Data For Black Lives: Review Part 2

Ashley White

Additional Reflections on Break-Out Sessions

Panel at Data 4 Black Lives II

As a continuation from my previous post on the Data for Black Lives II Conference, I wanted to share additional insights from the break-out sessions that I found to be particularly informative, inspiring, or instigative.

Pain, Place & Race

Moderator: Dr. Michelle Morse

Panelists: Nneka Tapia, Kindra Montgomery-Block, Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson, Talila ‘TL’ Lewis

In cities like Chicago and Baltimore, where you live determines the length and quality of your life. Life expectancies range from the mid-80s in more affluent neighborhoods to 60s in the poorest communities. From gun violence to opioid addiction to suicide to sexual violence, Black and Brown communities are burdened with disinvestment and deprivation. But organizers across the country are not letting up; they are centering public health in their work and tapping into its intersectional power to address disparate outcomes across systems such as education, housing, civic representation, and economic opportunity. What is the combination of organizing, technology, and policy that will help our communities heal from the intergenerational pain and trauma?

My Takeaways:

  • We must use critical consciousness in addressing concentrated disadvantages.
  • “Out of a crisis comes a calling” : We must respond dutifully to this calling, and not wallow in the crisis. We see this everyday with grass roots activists who are responding to the crises caused by climate change, over policing, health disparities, and economic inequality. — Dr. Michelle Morse
  • Within the prison industrial complex, the disabled are even more viciously targeted and disproportionally affected. Disabilities have been weaponized and are based in ableism which is rooted in anti-blackness. — Talila ‘TL’ Lewis
  • The medical industrialized complex has propagated this anti-blackness by pathologizing resistance via medical diagnostics like: rascality and excited delirium. — Talila ‘TL’ Lewis
  • When attempting to identify the biggest problems, start by asking: “Who is dying young? Who is dying often? Who is dying of preventable causes?”Kindra Montgomery-Block
  • Community efforts work the best when there are “community diplomats” who can act as “trusted messengers.” — Kindra Montgomery-Block
  • The most effective ways to be “social determinists” who can change the course of social and racial inequality is by “collective consumer bargaining and social-economic leverage.” Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson

The Seas are Rising But So Are The People: Data, Disaster & Collective Power

Moderator: Colette Pichon Battle

Panelists: Valencia Gunder, Denice Ross, Lisa Rice, Bina Venkataraman

For many Black communities, a storm of policies and practices hit well before the first rains of Katrina, Harvey, Matthew or Florence. Climate change has magnified the devastating impact of displacement driven by unbearable housing costs. It has revealed the need for investment in emergency preparedness, not law enforcement, and that clean energy solutions are not solutions if they harm Black and Brown communities. Today, sea level rise data provided by state-of-the-art satellites, mathematical equations known as climate models that determine policy, and engineering efforts to save lives in the wake of natural disasters are being developed and implemented out of step with necessary efforts organized by communities in the absence of government support. What are the ways that Black communities are using social media, data, and technology to prepare for the next disaster? To prevent it? What are the role of data scientists and engineers in these rapid response moments and the movement for climate justice?

My Takeaways:

  • Minorities in many urban areas are living in a “first world country that creates second class citizens that have to live in third world communities.” This especially manifests during and post-natural disasters. — Valencia Gunder
  • We are more segregated today than we are 100 years ago, and that is by design. Just based on your zip code, one can predict your race, income, education level, life expectancy, etc.Lisa Rice
  • “Climate Gentrification” (coined by Paulette Richardson) is not a new phenomenon as wealthy property developers have systematically displaced residents as they make land grabs on “weather safe” areas that were, ironically, previously relegated for minority communities. — Valencia Gunder
  • While we fight for “resilience equity,” we must also engage in self-deterministic preparation. This can include basic elements like knowing all of your elderly neighbors (and developing an evacuation plan with them) or creating a Community Emergency Response Centers that can stockpile supplies. Even something as simple as having a community grill to be able to cook without electricity can be critical. — Valencia Gunder
  • Local social infrastructures can be used as disaster prevention, and are usually more effective because generally disaster predictions are too coarse without the social nuances. Climate models are more accurate for long-term picture and larger geographic, but less relatable and reliable for local communities. Ultimately, we must strive to make climate change data /predictions be relatable to people’s lives. — Bina Venkataraman
  • Data leads to knowledge which must lead to action. Bina Venkataraman

Black People vs Robots: Reparations and Workers Rights in the Age of Automation

Moderated By: Jessica Fulton

Panelists: Nicol Turner-Lee, Erica Smiley, Anne Price, Katrinell Davis

In 2009, 13% of the US population were either self-employed or working as independent contractors, in 2016 this number had doubled. And from Silicon Valley to the US Supreme court, the rights of workers are under attack. At the same time, robots capable of driving cars, assembling goods, and caring for the elderly are poised to put millions of people out of work. Black people and poor people will undoubtedly bear the brunt of this automation. In response to these threats, conversations about Universal Basic Income have become mainstream. But we cannot achieve the goals of economic justice and equality without seriously reckoning with the history of slavery in the United States and the need for reparations. How do we protect workers as work is transformed by technology? And how do we address the need for reparations in a seismically shifting economy?

My Takeaways:

  • “Black workers are the canary in the coal mine and the plight of black workers is the plight of the working class.”Erica Smiley
  • Workers / consumers have the ability to counter institutionalized power structures: Workplace Power (ability to stop production); (2) Marketplace Power; (collective bargaining); (3) Association Power (power by influence). — Erica Smiley
  • Demands for reparations and restorative justice should center on ownership and issues of truth and reconciliation. There are many options for doing this, including establishing “young adult trusts” that targets wealth positions at birth. — Anne Price
  • Minorities usually suffer from occupational crowding, unnatural packing of people into roles / jobs. They are then forced to earn dignity in their given profession. “Dignity should not have to be earned. It should be because you exist.” — Anne Price
  • ⅕ of the economy runs on digital technologies. But Blacks are on the other side of the digital divide and are effectively digitally invisible. However, Black people are over indexing on the use of social media and being exploited via “fake news.” — Nicol Turner-Lee
  • As the Black community, we have to make demands on the industries of scale to determine where we want to fit. We reject any sort of analysis that impose pathology on Black people.
  • Even as more Blacks enter tech, we will see the ghettoization / feminization of the prestige of roles where there is occupational crowding. We see this with the dichotomy between “coder” and “programmer.”
  • The way you teach machine learning and digital literacy is letting people know they are already apart of the product.

I hope you find these insights as impactful as I and feel motivated to engage with your community to make meaningful change!

Ashley White

Written by

Single black female with attention to detail

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