Written by Shot Khan ’16, co-founder of James Madison University SSDP
As a Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter founder, a DanceSafe chapter President, and a Computer Scientist, I have always wanted to merge my passions of Computer Science and Criminal Justice together. So, this past year, another SSDPer who started JMU Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Virginia DanceSafe with me and I started the Minority Programmers to tackle humanitarian issues through a project-based approach to software engineering.
Since the pandemic, we lost our SSDP Conference, the festival scene, our in-person meetings (with the uncertainty around an in-person fall semester) and the inner activist in me is yearning to be unleashed. This past month, issues of race and justice have risen to the forefront of the international stage, and programmers from all across the world started contacting me asking ways we could develop applications to support the Black Lives Matter movement. I honestly did not know where to begin. Do we focus on police accountability, surveillance, incarcerated populations, policy changes, etc.? We didn’t have the time or the resources to tackle all these problems head on.
The Minority Programmers are launching the first global Black Lives Matter Hackathon. A student-run initiative, we have already raised $1000 from our own student founders in just a day, over $500 on GoFundMe, a corporate sponsorship from SAP, and technical support+coaching from their Silicon Valley Next Talent Program.
The Black Lives Matter Hackathon is scheduled to run from July 13 – August 2. Unlike traditional hackathons, this will be 3 weeks long. That way, participants can develop projects that make a difference in society by combating racial inequality and systemic injustices.
Here is how the SSDP family can help
- Participate in this Hackathon
- Donate to the BLM Hackathon GoFundMe to contribute to larger prizes for contestants
- Share the #BLM Hackathon on Social Media
- Helping find programmers to compete
- Providing feedback or technical support in our Discord throughout the competition
- Helping the Minority Programmers organize this event
- Contacting national/local Media
- Reaching out to potential corporate sponsors to donate a named prize or provide potential employment opportunities for successful competitors
- Join the event on LinkedIn and Devpost
This is an opportunity to channel isolated programmers around the world and have them collaborate to build solutions that can help fight the War on Drugs. I am so grateful for SSDP for fostering the connections that led me to be where I am at today and I encourage any of the family to reach out any time any of you needs help.