by Najee El-Amin —
This year Doritos selected four Black community leaders for their SOLID BLACK Changemakers initiative.
Memphis-based content creator Katie “PikaChulita” Robinson was among the honorees. She is most known for streaming video games on Twitch.tv. She also is a member of Black Girl Gamers, which not only streams video games but also advocates for creating a safe environment for female and LGBTQ+ players.
She will receive a $200,000 prize, plus an additional $25,000 from Doritos to donate to an organization of her choice.
She chose Memphis’ CodeCrew, which helps underserved adults and youths learn the skills they need for well-paying tech careers.
Although Robinson and CodeCrew had never interacted, her talents regarding video gaming and CodeCrew’s mission to expose teens to software development, made her gift a natural decision.
While she now lives in Memphis, Robinson was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri.
During her childhood, some of her fondest moments included coming home from school and playing Pokémon on her handheld console (an inspiration to her name).
“I was lucky to have a family that was supportive of it (gaming). My late (maternal) grandfather was the biggest funder of our habits. If we brought home good grades, he would take us to Walmart or Best Buy and we could get any (age appropriate) game we wanted,” said Robinson.
“…Any console that came out was ours because we did really well in school … It was a huge part of my childhood and who I was.”
After the passing of her grandfather, the family moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, where she attended high school.
During this transition period and periodically throughout college, Robinson put a pause on gaming to focus on more pressing matters.
In 2014, after taking inspiration from her favorite content creators, she decided to play consistently again and give streaming a chance.
She started gradually, with only a few viewers watching her live stream. However, the longer she did it, the more she began to refine her skills on the controller and get more comfortable in front of the camera.
Over the last eight years, she gained 15,000 followers on Twitch.tv with thousands of viewers tuning in to watch her play some of today’s most popular titles.
Robinson, last year, began efforts to drastically expand her network and outreach through brand deals and collaborations.
She landed her biggest partnership early this year when a representative of PepsiCo (Parent company of Doritos) reached out to her, informing her she was among the six for the company’s SOLID BLACK CHANGEMAKER campaign.
Robinson was confident she would earn the top spot but tried to contain her nerves and remain humble.
Weeks later, she learned she was an awardee. Following the announcement, Robinson and the Doritos team began working on promotional material that included an interview filmed in her home, a trip to their headquarters in New York and an invitation to the BET awards.
“The Doritos Team, I love them and they’re my favorite. Everything was so seamless,” said Robinson.
“They told me that right after lunch (about the BET Awards invitation). I said, ‘you guys dropped a bombshell on me and I’m sitting here trying to record and not stumble over my words.’ But it was a great surprise.”
Regarding the donation to CodeCrew, Robinson said, “The main thing I wanted is to keep it local … In one of my searches, I found CodeCrew, and I fell in love.
“Gaming is a part of tech and I know how crucial it is for things like coding and programming and how that is tied into gaming. It’s (CodeCrew) directly catered to kids who are marginalized so I said this is perfect for me … They had a phenomenal nonprofit rating, so it was great … The day we filmed was the first day that I even met them but that day we became family.”
CodeCrew’s Executive Director Meka Egwuekwe was overwhelmed by Robinson’s generosity.
“We’re honored that out of all the non-profits, PikaChulita could choose for this gift, she chose us,” Egwuekwe said.
“I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her (in person), but she heard about our work and thought it aligned with her passion for Memphis and the gaming industry and what we do to teach kids in that space.”
Egwuekwe said the donation will help enhance the organization’s K-12 program. More than 2,000 students have been served by CodeCrew, which provides them with mentorship and access to resources that will enable them to be successful in the world of technology.
More than 90 percent of the students are Black and Latinx; 40 percent are girls.