Last Thursday, I attended Resilient Coders’ Demo Day. Each student began by introducing themselves to a few hundred people, and then showcased their final projects to a roomful of allies, advisors, and hiring companies. Now, I’d sat in on a few of the community sessions, but I hadn’t seen any of the students’ final projects. And, well — frankly, I was floored.

What was showcased, you might ask? Well.

  • Erica created an online art gallery, enhanced with a fairly clever bit of augmented reality;
  • Kyle built an application for Boston-area Muslims to connect, to discuss their faith, and to plan their pilgrimage to Mecca;
  • Lawrence built a geo-aware app that shows nightlife near you;
  • Brandi created an application for managers of bars and restaurants to better communicate with their clientele;
  • Vonds created an open source messaging app for activists and non-profits;
  • Alejandro created a social network where geeks can connect with each other;
  • Rossio created a web application to translate Spanish-language music videos;
  • Anne created an ecommerce site for Boston-area Black artists to connect, and to sell their artwork.

I’m still astonished by the work these folks did. In fourteen weeks — fourteen! weeks! — they learned HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and node, and built a host of full-stack applications. And then, on top of all that, they found time to design, plan, and build a passion project, which they then showcased at Demo Day.

Before the project demos started, David Delmar, Resilient Coders’ CEO, made some introductory remarks, setting the stage for why the non-profit does what it does. Something he said stuck with me, though. Specifically, David put Resilient Coders in context: situating the non-profit’s work squarely within Boston’s tech industry, which overwhelmingly prefers hiring candidates who’ve graduated from the area’s well-known universities. As a result, those hiring practices perpetuates systems of privilege, wealth, and access that disenfranchise candidates of color.

And then, David said this:

The system is terrible. But the system is also working perfectly. It’s working the way it was designed to work.

This was helpful to me, frankly. Everyone from the Boston Federal Reserve to the Brookings Institution have pointed out that Boston suffers from ghastly income and racial inequality. But it’s easy to look at that system as somehow broken, as something that needs to be corrected or fixed. David’s remarks were a helpful reminder that the current inequalities are perpetuated by design — and rather than fixing the system, the system needs to be replaced entirely with something more equitable. Something more just.

One of the best ways to do that, of course, is to hire Erica, Kyle, Lawrence, Brandi, Vonds, Alejandro, Rossio, or Anne. From what I saw last week, they’re more than ready to get to work.

Piles of stickers made by the non-profit Resilient Coders, arguing for equity in access to tech jobs