For the month of February, we are taking a moment to celebrate Black History Month by amplifying and partnering with our Black community across our industry and our customers.
This month, we partnered with NorthStar of GIS to host a discussion called Empowerment Through Mapping with Mapbox customers Black & Abroad and the American Public Health Association (APHA). For this event, we explored their creative strategies and gained insight into how repurposing a traditional elevation map can bring joy and uplift conversations around community-focused data interpretation. Take a look at the replay here.
We sat down with Clinton Johnson (he/him), founder and a leader of NorthStar of GIS to learn more about their mission and share how our Black community and allies can get involved.
It has been so great to partner on such an important topic in our industry. Before we get started, could you tell us more about NorthStar of GIS?
Yes, we are excited to partner with Mapbox this month and find ways beyond February to continue this partnership.
For those who don’t know, NorthStar of GIS is a global movement working to create a more equitable, inclusive, and just world by empowering Black people and other marginalized communities with access to the full range of benefits from geoSTEM. We are a 501c3 nonprofit working to create a more racially-just world through more racially-just GIS, geography, and STEM fields.
Our vision is an equitable society where everyone has equal access to these resources, allowing them to make informed decisions to improve the world around them.
Through our integrated platform of education, advocacy, and action, we ensure that Black people have the resources and necessary skills to leverage geospatial data and tools in groundbreaking ways. We also seek to increase the capacity of organizations to use geospatial data and tools to drive social transformation and connect people around the world with opportunities relating to geoSTEM.
You and your team are doing incredible work. Could you share what type of problems you solve in the GIS and geoSTEM community?
The GIS community and other geoSTEM professionals are tasked with solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges. To make progress on climate change, urban planning, autonomous vehicles, and more, we must eliminate barriers to opportunity for Black people to join the geoSTEM field. We must also raise awareness of positive geography-related practices for antiracism and equity. We need an environment of equitable access and belonging that sparks innovation and allows different perspectives to be represented in problem-solving.
Wow, those are big goals. How does your organization support the community currently?
We believe that knowledge and resources should be shared, so at NorthStar of GIS we strive to support our community through education, advocacy, and action. Our platform connects Black geoSTEM students and professionals with mentors, organizations, and resources that support academic and career growth. We also promote awareness of the importance of diversity, equity, and belonging in geoSTEM fields by advocating for equitable policies. Finally, we help drive social transformation through collaborative activities such as professional development events, workshops, and more.
We recognize that there has often been a lack of representation of Black people in geoSTEM. We are committed to making meaningful change by focusing on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI). We center Black women and other Black people marginalized at the intersections of multiple systems of oppression while bringing together everyone into our mission. To achieve this, we often work with a coalition of partners from diverse backgrounds.
We agree as well and are excited to see how we can continue to partner in the future. Speaking of the future, what’s next for NorthStar of GIS?
We are too! We have many exciting events and campaigns for the year.
First, we have a social media campaign highlighting Black stars in geoSTEM, Black-Focused Black Founders, and our partners. We will be focusing our lens on rising and blazing stars in the geoSTEM community who are not always highlighted. We will also share the work of Black organizers and entrepreneurs who are committed to improving circumstances and outcomes for Black communities. Our campaign will also magnify the contributions and commitment of our partners. Those organizations work alongside NorthStar to create a climate and culture that embraces Black people and promotes racial justice.
Second, we have Black@GeoConferences which brings more NorthStar Experiences to the conferences that matter to our community. Currently, we are looking for the next set of conferences that can benefit from the NorthStar experiences which is aimed to increase the sense of community and belonging for Black attendees and their allies.
Lastly, we are excited to host Homecoming in November. This is our annual global symposium for the #MelanatedAndMapping community and our allies. In 2023, we will highlight Black geographers and lift up the work of Resistance and Resilience in Black communities around the globe. Homecoming R&R is also about Re-establishing Homecoming and Reclaiming space for important conversations.
Wow! So many great things are happening this year. For those who can’t attend or participate, how can they get involved?
Of course! We have many ways for our community and allies to support NorthStar of GIS. First, please engage with our campaigns throughout the year. Follow us on social media: LinkedIn - gisNorthStar and Twitter - @gisNorthStar
You can also join our Melanated & Mapping Community as a member or as a partner, and also put yourself on the map and add yourself to our directory of GIS professionals of African descent.
Additionally, I mentioned that we are hosting Homecoming during Geography Week in November 2023. Check out more information about Homecoming and stay tuned for more!
Thank you Clinton and the NorthStar of GIS team for your partnership this month. Please visit gisNorthStar.org for more information and continue to follow them on social media to stay up-to-date on their work.