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UAB Computer Science Students Earn Big Wins at Alabama’s Largest Hackathon

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Auburn Hacks presented an opportunity for these students to apply what they learned in their classes to real-world problems and develop an innovative project. They used class knowledge from their natural language processing courses taught by John Osborne, Ph.D., assistant professor, and artificial intelligence courses taught by Thomas Gilray, Ph.D., assistant professor.
The post UAB Computer Science Students Earn Big Wins at Alabama’s Largest Hackathon first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Tehreem Kham | UAB News | Birmingham Times

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s team of four Department of Computer Science students was the top winner at Auburn Hacks 2024, the state of Alabama’s largest hackathon, along with an award for the best use of MongoDB, a developer data platform.

At Auburn Hacks 2024, a 24-hour event where students from universities across the Southeast united to build technical projects, the UAB team stood out among others by utilizing core engineering and hacking into a practical program to develop a project with real-world applications.

The team created a resume feedback website allowing users to enter their resume and a job description to get personalized, immediate feedback. The feedback will be tailored to the role the user is applying for, and it will also advise on things to improve and edit, alongside guiding the user if they are a good fit for the role.

“I am so proud of the hard work of these students,” said Department Chair Yuliang Zheng, Ph.D. “Students in our computer science program experience comprehensive education, thanks to our balanced curriculum. We place a strong emphasis on cultivating theoretical knowledge and technical skills in computing alongside hands-on experience to develop vital soft skills in our students. This holistic approach equips our students with the proficiency to apply cutting-edge knowledge to innovate solutions to real-world problems. “The winning team included the following College of Arts and Sciences students:

The hackathon provided a collaborative environment for Gathara, competitive energy for Nettles, an opportunity to innovate for Kunapaneni, an opportunity to learn and apply niche computer science skills for Patel, and a unique, fun experience for all, according to these students.

Learn more about computer science degrees and careers here.

Applying computer science knowledge

Auburn Hacks presented an opportunity for these students to apply what they learned in their classes to real-world problems and develop an innovative project. They used class knowledge from their natural language processing courses taught by John Osborne, Ph.D., assistant professor, and artificial intelligence courses taught by Thomas Gilray, Ph.D., assistant professor.

“UAB’s computer science classes equipped me with the knowledge needed for this competition,” Gathara said. “The two classes that shine are NLP and AI. Our project dealt with both AI and, more specifically, the NLP subset of AI. The concepts I learned in these classes directly translated into the program that we built.”

A major part of Patel’s portion of the project was a top-down parser that would analyze and break down code or text data into individual components that are easy to understand or process.

“I would not have been able to do this if it were not for the automata and the programming languages courses, which exposed me to making parsers,” Patel said.

Working in the High Performance Automated Reasoning Lab under Gilray and taking graduate courses helped Kunapaneni develop problem-solving skills, especially required to understand different perspectives toward solving the same problems.

Lessons from the hackathon

The students say this rigorous project-building competition at Auburn Hacks has taught them lifelong lessons, furthering their innovative and collaborative skills.

“My biggest takeaway was how to communicate within a team to put together a product in a short period,” Gathara said.

For Nettles, the biggest lesson was the value of interdisciplinary collaboration, as the competition featured coders from multiple fields ranging from engineering to psychology. He found constant communication and working alongside driven peers can go a long way when working on a passion project.

“We had only 24 hours to focus on one project, which meant having something viable quickly and then iterating to make it better rather than trying to solve it all in one go,” Kunapaneni said.

Synchronization is key when managing a team project, which was the primary lesson for Patel. He learned a project management process that entails steps ranging from planning to finally bringing together individual components to complete the project.

The post UAB Computer Science Students Earn Big Wins at Alabama’s Largest Hackathon first appeared in The Birmingham Times.

The post UAB Computer Science Students Earn Big Wins at Alabama’s Largest Hackathon first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Beloved Actor and Activist Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. Dies at 87

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Louis Gossett Jr., the groundbreaking actor whose career spanned over five decades and who became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his memorable role in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” has died. Gossett, who was born on May 27, 1936, in Brooklyn, N.Y., was 87. Recognized early on for his resilience and nearly unmatched determination, Gossett arrived in Los Angeles in 1967 after a stint on Broadway.
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By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

@StacyBrownMedia

Louis Gossett Jr., the groundbreaking actor whose career spanned over five decades and who became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his memorable role in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” has died. Gossett, who was born on May 27, 1936, in Brooklyn, N.Y., was 87. Recognized early on for his resilience and nearly unmatched determination, Gossett arrived in Los Angeles in 1967 after a stint on Broadway.

He sometimes spoke of being pulled over by law enforcement en route to Beverly Hills, once being handcuffed to a tree, which he remembered as a jarring introduction to the racial tensions of Hollywood. In his memoir “An Actor and a Gentleman,” Gossett recounted the ordeal, noting the challenges faced by Black artists in the industry. Despite the hurdles, Gossett’s talent shone brightly, earning him acclaim in groundbreaking productions such as “A Raisin in the Sun” alongside Sidney Poitier. His Emmy-winning portrayal of Fiddler in “Roots” solidified his status as a trailblazer, navigating a landscape fraught with racial prejudice.

