No. 5 • 2020-06-03

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“I Still Can’t Breathe” (from 2016, in response to the killing of Eric Garner) is performed by The Chester Children’s Chorus, written and directed by CCC founder (and my inspirational Swarthmore College Chorus director), John Alston.

#BlackLivesMatter

In a “normal” week, this newsletter is about optimism, highlighting new creations that point towards a better future. But this is not a normal week… Not when black people are murdered by those sworn to protect. Not when our city and many others are burning. Not when more than 100,000 people in our country (largely people of color) have lost their lives to a pandemic, the spread of which was highly preventable.

Standing with those protesting the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Tayler, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, this issue is devoted to justice and equity for black Americans. To those who’ve sent in items, new works and initiatives for the newsletter, thank you, and I’ll return to those in due course. But in this moment, I feel we must focus on the state of our nation.

It is abundantly clear how the media we’re exposed to shapes our perceptions. Everyone was horrified by the video of George Floyd’s murder, and so many have rightly risen up to demand justice for him and so many other lives casually snuffed out by those with privilege and “authority”. We are united in our empathy and outrage.

Now, while broadcast media fixates on looting and property destruction, countless disturbing videos of rampant and unchecked police brutality and vigilantism disseminate mostly through social media:

Widespread recording and livestreaming is having an impact. But it also places greater responsibility on individuals to be our own curators of information, not just passive observers relying on others to make sense of it. My wish is for social media platforms to embrace this challenge, providing better tools for individual curation and organization, though I’m not feeling particularly optimistic about that.

(Socially) Distant Creations

  • #BLACKLIVESMATTER [ELLECT] Philadelphia musician and activist ELLECT, aka Stephen Tyson (also adjunct professor and doctoral student at Arcadia University), recorded this song in 2016. 
  • Dear CEOs of Philly Tech [Technical.ly Philly] Advice from Kiera Smalls, Executive Director of Philly Startup Leaders, to the tech community.
  • A history lesson [Erica Buddington] An epic Twitter thread of the history of racial protest and oppression in the United States. Incredibly detailed with so many incidents I was unaware of.
  • Research-based solutions to stop police violence [Samuel Sinyangwe, co-founder of Campaign Zero] A Twitter thread from 2019 summarizing solutions to stopping police violence backed with evidence.
  • Anti-racism resources for white people [Compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein] A starting point for becoming better allies in combating racism.
  • “I can’t breathe… again!” [Nick Cannon] A powerful spoken word video from the well known actor, producer, and rapper in reaction to George Floyd’s murder.
  • 7-day online protest [The King Center] A daily livestream from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (through June 8).

What I’m creating

Racial inequity not only exists, but self-replicates in all fields, particularly in the STEM disciplines of higher education and the tech industry. Here’s my TEDxPhiladelphia talk from last year on how the digital divide is wider than ever.

Photo by Grace Shallow, via Technical.ly Philly