For 15 years, Inneract Project (IP) has worked directly with youth from communities of color, initially teaching free classes to provide access to basic foundational design. During this time we’ve continued to look forward to the future and develop an ever-stronger approach to significantly move the needle for these underserved communities, and as we celebrated our anniversary with a keynote address from Iddris Sandu at our sold-out benefit at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in October, there was an overwhelming feeling of pride in our progress. Our amazing sponsorships from PayPal, Facebook, Adobe, Atlassian and Salesforce helped this event truly reach its potential, and the audience (as well as the IP team) left feeling truly inspired.
The benefit began with a cocktail hour featuring a silent auction and student gallery highlighting the IP pathway to design with a collection of IP images and advanced IP student projects. Attendees were able to see our first program flyers designed in 2004 by founder Maurice Woods alongside our 2018 updated flyer created by IP mentee Tyler Evan Shaw, the 15th year logo created by IP alumni Olivia Nevins and IP volunteer Kelly Stuckey Jr., and spotlights of the past and present works of three advanced IP students. The student projects featured included IP Studio (where students used digital design tools to create a portfolio piece that solved a problem in their community), IP X Autodesk (where students participated in a 10-day bootcamp designing a physical lamp that reflected their identities or a community need), IP Design-a-Thon (where students created an app to connect teachers with parents who could donate supplies)and IP X Facebook Mobile Bootcamp (where students explored, prototyped and iterated on music apps in Figma). IP committee Members Ji-hern Baek and Daniel Klein created the design for the beautiful gallery boards, and during the drinks and mingling this gallery garnered a lot of attention. The silent auction component featured remarkable vendors Temi Coker, Two Chicks in the Mix, Jeadi Vilchis (3D Design), Muito Quente, Umber Magazine, Jen Cotton Design, 77 Salon, Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel’s Designer Alphabet, SFhelicopter, Alonzo King Ballet, Alexis Lucio and the MoAD.
Keynote speaker for the evening, Iddris Sandu, is the 22-year-old tech prodigy who partnered with Nipsey Hussle to create the world-famous Marathon Store in Los Angeles with immersive “smart store” features, proving there are opportunities for young creatives to influence the tech of tomorrow, today (within a huge span of industries, even music). As a thirteen-year-old, Sandu was invited to shadow at Google where he consulted on some of their most successful projects, and since then he’s developed concepts and algorithms in collaboration with companies like Instagram, Snapchat, Uber and Yeezy. Sandu’s speech was an inspiring story of how a brilliant youth growing up in a troubled environment leveraged key opportunities to reach his potential. Iddris talked about hearing a presentation from Steve Jobs about the iPhone when he was 9 years old and how it motivated him to study technology: “So I got super inspired, but again, I’m a kid from Compton, California with limited resources. So I started going to the Compton community library, and I wanted to know everything…not only how it worked, but why it worked the way it worked and how I could create something like that on my own.”
Iddris’ intro and opening remarks from IP founder Maurice Woods prefaced the sentiment of Sandu that is ultimately woven into the very mission of IP: “90% of our students are Black and LatinX…we try to do our best to have as much impact as we possibly can…We don’t wanna just get them on a computer. We’re trying to teach them to think... ‘How can I use the skills that I have to help make my world a better place, or design something that I care about that’s important to this world?’”
Woods and Sandu were joined by other tech powerhouses Yasmine Evjen (Google’s Senior Design Advocate) and Renee Reid, Staff UX Design Researcher at LinkedIn, for a panel on the issues that inspired the creation of Inneract Project following the keynote. Industry leaders like Soleio Cuervo (the Facebook product designer responsible for the “like” button) were present for this interactive discussion followed by an auction-style donation round and even a live Samba dance troupe performance from Muito Quinte to close out the evening. Attendees were so inspired by the powerful work of Inneract Project that one guest, father of recording artist Bobby Brackins, even stood up to pledge college scholarships to students who complete their Inneract Project classes!
The success of IP’s benefit event couldn’t be more important as industry pioneers of color are working diligently to solve the problem of under-representation of African American and Latinx professionals in the design and technology fields and, even more importantly, prepare youth for the world of tomorrow. As founder Maurice Woods has explained, “…minorities are becoming the new majority. It will become increasingly more important for the design industry to reflect the faces, ideas and connection to the evolving new majority. Yes, Black and Brown designers are grossly under-represented in the field, but more importantly, the opportunity that Iddris and Inneract Project share is empowering this new generation of designers of color to build a future that they see themselves in.”