These offerings include tools to help people support Black-owned businesses, virtual museum offerings, coding initiatives, skills training, and more.
February serves as a month-long celebration of Black history and a time to honor pioneers, artists, athletes, political figures, and more throughout the Black community. To honor Black History Month, titans in technology are offering skills training, racial justice coding initiatives, and features to help people support Black-owned businesses. Below, we’ve detailed some of the ways Microsoft, the Linux Foundation, IBM, Apple, and Google are honoring Black History Month this February and beyond.
In the past, museums have offered curated events detailing Black history during February. However, COVID-19 has forced many museums to close to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. To assist, Microsoft is offering a “virtual journey through Black history” in collaboration with more than a dozen museums and other institutions. Overall, the Microsoft Black History Month experience offers virtual exhibits highlighting, Muhammad Ali, the Tuskegee Airmen, Jackie Robinson, and more.
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“Growing up in Detroit … we leaned on our museums as the main source of history and historical reflection during Black History Month,” said Shy Averett, community program and events manager at Microsoft Store in the blog post. “[But now] museums are closed, and students can’t go to them. I knew 90-plus percent of schools in America were not going to have a rich, diverse, educational Black History Month because they lean so heavily on museums.”
Microsoft’s Legacy Project offers a virtual portal highlighting Black trailblazers such as physics pioneer, an engineer involved in Martian exploration efforts, as well as educators, political figures, business professionals, and more.
“Black history isn’t something of the past—it’s alive and being made every single day. Kids are the next generation of history-makers, so with museums closed, I was determined to find a way for Microsoft Store to virtually bring Black history to life for students around the country,” Averett said.
“We’re proud to partner with top museums and use immersive technology to showcase the Black achievers shaping our history and our future,” Averett continued.
IBM and Linux Foundation
On Friday, the Linux Foundation announced plans to host a series of projects as part of the Call for Code for Racial Justice initiative which launched last fall. Overall, the Linux Foundation said the initiative is intended to “urge the global developer ecosystem and open source community to contribute to solutions that can help confront racial inequalities.”
The project involves three primary areas including diverse representation, police and judicial reform and accountability, as well as policy and legislation reform. The Linux Foundation said this project builds on the Call for Code, which has amassed more than 400,000 “developers and problem solvers” from 179 countries since its inception in 2018.
“Open source technology has an important role to play in addressing the greatest challenges of our time, and that includes racial justice,” said Mike Dolan, senior vice president and GM of projects at the Linux Foundation in the release. “We are excited to host and support these projects at the Linux Foundation and look forward to how they will develop and deploy through contributions from the open source community.”
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The Linux Foundation also announced two new projects: Fair Change and TakeTwo in partnership with IBM. TakeTwo is intended to reduce both “overt or subtle” biases in a wide range of digital content, including news articles, blogs, web pages, “and even code,” the release said.
The Fair Change platform is designed to enable recording, cataloging, and access of evidence related to “potentially racially charged incidents” enabling “transparency, reeducation and reform as a matter of public interest and safety,” according to the Linux Foundation. The release uses a traffic stop as an example, noting that the video footage from this scenario could allow authorities and other “involved parties” to peruse these materials and assess potential situational biases.
“These applications emerged from an internal IBM program called the Call for Code Emb(race) Challenge, where Black IBMers, supported by Red Hat’s Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity (B.U.I.L.D.) community, and allies designed technology solutions to address the problem of systemic racism,” said Ruth Davis, IBM director of Call for Code, in the release.
Earlier this month, Melonie Parker, Google’s chief diversity officer and employee engagement announced Grow with Google: Black Women Lead which aims to provide 100,000 Black women with digital skills training by 2022. That vast majority of middle-skill jobs require digital tool proficiency and Grow with Google: Black Women Lead will “focus on this essential training,” Parker explained.
“The pandemic has resulted in unemployment for millions of Americans, and its impacts are further revealing the economic opportunity gaps that still exist for Black women. During COVID-19, women have accounted for 56% of workforce exits, and Black women have been particularly impacted, losing 154,000 jobs in December 2020 alone,” Parker said in the release.
Google has also released capabilities to make it easier for people to find and support local Black-owned businesses. Comparing Google Trends data from 2020 to 2019, the company said that interest in “black owned businesses” has increased 600%. On Feb. 1, Google announced that it was making it easier for people to locate and purchase goods from various Black-owned companies by “extending the Black-owned attribute to Google’s Shopping tab.” The company said this will build on an attribute released on Maps and Google search last summer.
In January, Minecraft announced it had created lessons about the Civil Rights movement and Black Lives Matter in its Good Trouble world, and those so-inclined can access a free demo of these offerings until Feb. 28.
Apple is also honoring Black History Month with features across its product offerings ranging from news apps to suggested reading. During February, individuals can access the Black History Month Hub in the App Store to peruse highlighted social justice applications, Black-owned businesses, and view featured conversations with Black developers about the “importance of representation in apps and games,” according to Apple.
Guides created in collaboration with EatOkra offer directories of Black-owned businesses; Apple Music will honor Black artists and influencers by highlighting videos, essays, and playlists; and the Apple TV app will showcase “multidimensionality of the Black family and its representation on screen” via the Essential Stories collection. The company also announced a Black Unity Collection for its Apple Watch Series 6, and Apple also offers Black History Month features on its news, books, and podcasts offerings.