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What’s in a name? Plenty, if you’re the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), a 23-year-old organization dedicated to building a professional development network among members in computer technology and related fields. A lot has changed since this amalgamation of black information technology professionals started its first chapter in 1975–even its name. In deference to the changing times, and to foster a better public understanding of the group’s focus, in 1996, the BDPA became the BDPA–Information Technology Thought Leaders.
But the name isn’t the only thing that has changed. “We are still dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of our members, but we’ve in corporated a community service component to increase technology awareness in the African American community,” says George Williams, the organizations’s national president. In 1992, the group founded the BDPA Education and Technology Foundation to help fund its outreach to the African American community by investing in education and technology.
One recipient of the Foundation’s fundraising efforts is the National High School Computer Competition, in which over 500 high school students compete for scholarships by developing Web sites and programs. Corporate sponsors such as Microsoft, Seagrams, Hewlett Packard, Allstate and others contribute funds, equipment, software and services to the organization that are also used to create community technology centers (CTCs) around the country (see “Students Can Surf on Their Home Turf,” this section).
Usually, these CTCs are developed locally in conjunction with organizations such as the National Urban League and the Harlem (Covenant House in New York City. New York BDPA Chapter President Renee V. McClure believes it’s best to work with an organization that already has a presence in the community to ease acceptance and use by neighborhood residents.
Throughout the changes, though, the BDPA has managed to enhance its focus on individual members. Recently, the organization initiated the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, an advisory board of sorts made up of top executives in the IT industry. “It’s important for our members to be able to benefit from the experiences of African Americans who have made significant inroads in their industry,” says Williams. The BDPA National Conference provides a venue for executives to interact in a proactive workshop environment with the organization’s membership. This year’s conference will be held August 11-16 in Orlando, Florida.
The 1998 BDPA National Conference will include workshops and seminars on entrepreneurship, leadership and professional development, and trends in information technology. For more information on upcoming events and services, contact the BDPA at 1111 14th St. NW, Suite 700 Washington, DC 20005-5603; 800-727-BDPA; or www.bdpa.org.