ANJEL Tech is a new app designed by James A. Samuel, Jr. that turns any smartphone into a powerful body cam. The recent conviction of Derek Chauvin relied heavily on the smartphone video evidence captured by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier. With the ever-increasing number of police killings and racial profiling, James Samuel, Jr. says he was tired of raising kids in a world that forces them to understand they are unsafe in their skin before learning their ABCs.
ANJEL Tech is not only for interactions with police. The app is a solution to increase safety and peace of mind for anyone. Allowing a smartphone to become a body cam creates a lifeline to loved ones to increase safety and accountability. The Chicago Defender spoke with James Samuel, Jr., exclusively about his ANJEL Tech app and the future of app designs catering to Black people.
Chicago Defender: What was your motivation for creating the ANJEL Tech app?
James Samuel, Jr.: I founded this company based on an experience I had in 2017. My wife and I were driving from Atlanta Hartsfield to Huntsville, Alabama, to see my mother-in-law. We put her address in our navigation system and were on our way with our kids’ sleep in their car seats. About halfway through the trip, we realized that we were someplace we were no longer comfortable. We looked around, we saw all the Confederate flags, and the Trump signs, and we are like, “okay, where are we?, and where has this navigation system taken us”?
I said to my wife there is no reason that in the 21st century, this GPS should not have known that we were black and told us to go a better way. We need our own system to help us navigate smarter.
And so, two years later, I founded a company based on that premise of navigating smartly based on your identity, not just how fast you want to get somewhere or how much traffic there is, but where is the safest place for you to go?
Chicago Defender: Like the Green Book?
James Samuel: We picked up on what Victor Hugo did, and we started to create a 21st-century version of that. In that app was a feature called Anjel. We started building that out until George Floyd happened in Minneapolis on the 25th of May last year. When George Floyd was murdered, something changed in me. I have two young black sons—my beautiful brown boys. I saw them on that pavement; I saw myself on that pavement. I saw my father, brother, uncle, I saw every black man I know on that pavement, and it broke something in me. I will never be the same.
We decided to take the Anjel feature out of the original navigation app and make it a standalone body cam app. I said we had to make this happen immediately because this needs to get out right now. I made that decision in June, and 105 days later, it was in the Apple store. We joined the Google play store in January this year.
Chicago Defender: Depending on which subscription you purchase, you can have up to nine people on an account?
James Samuel, Jr.: Yes, for example, my sister has a subscription, my brother has his family subscription plan, and my mother is on my plan. The three of us have tied our plans together. So, when I stream, my brother and sister get the stream, and when they stream, I get it. We have designed it so that you can combine these plans on our platform, and they will work with large families.
Chicago Defender: How does this app work?
James Samuel, Jr.: When activated, the ANJEL Tech app sends a live stream of the incident and alerts with GPS directions to the person’s location to the loved ones specified by you. This way, loved ones can be there in an instant or send help to your location. The app is also discreet so that any person in need can quietly ask for help without an aggressor noticing. This could be helpful for anyone in a potentially dangerous situation, like a domestic violence incident.
The app automatically saves the audio and footage that could be used later as evidence. What makes this unique is the video and audio are kept secure and accessible in the “cloud,” unlike police cams that can be edited or deleted.
Chicago Defender: Who can use the ANJEL Tech app?
James Samuel, Jr.: Anyone who could have their safety or security at risk. It is for parents, women, men, domestic violence victims, elder abuse victims, or human trafficking victims. Everyone should have this app.
Chicago Defender: So, the ANJEL Tech app is not just used to record interactions with police, but anytime you are in danger?
James Samuel, Jr.: That is correct. Police interaction was the first because that one was most relevant. Especially for the body camera, because we know that, like in the case of Andrew Brown in North Carolina. Yeah, getting that body camera footage is critical if you must sue or need it as evidence, especially since each state has its own laws regarding releasing body cam footage.
Chicago Defender: I think it puts the power back into our hands.
James Samuel, Jr.: Exactly, and it is secure and discreet. It does not record to your phone; it records to the cloud. So, if someone threw your phone in the lake or destroyed your phone, your family or the people you specify in the app have access to the file in real-time and can download that file immediately after.
Chicago Defender: What do you envision for the future of this app or any future apps catering to Black people?
James Samuel, Jr., As African Americans for the past 400 years, we have had to develop and maintain a cultural wisdom and doctrine in passing information from generation to generation. It is changed because the laws have changed. Before, there were the black codes, sundown codes, Jim Crow laws, voting laws, and so much more. As black people, we have had to safely develop this wisdom of how to be in our environment. So, what we have done is developed this technology to go along with that wisdom. Angel tech was designed to go along with “The Talk” so that it is not just talk anymore; now there’s tech. And there is a solution that enables those families to have awareness so they know where their kids and loved ones are. This technology was designed to go along with that talk and provide solutions and awareness. We are also working with Black and Missing because this app could help track missing persons.
Chicago Defender: It is such a scary time because anything can happen.
James Samuel, Jr.: The Anti-Defamation League, the Legal Defense Fund and Southern Poverty Law Center have all collected information on extremism, and it is growing. White supremacy and domestic terrorism is not going away. It is not slowing down and it is not going to get better; it will worsen. Black people must take extraordinary means using all the technology available. We must have our communities working together to protect ourselves in a way that our parents and our grandparents had to do but worse. That is the technology that I am developing for us. I want to provide those solutions, and it will help to recirculate our money within our community.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.