COVID Conversation Symposium (Time zone: EST)

Race-based data, AI, COVID-19 & Black Well-being: Why Data Literacy matters during the Pandemic and beyond

This Symposium explores the relationship of surveillance, data collection, public health, artificial intelligence (AI), the COVID-19 pandemic, and the implications for Black communities in Canada and beyond. In this 2-part series we bridge disciplines and conversations, bringing together academic and community scholars, clinicians, epidemiologists, historians, the front lines, and organizers.

Part 1, May 29th – 30th registration is open

Part 2, June 4th – 6th, 2020 registration is open

We seek to support attendees in thinking through opportunities for critical collective action in their neighbourhoods, institutions, and the streets.

Part 1 

Friday May 29th

1:30-2:00 pm EST

Opening Ceremony: Denise Baldwin

Land acknowledgement

Introduction: We will provide an overview of the context and format

2:00-4:00pm EST

Black Well-Being in Past-Present Tense: How lessons from the Black Power movement and contemporary histories can guide pandemic responses

This session will feature a conversation among the discussants about historic and contemporary experiences of Black life in Canada. The efficacy of current demands for race-based data to be collected by and with state institutions will be weighed against the state’s track record and the short and long term risks to Black people. This discussion will engage some of the following questions: How might mobilizing Black histories of self-determination via the Civil Rights movement, Black Power and labour movements help us understand, interpret, and respond to COVID-19?

How do the unqualified demands for race-based data illuminate the tensions of class privilege, power differentials, professional desires, and institutional attachments within and among Black communities? How might commitments to collective well-being proactively factor in that some people and sub-populations within Black communities do and will bear a greater burden and cost for race-based data, than others? Equally importantly, what might be done that can achieve the desired outcomes, that prioritize care? Why might it be important to grapple with these questions anew now? Followed by a question and answer period.

Discussants: (click on names to read bios)

Lynn Jones

Rinaldo Walcott

David Austin

Saturday May 30th

10:00am – 12:00pm EST

We’ve been here before: HIV, COVID-19, and Community Health…Lessons from the Front Lines

In this session discussants will explore the connections between community health, COVID-19 and the HIV/AIDS pandemics. What can we learn from the early, mid and later responses to HIV? While the two pandemics are vastly different, can lessons from government and community responses to HIV help inform how we address COVID-19? How does the arrival of artificial intelligence/AI, and other technologies inform, redefine and require new strategies of co-operation and resistance? 

Discussants will engage a variety of issues that interconnect, go beyond HIV and dive into the dynamics of community health. Such as, the role we can all play in preserving the health and well-being of agricultural workers, as they bring produce, from field to table. Discussants will consider the absence of safer sex messaging about COVID-19 transmission by public health units. Equally important, discussants will share how we, the public, can collectively sustain an effective response at the community level to limit COVID-19 exposure and transmission over the coming year based on decades of experience on the front lines. Followed by a question and answer period.

Discussants: (click on names to read bios)

Ruth Cameron

Dane Record

Alexander McClelland 

7:00pm-9:00pm EST

Data, AI, Public Health, Policing, the Pandemic and Un-Making Carceral States 

In this session, discussants will examine the intersections of current demands for race-based data within the realities of 21st-century technology, such as but not limited to the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI). Issues of health-care being quietly privatized via the creep of tech during the pandemic, the ensuing erosion of constitutional, human rights and risks born by the most vulnerable will be discussed. How do current demands and responses for race-based data enhance and, or diminish the self-determination of Black communities, the power of unjust policing practices and carcerality looming over and always pressing up against innocent Black lives? 

Discussants will consider questions such as: What do we need to understand in order to make just choices that will end the pandemic and not create a dystopian ‘new-normal’ post-pandemic that stigmatizes people along pre-existing lines of inequality? How might we rethink the demands for race-based data that coincidentally refurbish older forms of apartheid Black people in Canada contend with on an ongoing basis? What can we do to stop, mitigate and turn the rising tide of algorithmic racism and AI apartheid? 

Mapping new possibilities that nourish rather than threaten Black lives will be engaged and more. Followed by question and answer period.

Discussants: (click on names to read bios)

Idil Abdillahi

Ruha Benjamin

Desmond Cole 

LLana James