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Tawana Petty

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Tawana Petty
Tawana Petty speaking at re:publica in 2019.
Detroit, MI
Known forAuthor, Poet, Social Justice Organizer, Youth Advocate

Tawana Petty is an American author, poet, social justice organizer, mother and youth advocate who works to counter systemic racism. Petty formerly served as Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Algorithmic Justice League[1][2] representing AJL[3] in national and international processes shaping AI governance.

She has also served as the National Organizing Director for Data for Black Lives,[4] and as the Data Justice Director for the Detroit Community Technology Project. . Petty is a 2023-2025 Just Tech Fellow with the Social Science Research Council, an alumni practitioner fellow of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS),[5] an alumni fellow of the Detroit Equity Action Lab, convening member of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, and founder and Executive Director of Petty Propolis, a Black women-led artist incubator focused on cultivating visionary resistance through poetry, literacy and literary workshops, anti-racism facilitation, and community-centered initiatives.[6][7]

In light of police brutality against black individuals, Petty and other researchers like Deborah Raji and Ruha Benjamin are working towards putting an end to the use of surveillance technologies like facial recognition in policing. The failure of these technologies to correctly identify darker-skinned individuals raises the concern that these algorithms are biased against Black individuals.[8][9][10]

Notable work[edit]

Petty has been involved in numerous efforts to center racial equity in data science.

Alongside the Detroit Community Technology Project, Petty has been outspoken against Detroit's "Project Green Light," an attempt to use video footage gathered by private businesses to surveil Detroit residents using facial recognition.[11][8][12] She was a member of the curatorial team for DEPTH, an exhibition at Science Gallery Detroit.[13]

As one of the contributors to Our Data Bodies,[14] Petty has focused on working with community organizations across the US to push back against data collection efforts that harm minoritized people.[15] The project "combines community-based organizing, capacity-building, and rigorous academic research."[16] The group has published several interim reports. First, "From Paranoia to Power" in 2016,[17] and then "Reclaiming our data" in 2018.[16]

Petty uses her poetry as a mode of resistance. She uses the name Honeycomb in conjunction with this work, and her first book of poetry was entitled Introducing... Honeycomb.[18] Her second book of poetry, Coming Out My Box, focuses on her lived experience as a Black woman from Detroit.[19] She has a one-woman show by the same name.[20] In addition to her personal poetry work, Petty believes in helping young people find their poetic voice.[21] One workshop she teaches is entitled “Poetry As Visionary Resistance."[22] The organization she leads for this work is called Petty Propolis,[6] which also offers anti-racism training, organizes a yearly arts festival, and has led to the book Petty Propolis Reader.[22][23]

  • Towards Humanity: Shifting the Culture of Anti-racism Organizing[24]


  • 2011 Spirit of Detroit Award
  • 2011 Women Creating Caring Communities Award
  • 2012 The Woman of Substance Award
  • 2015 Detroit Awesome Award
  • 2016 University of Michigan Black Law Student Association's Justice Honoree Award
  • In 2021, named one of 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics[25]
  • 2023 CAIDP Civil Society AI Policy Leader Award[26] [27]


  1. ^ "A.I. More Racist Than I? | The Takeaway". WNYC Studios. Retrieved 2023-08-15.
  2. ^ "Mission, Team and Story - The Algorithmic Justice League". www.ajl.org. Retrieved 2023-03-06.
  3. ^ "Artificial Intelligence "Godfathers" Call for Regulation as Rights Groups Warn AI Encodes Oppression". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 2023-08-15.
  4. ^ "Data 4 Black Lives | About Us". d4bl.org. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  5. ^ Fellow, Practitioner; Lab, Digital Civil Society; PACS, Stanford. "Tawana Petty". Stanford PACS. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  6. ^ a b Performances, Facilitation & workshops, Antiracism trainings. "Onward and upward towards coliberation". facilitation & workshops, antiracism trainings, performances. Retrieved 2021-05-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "Thank you, Tawana! | Detroit Community Technology Project". detroitcommunitytech.org. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  8. ^ a b Peterschmidt, Daniel. "Seeking Algorithmic Justice In Policing AI". Science Friday. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  9. ^ "Racial Equity in Data Integration: How to Exclude Racial Bias in Data". Built In. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  10. ^ Tawana Petty & Bryce Huffman Extended Interview, retrieved 2021-05-14
  11. ^ Winn, Ashley (2019-10-02). "The Controversy Over Facial Recognition Software Comes to Detroit". Hour Detroit Magazine. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  12. ^ "The Business Of Police Surveillance : The Indicator from Planet Money". NPR.org. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  13. ^ "Depth". Science Gallery Detroit. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  14. ^ "About Us". Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  15. ^ D'Ignazio, Catherine (2020). Data feminism. Lauren F. Klein. Cambridge, Massachusetts. ISBN 978-0-262-35852-1. OCLC 1130235839.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  16. ^ a b Petty, Tawana; Saba, Mariella; Lewis, Tamika; Gangadharan, Seeta Peña; Eubanks, Virginia (2018-06-15). "Reclaiming our data: interim report, Detroit". www.odbproject.org. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  17. ^ Saba, Mariella; Lewis, Tamika; Petty, Tawana; Gangadharan, Seeta Peña; Eubanks, Virginia (2016). "From Paranoia to Power: Our Data Bodies Project 2016 Report" (PDF).
  18. ^ Introducing... Honeycomb. CreateSpace. 2011.
  19. ^ Coming Out My Box. 2016.
  20. ^ Staff, M. T. "Tawana 'Honeycomb' Petty performs her one woman show". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  21. ^ "Tawana Petty". American Black Journal. Season 46. Episode 6. 2017-12-15. PBS.
  22. ^ a b "Poets of Color Pave the Way for the Next Generation". YES! Magazine. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  23. ^ Petty, Tawana Honeycomb (2017-06-10). Petty Propolis Reader: My Personal and Political Evolution. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1-5480-3469-6.
  24. ^ Petty, Tawana Honeycomb (2018-01-02). Towards Humanity: Shifting the Culture of Anti-racism Organizing. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1-9834-9239-6.
  25. ^ "2021". 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics™. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  26. ^ "Tawana Petty on LinkedIn: This is an absolute honor. Thank you Center for AI and Digital Policy for…". www.linkedin.com. Retrieved 2023-03-06.
  27. ^ "GLOBAL AI POLICY LEADERS". Center for AI and Digital Policy. Retrieved 2023-03-06.

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