lastly, there can and will be jobs for those who don’t hold degrees but receive certification.
What’s the significance behind the theme of this year’s upcoming gala, Celebrating Our Past, Charting Our Future?
The BDPA national organization is 40 years old and the Chicago Chapter turns 30 on March 15, 2016. BDPA has been talking about the importance of African Americans and women getting into technology and excelling within corporate America for a long time. Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in those that are singing the STEM song and recognizing just how important it is.
What are some of the event’s highlights that attendees can look forward to?
Wow, that’s a tough question. Only because there are so many highlights but the evening will start with a VIP reception that showcases our BDPA High School Computer Competition students and their director, Malik Swanson along with the program technical coach Bernard Dickens, both of which are Chicago Chapter HSCC alumni. Our keynote speaker for the evening is a young and energetic tech entrepreneur of promise named Fabian Elliot. He’s the founder and CEO of Black Tech Mecca and he’s also an advertising technology consultant for Google. Our entertainment for the evening will be the marvelous Opal Staples, who is currently a member of the Ken Arlen Orchestra and has worked with such popular artists as R. Kelly, Toni Braxton and Ramsey Lewis among others. The event will also honor some very special members and feature special recognition categories such as the Spirit Award, Chicago Chapter Member of the Year, Corporate Champion of the Year and others. It’s set to be an awesome evening.
What’s next for the BDPA?
I think the biggest challenge for us is growing both our sponsorship base and membership. These are two important elements for our success. We are a nonprofit so we need the funding to run our programs. Eighty to 85 percent of our funding goes to programs. We have no paid staff within the chapter. Now that statement helps you understand why growing membership is important, we need the members to volunteer to assist in delivering the programs.
The BDPA Chicago Chapter Annual Awards gala will take place on Saturday, March 19 at the Hyatt Regency East Tower, Grand Ballroom A & B located at 151 E Wacker Dr., Chicago. The black-tie event will begin with a VIP reception at 6 p.m. followed by the dinner program at 7 p.m.
For more information about the BDPA, please visit www.bdpa.org.