I love to travel, but not to Mr. Charlie’s Florida
Commentary by Chitown Kev
I’ve always loved to travel.
My earliest memories are of a trip to California and Disneyland in 1970. A couple of years later, I rode with my mother to Henderson, KY to visit my father’s parents and noted, even then, that I did not see any white people during my visit there even though Henderson was then (and is now) a majority-white town.
I remember Mom driving us in her red Mustang from Detroit to Washington D.C. and the mere sound of the Pennsylvania city Breezewood (the transfer point between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-70 to Maryland and, eventually, to Washington D.C.) inspires memories of the Appalachian Mountains which surround it.
I remember the strangest things from my travels; learning how to play dice in the bathroom of a Trailways bus station in Atlanta as I was on my my way to school in Tallahassee where I would sneak into Florida State University football games at Doak Campbell Stadium to watch the final two quarters of various games.
Other than a trip to Toronto, I have never been out of the country (being from Detroit, I don’t count the innumerable times I’ve been to Windsor, Ontario). I do have a “bucket list” of places to visit internationally, though, including Paris, Istanbul, Rome, Naples (really Pompeii), London, The Great Wall, Hong Kong, etc.
Hell, there are places in this country that I would still like to visit. (e.g. Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco). And while no place is guaranteed to be “safe,” when an organization like the NAACP puts out a “travel advisory” for some place such as they did for the entire state of Florida over the weekend (a story which dopper links below in the Black Kos news roundup), I ain’t going there any time soon.
From the NAACP Travel Advisory to Florida:
Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, the State of Florida has criminalized protests, restricted the ability of educators to teach African-American history, and engaged in a blatant war against diversity and inclusion. On a seeming quest to silence African-American voices, the Governor and the State of Florida have shown that African Americans are not welcome in the State of Florida. Due to this sustained, blatant, relentless and systemic attack on democracy and civil rights, the NAACP hereby issues a travel advisory to African Americans, and other people of color regarding the hostility towards African Americans in Florida.
Please be advised that Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the State of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of and the challenges faced by African Americans and other minorities.
I don’t think that I’ve ever been a naive traveler; there are places even in my home state of Michigan (I have family that lives in Macomb County) or Chicago where the presence of a Black gay man would not be welcomed. I remember being in Tallahassee, FL in 1985 and walking into a convenience store and seeing the look of of the store clerk; a look that communicated to me that I was not wanted there.
I walked out of that store within 5 seconds.
I can take a hint. Most (if not all) Black people are similarly equipped.
I also know my own propensity to somehow, someway wind up in a place that I shouldn’t be; I hate “tourist traps,” as a rule (for example, the last place I wanted to go in NOLA when I was there for Netroots Nation in 2018 was Bourbon Street).
So...I can scratch Florida from my list of places to go, at least for the foreseeable future.
It’s a shame, really; Florida is known as a place for weird people; something that I find quite attractive about the place.
But I’m not risking my life or even my peace of mind to go somewhere where the racist homophobic hatred is out enough in the open that a travel advisory has to be issued.
News round up by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
The Democrat who will almost certainly become Philadelphia’s next mayor wants to hire hundreds of additional police officers to walk their beats and get to know residents. She wants to devote resources to recruiting more police and says officers should be able to stop and search pedestrians if they have a legitimate reason to do so.
Those positions, particularly the search policies that have been criticized for wrongly targeting people of color, would seem out of step in a progressive bastion like Philadelphia. But Cherelle Parker trounced her rivals in this week’s mayoral primary with a message that centered on tougher law enforcement to combat rising crime and violence.
While local politics don’t always align with the ideological divides that guide the national debate, Parker’s victory offers a fresh case study for Democrats as they wrestle with how to approach the issue of violent crime, which increased in many U.S. cities during the pandemic and continues to be top of mind for voters across the country. The issue has divided Democrats from city halls to the White House, particularly over how much to rely on policing and incarceration to solve what many see as social problems, such as drug abuse and homelessness.
Parker, a former state legislator and city council member, argued that it’s a false choice to decide between investing in policing and addressing broader societal problems.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson on Monday said African Americans’ lives “are not valued” in Florida, which is why the organization has issued a travel advisory in response to the state’s education, immigration and LGBTQ policies.
“We didn’t end here overnight. It was because of the election,” Johnson said on “CNN This Morning.” “So we have to prepare for the next election, so we can get rid of him once and for all. This othering that we have seen first by Trump, now by him, is not only un-American, it’s dangerous, and we have to right-size this landscape.”
The NAACP issued a formal travel advisory Saturday in response to what the group described as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.”
“Therefore, we are advising African Americans and others that if you travel to Florida, beware that your life is not valued, that we have a political landscape that could cause harm as we prepare for the 2024 elections to right-size the political landscape in the state of Florida,” Johnson said.
The NAACP’s advisory comes months after Florida’s decision to reject students’ access to an AP course on African American studies. DeSantis has waged a long war to erase any traces of “wokeness” in Florida’s K-12 and higher education institutions. Last week, DeSantis signed into law a bill that restricts colleges and universities in Florida from spending their cash on most diversity, equity and inclusion programs and earlier transformed the traditionally liberal arts college New College in Sarasota into a conservative institution.
With their daily dose of melodrama, suspense, romance and tears, Brazil’s wildly popular telenovelas have never shied away from bringing social commentary into viewers’ living rooms.
Over the years, blockbuster soap operas have tackled any number of contentious issues, from class and sexuality, to dictatorship and deforestation.
But for decades, the issue of racial inequality has been conspicuous by its absence: despite the fact that 56% of Brazil’s population identifies as black or mixed-race, its soaps have displayed a glaring lack of diversity – in some notorious cases, white actors were even hired to play black roles.
