At 5:45 p.m. Sunday, Jesse Cosme stood outside Bass Supermarket in Sistrunk with the Pokémon Go app open on his iPhone. Cosme and three activists with the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward had spent a half-hour trying to catch the invisible Japanese monsters in Fort Lauderdale's historic black neighborhood but gave up.
The reason? PokéStops and gyms were sparse and significantly less frequent than a few blocks east in Flagler Village.
"Sistrunk is a Pokémon dead zone," Cosme says. "This is another instance of people who don't come and don't care about black communities."
Pokémon Go locations are crowdsourced from a database of historical markers that the company, Niantic Inc., purchased the rights to in 2011. It was created by thousands of volunteers who scoured neighborhoods across the country inputting sites. Like the Pokémon players, volunteers tended to be older, male, and English-speaking — which is the most obvious explanation for the noted disparity in PokéStops in black communities across the country.
Cosme wasn't surprised black communities were neglected in the app. But since locations were premised on historical landmarks, the 28-year-old figured Sistrunk, with its vibrant history, would be different. He was wrong.
A group of Black Lives Matter activists originally met at the Megaphone, a repurposed shipping container that regularly hosts community events like live music and lectures. There were no Pokémon there. They headed a few blocks east on Sistrunk Boulevard towards Powerline Road to Bass Supermarket, but still no luck. Even Carter Park, the central playground for Sistrunk's youth, was not a stop. The African American Research Library had a stop, but it was
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"The history of this community doesn't get acknowledged," Cosme says. "I've had my phone open for 30 minutes, and not a single Pokémon has popped up."
The nearest PokéStop was a quarter-mile away at Shaw Temple. The nearest one after that was at Mount Olive Church, another half a mile away. It was hot and clearly not a walkable game for the group of friends. The activists called it a day. (This reporter drove to these two stops and to another at the Old Dillard Museum. After 15 minutes, no Pokémon had appeared.)
A few days ago, Kotaku reported that users can now request Pokémon stops by filling out a form on the app's website. But it appears that feature is no longer working. It's a shame because Cosme has a list of places in Sistrunk that he believes should be added: Betty's Soulfood Restaurant, Bass Supermarket, Lincoln Park, the Megaphone.
"There are a lot of historical landmarks and businesses here in Sistrunk," Cosme says, "but only the ones further east get picked up."