Weighing Big Tech’s Promise to Black America

Published On October 7, 2021 | By Tom Huskerson | News and Analysis

From Wired.com

Victor Luckerson  Backchannel  10.05.2021

Last year, Netflix made a pledge that represents the tech industry’s best shot at redressing the nation’s racial inequality. How seriously should we take it?

In the spring of 2020, folks in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward started flocking to the Sankofa food pantry on Dauphine Street however they could—by car, on bicycles, rolling pushcarts on foot. The lines were brisk but constant as the cascading effects of the coronavirus pandemic swept through the neighborhood of pastel-colored houses. Some people had lost jobs. Others were caring for loved ones sick with the virus, or picking up food for people under quarantine. For Rashida Ferdinand, the director of the nonprofit that operates the pantry, the crush of demand posed a series of dilemmas—beginning with the fact that she could no longer allow people inside the building. But one thing was sure: Shutting down the pantry was out of the question. No matter what, Ferdinand says, “we knew we needed to stay open.”

After circulating undetected through the city during much of Mardi Gras, the coronavirus had overwhelmed New Orleans with unprecedented speed, and it was killing more people per capita there than nearly anywhere else in the United States. Under lockdown, almost 100,000 people in the Crescent City had been thrown out of work as businesses were forced to shutter and tourism ground to a halt. In the Lower Ninth Ward, where a third of residents work in either food service, lodging, or retail, and where household incomes are half the parish average, the need for aid was especially acute. In so-called good times, about 350 people relied on Sankofa’s services. Now Ferdinand’s organization was furnishing more than 800 people a month with milk, eggs, canned beans, and other staples.

To meet the need, Sankofa stretched itself. The pantry went from being open two days a week to four. It began delivering food to people who could not collect it in person. When some of Ferdinand’s employees started working from home for fear of contracting the virus, she started handing out food herself. With sheets of plexiglass purchased from Ace Hardware, she improvised a Covid-safe storefront on Sankofa’s patio deck. Inside, nearly a dozen red and black metal shelves took over most of the headquarters’ open floor plan. “Our whole front office became the pantry,” she says.

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About The Author

Tom Huskerson Bio Born in Richmond Virginia Tom Huskerson is a military veteran who settled in California after his discharge. Tom attended Santa Barbara City College where he began his writing career as a campus reporter. He worked as an intern news reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press writing feature stories before moving on to San Francisco. At San Francisco State University Tom studied broadcast communications and began to focus on the Internet. He completed his graduate thesis on Internet advertising. Tom was the first student to ever focus on the Internet as a graduate student at San Francisco State University. After graduation he went to work for Zona Research in California’s Silicone Valley. As a research associate Tom supported senior analyst writing on the latest developments in the Internet industry. During the dot com boom Tom worked for several web businesses as a market researcher and analyst. As a writer and researcher Tom has authored various technical works including a training program for Charles Schwab security. Other projects included professional presentations on workplace violence and hiring security contractors. Tom has also written both fiction and non-fiction works and blogging for a travel website. He has published two books of short stories and completed two novels. Tom is the owner of Scribe of Life Literature and EbonyCandle.com. Tom is not the chief editor for the OnTechStreet. com. A news and information blog that focuses on tech news for African-Americans. The blog is the result of his desire to inform the African American community of the dangers and benefits of the cyber age. In his blog Tom reports on information security, new and analysis, scams and hoaxes, legal happenings and various topics that arise from the age of information. Tom believes that technology is a necessary tool for black people and they should know what is happening. Tom writes believing that techno speak is for the professional and that valuable information can be communicated using plain language. As a result he has embraced the motto, Less Tech, More Knowledge.

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