Now, for the first time ever, the three prime-time telenovelas on Brazil’s dominant TV network Globo feature prominent black protagonists.
Six days a week Perfect Love (at 6pm), Have Faith (at 7pm) and Land and Passion (9pm) serve up the traditional mix of family feuds, romance, betrayal and endurance – but played by a racially diverse cast.
It marks an unprecedented moment in Brazilian TV, which has long failed to represent its viewers.
Richard Mathenge felt he’d landed the perfect role when he started training OpenAI’s GPT model in 2021. After years of working in customer service in Nairobi, Kenya, he was finally involved in something meaningful, with a future. Yet while promising, the position left him scarred. For nine hours per day, five days a week, Mathenge led a team that taught the model about explicit content, presumably to keep it away from us. Today, it remains stuck with them.
While at work, Mathenge and his team repeatedly viewed explicit text and labeled it for the model. They could categorize it as child sexual abuse material, erotic sexual content, illegal, non-sexual, and some other options. Much of what they read horrified them. One passage, Mathenge said, described a father having sex with an animal in front of his child; others involved scenes of child rape. Some were so offensive Mathenge refused to speak of them. “Unimaginable,” he told me.
The type of work Mathenge performed has been crucial for bots like ChatGPT and Bard to function — and feel magical — yet it’s been widely overlooked. In a process called Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback, or RLHF, bots become smarter as humans label content, teaching them how to optimize based on that feedback. AI leaders, including OpenAI’s Sam Altman, have praised the practice’s technical effectiveness, yet they rarely talk about the cost some humans pay to align the AI systems with our values. Mathenge and his colleagues were on the business end of that reality.
Mathenge earned a degree from Nairobi’s Africa Nazarene University in 2018 and quickly got to work in the city’s technology sector. In 2021, he applied for work with Sama, an AI annotation service that’s worked for companies like OpenAI. After Sama hired Mathenge, it put him to work labeling LiDAR images for self-driving cars. He’d review the images and pick out people, other vehicles, and objects, helping the models better understand what they encountered on the road.
When the project wrapped, Mathenge was transferred to work on OpenAI’s models. And there, he encountered the disturbing texts. OpenAI told me it believed it was paying its Sama contractors $12.50 per hour, but Mathenge says he and his colleagues earned approximately $1 per hour, and sometimes less. Responding to the low pay, some have since gone on to work toward establishing an African Content Moderators Union, as first reported by Time.
On a television set in thick green bush outside Nigeria’s megacity Lagos, the mood was buoyant.
“Welcome to my palace,” said Bola Stephen-Atitebi, a theatre actor who is grinning after taking the leap from stage to screen as a star of Itura, the latest hit in a booming new African telenovela scene.
She plays Queen Aderomoke, tasked with preventing her fictitious 19th-century Yoruba kingdom tearing itself apart after the sudden death of the king. The series which launched in August was nominated for a viewers’ choice award for best original telenovela, losing out to a Zambian programme, Mpali, in a ceremony held in Lagos on Saturday.
“Everybody who has the time to be awake is watching it,” said James Omokwe, the director.
He said audiences around Africa have tuned in, as well as in Europe and the UK, addicted to 260 episodes of romance and strife broadcast every weeknight at 8.30pm.
Half a century ago, television stations in Brazil and Mexico pioneered the telenovela form, which became famous for its epic series lengths and formulaic plots filled with fated love triangles and family feuds.
The ugandan traffic officer slid back the door of the 14-seater taxi to find 20 adults, four children, and a squashed Economist correspondent. “Why are none of you complaining?” she asked, peering into the tangle of limbs. Indeed, nobody had said anything as the conductor had delayed departure to stuff his minibus beyond legal limits. And now they kept quiet as the policewoman ordered the excess passengers to disembark. A mile down the road, with the cops out of sight, the evictees squeezed back in again, having hitched a ride on tactically positioned motorbikes.
The policewoman’s question is pertinent. Why should African travellers put up with discomfort and delay? Shared taxis and intercity buses routinely leave hours late. Most passengers tolerate bad service with surprising equanimity. But some of them are starting to demand a better one—a sign of rising incomes and the changing economic value of time.
Public transport in Uganda often tests patience. Your correspondent once sought a ride from a taxi park in Lira, a northern town. “Hurry, hurry,” urged a tout, steering him towards a packed vehicle with a revving engine. Ten minutes later, with the taxi still motionless, a passenger stepped out to “buy a soda” and never returned. A quarter of an hour passed, and another did the same, then another. It eventually became clear that almost all the “passengers” were paid stooges, enticing customers with the illusion that the taxi was full and ready to leave.
The answer to the policewoman’s question is given by Huzairu Lubega, who manages a bus company. Buses with fewer than 45 passengers cannot cover the costs of fuel and maintenance, he says, so they wait for hours for extra travellers. The only way to leave on time would be to raise the price of tickets. Passengers accept delays because they understand this trade-off, and are too pinched to pay for a faster service. When most people are hard up, late departures are the market equilibrium.
But as incomes rise, so does the opportunity cost of waiting around. In January Global Coaches, which runs to the prosperous city of Mbarara, launched an “executive” bus service in response to customer demand. Travellers pay a third more than the usual fare in return for air conditioning, larger seats, folding tables and complimentary water. Even better, the bus leaves on time. “You know the schedule so you can plan your day properly,” says Pius Mugabe, an engineer with a window seat. Without wishing to sound “fancy”, “you are seated with people you can relate to”.
WELCOME TO THE TUESDAY PORCH
IF YOU ARE NEW TO THE BLACK KOS COMMUNITY, GRAB A SEAT, SOME CYBER EATS, RELAX, AND INTRODUCE YOURSELF.