Code Next: Google creating new Black and Latino tech leaders in Oakland

Members of Code Next, Fruitvale lab by Google (Photo Source: Supplied by 135th St Agency)
Members of Code Next, Fruitvale lab by Google (Photo supplied by 135th St Agency)

Google announced today the opening of its new imitative and laboratory called Code Next.  The Code Next project is an initiative focused on cultivating the next generation of awe-inspiring leaders in computer science from Black and Latino communities. Google is partnering with community-based organizations and experts in the field to develop culturally responsive learning experiences that meet the students where they are, in their communities. Google is reimagining the learning environment and opening neighborhood labs in Oakland and Harlem to help level the playing field and provide students with access and exposure to computer science. These dedicated community spaces will be the home of Code Next and a place for the entire community to meet and learn. Through student and community programs, they’ll learn what works, develop a cohort of CS leaders and create a playbook for communities everywhere to leverage

 Topper Carew and Errol King are co-collaborators at Code Next (Photo Source: Supplied by 135th St Agency))
Topper Carew and Errol King are co-collaborators at Code Next (Photo supplied by 135th St Agency))

Heading the Code Next, Fruitvale project is Errol King and Topper Carew, who worked together to develop the principle model for Code Next and the lab in Fruitvale. King is the experience manager at Code Next and was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. King started in communications and tech strategy for social justice movements. King was named a Tech Week Top 100 most influential people in New York for 2014. His partner in Code Next is Topper Carew, a visiting Researcher/Scholar at the MIT Media Lab. He has earned degrees in architecture and environmental design from Yale and has had fully supporting fellowships at MIT (Community Fellow) and from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Broadcast Fellow). Carew founded an independent production company, Rainbow Television Workshop. It produced series and movies for PBS, HBO, Showtime, Nick and The Disney Channel. Other projects have aired in prime time on ABC, NBC, and FOX. His theatrically released films include DC Cab (Universal Pictures) and Breakin‘ and Enterin’ (Shapiro/Glickenhaus). One of his prime-time television series, “Martin” (FOX), enjoys the rarified distinction of having attained off-network syndication (TNT,TV One, and MTV).

Rolling out spoke with King and Carew about Code Next and why the project is unique and important, not only in the Black and Latino community but also for America as a whole.

Why did you choose the name Code Next?

We thought about what would you want to  ‘code next.” In this case the next generation of tech leaders. The name code resonates with those people who understand  what it means and where its coming from, but the velocity of the word ‘next’ implies the future state of things and these young folk are the next big thing.

Why did you choose the Fruitvale area? Why Oakland?

We looked at where the tech eco-systems reside in the Black and Latino community. Oakland and Fruitvale area are historically Black.  We saw an opportunity to move and connect with the Black and Latino community and we built “spaces” where they are. Code Next is really about where Black and Latino culture come together with the intent of building “technical social capital” right in the heart of our own community. We bring multiple youth, family and community organizations together as well as local schools. There are a lot of supporting local organizations Oakland is the next place to bring forth the next generation of awe-inspiring technology.

Code Next students at work (Photo Source: Supplied by 135th St Agency))
Code Next students at work (Photo supplied by 135th St Agency))

What impact do you hope this center will have on the development of STEM skills for kids?

We have a very strong commitment to underserved populations. We think that the young people that go through this particular program will be a future generation of computer scientists, innovators, inventors and tech leaders. It’s not just about STEM it’s also about teaching them how to be computational thinkers; how to be strategic thinkers and computer scientists. This means how to be leaders of the future in the technology industry.

To be entrepreneurs who are going to create jobs and economic opportunities. People who are ultimately going to improve the quality of life through technology in those communities where we live. Communities where e have an array of problems that could be solved and supported through technology.

What are your roles at Code Next?

We have known each other a long time we are like brothers and are co-collaborators. We work with each other on daily basis and develop curriculum based on the MIT pedagogy of knowledge and learning. We collaboratively create things and make them real.

Why Do you think STEM skills were neglected in the Black and Latino community?

Historically, we have been great consumers and early adopters of  new technologies. However, there is a mindset on the part of so many of our young people that causes them to believe that we do not belong in the “space” that invents. The space that manages, innovates and that is relative to the future; to the very industry of technology itself. So we had a mind switch. One of the great things about Code Next is that we recognize and believe that the Black and Latino communities are untapped  reservoirs of intellect and talent and when young people get equal access to the stellar educational opportunities they will ascend to become a vital resource for America’s technological productivity and competitiveness. We are seeing this. We are seeing what happens when a person begins designing code and  using tech tools.

Code Next students at work (Photo Source: Supplied by 135th St Agency))
Code Next students at work (Photo supplied by 135th St Agency))

We are seeing these young people open up and blossom. Technology is like early stages of the NBA when the players were white. But when we look at the NBA now that has changed. We are at a stage where we are going to blossom and see a multiplicity of our young people enter, engage and turn the tide of technology in an culturally audacious way. Code Next is the first curriculum of codified learning activities ever for underserved youth. It’s the first because it simultaneously interweaves a making and doing computer science, engineering and mathematic principles into a laboratory experience where young people are encouraged to experiment and learn from their experience. Code Next is so much more than just Google opening a lab. It’s a true first. From a design point of view it is a truly unique experience that very much leans on an educational theory known as constructionism. This codified curriculum will soon be available to the entire world as an open source.

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