“A lot of men in this industry are very threatened by women, and unfortunately, a lot of it is coming from men that look just like us. They are threatened by the fact that a woman is coming in and doing something about some areas that have been underserved for a long time.” – Keisha Walker, BCGA Chairwoman
By Christina Norris, The Atlanta Voice
The Black Collegiate Gaming Association (BCGA) kicked off its inaugural Corners to Colleges Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) program this month. The program gives high school students a week of HBCU college prep gaming. While staying a week at HBCU campuses, the students work with esports college advisors in campus gaming and innovation labs. They also work on case studies and projects from BCGA corporate partners.
Student participants of the program receive weekly compensations, certificates of completion, special awards and scholarships to one of the BCGA member institutions. Member institutions include Florida A&M University, Mississippi Valley State University, Edward Waters University, Florida Memorial University, Alabama State University, Alabama A&M University and Jackson State University.
“First and foremost, the purpose of the Corners to Colleges program is to let high school students know that the gaming industry is more than just playing the video games at home,” said founder and chairwoman of BCGA Keshia Walker. “Secondly, [they receive] exposure to HBCU life and what it’s like to stay at an HBCU. Third, [they’re introduced] to all things related to gaming and technology.”
Walker made history in May by becoming the first African American woman to own a collegiate esports and gaming company in America. According to the association’s website, BCGA’s purpose is “to pivot Black and women of color college students into the overall gaming industry, not only as consumers but as contributors.”
“I have to give all the credit to my nephew, who was 11 then, “ said Walker. “He told me that he wanted to get into esports and the gaming industry, but he didn’t see HBCUs that had the opportunity for him to attend that school and get into gaming and esports. I told my nephew I was going to do something to change that, and a week later, I started the Black Collegiate Gaming Association. My mission and life calling are to help more students of color to get into this space, whether they attend an HBCU or not.”
There has been a growing conversation about people of color being underrepresented in the gaming industry. Although the gaming industry supports 428,646 jobs, only 2% of those job holders are Black.
“The numbers are dismal,” said Walker. “Less than 3% of the industry are Black in terms of corporate leadership, and less than half of the industry is women of color. Over 60% of everything around games are purchased by Blacks and people of color, but we are underrepresented in decision-making in this space. BCGA was created to address that.“
Women are also underrepresented in the gaming industry. According to a survey conducted by Jessica Clement, an internet and e-commerce researcher in gaming, women made up 45% of gamers in the year 2021. However, gaming is still a male-dominated field. Walker talks about the discrimination she has faced due to being a woman in the gaming industry.
“This is a very male-dominated industry,” said Walker. “I have faced a lot of sexist issues. A lot of men in this industry are very threatened by women, and unfortunately, a lot of it is coming from men that look just like us. They are threatened by the fact that a woman is coming in and doing something about some areas that have been underserved for a long time.”
Today, the BCGA has several contributions from brand sponsors. These sponsors include Sony Playstation, HyperX, Intel, Google Play, Lenovo, Staples and GameStop.
“I’ve been blessed to be in business for 23 years,” said Walker. “That’s helped to start the dialogue, and having that background with expertise helped me to have that foundation to be reaching out to the CEOs of these companies to say, ‘I need you to help me make history.’”
After the Corners To Colleges HBCU program finishes this year, the BCGA will be hosting a free gaming and sports academy in the fall. The academy will focus on conversations about ways to get into the gaming industry.
For more information, visit https://bcgausa.org/