Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, has been pushed out as the organization’s executive director, according to tweets she sent last week.
A former engineer, Bryant started Black Girls Code in 2011 after she realized that her daughter was the only Black girl in a summer coding class at Stanford University. Since then, the organization has grown to a multimillion-dollar company with sponsorships from Google.
“Press release: so it’s 3 days before Christmas and you wake up to discover the organization YOU created and built from the ground up has been taken away by a rogue board with no notification. VC: @BlackGirlsCode,” Bryant tweeted on Tuesday, Dec. 21.
“Big Love to all of you. A formal statement is coming soon. Stay tuned,” Bryant added in a follow-up tweet.
The board of Black Girls Code confirmed that Bryant was currently suspended with pay, Business Insider reported. While the board did not comment directly on Bryant’s tweets, it said it was investigating Bryant for “serious allegations of workplace impropriety.”
Bryant said she was unaware of such an investigation prior to being locked out of her work email and suspended.
“It would have been nice, professional, and even courteous to apprise me of what the specific allegations are because they have not been articulated to me in any clear format,” Bryant told Insider.
At least one prior employee went on record in support of the board’s decision, stating that Bryant’s leadership style caused the nonprofit to remain stagnant.
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“If Kimberly can just allow herself to be the face and let someone else handle the business side, the organization can grow phenomenally,” former employee Charles Anderson told Insider. He added that Bryant “chose a phenomenal board” whose members “were all legit professionals.”
According to Forbes, the infighting between Bryant and the board began months ago after three employees resigned in the summer. Each employee cited “cultural and interpersonal issues” among their reasons for leaving.
As a result, consultant Karla Monterroso was hired to conduct a cultural assessment into the workplace culture. The former CEO of racial equity nonprofit Code2040, Monterroso publicly supported Bryant after her announcement that she had been pushed out.
“This is an unfathomable mess handled in the most unjust way humanly possible to a woman who was a huge part of building this movement,” Monterroso tweeted.
After the former board chairperson resigned, Heather Hiles nominated herself as interim chair of Black Girls Code and was approved despite Bryant’s protests. Bryant said Hiles had been disrespectful to her during a discussion about workplace culture at a special meeting in July. She also called the board “dysfunctional” in an October memo.
Hiles “made several direct remarks which were personally disparaging to me,” Bryant said in the memo. She said Hiles questioned her “character, ethics,” and accused her of being a leader who doesn’t “care about” people.
“My character was maligned. I was bullied. I was harmed,” Bryant’s memo continued.
Bryant railed against the board for pushing her out. “It is unconscionable for people like Ms. Hiles and her cronies to take advantage of a grassroots organization like BGC for their own personal gain,” Bryant said in a statement.
While board member Stacy Philpot-Brown acknowledged that Black Girls Code was “deeply grateful for the contributions of Kimberly Bryant,” it seems the board is preparing to move on without her.
“The board of directors is committed to the long-term health, stability and viability of this organization,” a statement from the board obtained by The Plug read. “On behalf of the young women we are honored to serve, we look forward to building on the foundation established by Ms. Bryant and creating a brighter future for millions of Black girls.”
Support for Bryant poured in on social media, with many expressing shock, disbelief and anger at her suspension.
“I am so angry and hurt because this petty action is deliberately not only hurtful to Kimberly, but hurtful to Black girls who use this resource HEAVILY. This is deliberately wanting Black girls to not win,” @Aliofonzy43 tweeted.
“They do NOT want to have the #KBHive descend upon them, they really don’t want it. May work in tech but I’m from Detroit,” @codermeow wrote. User @chrislaawrence added, “thank you so much for tagging me in this for real, i am literally jaw dropped cause HUH. this is horrible.”
“A board can vote you out as majority. It depends on how the nonprofit & its bylaws are set, but that’s usually the case. When you build a board, it’s people you trust. So the betrayal she must feel on top of the pain is insurmountable,” @MissLisaMae tweeted. “These folks don’t deserve to take from her!”
One Twitter user challenged Hiles and the board to answer to the public. “This tweet was at 3:15pm (my time?) and then this press at Yahoo 5 hours later,” @Ari)ugwu tweeted along with a link to Insider’s article. “There’s more to this story by the looks and sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let’s not play the Yahoo leak game. @heatherhiles, ya’ll have Twitter. Step into the light.”
PHOTO: Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant, center, and New York Public Advocate Letitia James, center right, pose with Black Girls Code (BGC) students, a coding workshop for city girls age 7 to 17, after the announcement of a new office in Google NYC’s Chelsea space for BGC, Wednesday, June 29, 2016, in New York. “Black Girls Code is spearheading a movement to provide girls of color with the skills they will need to succeed in the future,” said Bryant. “We believe this space will allow us to reach more girls than ever.” (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
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