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Born in 1949, on Juneteenth — the day celebrating the end of slavery — my grandmother, one of nine children, could barely read, but she understood the meaning of equity. On her 71st birthday this year, I launched a social justice-minded business to provide technological/digital literacy training to faith communities and mission-driven organizations.
By introducing faith leaders and seminarians to better ways to engage with technology and develop digital ministries such as virtual prayer and spiritual care, the Tech Chaplaincy Institute equips those who serve often forgotten communities with tech-savvy tools to connect and engage their constituents.
The institute began when I was a master of divinity student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In my spare time, I helped students with email and setting up devices. Within a year, I was helping staff, faculty and outside organizations leverage technology for their mission. I realized there was a need for tech support that went beyond the technology — a way to center the individual experiencing a technological crisis and empower them with dignity and grace. When explaining to a pastor the work I was doing, he remarked that my outreach sounded very much like chaplaincy — and Tech Chaplaincy was born.
My work as a doctoral student studying technology, ethics and social justice at CU Boulder has become my form of protest.
My work as a doctoral student studying technology, ethics and social justice at CU Boulder has become my form of protest, my call to anti-racism and releasing the shackles of white supremacy by uplifting others to freedom. In the same way that my business addresses knowledge gaps and needs within technology, my research looks at the gaps that technology creates for marginalized people.
I began incorporating social justice into my research during the initial Black Lives Matter protests in New York City in 2014. After weeks of marching for Black lives in the afternoon and writing papers about theology at night, I began merging my scholarship with the chants and cries of protests.
As one of the first Black people in CU’s information sciences graduate program, I locked arms with a fellow Black graduate student to challenge the academic canon by extending the syllabi to include the works of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) scholars. We released a call to action in the form of an open proclamation (BlackInComputing.org) married with references to institutions, including CU Boulder, to commit to create welcoming and unbiased learning and work environments.
CU Boulder, and others who receive public funding, must take steps to ensure they are providing equitable opportunities. Communities must hold organizations accountable; it will take more than an Office of Diversity and Inclusion to create lasting change.
The efforts of change are the beginning. I press on — working inside and outside of my learning institution.
Tech Chaplaincy Institute is building access to the fruits of technology to redefine mission-driven organizations and faith-based communities. My focus on how technology negatively impacts marginalized people, while helping support the use of technology for good, aims to positively impact how technology is developed and experienced.
My work is an expression of gratitude to my grandmother who inspired me to do right for other people. She dropped out of school to care for her family. Through Tech Chaplaincy I practice care for my family, my community and my society.
My life, my grandmother’s life — all Black lives — are worthy, as they always have been. This is a movement — not just a moment — and I will not stop advocating until justice is achieved for all Black lives.
Shamika Goddard (PhDInfoSci’24) is passionate about people and technology. From AmeriCorps, to seminary to doctoral studies at CU Boulder, she is dedicated to pursuing knowledge at the intersection of technology, ethics and social justice.
Photos by Matt Tyrie