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Non-profit teaches African-American youth about video gaming industry

Research shows 68 percent of the people making the games are men -- most of them are white. However, Erich and Jakita Thomas are trying to change that.

ATLANTA — Video gaming is a $36 billion industry in the U.S., and a majority of the gamers are kids of color. But, they're mainly consumers and not programmers.

Now, there's a new program trying to change all of that by keeping at-risk youth off the streets and in front of the screens - for a good cause.

According to recent Nielson research, 73 percent of African-Americans 13 and older are gamers.

"It teaches me to be comfortable and have friends online," said Octavia Dickerson who is a part of Bright Futures Atlanta, an organization that helps youth on Atlanta's Westside. 

"And you can get money off of it if you really take it seriously," added Christopher Coleman.

"But also have fun at the same time," Dickerson added. 

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Many African-American children are tethered to a controller, gazing into a screen, and consumed for hours by a virtual world.

Credit: WXIa

Research shows 68 percent of the people making the games are men -- most of them are white. However, Erich and Jakita Thomas are trying to change that.

"This particular pathway is for game design," Jakita described.

They've launched a non-profit in Atlanta called "Pharaoh's Conclave" to teach young people how to think outside the "console" box.

"Someone had to design those video games. Someone had to market those video games. There's financing, there's businesses behind those same entities," Erich said. 

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Many of the teens are from broken homes.

"You have abject poverty, you have kids in neighborhoods where there's crime, prostitution," Erich added. 

However, the after-school program is safely sheltered in the City of Refuge, which is another non-profit helping struggling families get back on their feet. It's the perfect incubator to expose them to a multi-billion dollar industry.

Credit: WXIa

"It actually gives them the opportunity to be exposed to things that will help get them out of those situations," Erich said. "To help them see what's on the other side of being a success. That's what we really want to do and that's really what we take heart in."

De'ja Render is 15 years old and is already hoping to be a game changer. She wants to design video games that have a positive impact on her generation.

"Maybe if my little sister sees me doing something that helps change the world, I think that'll mean a lot," she said. 

Learn more about Pharaoh's Conclave here.

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