The Marian Cheek Jackson Center's CartoDB grant makes waves on a local level!

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CartoDB prides itself on helping empower organizations and people to achieve great things and make the world a better place. Our ever-growing climate and non-profit grants have provided innovative organizations with tools and infrastructure to have meaningful impact from the neighborhood all the way up to the world.

The Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History has been one of our most recent grant recipients this year. They have been working with citizens in Chapel Hill North Carolina to create meaningful conversations and impactful change for communities on a local level! The Jackson Center’s award-winning work has helped reshape the narratives of equality and urban change in North Carolina and CartoDB is proud to provide the resources to empower individuals and communities. We sat down with Hudson Vaughan to talk about what’s next for The Jackson Center with CartoDB.

“This coalition…showed us what can happen when you combine powerful narratives and undeniable data with heart and determination.” - Joe Schwartz, The Independent Weekly, Citation for Indy Citizen Award in 2012.

Tell us a bit about the Jackson Center, your mission and previous work.

The Jackson Center was established in 2008 to respond to rapid demographic changes in the Northside, Pine Knolls and neighboring, historically African-American, low-wealth communities in Chapel Hill. Diversity in Chapel Hill has significantly decreased: the black population has fallen to 9.7% and the median home price has recently jumped to $427,000, making the town increasingly inaccessible for Chapel Hill’s low and moderate income households. Less than 40% of the University and Town workforce (and less than 15% of local service workers) live within 10-30 miles from their workplace, a sharp drop from the large percentage who were proud to call Chapel Hill home. Northside, Pine Knolls, and other neighboring African American communities have experienced a storm of transition due to predatory investment to provide student rentals in the “hot market” of downtown. In just ten years, the family population has been cut in half, and home prices and property taxes have skyrocketed as much as 400% – an increasing burden for 4th and 5th generation families hoping to stay for the long haul or families hoping to live in Chapel Hill’s most diverse neighborhoods.

The Jackson Center was formed to advance community self-determination and to preserve social and economic diversity in rapidly gentrifying African-American neighborhoods in Chapel Hill. We do this through community-first planning, creative communication strategies, history education, neighborhood leadership support, and organizing for systemic policy changes.

Our organization has eased long-standing divisions in Chapel Hill/Carrboro through innovative collaboration with multiple constituencies. We are proud of recent recognition by a regional “Indy Citizen Award” for being part of “a community movement that combines people of different generations, different backgrounds, different races and other preconceived notions of standing in society. It’s a movement about neighbors and what happens when people start truly living in community with each other.”

A few of our recent accomplishments:

Increased civic engagement through coalition-building: We organized hundreds of residents through a broad-based coalition “Sustaining Ourselves” to advocate policy changes that led to the passage of the Northside/Pine Knolls Community Plan and included a historic moratorium on development, sweeping policy changes, and over $350,000 additional annual allocations to affordable housing options, enforcement, business planning and development, and corrections to failed planning and development processes. Our coalition (SOS) was recognized with a regional Citizen Award for this effort. We also helped lead an effort to mobilized over $650,000 in affordable housing funds in Chapel Hill this year.

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Mobilized community leadership: In partnership with Self-Help credit union, we developed an original model for community development and convened a Northside Compass Group, a direction setting group for all housing and neighborhood strategies composed of 18 residents from every section of the neighborhoods of change. The group has met regularly since fall of 2012 to plot housing strategies and to develop neighborhood assets, drawing on external resources and building internal networks and collective power. Trained youth leaders: For over three years, our nationally acclaimed Fusion Youth Radio program has cultivated dozens of young voices in leading public dialogue, with shows on the school-to-prison pipeline, racial identity, immigration reform, and more. It has received acclaim from PRX and provided the basis for the esteemed WUNC (NPR) youth summer institute. Preserved and shared history: We have engaged and recorded over 200 oral histories of community members; staged major exhibitions and community renewal events; and piloted our new Learning Here and Now Across Generations high-impact curricula in collaboration with area schools and community mentors, which engaged over 1100 students K-12 in its first year.

Tell us a bit about your project and how you are engaging your community.

The project we are utilizing CartoDB for is called the Northside Neighborhood Initiative (NNI). This initiative has come from years of community engagement and leadership and continues to be guided by our community compass group, which includes residents from every section of the neighborhood. One of the key components of the effort is a landbank that allows us to purchase properties in transition and have community leaders help decide the future of these properties, with a strong priority on affordable and elder housing. The central goals are: 1. Helping long-term residents who want to stay in Northside remain in their homes; 2. Attracting new residents – a balance of working families, seniors and students – from diverse backgrounds; and 3. Increasing the availability of housing and financing options for neighborhood properties.

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How do you plan to use CartoDB to achieve great things in the community?

One of the ways that our organizing efforts have been successful over these years has been the utilization of community-owned data and maps.

Several years ago, we teamed up with the counter-cartographers collective to work with our coalition on a set of maps. Neighbors helped us identify and then collect data that showed the rise of investor ownership over ten years. These maps became focal points for our organizing efforts, showing the dramatic pressure that neighbors were experiencing from investors of student rental property. Combined with the stories of 4th and 5th generation families, these efforts caught the attention of the Chapel Hill Town Council and led to the beginnings of our current effort.

At the beginning of this project, we discussed trying to find a way to have easy community access to data sets and maps which neighbors help create, to provide ongoing ways to see the changes in the neighborhood, and ultimately, a way to measure the impact of this collaborative community-led effort. Our primary mapping expert and partner, Tim Stallman, identified CartoDB as the perfect platform to help our community do the many things we had hoped. We plan to utilize CartoDB to help us establish clear baseline data that will help us look at building conditions, racial and socioeconomic diversity, longevity, and a number of other factors identified by the community as significant. We then hope to utilize this amazing platform for ongoing impact, for community leadership trainings, and for use in ongoing advocacy efforts that will increase the affordability and diversity of our community.

How has partnering with CartoDB helped move the project forward?

CartoDB has already provided incredible support for this project, helping us set up the base platform which neighbors have already been excited to see. We have been collecting and updating community data with neighbors and staff members using fulcrum, which will be synced with CartoDB. From there, we will have a set of mapping layers which will provide exactly the kind of access that our neighborhood leaders need to continue to make this great effort succeed.

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Thank you Hudson for the inspiring work and great successes on behalf of Chapel Hill citizens. We at CartoDB are excited to watch the Northside Neighborhood Initiative come together as a community resource and impactful platform!

If you are a non-profit or group working towards making the world a better place, don’t forget to check out our climate and non-profit grants page!

Happy Data Mapping!

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