Projects Support Black Communities

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Hosted through Zoom and a Discord server, Hack for Black Lives tasked 7C participants with developing projects to support Black communities and the Black Lives Matter movement, coded or otherwise. What arose was an array of work: apps, legislation, data mapping, event planning.

The hackathon, hosted the weekend of Feb. 19, was created and organized by a group of Harvey Mudd students and alumni inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Natasha Crepeau ’21, Kira Favakeh ’20, Ben Hinthorne ’21 and Camille Simon ’21 hoped to encourage students to contribute their individual, technical skill sets to the movement, whatever they may be.

The group spent fall semester 2020 meeting with potential Hack for Black Lives sponsors, creating a website, planning the event and promoting it across the 7Cs. HMC supported the event as did the Office of Black Student Affairs and the Hive, which provided workshops and mentors for the participants.

From rising first-years to PhD candidates, about 170 students and alumni signed up for the hackathon. Many had never tried coding, much less participated in a hackathon before. The project’s programming and categories— legislation and political action, Black history and education, community organizing, algorithmic bias reduction, and promotion of Black artists and voices—were crafted to inspire projects that not only aligned with the mission of the Black Lives Matter movement but also worked holistically toward anti-racism.

On Friday evening, Justin P. Christian P25, founder and CEO of BCforward, inaugurated Hack for Black Lives with a keynote speech that encouraged students to continue fighting for racial equity. Later that night, participants attended workshops to provide them with skills related to community impact, design and social innovation.

The 48-hour hackathon wasn’t enough time to complete most projects, but that was OK. Hinthorne said, “The point of a hackathon isn’t to create something polished—it’s to try something out and build something, and however far you get, you’ll be celebrated.”

Organizers hope that Hack for Black Lives inspires similar hackathons elsewhere and that it will become an annual event at the 7Cs. “I hope that there’s enough interest from the people who participated in it for something like this to happen again,” Savanna Beans ’22 said. “I think that people can benefit from thinking about problems that may not necessarily affect them.”

Selected projects

  • Beans is seeking solutions for Black students needing supplemented academic assistance.
  • Yuki Wang ’22, Gabby Teodoro ’21 and Tom Fu ’22 presented their organization, BIPOC Labs, an online network of biology labs inspired to bring accessible biology education to the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities

An expanded version of this article ran in The Student Life Feb. 24, 2021: ‘Create and innovate’: 7C community devises apps, legislation, events in Hack for Black Lives.

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