By: Brandon Nicholson, Founding Executive Director
Date: Friday, October 30, 2020
In the United States, Black youth are at the forefront of being the catalyst for change to empower themselves and communities. Every day they are harnessing their inner genius to create innovative solutions to the most important problems and issues facing their neighborhoods. All they need is access to more resources, networks, and pathways to cultivate their natural abilities and to create an even greater impact where everyone benefits.
The Hidden Genius Project, a nonprofit organization founded in Oakland, helps young Black men across the state of California leverage the latest advances in technology and social media to engage their brilliance and creativity, allowing them to take advantage of the endless possibilities available. As creators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers, these innovative youth are sharing and controlling their own content, using it for business, entertainment, education, or to contribute to the fight for racial and social justice. They’re making their voices heard and shaping the industry.
The Hidden Genius Project launched in 2012 when five Black male entrepreneurs and technologists who decided the disproportionate access and opportunities for young Black men within the tech sector had to change. The founders created their flagship holistic youth development program, which trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities.
Recently named a partner and beneficiary of the Bank of America 2020 Neighborhood Builder Program, The Hidden Genius Project has transformed the lives of more than 7,000 young people and provided over 310,000 hours of direct training through its 15-month Intensive Immersion and Catalyst Program events.
“The Hidden Genius Project is perfectly positioned to leverage the Bay Area’s unmatched tech resources to build career pathways for communities of color, which is why Bank of America selected the organization to be a Neighborhood Builder,” said Gioia McCarthy, San Francisco – East Bay president, Bank of America. “With our $200,000 grant and leadership development training, The Hidden Genius Project can scale its reach for even greater impact that is both sustainable and lasting.”
Adapting to unforeseen change
At The Hidden Genius Project, we understand fully well that shelter-in-place does not mean our young people’s needs disappear.
As shelter-in-place orders were announced in late March during the onset of Covid-19 in the Bay Area, The Hidden Genius Project quickly and seamlessly pivoted to distance learning, continuing to serve students and families across their Oakland and Richmond sites. Given the sturdy infrastructure and strong relationships they’ve created and nurtured over the past several years, they were able to connect with their Intensive Immersion Program community online.
The coronavirus pandemic further exposed the digital divide — fueled by systemic racism and economic inequities—as countless Black and brown youth found themselves without the necessary tools for virtual learning. This pandemic is a justice issue and the disproportionate access to resources lights a fire under us.
Motivated by the heightened inequities the pandemic caused, The Hidden Genius Project organized to deliver a broad range of virtual technology and entrepreneurship workshops over the summer through their Community Partnership Programming. Partners on this work included West Oakland Youth Center, Head Royce School, Berkeley Future Ready Scholars (at UC Berkeley), East Bay Asian Local Development Center (EBALDC), and Made in South LA. These youth-led workshops were facilitated by Alumni Youth Educators, all graduates of the Intensive Immersion Program.
OAK7 Hidden Genius Alum Odera Nwosu notes, “Besides just learning how to code, you are surrounded by a community of people who want to see you succeed.” In addition to cultivating technical skills among participants, The Hidden Genius Project encourages the confidence the youth will need to reach their full potential in the face of adversity.
Now in its eighth year of service, The Hidden Genius Project remains committed to forging pathways that elevate the untapped potential among their Genius youth. This fall, it will launch an Investment Seed Fund to support the business ventures of their Hidden Genius Alumni.