Apple had the tech community abuzz when it announced that it would be making an announcement on Wednesday. This had us wondering as to what the announcement would be regarding, could it be a new product, could it have been AirTags or, could it have been about the long-awaited shift to Type-C based charging on iPhones. But, as Wednesday rolled over, we saw Apple announcing a set of major new projects as part of its $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) to help dismantle systemic barriers to opportunity and combat injustices faced by communities of colour.
These efforts include the Propel Centre, a first-of-its-kind global innovation and learning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); an Apple Developer Academy to support coding and tech education for students in Detroit; and venture capital funding for Black and Brown entrepreneurs.
According to the company’s newsletter, together, Apple’s REJI commitments aim to expand opportunities for communities of colour across the country and to help build the next generation of diverse leaders.
What Does Apple Have to Say About This
Tim Cook, commenting on this great and welcome move said: “We are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world — and these new projects send a clear signal of Apple’s enduring commitment,” “We’re launching REJI’s latest initiatives with partners across a broad range of industries and backgrounds from students to teachers, developers to entrepreneurs, and community organisers to justice advocates working together to empower communities that have borne the brunt of racism and discrimination for far too long.”
“We are honoured to help bring this vision to bear, and to match our words and actions to the values of equity and inclusion we have always prized at Apple.”
This announcement comes quite close to June 2020, when Apple announced REJI in the wake of protests around the world following the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others. The initiative builds on Apple’s work to advance racial equity in education, the economy, and the criminal justice system and is led by Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Lisa Jackson.
Ms Jackson had the following to say on the day of the launch of REJI: “Every individual deserves equal access to opportunity regardless of skin colour or zip code,” “For too long, communities of colour have faced gross injustices and institutional barriers to their pursuit of the American dream, and we are proud to lend our voices and resources to build new engines of opportunity that empower, inspire, and create meaningful change.”
What Does REJI Consist of?
The REJI program consists of many efforts that Apple is taking to ensure that everyone is treated equally and are an indication of Apple’s commitment towards a better and equal world. Some of the main parts that are included within REJI are as follows.
1. Support for HBCUs Expands with the Propel Centre
Apple is working with Southern Company and a range of community stakeholders to support the launch of the Propel Centre, which is a first-of-its-kind innovation and learning hub for the HBCU community. Apple’s $25 million contributions will help the Propel Centre to support HBCU students and faculty through a robust virtual platform, a physical campus in the historic Atlanta University Centre, and on-campus activations at partner institutions.
The centre is designed to support the next generation of diverse leaders, providing innovative curricula, technology support, career opportunities, and fellowship programmes. The Propel Centre will also offer a wide range of educational tracks, including AI and machine learning, agricultural technologies, social justice, entertainment arts, app development, augmented reality, design and creative arts, entrepreneurship and more.
Experts from Apple will also help in developing curricula as well as provide ongoing mentorship and learning support, along with offering internship opportunities.
The Propel Centre is an imagination of Ed Farm, who also designed the building. It is a groundbreaking organisation that works to promote innovation and educational equity. The initiative builds upon Apple’s partnership with Ed Farm and the company’s work with three dozen HBCUs, bringing coding, creativity, and career opportunities to campuses and communities all across the US.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Apple on this extraordinary project,” said Anthony Oni, Ed Farm’s founder and chairman of the board, and a vice president at Southern Company. “
The Propel Centre will help cultivate leadership and drive innovation in tech and beyond, acting as a springboard for change in communities across America.”
As part of Apple’s ongoing partnerships with HBCUs, the company is also establishing two new grants to support engineering programmes. Apple’s new Innovation Grants will also help HBCU Colleges of Engineering develop their silicon and hardware engineering curriculum in partnership with experts from Apple. The new Faculty Fellows Programme will support HBCU educators pursuing R&D with mentorship programmes, curriculum development assistance, and funds to equip their lab spaces.
2. Apple’s First US Developer Academy in Downtown Detroit
Towards the latter part of the year, the tech giant will be unveiling the Apple Developer Academy in Detroit, the first of its kind in the US. Detroit has a vibrant Black entrepreneur and developer community, with over 50,000 Black-owned businesses, according to US Census data. The academy is designed to empower young Black entrepreneurs, creators, and coders, helping them cultivate the skills necessary for jobs in the rapidly growing iOS app economy.
Launched in collaboration with Michigan State University, Apple Developer Academy courses will be open to all learners across Detroit, regardless of their academic background or whether they have any previous coding experience, which will be quite helpful for future developers or coders.
The Apple Developer Academy will offer two programmes in Detroit. A 30-day introductory programme is designed for learners who are considering app economy careers and looking to better understand what it means to be a developer.
The full academy programme is an intensive 10- to 12-month programme that will help aspiring developers build the skills needed to participate in the iOS app economy, and even start their own businesses. Apple expects the academy’s programming to reach close to 1,000 students each year with a curriculum that covers coding, design, marketing, and professional skills.
To add to this, next month, Apple will host the inaugural cohort of its Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders and Developers for a virtual experience, offering one-on-one code-level guidance from Apple experts and engineers, as well as mentorship, inspiration, and insights from top leaders of the company.
3. Empowering Entrepreneurs Through New Funding Partnerships
To address systemic barriers to access and funding faced by Black and Brown entrepreneurs, Apple also announced two new investments in the venture capital and banking spaces, with both projects designed to provide capital to minority-owned businesses. The company will invest $10 million with Harlem Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm based in New York to support its investments in 1,000 companies with diverse founders over the next 20 years.
In addition to providing capital to entrepreneurs of colour, Harlem Capital will also lend its expertise to Apple’s broader efforts to advance access to economic opportunity. The firm is going to offer guidance and mentorship to students at the Detroit Developer Academy and participants in Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders and Developers.
Apple will also support Harlem Capital’s internship programme, focussed on opening doors for aspiring women and minority investors.
The company will also be investing $25 million in Siebert Williams Shank’s Clear Vision Impact Fund, which will provide capital to small and medium-sized businesses, with an emphasis on minority-owned companies. The fund looks to support businesses that operate in or serve underserved markets.
4. Lifting up Community Organisations
As part of REJI, Apple is going to continue to build on its contributions toward community colleges, nonprofit advocates, and local organisations working to empower and expand opportunity for the next generation.
To aid to this goal, Apple is making a contribution to The King Centre, a living memorial to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to share his teachings and inspire new generations to carry forward his unfinished work.
In the coming week, Dr. King’s daughter and the CEO of The King Centre, Dr. Bernice A. King, will issue a call to action encouraging young people to give back to their communities as part of Apple’s “Challenge for Change” series, which is a set of conversation guides and learning-based challenges on issues related to race and inequality.
Apple’s contribution to The King Centre joins the company’s previous donations to nonprofit organisations that advance equity and justice, including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery.