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Apple announces racial equity and justice initiatives as part of $100 million program

Daniel Howley
·Technology Editor
·4-min read
Apple CEO Tim Cook, right, chats with an attendee at the Steve Jobs Theater during an event to announce new products Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, in Cupertino, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Apple CEO Tim Cook, right, chats with an attendee at the Steve Jobs Theater during an event to announce new products Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, in Cupertino, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Apple (AAPL) on Wednesday announced a slew of investments as part of a $100 million initiative to combat racial inequity and injustice.

The moves, part of the company’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI), includes a $25 million contribution to the Propel Center, an innovation and learning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), two new grants for HBCU engineering programs, 100 new scholarships for underrepresented communities, and the launch of company’s first Apple Developer Academy in the U.S. in Detroit.

“We’re launching REJI’s latest initiatives with partners across a broad range of industries and backgrounds — from students to teachers, developers to entrepreneurs, and community organizers to justice advocates — working together to empower communities that have borne the brunt of racism and discrimination for far too long,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

“We are honored to help bring this vision to bear, and to match our words and actions to the values of equity and inclusion we have always prized at Apple.”

Apple hasn’t been shy about its work and stances on social issues under Cook. The firm has made repeated statements supporting everything from the LGTBQ+ community, to advancing girls’ education in Brazil, to addressing the housing crisis in California and clean energy investments.

To highlight the importance of the initiative, Cook appeared on CBS This Morning on Wednesday to make the company’s announcement.

Apple’s announcement comes as companies including Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Facebook (FB), and Twitter (TWTR) have come under fire for allowing hate speech and misinformation to propagate across their platforms in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

‘Gross injustices and institutional barriers’

Apple first announced its REJI in June in the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor, a Kentucky EMT gunned down in her home by police during a no-knock raid, and George Floyd, a Minnesota man who died in custody when police knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes. Both Taylor and Floyd were Black and their deaths, among several others, sparked nationwide protests calling for action to be taken against racial injustices throughout American society.

Apple is making a $25 million contribution to the Propel Center to support HBCU faculty and students across a number of educational tracks. (Image: Apple)
Apple is making a $25 million contribution to the Propel Center to support HBCU faculty and students across a number of educational tracks. (Image: Apple)

“For too long, communities of color have faced gross injustices and institutional barriers to their pursuit of the American dream, and we are proud to lend our voices and resources to build new engines of opportunity that empower, inspire, and create meaningful change,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.

One of the cornerstones of Apple’s REJI is the Propel Center, a new hub being built in partnership with Southern Company at the Atlanta University Center that will provide HBCU students with a number of educational opportunities in fields ranging from app development to augmented reality, AI and machine learning, entertainment and the arts, agricultural technologies, and social justice.

There will also be an online component for the Propel Center that allows students and faculty to participate in its programs remotely.

Apple says it is also launching two new grants to support engineering programs at HBCUs that will allow HBCUs engineering schools further build out their curriculum around silicon and hardware engineering. The tech giant also says it will tap its relationship with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to offer 100 new Apple Scholars scholarships to underrepresented communities. Apple Scholars receive mentorship and career development experience directly from Apple.

In Detroit, the company says it will launch its first U.S.-based Apple Developer Academy, which Apple says will, “empower young Black entrepreneurs, creators, and coders, helping them cultivate the skills necessary for jobs in the rapidly growing iOS app economy.”

The academy will be launched with the help of Michigan State University and will include two programs: a 30-day introductory course for individuals who are interested in jumping into the app development community, and a 10-month to 12-month option for developers who want to dive into the deep end of app development. The academy, the company says, will reach up to 1,000 students a year.

Additionally, Apple says it will invest $10 million in Harlem Capital, a New York-based, early-stage venture capital firm. The money will be used to support the VC firm’s investments in “1,000 companies with diverse founders over the next 20 years.”

Finally, Apple is providing a contribution to The King Center, which serves as a memorial for civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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