Code 2040, with the backing of Google Next Wave, is bringing an amazing position to Durham, NC. It is going to be anchored specifically in the tech-hub, start-up, co-working space powerhouse, the American Underground.
American Underground, in parallel to Durham, aims to be a model for not just cooperative growth and forward thinking business models, but for a diverse community that nurtures such thinking. American Underground has recently expanded by forty-five offices in its Main Street Durham hub, giving the “AU” as it is colloquially referred to by locals, a total of 850 entrepreneurs across its three locations.
Code 2040 fits perfectly with the diversity mission. They are backing a local, minority entrepreneur for a year with $40,000 in salary and cash for their start-up and a role as Google Entrepreneur-in-Residence. American Underground is poised to make Talib Graves-Mann, the recently announced winner of Durham’s Code 2040 Entrepreneur-in-Residence and co-founder of RainbowMe, their Chief Diversity Officer, attending all staff meetings and contributing to both planning and programming.
The national media is starting to catch wind of the trend. Just yesterday, CNN’s Money website featured the American Underground as a model of “paying more than lip-service” to its goal to “have more than 50% of its start-ups be minority or women led.”
This should come as no surprise in a community with Durham’s diversity and history of minority-own businesses. Durham is home to historic Black Wall Street. This is the once cobble-stoned Parrish Street and Orange Street area that was home to America’s largest African-American owned bank and America’s largest African-American owned insurer from the 1890s to the 1960s. Durham was also the home of one of America’s first civil rights sit-ins at the Royal Ice Cream Parlor in 1957. According to the 2010 Census, Durham is 14.22% Hispanic, 40.96% black, and 42.45% white. This is a place that is both diverse and accustomed to being the epicenter of social cultural change.
This reality already resonates on the streets of Durham or DURM as the kids in the skate parks and at the hip-hop open mics know it. The vernacular goes “DURM, say it like you’re from here.”
The popular-izer of the DURM branding is local street wear company, Runaway Clothes, who is a burgeoning start-up selling hoodies, t-shirts, and caps and headquartered in the American Underground as well. They recently dropped a line of clothing anchored around renewing the “Black Wall Street” meme among the Durham youth of today to offer a model of achievement and success by people of color in their community. Runaway Clothes is hosting American Underground’s Helpfest this Wednesday, a speaker panel and micro-conference around the theme of Black Wall Street, a discussion about the past and future of diversity and minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurship in Durham and beyond.
Yet, the mission facing Graves-Manns is real and present. Durham public schools facing stark uphill battles for reasonable graduation rates and fighting the expulsion to prison pipeline are far more common than functioning as coding hubs and incubators for future generations of entrepreneurs.
However, Graves-Manns and his company, RainbowMe, appear uniquely positioned. Their mission statement from their website:
“RainbowMe’s mission is to educate and entertain kids ages 2-12 on social, economic, cultural and ethnic nuances by brokering an exchange of cultures, ideas, and themes that allow them to build a higher EQ (Ethnic Quotient).
We will better prepare them for an increasingly global society.”
At the Clarion Content, we are grateful for our Durham community and its intentionality.
We are delighted to be on the front lines of real change.
We will keep you posted.