Recently, I’ve seen presentations by three different organizations – one non-profit, one corporate, and one government - which featured graphic maps on websites that allowed one to scroll over neighborhoods to see where certain public health issues were clustered.
They all had very similar indicators to show where the obesity, violence, diabetes, high blood pressure, drug use and single-female headed households were. Guess what communities these clusters were in. The presenters were so excited that "we can show you where these
problems, I mean, issues are." As if we didn't know where they were before the expensive website was created.
There are some indicators I didn’t see on their maps because they weren’t looking for them. If I were really interested in mapping/cataloguing people and problems, this is some of what I would like to know:
- What neighborhoods have the most anorexics?
What is the point of this data collection? (Other than the lining some evaluators’ and mappers’ pockets.)
What will it do for those of us whose neighborhoods are studied/probed and analyzed/picked-apart?
- Is the point to make some of us feel better or and some of us feel worse? Is it to emphasize notions of superiority and inferiority?
- Is it so real-estate brokers or Boston magazine's annual issue can tell you where you don't want to live?
- Is the belief that this data tells the whole story of a community?
Can outsiders truly analyze and devise treatments and/or solutions for communities that they don’t know intimately, whose struggles and triumphs they haven’t shared or, in many cases, don’t know about?
Now that I'm done with my questions, allow me to rant:
Dear big computer company: The keynote speaker for a technology conference for students and their parents shouldn’t be a boxer (professional though he is) who says throughout his talk “I don’t understand technology” and is most excited about his new big screen TV. Really, that's the best keynote speaker you could find? (Hint: before you pay big bucks for someone you think will attract students…he didn’t by the way…how about making sure he knows how to give a talk? Unnamed (by me) boxer could have used some coaching. His presentation was embarrassing - filled with silences while he struggled to find something relevants to say.
Couldn’t you find a speaker of color who was accomplished in the technology field? They do exist.Or how about having a small panel featuring some young people of color who actually work with or in technology? You could have used some of your very own technicians that were on hand at EduTech Fair.
Dear big, powerful foundation:
Why didn’t you invite the editor or publisher or a reporter from the Bay State Banner, a professional newspaper published weekly for decades to participate in your panel? That would have made the representative of the Black press parallel with the other panelists. (A representative from the Latino press would also have been a solid choice.)
The panel had a professional from the Boston Globe, a managing editor from Dorchester Reporter, an Executive Editor from WBUR and the co-director/senior investigative producer for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting. And you select as representative of Black media a non-professional activist who publishes a poorly designed, badly written screed ?
If the panel had been about grassroots media or bloggers, your choice would have made sense. But the person you chose. Nada. Not even close.
Measuring what we value was your subtitle. Let me tell you what I value. I value is integrity, honesty, pragmatism and empowerment. I value giving communities/people hope instead of reinforcing despair. How about taking the $ from the studies and creating some honest-to-goodness, real jobs and other opportunities that will make people’s lives better? How about examining families who live in the issue-packed neighborhoods that are productive, educated, concerned and caring? How about figuring out how to share what and how they were able to triumph through or escape the negative forces?
I see such people every day. I live among them. I work with them. Take off your blinders, expand your thinking, and acome up with some different data to measure or measure everyone's shit. What I would like is that we feel that all of our citizens who are hurting get help, that all of our children get the best education (and we already know what the best education looks like), that all our neighborhoods are vibrant, and that all of our problems are solved rather than studied, mapped, and sighed over yet again!