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Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover once said the most threatening thing about the Black Panthers was their free breakfast program for kids. Seriously.

That didn’t stop the FBI from keeping close tabs on people like Rodney Barnette, a founding member of the Compton chapter. A Vietnam veteran, he became disillusioned by the racism he experienced after returning home from the war. During his time organizing through the Panthers, he helped push the group's "radical" agenda that involved feeding hungry kids, protecting elderly in their neighborhoods, and providing black people easier access to health care and hospitals.

Eight different FBI agents followed Barnette for several years. They traded information with one another as they intimidated and gaslighted him, even going so far as to get him fired from his job at the post office. It was all in an attempt to demoralize and crush a movement they couldn’t control.


Rodney Barnette, circa 1968. All images by Sadie Barnette, used with permission.

The FBI had more than 500 pages of records on Barnette. Now, nearly five decades later, he and his family got to see those pages.

“We filed a request through the Freedom of Information Act, but it took about four years of back and forth writing letters before we actually got the file,” explains Sadie Barnette, Rodney’s daughter.

The loving father she’d known was a lifelong labor organizer with a passion for grassroots community building, a kindhearted man who built the first black-owned gay bar in San Francisco.  She’d heard stories growing up about his involvement with the Black Panthers, but even he still had questions about that period of his own life — until the day that massive PDF document finally arrived.

“We were really just blown away by how much attention they paid,” Sadie explains. “They interviewed all of my dad’s employers. They interviewed his high school teachers and even the little old lady next door to where he grew up ... just so many resources they put into not just my dad, but anyone who was organizing with the Black Panthers and other groups at the time.”

Rodney’s name was included on the FBI's Administrative Index, or ADEX, which was essentially a terrorist watchlist at the time — a fact that Sadie calls sobering and terrifying. The agency even kept a detailed tree of his extended family, all of whom had been interrogated too.

Sadie as a baby, with her dad.

Then Sadie took those pages of her father’s life and turned them into art.

Sadie is an acclaimed visual artist whose work has been seen across the world. While the FBI files were obviously an important artifact for their family, she also knew they would make great fodder for a new project.

With her father’s blessing, Sadie combed through the files to find the most striking pages, and she found different ways to repurpose them — and the discordant story they told. She tagged some pages with pink and black spray paint like graffiti, while others were combined with her original artwork.

“There’s also these rhinestones that adorn some of the pages," she explains. “That was an act of love and an act of trying to to heal this really intense and violent surveillance that people were going through and also to memorialize some of the people who lost their lives during that time.”

Sadie didn’t just assert her family’s ownership and recontextualize the FBI records. She also juxtaposed them with her father’s own photographs of himself and of her as a child. “It’s really a chance to reclaim the narrative and paint a more real picture of my father,” she says.

The artwork become a physical exhibition called “Do Not Destroy” that was displayed at galleries in Oakland and New York, with another exhibit scheduled at University of California, Davis.

According to Sadie, nearly 400 people turned out at the opening in Oakland, which was part of a larger celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers.

“It was a really intergenerational crowd,” she says. “People were there with their families, really reading through all the pages and investigating everything. I think because the Panthers were founded in Oakland, it’s a really personal history to so many people there. The courthouse where many Panthers had their trials was just two blocks from the museum, so it really felt like what our town is about.”

Some visitors even confessed to her in private about their own families' secret or shunned connections to the area’s history of black liberation and social progress. They said the artwork was inspiring them to find out if there were records on their parents too.

Sadie, at the exhibition's opening.

Sadie's artwork has also helped people realize this 50-year-old history is still frighteningly relevant.

“If you read the Ten-Point Program of the Black Panthers, it could’ve been written today. Nothing else is checked off the list, so to speak,” she says. “They were talking about systemic change."

The fact that the group is still remembered more as armed extremists than as community activists shows just how successful the FBI was in their campaign against people like Rodney.

Sadie also explains how the law used to fire her father from the post office — President Truman’s Executive Order 10450 — was originally put in place to keep LGBTQ people out of government work, not against black civil rights activists. “We have laws now, and people say, ‘Oh, that doesn’t affect me.’ But the same law can be used against you whenever the government decides that you’re the enemy.”

“With Donald Trump coming into office, a lot of people who may not have thought about it in this way before are realizing — hey, the government might not always be trying to protect the interests of the majority of the people,” she adds.

Rodney was in attendance at the opening of his daughter’s exhibition in Oakland.

He mingled with the other guests there, and stood and watched as they absorbed two contradicting accounts of his life from 50 years ago — and of course, admired his daughter’s beautiful handiwork. “It gave me a sense of freedom,” he said that night.

“I felt like, ‘Wow, I’m free now.’”

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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