data as protest. accountability.
& collective action.
Like many of you, I have lived my entire life in a
I grew up in communities where incarceration was imminent and law
enforcement ubiquitous. Survival meant learning early on that the
inherent feature of the law enforcement apparatus was its ability to
camouflage, to adapt. To
be ever present, always felt, though never fully seen.
The police state was physical in the form of patrol
vehicles and traffic stops, but also social, through a culture of
policing that had come to impact every aspect of our lives.
I loved school, but receiving an education meant navigating the ever
present threat of suspensions and arrests, policies that turned
our school into sites of crime fighting instead of learning. As a child
I learned that to be Black and to be poor was to be a problem, a
criminal in the eyes of the world.
When my grandmother lost her home as a result of a predatory loan, it
wasn’t the bank we interacted with, but the police. I learned then that police
existed to protect capital, and that behind the most aggressive
policing practices were the most brutal inequalities.
Like clockwork officers showed up when the notice to vacate expired,
armed and dangerous as they ordered us to leave the property. It was
difficult to avoid feelings of despair as we stood and watched them
move our meager belongings to the street. It was easy to believe there
was no recourse, no accountability, that we had no power over the
decisions that impacted our lives.
When I was first introduced to abolition as a youth
organizer, it was as if a whole new world had opened up to me.
Abolition became the answer - it
was about dismantling the structures that once seemed so permanent and
powerful, but it was also about creating something totally new.
For us, abolition meant doing the important work of changing policy,
but most importantly, it was the performance of liberation, the
creation of new infrastructures for self-determination, under
conditions of duress. For the first time in my life, I felt
possibility. Abolition was the framework that turned my despair into
hope, and then into action.
The current uprising is about the murders of George
Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and all whose lives have been stolen by
But it is also about living for too long under the heavy hand of state
violence and political domination that has stolen our agency
and our ability to have a say over what happens to us and to
our communities. This uprising is about exercising
our right to self-determination.
What does it mean for us to practice abolition in this
moment -- to demand and build the infrastructure for collective
self-determination for Black communities nationwide?
We invite you to join us for this pulse check, but also
to be part of what we are building. I look forward to seeing you on
The love and care I have for you all is infinite.
Protest: Data for Black Lives with Yeshi Milner
How can we claim agency over data systems to fight for
racial justice? What is Data for Black Lives? How can you join the
Listen to our Executive Director Yeshimabeit Milner answer these
questions and more on the Radical AI podcast. Her episode has the most
single day downloads of any episode yet, a testament to the power of
our collective work in this moment.