According to the HistoryMakers, which interviewed him in 2005, Gossett’s journey into the limelight began during his formative years at PS 135 and Mark Twain Junior High School, where he demonstrated early leadership as the student body president. His passion for the arts blossomed when he starred in a “You Can’t Take It With You” production at Abraham Lincoln High School, catching the attention of talent scouts who propelled him onto Broadway’s stage in “Take A Giant Step.” His stellar performance earned him the prestigious Donaldson Award for Best Newcomer to Theatre in 1952. Though initially drawn to sports, Gossett’s towering 6’4” frame and athletic prowess led him to receive a basketball scholarship at New York University. Despite being drafted by the New York Knicks in 1958, Gossett pursued his love for acting, honing his craft at The Actors Studio under the tutelage of luminaries like John Sticks and Peggy Fury.

In 1961, Gossett’s talent caught the eye of Broadway directors, leading to roles in acclaimed productions such as “Raisin in the Sun” and “The Blacks,” alongside legends like James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Roscoe Lee Brown, and Maya Angelou. Transitioning seamlessly to television, Gossett graced small screens with appearances in notable shows like “The Bush Baby” and “Companions in Nightmare.” Gossett’s silver screen breakthrough came with his role in “The Landlord,” paving the way for a prolific filmography that spanned over 50 movies and hundreds of television shows. From “Skin Game” to “Lackawanna Blues,” Gossett captivated audiences with his commanding presence and versatile performances.

However, his portrayal of “Fiddler” in Alex Haley’s groundbreaking miniseries “Roots” earned Gossett critical acclaim, including an Emmy Award. The HistoryMakers noted that his golden touch extended to the big screen, where his role as Sergeant Emil Foley in “An Officer and a Gentleman” earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, making him a trailblazer in Hollywood history.

Beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Gossett was deeply committed to community activism. In 1964, he co-founded a theater group for troubled youth alongside James Earl Jones and Paul Sorvino, setting the stage for his lifelong dedication to mentoring and inspiring the next generation. Gossett’s tireless advocacy for racial equality culminated in the establishment of Eracism, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating racism both domestically and abroad. Throughout his illustrious career, Gossett remained a beacon of strength and resilience, using his platform to uplift marginalized voices and champion social change. Gossett is survived by his children, Satie and Sharron.

The post Beloved Actor and Activist Louis Cameron Gossett Jr. Dies at 87 first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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COMMENTARY: D.C. Crime Bill Fails to Address Root Causes of Violence and Incarceration

WASHINGTON INFORMER — The D.C. crime bill and so many others like it are reminiscent of the ‘94 crime bill, which produced new and harsher criminal sentences, helped deploy thousands of police and surveilling methods in Black and brown communities, and incentivized more states to build prisons through a massive infusion of federal funding. While it is not at the root of mass incarceration, it significantly accelerated it, forcing a generation of Black and brown families into a never-ending cycle of state-sanctioned violence and incarceration.
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By Kaili Moss and Jillian Burford | Washington Informer

Mayor Bowser has signed the “Secure DC” omnibus bill passed by the D.C. Council last month. But we already know that this bill will be disastrous for all of D.C., especially for Black and brown residents.

While proponents claim that this legislation “will make D.C. residents safer and more secure,” it actually does nothing to address the root of the harm in the first place and instead maintains a cycle of violence, poverty, and broken community ties. The omnibus bill calls for increased surveillance, drug-free zones, and will expand pre-trial detention that will incarcerate people at a significantly higher rate and for an indeterminate amount of time before they are even tried. This bill will roll back decades of nationwide policy reform efforts and initiatives to keep our communities safe and whole, which is completely contradictory to what the “Secure” D.C. bill claims it will do.

What is unfolding in Washington, D.C., is part of a dangerous national trend. We have seen a resurrection of bad crime bills in several jurisdictions across the country — a phenomenon policy experts have named “zombie laws,” which are ineffective, costly, dangerous for communities of color and, most importantly, will not create public safety. Throwing more money into policing while failing to fund preventative measures does not keep us safe.

The D.C. crime bill and so many others like it are reminiscent of the ‘94 crime bill, which produced new and harsher criminal sentences, helped deploy thousands of police and surveilling methods in Black and brown communities, and incentivized more states to build prisons through a massive infusion of federal funding. While it is not at the root of mass incarceration, it significantly accelerated it, forcing a generation of Black and brown families into a never-ending cycle of state-sanctioned violence and incarceration. Thirty years later, despite spending billions each year to enforce these policies with many of these provisions remaining in effect, it has done very little to create long-term preventative solutions. Instead, it placed a permanent moving target on the backs of Black people, and the D.C. crime bill will do the same.

The bill calls for more pretrial detention. When our loved ones are held on pretrial detention, they are held on the presumption of guilt for an indeterminate amount of time before ever seeing a judge, which can destabilize people and their families. According to experts at the Malcolm Weimer Center for Social Policy at Harvard University, just one day in jail can have “devastating consequences.” On any given day, approximately 750,000 people are held in jails across the nation — a number that beats our nation’s capital population by about 100,000. Once detained, people run the risk of losing wages, jobs, housing, mental and health treatments, and time with their families. Studies show that pretrial detention of even a couple of days makes it more likely for that person to be rearrested.

The bill also endangers people by continuing a misguided and dangerous War on Drugs, which will not get drugs off the street, nor will it deter drug use and subsequent substance use disorders (SUDs). Drug policies are a matter of public health and should be treated as such. Many states such as Alabama, Iowa and Wisconsin are treating the current fentanyl crisis as “Crack 2.0,” reintroducing a litany of failed policies that have sent millions to jails and prisons instead of prioritizing harm reduction. Instead, we propose a simple solution: listen to members of the affected communities. Through the Decrim Poverty D.C. Coalition, community members, policy experts and other stakeholders formed a campaign to decriminalize drugs and propose comprehensive legislation to do so.

While there are many concerning provisions within the omnibus bill, car chases pose a direct physical threat to our community members. In July 2023, NBC4 reported that the D.C. Council approved emergency legislation that gave MPD officers the ability to engage in vehicular pursuits with so-called “limited circumstances.” Sgt. Val Barnes, the head of MPD’s carjacking task force, even expressed concern months before the decision, saying, “The department has a pretty strict no-chase policy, and obviously for an urban setting and a major metropolitan city, that’s understandable. If our law enforcement officers themselves are operating with more concern than our elected officials, what does it say about the omnibus bill’s purported intention to keep us safe?

And what does it mean when the risk of bodily harm is posed by the pursuit itself? On Saturday, Feb. 10, an Eckington resident had a near-miss as a stolen car barreled towards her and her dog on the sidewalk with an MPD officer in pursuit. What responsibility does the city hold if this bystander was hit? What does restitution look like? Why are our elected officials pushing for MPD officers to contradict their own policies?

Just a few summers ago during the uprisings of 2020, we saw a shift in public perspectives on policing and led to legislation aimed at limiting police power after the highly-publicized murders of loved ones Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — both victims of War on Drugs policing and the powers gained from the ’94 crime bill. And yet here we are. These measures do not keep us safe and further endanger the health of our communities.  Studies show that communities that focus on harm reduction and improving material conditions have a greater impact on public safety and community health. What’s missing in mainstream conversations about violent crime is the violence that stems from state institutions and structures that perpetuate racial and class inequality. The people of D.C. deserve to feel safe, and that includes feeling safe from the harms enacted by the police.

Kaili Moss is a staff attorney at Advancement Project, a national racial justice and legal organization, and Jillian Burford is a policy organizer at Harriet’s Wildest Dreams.

The post COMMENTARY: D.C. Crime Bill Fails to Address Root Causes of Violence and Incarceration first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Mayor, City Council President React to May 31 Closing of Birmingham-Southern College

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — “This is a tragic day for the college, our students, our employees, and our alumni, and an outcome so many have worked tirelessly to prevent,” Rev. Keith Thompson, chairman of the BSC Board of Trustees said in an announcement to alumni. “We understand the devastating impact this has on each of you, and we will now direct our efforts toward ensuring the smoothest possible transition for everyone involved.”
The post Mayor, City Council President React to May 31 Closing of Birmingham-Southern College first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Barnett Wright | The Birmingham Times

Birmingham-Southern College will close on May 31, after more than a century as one of the city’s most respected institutions.

“This is a tragic day for the college, our students, our employees, and our alumni, and an outcome so many have worked tirelessly to prevent,” Rev. Keith Thompson, chairman of the BSC Board of Trustees said in an announcement to alumni. “We understand the devastating impact this has on each of you, and we will now direct our efforts toward ensuring the smoothest possible transition for everyone involved.”

There are approximately 700 students enrolled at BSC this semester.

“Word of the decision to close Birmingham Southern College is disappointing and heartbreaking to all of us who recognize it as a stalwart of our community,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a statement. “I’ve stood alongside members of our City Council to protect this institution and its proud legacy of shaping leaders. It’s frustrating that those values were not shared by lawmakers in Montgomery.”

Birmingham City Council President Darrell O’Quinn said news of the closing was “devastating” on multiple levels.

“This is devastating for the students, faculty members, families and everyone affiliated with this historic institution of higher learning,” he said. “It’s also profoundly distressing for the surrounding community, who will now be living in close proximity to an empty college campus. As we’ve seen with other institutions that have shuttered their doors, we will be entering a difficult chapter following this unfortunate development …   We’re approaching this with resilience and a sense of hope that something positive can eventually come from this troubling chapter.”

The school first started as the merger of Southern University and Birmingham College in 1918.

The announcement comes over a year after BSC officials admitted the institution was $38 million in debt. Looking to the Alabama Legislature for help, BSC did not receive any assistance.

This past legislative session, Sen. Jabo Waggoner sponsored a bill to extend a loan to BSC. However, the bill subsequently died on the floor.

Notable BSC alumni include former New York Times editor-in-chief Howell Raines, former U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Perry O. Hooper Sr.

This story will be updated.

The post Mayor, City Council President React to May 31 Closing of Birmingham-Southern College first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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