I was invited to write a Director's Statement about Code Oakland for a film festival submission, so I thought I'd share it here:
Director's Statement by Kelly Amis
A Note from the Director:
I knew I wanted to do a film about technology's potential to increase equality and social justice-- especially for urban youth of color -- and that I wanted to do a film about the city of Oakland, CA. When I met Kalimah Priforce, I realized these were one and the same.
Kalimah embodies the evolution of Oakland, which many compare to Brooklyn, NY (where Kalimah grew up -- in Bedford-Stuyvesant) or believe will be the next great technology hub. But Oakland is its own city, one of the most diverse in the U.S., with an unique history including as the home of the Black Panther movement.
As Silicon Valley spreads into Oakland, Kalimah is part of a vanguard that is fighting to make sure the black community benefits from the tech industry's growth; he is using his tech skills and leadership to prepare Oakland youth to change both the face and future of technology.
What happens in Oakland at this point in time is, I believe, incredibly meaningful: is Silicon Valley's mostly white and male-dominated world going to steamroller through Oakland, keeping profit as the primary motivator in every/all decision as it physically moves outward (and grows in power exponentially across the globe)? Or is Oakland going to redirect its momentum to expand and change the definition of "success": in the tech industry? Could the "code" of Oakland help shape the industry so equality, diversity and community become as important, if not more so, than profit?