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Rooted in Excellence

When asked about her definition of Black excellence, Elizabeth Lindsey ’02 doesn’t hesitate:

“I was just listening to Beyoncé’s Homecoming album earlier today,” she says. Perhaps not surprisingly, this isn’t Lindsey’s only interface with the star as of late.

As executive director of the nonprofit Byte Back, Lindsey is advancing digital equity for the thousands of Americans often excluded from an increasingly tech-based society—by and large low-income adults, folks over age 50, those without college degrees, and people of color. For Lindsey, social and economic prosperity is defined by universal access to technology. Byte Back offers free tech training and workforce development to adults as a pathway to living-wage careers.

Lindsey’s passion for fostering inclusion in tech is rooted in her experience at Swarthmore. As an undergrad, Lindsey held leadership positions in the Swarthmore African-American Student Society and the Swarthmore Queer Union, and engaged in anti-death penalty activism. She credits the financial support she received from Swarthmore for her ability to participate fully in her education.

“I am a first-generation college student,” says Lindsey. “That I was able to go to school for free really changed my life.”

Lindsey strives to re-create that experience of full access through her work at Byte Back, and her vision is aligning with conversations happening on a national level. Just this year, lawmakers introduced a Digital Equity Act in the U.S. House. Days later, Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., proclaimed Oct. 9 Byte Back Day.

“There are a number of cities and states and organizations across the country who have reached out to us, to learn from us,” says Lindsey. “I hope we are able to move the needle, so that eventually there are fewer adults who need our training.”

In September, Lindsey was honored among the Root 100’s most influential African Americans, a list that includes the likes of Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick, Stacey Abrams, and, yes, Beyoncé.

As for the way Homecoming embodies Black excellence? “It’s a combination [of] believing in ourselves, knowing what we love and what our passion is, and investing all of us into it,” says Lindsey. “That’s why I do what I do.”