Makers. Do something.
It’s no secret that makerspaces, at least in the United States, are dominated by white people, usually men. Even in the professional makerspace that I frequent, whose owners focus on inclusion and diversity, there are rarely any people of color using the equipment.
Maker events such as Maker Faire are more of the same. Mostly white men sharing the cool things they’ve made, occasionally a white woman, and less frequently a person of color.
So, how do we change that?
Representation Matters – So Start There
While writing my book Teach Kids to Use Makerspace to Save Our World (publication pending) , I interviewed Taryn Gal, the Executive Director of the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health, about inclusion. We were specifically discussing inclusion of girls and LGBTQ youth, but the idea that representation matters absolutely applies to people of color, too.
The gist is, you need to make sure that anything you put on view has diverse representation. This includes male, female, nonbinary, people of color, LGBTQ and differently abled. Anything that has people on it should communicate inclusion; posters, pamphlets, websites.
When people see posters and other images that look like them, it feels inviting. When there are only people who look a certain way, those are the only people who will be comfortable in your space. If you don’t have any images of black people on your makerspace walls, displays and website you need to fix that right now.
Create Inclusive Policies and Facilities
Make sure that your makerspace policies have language about inclusion. You might consider adopting the Nation of Makers Core Principles statement.
Make certain that you have bathrooms available for men, women and nonbinary members and that all of these bathrooms have inclusive signage.
Design your makerspace so that those who are differently abled, including wheelchair bound, are able to use your space and equipment.
Invest in Your Local Black Community
Sponsor a black artist/maker with a maker-in-residency, or just free access to your equipment. Even better, sponsor several, if your space can support that.
Consider a partnership with a local, predominantly black, school. This could mean sponsoring a FIRST robotics team, offering free classes to students, lending out equipment for student use or offering free teacher training.
When you purchase tools and materials, try to do so through black-owned businesses. Yelp recently added a way to search for black-owned businesses (businesses will have to opt in to participate), and there are several other websites and apps that can help you locate black-owned businesses near you.
Keep the Momentum Going
Don’t stop here. Keep educating yourself about ways to be aware, inclusive and supportive.
If you have other suggestions, post them in the comments below.