By: Zandria Johnson

Without even realizing, things are influencing and forging an impact on your life. From the first day that I heard “Code to Hope” I was drawn to it because I love to code and my love for technology continues to grow with every innovation. After hearing the founder’s story and spending time with a few volunteers in the US, I realized the work they were doing was truly inspiring and wanted to be a part of it.

It wasn’t until my third day of the volunteer trip to Cotonou, Benin in June 2019 that the message REALLY hit me. On this day we visited Ouidah, a city in the Kingdom of Dahomey in Benin, best known for its slave trade. While viewing artifacts along the slave route, the tour guide mentions the Dahomey Amazons[1]– a historical group that inspired a major component[2] of a movie that means so much to me.

Marvel’s “Black Panther”, a movie about an African superhero from a third world country, Wakanda, that had technological advancements far greater than people knew were capable. The part that resonates with me in the movie, is Black Panther’s younger sister, Shuri, the lead technologist of the country whom they trusted whole heartedly.

She was a woman. She was of African descent.

This was groundbreaking as we almost never see this in movies. The only other well-known movie produced during my era with a similar vision is “Hidden Figures”, which held three strong technology focused female leads. Ultimately, as a double minority in the computer science field, I knew how much seeing Shuri in that movie did for me andso many others. I felt like I could do anything.

Representation matters. Resources & access to them matter.

In the movie, Black Panther, they quarrel over branching to other countries and sharing resources (i.e. Vibranium) to the underprivileged. But you see, that was a movie. This is real life. I love Code to Hope so much because it gives me an opportunity to give that same feeling of invincibility that Shuri gave me, to someone else; By bridging the gap in technology and providing students/villages with tools to overcome their under-privileges – sharing resources. It gets me excited because I see what the people of Benin can do WITHOUT all the resources. Their means of survival and hard work. Imagine what they could do with technology and access to the same resources that we have!

That is why I want to continue to be a resource, give hope, and drive change. For them, and for CodeToHope.

 

[1] Dahomey Amazons fought in slave raids and helped recapture the Dahomean port of Ouidah in 1725
[2] Inspiration for Black Panther’s female soldiers, the Dora Milaje, comes from the Dahomey Amazons, a group of all female soldiers from the Kingdom of Dahomey in the Republic of Benin. https://time.com/5171219/black-panther-women-true-history/