Black and Latinx students are often offered professional development workshops and trainings that are devoid of critical information they will need to navigate their work lives in a society where racism and white supremacy can be found at every level of life. In order to prepare the next generation of technology leaders, we created this programming to equip our Black and Latinx students with the knowledge and language to understand, resist and overcome systems of oppression that they face in higher education and 21st century workplace environments.
This past fall, AOT piloted two panel discussions focused on code switching and microaggressions for Black and Latinx students and alumni. Rofeeah Ayeni is an AOT alum who attended our first affinity group discussion on Code Switching which highlighted the experiences of multilingual tech professionals (i.e Patois, Spanish and African American Vernacular English) in predominantly white working environments. During this discussion, panelists unpacked expectations and pressures to ‘code switch’ as well as the mindsets they utilize to ensure that they are bringing their full selves to work. Read what Rofeeah had to say about her experience:
Arriving in America from Nigeria when I was nine years old felt like entering a completely new world. Despite all the wonders and perks of this country, my identity began to fade into the wind progressively. I noticed myself developing the constant need to change everything about myself to fit the status quo. I would always straighten and perm my hair damaging each beautiful curl on my head. I would also force myself to rid any of my Nigerian accent to speak in the ways of my peers. I was not me. I was the person who I believed others would be comfortable around. I changed everything about who I was not to please myself but, to please others because I was afraid of not being accepted for me.
However, connecting with people like I met at the Affinity group has helped me to step out of the shadows and embrace who I am. While discussing the idea of code-switching with the Affinity group, I started to hear other people’s stories that were similar to mine. We all connected on the idea of trying to shape ourselves into people we were not. They were able to learn to embrace who they are to the people around them. I still hear TeLisa’s words ringing at the back of my head to “own who you are and embrace it proudly.” Hearing that pushed me to the need of taking more risks to show my real self to the world no matter the environment that I put myself in.
At America On Tech, we believe these kinds of conversations are critical as we train and prepare the next generation of technology leaders. Stay tuned for our 2021 Affinity Program build out!
Interested in learning about how you can get involved with America On Tech's Affinity Group Programming in 2021?
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