Asheville suffers significant racial disparities in many areas, from education, economics, and healthcare to housing and criminal justice. To find effective solutions to these complex, persistent challenges, we need a comprehensive resource that collects and enables data-driven research and analysis of outcomes along racial lines and makes the information accessible to our community. This is where the State of Black Asheville comes in. The website and analysis was founded by Dr. Dwight Mullen over 10 years ago as an undergraduate research project at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
The project “…includes an annual report about racial disparities in Asheville and a conference on the report with members of the Buncombe County community.”
Dr. Mullen said in an interview with WUNC Public Radio in 2017 that the project orginitated after Hurricane Katrina: “I had people in my classes from New Orleans who had been displaced. They were clearly traumatized and I needed to understand what was going on with them. In a public policy course I offered, I changed the curriculum and said, “Look, if a hurricane hit Asheville, who would be floating in the water? What would that look like?” It led to an examination of what’s going on with public policy areas and we arranged for the students who did the research to meet with the policy makers and it turned into the first conference.”
The Community Fellowship is a new program from Code for America that builds on their previous Fellowship program by taking an innovative approach to support projects that are impactful, sustainable, and locally-focused. Previous iterations of the Fellowship program located Fellows in San Francisco, where they worked on the challenges of a sponsor City. The “Community Fellowship” changes the approach by providing support and resources for brigade members to partner with community leaders and government officials to complete impactful projects in their own community.
Jesse Michel and Patrick Conant, former Co-Captains of Code for Asheville, have been named 2018 Community Fellows by Code for America for their work on the next version of the State of Black Asheville website. They will be collaborating with Dr. Dwight Mullen and Ashley Cooper as Community Partners, and Eric Jackson and Kimberlee Archie as Government Partners from the City of Asheville. With the fellowship, we have an opportunity to refocus on some of the more time-intensive technical concepts that we, at times, cannot build solely on a volunteer basis. While our fellowship project, The State of Black Asheville, does incorporate some exciting functionality to make it engaging and impactful, we ultimately chose to work on this project because of its wide community support and the serious need for statistical information on racial disparities in our City.
We will create a modern website that provides, for the first time, a comprehensive resource of all student papers and other research conducted over the past 10 years. The Fellowship Team will also work closely with City staff to build out data-driven enhancements within the criminal justice focus area. Using data requested in Code for Asheville’s recent Petition for Police Accountability Through Data Transparency, together with other sources, we will create a shared tool for addressing the issues underlying racial disparity in Asheville.
Dwight Mullen, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ashley Cooper, M.Ed. (email@example.com)
Patrick Conant (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jesse Michel (email@example.com)
City of Asheville Government Partners:
Kimberlee Archie, M.S.Ed. (Director, Equity & Inclusion)
Eric Jackson (Digital Services Architect, IT Dept.)