After writing a post for the Patch about fusing technology with civic engagement, I received an email from Bed Stuy native, Andrea Taylor. Professor Taylor wrote to me and told me she wanted to volunteer in any way we needed help because she grew up in Bedford Stuyvesant and was now an Information Technology Professor at Pace University. DIVAS for Social Justice encourages young women in under-served communities to get involved in technology.
After one meeting, we decided that our focus would be on creating a robotics team that would program a Lego Mindstorms Robot Kit for social change and infuse media arts through photography and video documentation of the process.
As a result of Hurricane Sandy, Professor Taylor led a six -week pilot robotic program where our youth programmed a robot to fight climate change. The robot made its debut at The Robert F. Kennedy Holiday Party at Restoration Plaza, December 8, 2012. We were able to train 5 youth ranging from ages 7-12 in learning robotics. Initially, we had a hard time recruiting for the program but we received such a positive response from the community at the holiday party, we are working on a new program entitled, the DIVA STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math) program, which will be spearheaded by Taylor, Sha Sha Feng and myself. We believe that science cannot be innovative without the arts and they go hand in hand.
Andrea Taylor’s dedication and activism to her community is a lifelong journey. Her roots are entrenched with activism. Ms Taylor’s parents are Mary & Herbert Von King. Herbert Von King was often called, “The Mayor of Bed Stuy”. Hebert Von King was a key community member responsible for the construction of Boys and Girls High School and formed the Model Block Program where blocks were nominated based on beautification, lighting of the block for safety. Andrea recalls her father during the summer carrying a steel sign and posting it on winning blocks the Friday night before a Saturday block party. King would then unveil the sign, and the moment would bring such pride to the block. Andrea’s mother, Mary King was a catalyst for change as well. Mary King was an active den mother in Girl Scouts, one of the founding members of The Quincy Community Garden. Mary King also worked for Mary Pinkett, the first African American woman elected to City Council.
Andrea Taylor stands on the shoulders of her parents Bed Stuy legacy and they are smiling down from heaven.
STEM Programming is offered in communities in New York City costing families about $400-$500 a semester because it is considered an enrichment activity. DIVAS would like to keep this programming free for youth.
In order to expand our robotics team, DIVAS for Social Justice has an online campaign where you can give as little as five dollars. You can donate at: