BET 'Single Ladies' Star Builds Community Watch App in Wake of Police Violence
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Unharmed. Uninjured. Safe and intact. That is the Spanish-to-English translation of Zafa, a word that some ethnicities use to undo a curse.

If America were cursed–because of the institution of slavery, Jim Crow laws, brutal lynchings and police brutality–then the Zafa Protection app just might be our nation’s Hail Mary.

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Chastity Dotson, star of Single Ladies on BET and Centric, was inspired to create the Zafa mobile app after watching the video of a white South Carolina police officer shoot Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, in the back eight times. While disgusted, she was also captured by the idea of one witness with a camera and courage.

“After he recorded the footage, he called the police and was a little bit afraid and ran away thinking ‘I just saw a police officer kill a man. What if they come kill me?’ He only came forward when he realized that justice wouldn’t have been served because there was no helper outside of himself,” says Dotson. “When I saw that I thought there should always be a witness. We should all have a way to get to each other in a crisis situation. Let’s come together. Let’s police the police.”

So what makes Zafa special? After all anyone can pull out their cell phone and record a violent interaction.

But with Zafa, when a user presses a button in the app, three things happen; 1) all app users within a certain radius are alerted 2) the video begins recording immediately and 3) the victim’s emergency contact is notified. Also, Zafa footage isn’t stored in your phone, but on a remote server. So, if the phone is destroyed, the footage is protected and available for review. Any person that presses the “respond” button will be given the exact location of the incident and directions on how to get there, and upon arrival the ability to record the incident.

Police brutality isn’t the only situation where the app can be an overseer. Dotson relayed how the app might be able to curtail the trend towards gang rapes of women worldwide from New Delhi to Detroit by constructing the idea that there exists the possibility that someone might be watching and ready to report.

Dotson aims to launch Zafa Protection in August. In the meantime, she is asking smartphone users around the world to help organize tests to confirm the effectiveness and accuracy of the app. She requests that interested users download the app and send a response explaining what kind of phone they use and she will follow up with instructions on how they can help.

“It’s a global neighborhood watch tool. It’s not just about collecting footage. What is more important is having a greater presence. I believe if Trayvon Martin had this button and 15 people came out of their homes to help. George Zimmerman wouldn’t have shot him,” says Dotson. “My hope and dream is that Zafa will go global and people will use this as resource in the same way that they use 911. There is a lag time between when a 911 call is made and when the police arrive, but if your neighbors have the app, they can witness an incident happening right outside of their house before the police arrive [or if the police are already there].”

If you are interested in helping bring the Zafa Protection app to market visit Gofundme.com/protectandserve.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.


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