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

Brown-Hinds partnered with Esri, seeing an opportunity to take the data about the community that Black Voice News had been reporting for 45 years and create interactive, informative, and visual stories. Utilizing GIS tools including Esri’s ArcGIS, Story Maps, and ArcGIS Hub to understand California’s Black population, 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 that they are experiencing, they often don’t have the data to demonstrate them, according to Mays. Creating data-drive 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 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 working to create a database of Black-led organizations and then to expand this work into a hub that will 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 that is held by the Inland Empire Community Foundation which supports GIS education programs for Black young people. This currently includes supporting GIS training at Ignite Leadership Academy for middle school girls, C3 Coding Camp, and In The Breach programs for Black youth in Riverside.

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

Those interested in seeing some of Mapping Black California’s work can visit Black Voice News. Mays encourages readers to visit their site as well as and other community local news and local news of color. Community news offers other perspectives and is a way to get a thorough understanding of a community’s make up and experiences, Mays said.

“It is important to create data that is accessible and digestible for all,” Mays said. “We tell the story around our maps so people connect and understand.”

More information: https://blackvoicenews.com or (951) 682-6070

This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, March 2022