A Crisis Mapper Comes Home

Dear America, the waters are quite muddy and the flood continues its rise with slow creep.

One of the many privileges I’ve experienced in my life has been the opportunity to live abroad and see the richness of humanity that exists beyond our borders. I’ve worked over a decade in the international development and complex emergency management space.

This exposure provides me a unique perspective on the events unfolding today on the lands my ancestors settled a couple generations ago. We are a complicated nation with a past steeped in some hard truths and bitter roots. Today we are experiencing a political climate that encourages the worst of those histories. This is a space in which white supremacy, misogynistic violence and xenophobia are actively encouraged to thrive.

WE CAN’T HEAL WITHOUT TRUTH & TANGIBLE PATHWAYS FOR RECONCILIATION

It was over a decade ago that I first learned of a citizen reporting platform called Ushahidi put together by a group of journalists, hackers and community organizers to document the unfolding civil conflict and violence in the wake of Kenya’s disputed 2008 Presidential election. Since that time I’ve witnessed this crowdsourced platform deployed to monitor everything from the South Sudan Independence vote to post-earthquake crisis response in Haiti.

So when I heard that a collective was forming to monitor the lead up to the 2020 Presidential Election, the actual day of voting and the events continuing to unfold with results that flow in; I was grateful to know that the lessons learned by the global community after a decade of crisis mapping and humanitarian response to complex conflicts are now being brought to bear with the Election Incident Report (EIRUSA) project.

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The initiative has teams of hundreds of volunteers working 24/7 around the world to monitor, geo-locate and document reports coming in and push information to folks on the ground. This information is verified and then published to an Ushahidi instance so that leads working in close collaboration with the Trust Network can push resources locally where early warning indicators for violent conflict arise. It will also serve as a source of witness.

History takes the long view. Humans have conjured so many ways to demarcate and divide ourselves. Mechanisms we have used to justify our petty wars. Lies we tell ourselves while turning blind eyes to genocides, cruel atrocities, and state sanctioned brutalities. We are socialized so young in America to normalize and worship the artificial construct of race and allow ourselves to be seduced by the unearned privileges of it’s comforts. The ways we justify the segmentation from and subjugation of our neighbors allows the profound harms perpetrated against too many generations to continue to happen in our country unabated to this day. Our current condition is simply the manifestations, the symptoms of our systemic, chronic and I pray, terminal disease.

Having grown up straddling the digital to analog divide it is hard to wrap my head around what it might have looked like otherwise. To paint a picture in my mind of what a possible future made better by the deconstruction of these oppressor’s designs might actually look like. We watch extrajudicial killings on our social media live streams, people with whole lives snuffed out before our eyes. Then we put the smartphone down and expose ourselves to the replication of those realities in the dramas that unfold on our television’s at night. We have become desensitized to one another’s suffering in this our own United — but in truth — divided United States.

It is my hope that we can weather this with dignity and work towards healing on the other side. Make no mistake though, we are very much still scattered throughout the wood on darkest night afraid to call out and close the distances between one another.

Election Day (Tuesday, November 3rd 2020) was one day, but as we are seeing with each passing hour since then, this election — even once called — will be far from over. As I write, there are individuals in Michigan trying to obstruct election officials from counting ballots and violent protests occurring in Oregon. There are many more incidents expected to unfold over the coming days as well.

This is a time of truth for us now, America. It gives me a measure of comfort to know the lessons learned in the crisis mapping and humanitarian response space over the last decade will be brought forward to bear witness for the lands my family has settled on in whatever happens next.

Having participated in a diversity of these deployments as a geo-location and research analyst collaborating with concerned citizens around the world scrambling to provide first responders with critical ground intelligence, I know the work being done behind the scenes.

THIS IS MY DEEP BOW TO ALL OF YOU.

To the hundreds of my fellow citizens on the ground who are putting their bodies on the street, volunteering to make this project possible; my humble gratitude. Thank you for watching — bearing collective witness. For those on the Nairobi desk at Ushahidi and the many seasoned monitors in various global geographies keeping an eye out while most of the American nation stumbles fitfully and fatigued with little sleep. There is no algorithm that could effectively replace the empathetic human work you do.

Thank you. Thank you.Thank You

We are very much blundering through the thick woods of a reckoning so many generations in the making. It is my sincere hope that we can weather these next days and the months that follow with dignity and demonstrate an ability to rise above our petty ignorance and confront the truth of our lineage.

Written by

Vagabond wander-lust. Data nerd - Mapping hacktivist. Mothering an Organism - Occupying this magnificent rock hurtling through space.

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