Underscoring Our Commitment to Racial Justice and Equality

Wendy Gonzalez

June 19, 2020

5 Minute Read

Like many people, I have been deeply saddened, frustrated, and outraged by the violence against Black people in the United States. This systemic challenge we face requires not only immediate action. It requires a change in the way we think, see, and operate. 

True change happens with purposeful action and in the decisions we make every day. It takes investment for the long term, even when there is pressure to perform in the short term. As I’ve been telling my teams as we organize to contribute the fight for justice for Black people, “We are in a marathon, not a sprint.” 

I also firmly believe that change starts locally. It starts with us as individuals and within our communities. 

Lastly, change needs to be measurable - not just this quarter or next, but on an ongoing basis. We need to hold ourselves accountable to ensure we’re making positive progress toward a more just, equitable society. Since our founding in 2008, we have treated our impact metrics with the same level of fidelity and reporting as we have our financials. We will apply the same rigor of measure to the Black Lives Matter engagement strategy and actions I’m committing to today. 

Following our company values, we’ve decided to take action both inside our organization and in partnership with local organizations to drive toward a more equitable society where Black people in America realize the same level of humanity as others. 

I’m committing to four core initiatives to support racial inclusion. 

  1. Financial Support: Earlier this week, we launched a corporate matching program to raise donations for three local organizations. Sama seeded this program with funds and is matching each employee donation 2:1. The three local organizations include: 
    • Code2040, a San Francisco based nonprofit activating, connecting, and mobilizing the largest racial equity community in tech to dismantle the structural barriers that prevent Black and Latinx technologists from fully participating in the tech industry.
    • AI4ALL, an Oakland based non-profit lead by a Sama alum, opens doors to artificial intelligence for underrepresented talent through education and mentorship.
    • Color Of Change, an Oakland based organization, is the nation’s largest online justice organization. They design campaigns powerful enough to end practices that hold Black people back, and champion solutions that move us all forward.
    • Hoodstock, a Montreal based organization, generates spaces for dialogue and mobilizing initiatives to eliminate systemic inequalities and develop supportive, inclusive, secure and dynamic communities.
  2. Diversity and Inclusion: While we have rigorous programs in place to address gender diversity and inclusion, and enjoy a cross-cultural mix of people within our organization, we found that our North American diversity representation could be improved. To achieve this goal, we’re committing to expand our gender diversity and inclusion program to specifically include inclusion metrics for Black and other people of color. 
  3. Internal Education: We are committed to hosting internal education and engagement sessions covering topics such as institutional racism, racial bias in AI, diversity hiring best practices, and the importance of voting. We also started an internal forum for our teams to openly exchange ideas for action and provide additional support to each other. 
  4. Partnerships: We are engaging with partners within the AI community committed to better understanding and taking action against AI Bias. We’re also engaging with organizations that support upskilling, mentoring, and recruitment to drive economic mobility and inclusion for Black Americans in the tech industry.  

My hope is that everyone in our broader technology community will drive the change needed to make the United States a more equitable and inclusive country. We must stand together and bring humanity to our industry, and to our country. 

(In case you missed it, below is our original statement. )  

The murder of George Floyd has reignited an international movement for equality and justice. It sparked a powder keg of emotions that have left many feeling frustrated, helpless, angry, outraged, and sad. We here at Sama stand by one of our core company values -- Humanity. Humanity for the countless number of Black lives who have been victims of police brutality. Humanity for every person that tries to survive daily in a system that routinely oppresses them. Humanity for those who so often do not receive it, all because of the color of their skin.

The world of tech so often speaks of creating a new, better world -- but we cannot do that if we do not stand for the rights of everyone. Humanity and compassion are necessary. In order to avoid bias in ourselves and the technology we produce, we must consider how daily actions, words, and thoughts contribute to a racist and prejudiced world.

To quote our late founder Leila Janah, “Don’t underestimate the ripple effect of what you do. These kinds of small actions undertaken in coordination by large numbers of people have toppled empires.” We stand in solidarity with those driving positive change. Here is a list of resources we found helpful.