Cartography as activism

Over at The Conversation, geographers Derek Alderman (University of Tennessee) and Joshua Inwood (Penn State) teach us about “counter-mapping,” the practice of using maps to communicate information about inequality. Their piece focuses on the Black Panther’s use of counter-mapping in the 1960s and 1970s.

Here is a taste:

How can maps fight racism and inequality?

The work of the Black Panther Party, a 1960s- and 1970s-era Black political group featured in a new movie and a documentary, helps illustrate how cartography – the practice of making and using maps – can illuminate injustice.

As these films show, the Black Panthers focused on African American empowerment and community survival, running a diverse array of programming that ranged from free school breakfasts to armed self-defense.

Cartography is a less documented aspect of the Panthers’ activism, but the group used maps to reimagine the cities where African Americans lived and struggled.

In 1971 the Panthers collected 15,000 signatures on a petition to create new police districts in Berkeley, California – districts that would be governed by local citizen commissions and require officers to live in the neighborhoods they served. The proposal made it onto the ballot but was defeated.

In a similar effort to make law enforcement more responsive to communities of color, the Panthers in the late 1960s also created a map proposing to divide up police districts within San Francisco, largely along racial lines.

Read the rest here.