Mapping Black California works to clarify social issues in Inland Empire and beyond – San Bernardino Sun

An initiative gives clarity and transparency to social issues through story maps.

Mapping Black California, an initiative of the Black Voice Foundation and the Black Voice News, was founded in 2015. Paulette Brown-Hinds, publisher of the Black Voice News and founder of Voice Media Ventures, launched the effort in answer to President Obama’s call to increase the number of Black professionals working in data and technology.

Brown-Hinds partnered with the Redlands-based Esri, seeing an opportunity to take data about the community about which the Black Voice News has been reporting for 45 years and create interactive, informative and visual stories. Using GIS tools including Esri’s ArcGIS, Story Maps, and ArcGIS Hub to understand California’s Black community, the initiative quantifies social, political and economic issues affecting the population.

“We really view Mapping Black California as filling a huge need,” Mapping Black California Project Director Candice Mays said. “We want Black Californians to be an informed population armed with data-driven and visualized knowledge.”

While Black Californians know the issues they are experiencing, they often don’t have the data to demonstrate them, according to Mays. Creating data-driven story maps illuminates the issues, creating stories that are backed by numbers and are easy to understand.

Recently, Mapping Black California partnered with UC Berkeley Kelly Research and the Outreach Lab at UC Berkeley, to give students experience and publication credit for their research. The lab funded two interns to work with Mapping Black California researching the percentage of municipal budgets allocated to police departments in cities throughout California. The project culminated with creating a map to visualize the expenditures on policing in 472 cities.

“We want to create a pipeline of GIS professionals who are Black or learn to look at data through a multicultural lens,” Mays said. “Watching all the things they were learning taught me things as well.”

Currently, Mapping Black California is creating a database of Black-led organizations and then will expand this work into a hub to serve as a resource. The Hub will create a platform that assists community-based organizations in combining resources, working together and getting out of their silos.

While there is a mountain of data available for organizations to review, there is no easy means to visualize what it means, according to Mays. Having accessible and digestible information that can be searched by region will illuminate trends and inform recommendations to help Black-led organizations serve their communities.

“In order to affect policy, you need to have a seat at the table, and we want the Hub to create those tables for ourselves,” Mays said. “We’ll set the table and invite everyone to come.”

Mapping Black California has a fund held by the Inland Empire Community Foundation, which supports GIS education programs for Black young people. This includes supporting GIS training at Ignite Leadership Academy for middle school girls, C3 Coding Camp, and In The Breach programs for Black youths in Riverside.

Recently, Mapping Black California received a grant from the Mapping Black California Fund from the Inland Empire Community Foundation to support the hiring of additional personnel and hopes to continue to grow.

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