At the edge of (a Poem)

An image of machine learning training of images for facial recognition. Mostly Caucasian faces.

By Adekemi Sijuwade-Ukadike


Look at me!

I said look. 

Black, African, Proud! 

She, her, woman Disabled? 


Look at you… 

Black, brown, beige, white 

and somewhere 

Along the lines of a fabled… 



Oh! Hi there, Kay Kay! 

I am talking to you, 

my nearest neighbor. 

You don’t recognize me? 

Nor my brother? 


Oh! Yes! 

It’s dark outside 

You almost called the cops? 

Cos you thought my brother 

...was a gorilla? 

A Nig…. 



But that’s been cleared up now

The algorithm is different

 All thanks to deep learning 


I’ll just take it to social media


I have been flagged! 

For hate speech! 


But my caucasian friend 

just posted the same thing? 


I am off to work now 

I got a job! Thank God! 

Time to clock in to work


 Oh Watson! 

This punch card system 

You created... 

Was also used 

To classify blacks in apartheid South Africa 


My brilliant colleagues of color in tech

Feel marginalized, alone 

I admire you 

I respect you 


To ask why 

And not try 

Could be to drown 

But changing this situation

Is perhaps an elusive proposition 


Let me get back to work (laugh) 

As an AI programmer… 

Creating a repository 

Of models, software 

Trained to recognize millions, if not billions 

Of colorful faces, bodies... 

Of lingua... patois, ebonics, pidgin... 

Among other things 


If all goes well…

Next time

When you see me 

You will see

Who I say I am 

And who I am meant to be