Colby College student and native Houstonian Nile Dixon is using his love for technology to give back to his community (Photo courtesy of Misty Blue Media).
Changing the Narrative
The coverage of African-American men in mainstream media often becomes a bit cliché.
The stories mostly sound the same: lack of education, criminal activity, unstable homes and a lack of skills to really compete in this new technological age.
However, African-Americans know that those stories do not tell the complete truth about what African-American men like Nile Dixon are really about.
Dixon, a native Houstonian, self-trained computer programmer and student at the prestigious Colby College in Waterville, Maine is making a mark in the field of technological advancement and in the process is giving back to his community and breaking stereotypes of African-Americans in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
“I was born in a single parent household,” Dixon told RegalMag.com. “I developed a love for technology by going to organizations like Sketch City and seeing how I can develop technology to address issues. Seeing the immediate impact tech can have on a community made me love making technology.”
And the technology that Dixon has made thus far has possibly done a lot to save lives in his hometown of Houston.
The Challenge Early College High School alum created a text bot that helped Hurricane Harvey victims find much-needed assistance during and after the storm’s devastation.
“The text bot works this way: a person would send their zip code or address to a specific phone number, then the phone number would send the text to a website and the website would process (that) information and send back to the user the nearest hurricane shelter,” Dixon explained.
So far, 3,000 people have used Dixon’s text bot for assistance.
As a high school student while participating in the Sketch City civic hacking group, which encourages Houstonians to create technology to address problems in the city, Dixon created the computer code to address the human and sex trafficking problem in the city.
As a result, Dixon’s team was selected to meet with the mayor of Houston to push the initiative forward.
“Working on the human trafficking project was also interesting,” Dixon said. “Initially working on the project, I never knew the widespread nature of prostitution and sex trafficking in America. But after engaging in this project, I found out that there is a much larger industry than meets the eye.”
Nevertheless, many in the African-American community wish that there were a larger industry of African-American talent in the well-paying STEM professions.
According to US News and World Report, “Though the number of STEM bachelor’s degrees earned by Black college students rose 60 percent from 2000 to 2014, it made up a smaller share of the overall number of bachelor’s degrees earned by Black students during the same time.
“According to the Georgetown study…Black students tend to cluster in fields like social work that lead to lower-paying careers.
“For example, 20 percent of degree holders in human services and community organizing are Black, and earn a median salary of about $40,000. By contrast, only 7 percent of those who receive STEM-related bachelor’s degrees and earn a median annual salary of $84,000 are Black.”
Dixon believes to increase the number of African-Americans in STEM-related fields, initiatives need to be created that exposes them to STEM and encourages them that this is something that they can do.
“The lack of interest in STEM majors in the Black community in my opinion is because the lack of accessibility to tech,” Dixon said. “In order to develop an interest in tech, you need financial resources to purchase. In order to engage in electrical engineering, you are going to need to know what resistors and capacitors are and where to buy them. In order to want to know if you will be good in biomedical engineering, you would need to have the financial resources to.”
Fortunately for Dixon, his ingenuity led to financial resources to the tune of $2 million in scholarship offers.
Dixon chose Colby College because of their strong Computer Science program and good financial aid. But he also got accepted into Williams College, Bowdoin College, Case Western Reserve University, Washington and Lee University, Carleton College and Rhodes College.
And in the process, Dixon and many others are changing the narrative of young African-American men.
Yes, African-American men are brilliant.
Yes, African-American men are successful in technology.
And yes, African-American men can use that brilliance to change their community and change the world.