This Question Came Up Today

A good friend of mine, who is a well-known agitator, asked a question about Africans role in facilitating the transatlantic slave trade. I guess some people weren’t too clear on what happened. So based on the history classes I’ve taken and books I’ve read, I tried to answer as best I could. Of course, it turned into a book.

Ugh… I wish it was easy to deconstruct but I’ll try.

Most European countries were not able to build solid enough networks to acquire slaves without the help of a network of African leaders and traders who had struck commerce agreement with each other. It started off as raw materials exchange but slavery became one of the main requests after a while. You’ve probably heard that most slaves were captured as a result of wars.

What people don’t understand is how this scaled. At the time, there was no collective identity and Africa as it is now with countries and nationalities. It was mostly tribal (for some exemptions like certain empires that did exist) and fragmented. As Europeans started to see how profitable the slave trade was, they started to encourage conflict among tribes. They signed military agreements with opposing tribes, armed others and leveraged conflicts to accelerate the number of slaves that would be taken as a result of wars.

People also fail to understand that many groups we’re not going. There were certain villages that build fortifications, came up with tactics to make it not worth their while to take slaves from that area. For example, collective hunger strikes, actually going to war with traders, Killing them, “special ops” teams that would sell slaves to see where they went and would set them free after. Europeans, over time, saw these groups as “not profitable” to engage and stayed away.

There are so much context and fragmented narratives here… but from this, you can take away three things.

1. Yes, there were people who collaborated with the European traders to facilitate commerce in which slavery became a big driver. There are Africans who benefited from this.

2. The only way chattel slavery scaled is by European intervention. By supplying guns and protection to specific groups, the Europeans increased their supply of slavery and manipulated political and economic realities in West Africa.

3. A lot more folks in Africa were not going than people give credit.

__________

I decided to give a long answer because the relationship between Africa and the African diaspora has been on my mind for the last couple of days. I’ll probably follow this up with a longer post on what I’m thinking.

Is Protesting Effective?

So for those asking the question, “Are riots/protests really effective?” There’s some research from Omar Wasow, an associate professor at Princeton, that takes a look at Black protests in the 1960s and its ability to move elites, shape public opinion, and voting. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here are some quick takeaways:


1. Violent tactics by the state or protesters operate as a double-edged sword. State repression subjugates activists but focuses media attention on the concerns of nonviolent protesters. While violent tactics by protestors are framed as a breach of law and order.

2. Black activists overcame structural biases, framed news, directed elite discourse, swayed public opinion & won at the ballot box. An “eye for an eye” in response to violent repression may be moral & just but this research suggests it may not be strategic, but it achieved its goal.

This time around, three main changes will enhance or detract from its effectiveness.

1. Fragmented media – People have more media channels that are skewed to their already existing notions of reality. (Facebook groups/ TL, twitter followers, more skewed tv media)

2. Decentralized first-hand reporting – Everyone with a camera provides a unique perspective which leads to a diversity of data points that can reinforce or detract from a multitude of narratives.

3. Rapid mobilization of protestors. Now more than ever, it’s easier to scale protests beyond a particular city, which can lead to a larger dichotomy between local, regional and national narratives.

Some Thoughts On This week 5/29/20

  1. This is a cycle. A black person dies. We get angry. The law intervenes. We assume justice comes and then it doesn’t. How do we break the cycle?
  2. There are several definitions of justice. Most relevant to this situation, – the administering of deserved punishment or reward. Justice in the legal sense makes sense but morally, especially around situations of murder, justice as a transaction doesn’t seem to be equitable.
  3. As black people, we need a new social contract with the United States. For those unfamiliar, social contract theory, made famous by John Locke and Thomas Hobbes is the view that persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live. Between COVID / police violence, and economic downturn, there’s probably no better time than now.
  4. These news cycles are Jimmy John’s fast now. Wasn’t it just a week ago that Joe Biden had that gaff with Charlamagne on Breakfast Club? Are people still mad at him? Honestly, it feels like it was weeks ago.
  5. Joe Biden is going to have to put an avengers (endgame) level team together if he wins in November. Between international diplomacy, domestic affairs, a pandemic, an economy that is about to collapse, and a gutted government, he’s going to need people who can execute on day one.
  6. In moments like this, I feel an immense sense of hopelessness. What can I do to really change this world or stop things like this from happening? I’m reminded of a message from Robert F Kennedy –

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work
to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be
written the history of this generation… It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Also gotta throw a Tupac/Wale quote here as well.

I’m not saying I’m going to change the world. But I guarantee I will spark the brain that will change the world

NBA All-Star Weekend (In Pictures)

Chicago hosted the NBA All-Star events over the weekend. There were a lot of cool events. I didn’t really get to drag my dslr out but I got a couple of pictures on my One Plus 6 phone.

On Friday, I went to the brand Jordan party. Jordan team always pulls out the stops to ensure all guests have a unique experience at their events.

Miguel performed all his jams! All the ladies and the men went crazy!

Olivia, my sister/ partner in crime caught the light and the lack thereof.

Bam Adebayo winning the skills contest. Naija no dey carry last. On a more serious note, Bam wining the skills competition shows the evolution of the NBA to the skilled big man. Its a brave new world.

Sunday service at UIC. Kanye did his thing for real. The Sunday Service Choir gave me chills at times. It was a major vibe.

Olivia and I went to get dinner but ended up getting dessert. We went to Little Goat Diner and they had a red velvet milkshake. I had to order it out of obligation. We ended up eating dinner there as well. Really great food overall.

ALLL STAR Game.

This was one of the best weekends Chicago’s seen in a while. Sans the bad weather on Thursday and Friday, this was a very successful weekend for the NBA, city of Chicago, and the fans.

Future Pharma – Prescribing Digital Interventions to Drive Outcomes

If we know apps are deliberately built to get us hooked by stimulating chemical reactions in our brain, can that be used for good? Are there ways to create digital interventions that Doctors will eventually prescribe? I wonder what the regulatory hurdles will be? What type of companies will be capable of building this type of intervention. I foresee a massive market opportunity in the next 5- 10 years barring regulatory challenges.

We’re most likely in DI (digital interventions) 1.0 – If you look at applications like Talkspace, Noom, even Fitbit, they all leverage technology to deliver some sort of medical support/ intervention. But the future is even more interesting. Imagine an app that is optimized to stimulate the creation of certain chemicals in your brain. Maybe you’ve gone to the doctor, they’ve run tests, and they see you have a deficiency of said chemical. They’d prescribe an app that stimulates the creation of the chemical and let you know how often to use it.

I should wrap up by saying I’m not in the medical field so I have no idea how this would work. But I do know, product managers, especially product managers in the consumer space, are already thinking about how their products can form mental hooks to users to make products more “sticky” . It’s time we flipped this on its head and used it for good.