Since protests against police brutality and racism began after the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year, people of all races have asked what they can do to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Amid the current uprisings, 19-year-old New York University student Alexis Williams decided to put her powerful coding talent to good use. The computer science major put together a timely website containing resources that can connect people to petitions, organizations, educational tools and more.
The website — Pb-resources.com — explains how people can bolster the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement and support Black women, Black trans people and Black businesses during these unprecedented times.
The wunderkind spoke to Blavity about her innovative work and what spurred her to dedicate her talent to the movement for equal rights.
"The death of George Floyd opened the floodgates to information regarding the systematic racism that manifests within our criminal justice system," Williams told Blavity. "I found myself pained over the ways in which people in power were using laws and policies to maintain the oppression of Black people. At first, uncovering this information made me feel powerless to a system that has flourished for centuries. I didn’t think that there was anything I could do. Eventually, I realized that I had the power to create a tool to bring people together, a tool that would hopefully act as a hub of education and action."
"Thus, pb-resources was born. The site exists as an aid to the re-education that is so necessary in fighting systematic oppression but also gives communities the tools to fight individual policies all in one place," she added. "The website was built to give access and outline action items that can cause real structural change when used en masse. Soon it became clear that although I may not be able to conjure change alone, there is so much power in numbers."
The New Jersey native is only a freshman at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering but has been able to garner significant publicity around the useful website through Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
When asked how she managed to create such an in-depth website with so many tools, Williams said it was no easy task. It took her more than 10 hours just to create the first iteration of the website, and she has been updating it with new information as more people have visited.
It took a significant amount of time just to compile all of the information and resources available before she could begin mapping out the website.
"It started with scouring Twitter and Instagram for a number of hours looking for any and all pieces of information and resources I could find," she said. "It then became easier to designate the most important pages on the site based on the information I collected. I then started to code the website with what I found in mind, and compiled all of the links and sources I found in a clear and concise way."
"Over the past few weeks, I’ve been continuing to compile feedback and contributions from the audience the website has reached. I am always brainstorming new features to add in order to continue the fight for equality. Most recently I added the Black businesses map feature that allows users to see different Black businesses on a map of big cities," Williams noted.
Hundreds of activists have been active online creating petitions and websites to help organize protests, automate petition-making and focus resources on specific efforts. Williams said she was thankful for all the work so many people are doing online to provide information about the movement.
But there is so much information available that it was difficult to keep track of everything, she said. Williams added that it took time to sort through it all and organize it in a way that is easy to navigate.
Williams has always wanted to use her software skills for good and told Blavity that the responses to the website have helped her realize just how much of an impact she can make through digital tools like Pb-resources.com.
The overwhelmingly positive response to the site has made her want to program even more tools to help facilitate change and encourage millions to have conversations about race in the United States.
"I have found that activism starts with speaking out about things you experience in your own life. Tell your story, and people will start to listen. It is also really important to reach people in other ways as well," she said. "If you have a talent, tool, or skill that can work as an aid to the activism you hope to engage in, use it! I personally have used coding as my form of activism, but there is so much space for artists, writers and other creators. Let your talents guide you," Williams added.
In April, she partnered with Microsoft to help popularize Microsoft Teams with thousands of students and coders around the country.
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I’m really excited to announce that I’m partnering with @microsoft to bring #MicrosoftTeams to tons of students (and programmers), as we all learn how to stay connected virtually!!! Swipe to see how Microsoft Teams allows my pals and I to collaborate from across the country. And look out for my stories on essential Microsoft Teams Tips ????????????♥️ #ad #MicrosoftTeams101 #MicrosoftEdu
Williams said she isn't sure what the future holds for her but that she definitely wants to keep using her skills to address systemic issues.
"I hope that in five years I’m still using my platform and coding skills to create change. I want to continue this conversation about racial justice because the racist systems we face today will not be dismantled overnight. It will take years of hard work and continuous effort, and I hope to continue to be a loud voice in this fight for justice," she said.