Girls Who Code Celebrates Juneteenth
Every summer, Americans celebrate our freedom. For many, that means celebrating Independence Day on July 4. But the truth is, the Declaration of Independence didn’t actually free all Americans. Most African Americans weren’t actually free until the Emancipation Proclamation was signed nearly 90 years later. And it wasn’t until nearly two years after, that the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free. For generations, Black folks have celebrated their freedom on the anniversary of that day, June 19 — or Juneteenth.
But I’ll be honest, it isn’t always easy to feel celebratory when I think about the many ways in which Black people are still discriminated against. Last summer especially, like so many other Americans, I was reeling from the barrage of killings of unarmed Black people at the hands of police.
You might not think we’d be in a celebratory mood, but last year, my Girls Who Code team and I gathered for a virtual celebration in honor of Juneteenth. We felt we needed to find joy amid such darkness, and that it was right to honor such an important day. Being with my team, reflecting on the work we do to lift up girls from marginalized communities, and how we can better lift each other up, brought me joy. Reflecting on the fact that Iーa Black woman, daughter of immigrants, and now CEO of one of the largest girls-first organizations in the worldーwork every day to make other girls’ lives better brought me joy. And that joy felt powerful.
I believe Black joy is not just powerful but also a form of protest. In this country, Black people still face barriers like institutional racism and discrimination, which have long-lasting effects on our ability to reach equity in education and lifetime earnings. Black and Latinx women hold less than 5% of the computing jobs in America. When I am faced with these truths, my joy feels defiant.
Black women are still paid 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women, and Black pregnant people are three times as likely as White pregnant people to die from causes related to pregnancy in this country.
While it is crucial to acknowledge these realities and to do everything we can to change them, it is also important to take time to recognize how far we’ve come. It’s important to find joy and celebrate our wins with our family and our broader community. And so many of us do have so much to feel joyful about.
I think about what we have accomplished at Girls Who Code. Over half of the 450,000 girls we serve are from historically underrepresented groups. We have nearly 90,000 young women in college or early careers. Our alumni outnumber 2019 U.S. female graduates in Computer Science and related fields by approximately 3:1.
As I reflect, I’m also inspired by so many Black women around me: members of our Board, close friends, colleagues. I feel surrounded by Black excellence, and want to use this moment of Juneteenth to reflect on how that brings me joy.
There are so many accomplishments that occurred this year alone worthy of celebration, like the inauguration of our first Black women Vice President and the sensation that was the youngest inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman. Or, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett who was instrumental in creating Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine. I feel joy when I think of Simone Biles, who continues to break (no, demolish) records, and Viola Davis, who became the most-nominated Black actress in Oscars history.
I find joy in the amazing young Black women who attend and run Girls Who Code Clubs across the country and who have graduated from our programs and are changing the world.