City of Asheville earns GIS award for racial equity mapping project

Cover to presentation titled Mapping Racial Equity in Asheville, NC




The City of Asheville was recently awarded the North Carolina G. Herbert Stout Award for Visionary Use of GIS in support of the City’s Mapping Racial Equity project.


Asheville was recognized during the 2019 N.C. GIS Conference in Winston-Salem. City Council officials received the award during their May 14 meeting.


GIS is a geographic information system used as a framework for gathering, managing and analyzing data.


The GIS team worked with the Equity & Inclusion office to map and record some of Asheville’s history around race. This included mapping out areas where red-lining and urban renewal occurred. They also crowd-sourced African American history, displacement and neighborhood change.


The City of Asheville is a member of the Government Alliance on Racial Equity (GARE) and is able to use its resources and network to continue learning and advancing racial equity goals in Asheville.  “In order for transformation to occur, an understanding of our racialized history is required,” said Kimberlee Archie, Director of Equity and Inclusion for the City of Asheville. “There are specific past and current policies, procedures, practices, and budget decisions that result in disparate outcomes by race.  A mapping tool such as this is critical for us to use for change to occur.”


The motivation for creating this project was to apply spatial analysis to learn about “the where” when looking at statistics around race, history and economic and educational achievement gaps.  In an organization, learning, talking, and analysis about “the where” is how we solve problems and how we can create change.


“Having equity data in our GIS means that it is accessible and allows us to integrate it into everything we do as an organization, which will help us reach our equity goals,” said City GIS Manager Christen McNamara.


In January 2016, City Council created a 20-year vision for the City, which included the statement “cultural diversity and social and economic equity are evident in all that we do.” Equity is recognizing that not everyone begins from the same place or has the same opportunities or obstacles — and some may need something different or more than others.