Hack the CD: History-making hackathon and neighborhood jam session!

After the 54 hour hackathon, "Hack the CD" participants finish strong!

After the 54 hour hackathon, “Hack the CD” participants finish strong!

From 9/26-9/28, the Garfield High School’s Commons hosted and bore witness to an historic event: the Central District’s first “hackathon.” Those of you reading this blog know over the last five months we’ve been building momentum towards this youth-centric event, through the Startup Weekend at the University of Washington, two coding bootcamps and tech tours, but this has just been part of a much larger movement to create fertile ground for the African American community to grow with the city’s tech boom.


David Harris, lead organizer

David Harris created Hack the CD out of his winning idea at Crosscut’s Community Idea Lab, and along with partners including Wyking Garrett, the always-on-point facilitator Joey Aquino, and great sponsors listed here, we organized the Central District Startup Weekend– a first for the community– an “entrepreneurial jam session.”  With over 100 participants, 40 high school students, a great turnout of women, and a predominantly African American base, ten teams over the course of 54 hours engaged in social change for the neighborhood and technology-driven innovation.

Sho' betta refining their pitch (and an elusive "Hack the CD" T!)

Sho’ betta refining their pitch (and an elusive “Hack the CD” T shirt!)

This microcosm of community was nothing short of magical; this hackathon encompassed the biggest range of ages I’d ever seen, not to mention the (mostly) patient but always charming 2-8 year old sons and daughters of mentor Arif Gursel and co-organizer Al Herron. Street teams fanned out into the community for customer validation at the Central Area block party, happening on Saturday right outside our doors at 23rd ad Cherry. And the food– the food!  African American owned Central District restaurants delivered (literally) throughout the weekend: My Sweet Lil Cakes, Brown Sugar Bakery, Def Chef and Ezell’s Famous Chicken.

semi ghs

Semira Lacet-Brown. Photo credit: Joey Aquino.

From 11 year-old Semira Lacet Brown‘s opening remarks, to the City of Seattle’s Brian Surratt’s closing keynote, the event was inspirational from beginning to end.  Judges Yoli Chisholm, Jasmine Lawrence, and Maurice Woods gave constructive and enthusiastic critiques to every one of the teams, and the evening concluded with not just a metaphorical, but a live musical jam session!

Without further ado, check out the list of teams (all are winners in my book), and the judges’ top picks from the weekend!  (PS: we may have well been able to launch an 11th business with the amazing t-shirts produced by co-organizers Zithri Saleem and Wyking Garrett– these were hot commodities!)

  • First place: Politicheck: this service compares politicians’ campaign promises to their track records in office with accessible infographics, encouraging transparency and engagement in our political system.

Student-led Politicheck for the win!

  • Puplert street team doing customer validation

    Puplert street team doing customer validation

    Second place: Puplert: an online community for dog-lovers, reuniting lost pets with owners

  • Third place: Africa-town, concierge to the African diaspora in Seattle, connecting customers to black-owned businesses.
  • Honorable mention: Black Rogue, founded by a formerly homeless young man launching a t-shirt company to raise awareness (and money) for those living in homelessness.

    Black Rogue and mentors Zithri and Arif

    Black Rogue and mentors Zithri and Arif

  • Sho’betta: a platform for financial literacy and community-based crowd lending for for minority-owned businesses.
  • Aqua Clear: a concept to deliver UV-enabled water filtration systems to developing countries, in partnership with global charities and local communities.
  • Ridebid: a pricing service for ride-sharing companies, effectively disrupting the disruptors where drivers bid on rides and consumer choose their drivers.
  • Afrikanections: educational platform for 2nd- 6th graders to connect to current and historic African American celebrities; their initial offering is a “choose-your-own-adventure” style ebook.
  • FuzzySearch: a Chrome extension yielding better search results even when you don’t know the exact terms.
  • WanderLost: creating virtual “search parties” for lost items through hardware-enabled alerts.

Author’s note: StartupSeattle was the signature sponsor of the event, and yours truly was a co-organizer and mentor.  The City of Seattle was a “Gold” sponsor via the Community Technology Program, and the Seattle Public Schools via Garfield’s generous support also helped make this possible, with technical assistance from April Murdock, advocacy from Earl Bergquist, and the sponsorship of principal Ted Howard.

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