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Tawana Petty

Founding Director | Petty Propolis
Just Tech Fellow

Tawana Petty is a mother, organizer, poet, author, and facilitator. She is a long-time social justice organizer whose work focuses on racial justice, equity issues, water rights advocacy, data privacy, and consent. Petty has used her talents and gifts for community building to dispel the criminalizing narrative of her city, Detroit, which has convinced many of the need for police surveillance technologies as mechanisms for public safety. She is also the founding director of Petty Propolis, a Black women-led artist incubator and social justice organization that teaches writing and antiracism workshops, hosts artist retreats, and organizes an artist festival in historic Idlewild, Michigan.

Petty is an alumni fellow of the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford PACS, the Detroit Equity Action Lab, and Art Matters. She has also been a convening Detroit Digital Justice Coalition member since 2016. Petty has been honored with several awards. She was honored with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition and with Wayne State University’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies Peacemaker Award in 2018. In 2021, she was named one of 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics in 2021, and in 2023, Petty was honored with the AI Policy Leader in Civil Society by the Center for AI and Digital Policy, as an Ava Jo Silent Shero by the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and with the Detroit People’s Platform’s Leadership Award.

Project Description

Tawana Petty aims to utilize over a decade of experience in poetry and social justice organizing to create Embodying True Safety, which will encompass a theatrical performance, popular education tools, and workshops centered around questioning the conflation between surveillance and safety. Embodying True Safety expands the dialogue and heightens the contradictions that surface when Black communities interrogate what safety means while grappling with disinvestment and hyper surveillance. This project leverages a multifaceted approach to art, political education, and embodied sensation to share research encouraging critical and analytical thinking around surveillance systems.


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