At BBSJ, we believe that positive actions to close the digital divide and improve technology should be celebrated, and hindrances to those efforts should be publicized. To further this goal and help underscore the importance of closing the Digital Divide, our Editor selects “Picks of the Week,” whereby we recognize noteworthy individuals in the telecommunications and technology industries and point out those who impede technological progress.
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Geek of the Week
Sherry BellamySherry Bellamy is a partner at Leftwich, LLC, one of Washington, DC’s premier minority-owned and women-owned law firms, where she focuses on litigation, internal investigations, and regulatory matters. She also serves as Vice President of L&L Consulting LLC, an affiliate of the law firm, specializing in management consulting and change management. Previously, Bellamy spent nearly 20 years with Verizon, most recently serving as vice president and deputy general counsel for Verizon Business. Bellamy’s service at Verizon included major roles on the merger approval teams of the company’s three foundational mergers. In addition to her work, Bellamy has extensive experience with philanthropic board service, including as a trustee for Johns Hopkins Medicine. She is also Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C. and a member of the Board of Directors of Cardinal Spellman High School, her alma mater, in New York City. Bellamy has been recognized by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession for her contributions to advancing the cause of diversity in the legal profession. Other awards and honors include an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Rosemont College, recognition as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women, one of Baltimore Magazine’s Top Women in Business, and one of Washingtonian Magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Washington. Bellamy has been profiled in two books, Women of Courage II and Notable Black American Women III, as well as in numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Bellamy is a 2016 recipient of MMTC’s Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award.
People’s Hero of the Week
Paige & Paxton’s STEM Make-A-ThonsPaige & Paxton is a nurturing and collaborative platform created to make STEM easy to teach and easy to learn at the very beginning of a child’s educational experience. The platform is based around two puzzle piece characters – Paige and Paxton – created by Rachel Williams in the 1990s to make STEM education fun and engaging for her two daughters, Jessica and Kelley. Today, Rachel and her daughters use the Paige & Paxton approach—storytelling to engage young children around concepts in STEM – to develop curricula for use both inside and outside the classroom. Initially, Kelley Williams focused on engaging middle and high school students, but quickly realized it was important to plant the seeds of STEM education at an even younger age. Paige & Paxton’s formal K-2 STEM curriculum is designed to be a simple, effective solution for school systems seeking to implement a robust, project-based STEM curriculum that infuses STEM knowledge and a STEM culture into elementary school classrooms. Paige & Paxton also engages children in communities through STEM Make-a-thons, which engage children ages 4-7 in the rewards of STEM through exploration, problem-solving, and discovery. Paige & Paxton’s next STEM Make-a-thon is in Washington, DC, on February 12th, in partnership with Cedar Tree Academy, one of the most comprehensive and trusted Early Childhood Schools in the District of Columbia. On April 9th, Page & Paxton will hold a STEM Make-a-thon in New York City, in conjunction with Black Girls Code and General Assembly. Paige & Paxton is seeking volunteers (STEM experts, classroom guides, and logistics coordinators) for both events. The Paige & Paxton book series, designed to introduce young children to concepts ranging from technology and engineering to botany and paleontology, is available online. Please visit their websites to learn more, and be sure to share the information with friends and colleagues!
Multicultural Entrepreneur of the Week
Ron BusbyRon Busby is an entrepreneur with decades of experience in the small business arena. Recognized as one of the nation’s top CEOs, he grew his first business, USA Super Clean, from $150,000 per year to over $15 million in annual revenue. Currently, Busby serves as President of U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., the national advocate for legislation that promotes small business growth, with a focus on policies that address the challenges of African American business owners. Trained by some of the nation’s leading executives, Busby developed many of his skills in senior management positions with major corporations, including Exxon, Xerox, IBM, and Coca Cola USA. Busby has served on several boards, including the Arizona Governor’s African American Leadership Council; the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce; and the Bay Area Chapter of the 100 Black Men, where he also served as president. Busby is a major advocate and promoter of education, especially the importance of higher learning. He has received numerous awards, and has been named the 1996 Western Region SBA Small Business Person of the Year, the 2006 Greater Phoenix Chamber Small Business Person of the Year, and the 2007 Maricopa County Small Business of the Year, among other accolades.
Digital Divider of the Week
Airbnb ScammersThe maturing app economy has brought with it an explosion of new business models that allow consumers to become ad hoc service providers. Since the groundbreaking creation of eBay in 1995, our Internet marketplace has grown to a bustling peer-to-peer product- and service-sharing economy comprised of such companies as Craigslist, Uber, and Airbnb. Unfortunately, as is the norm with new, popular, and fast-growing technology, users of websites like Airbnb have found themselves targets of aggressive, meticulously crafted phishing scams designed to steal their money or credit card information. In these types of schemes, an Airbnb “host” posts a fake listing on the website, then tells inquirers that the rental is no longer available, inviting the user to view other available properties the host has to offer via email. Although Airbnb warns users not to interact with hosts through email, and to interact only through Airbnb’s own platform, many users do so anyway. Once an email dialogue has opened, fake hosts send the users links to a “spoofed” Airbnb site – one that looks exactly like the official site, but has a different, yet convincing, URL (Airbnb.Itinerary-booking.com instead of Airbnb.com, for example). In a recent account of a very elaborate scam, a user reported that although she had minor suspicions, she clicked a link on the spoofed site to “chat with a live support agent.” This “agent” assured her that the listing was real, and the host had a good reputation with high positive ratings. Reassured, the user wired $3,800 to the scammer, but never got a confirmation from Airbnb, which is when she realized she had been duped. Unfortunately, countless others have been victims of these phishing and spoofing scams, and they rarely get their money back – Airbnb has no liability because the users breached the company’s terms of services when they engaged with hosts through email instead of the Airbnb platform. Thankfully, there are online resources and guides on how to spot and avoid phishing scams. Phishing.org states, “Even if you are a seasoned Internet user, it is easy to fall prey to the sophisticated techniques that are used in website and email spoofing,” and offers simple tips on how users can protect themselves from scams: “The best way to handle spoofed emails and spoofed websites is by exercising caution at all times. If something seems “off” about an email, do not open attached files or click on included links. Type in a site’s URL manually to avoid landing on a spoofed version of it. By taking your time and being careful, you should be able to avoid most problems.”