If you missed Tuesday 28 July’s “Do Black Lives Matter in ICT4D?” Meetup, then you did not hear that the answer to this question is a resounding YES! Our six panelists weaved intricate stories from their own experiences and that of others to hone in on the point that there is exceptional Black talent working in ICT4D — if only more was done to empower the great potential that already exists.
The above photo is a word cloud created from some of the memorable quotes from panelists during the event. At the center, unsurprisingly, is the word Black. Black is a part of Africa and we see the recurrence of power, always work, privilege, racism, respect, and white. Though this issue is pointedly not just about Black and white, it was difficult to avoid the connections here given the power structures in global development are frequently aligned in this dichotomy.
The event itself operated under quasi-Chatham House rules so what I will now share are anonymized quotes that will help those who are interested show with action that Black lives matter in ICT4D. More than talk, we need action, and I hope that all of you reading this will reflect on what has been suggested. We don’t want more hashtags or empty statements and PR promises.
With great thanks again to panelists Thelonius Cook, Haben Fecadu, Dr. Shikoh Gitau, Aarathi Krishnan, Hannah Metcalfe, and Olasupo Oyedepo for sharing their time, knowledge, experience, and calls to action with us:
- “To reimagine a quote from Julius Nyerere, focus more on the human resources and not the technology.”
- “I sum it up with one word: respect. If you are approaching things from a place of respect and bringing in tech, you need to start by acknowledging that the system before you was working. If you try to simply replace what is there, you will fail. Admit that you may be doing some things wrong. Until we acquire the mindset of respect and value for the other player, it will not be easier for us to engage.”
- “Pay your taxes and deductions for the country you work in. Work legally. You wouldn’t get away with this in the US or Europe. Challenge people in positions of power in your workplace. Self-proclaiming your wokeness is pointless, let your work speak for itself. Don’t ignore when people tell you that your solution isn’t for them.”
- “Reflecting on my own journey, do not expect people of color to do your education for you. And if you expect this, pay them. Check your privilege: Whatever that privilege is, check yourself. Be open to other people checking you, but ask yourself: Should I be the one coming up with a solution in the first place? Ask how you might use your power for good. Ceding power can happen in softer ways and all of us have a role to play in that. Yes we need to call out behavior, but we also need to unlearn behavior. A lot of us come into this sector to save the world but never thought that to save the world, we would have to change ourselves.”
- “Quantify people’s value and ask what you’re paying for. Who are you talking to, how are you doing your recruiting? People will say ‘we couldn’t find a qualified Somali…’ In Nairobi?! What is it about your hiring processes that affects the people you attract? When you look at that way your organization is set up, often enough, when you look at things intersectionally, accounting for the experiences of a Black female or people with disabilities in your work, everything can improve in your working environment.”
- “You have to start by acknowledging that you are not doing anyone a favor by not reflecting on these issues. Treat everyone fairly regardless of the color of your skin. Acknowledge your privilege. Do more than just acknowledge: open a door, send an email, write a check for a startup, that is when you take it further. Putting up a blog post to acknowledge white privilege is not doing anything to change lives. You have to take it further. Go pull people up. Going and finding people to help uplift. Ask your network if they know someone who can take up a role. Reach beyond your sphere. Find the women to sponsor. Do things to move the needle. Put your money where your mouth is.”
For further resources and to connect with other event attendees, this Google Doc has information for you. If you do end up taking any of the suggested actions above and wish to tell your story, please do be in touch! I would love to feature folks who learned from the event and subsequently acted on what they learned.