Yeshimabeit Milner is co-founder and executive director of Data for Black Lives. Raised in Miami, FL, Yeshimabeit began organizing against the school-to-prison pipeline at Power U Center for Social Change as a high school senior. There she developed a lifelong commitment to movement building as a vehicle for creating and sustaining large-scale social change. Yeshimabeit returned to Power U in 2013 to lead a victorious campaign to improve breastfeeding policies at the largest public hospital in the country. More recently, she was a campaign manager at Color of Change, where she spearheaded several major national initiatives, including OrganizeFor, the only online petition platform dedicated to building the political voice of Black people, and a successful campaign to remove Bill O’Reilly from television. She has a BA from Brown University and serves on the board of the Highlander Center in Tennessee.
Data for Black Lives is a movement of activists, organizers, scientists, and engineers committed to the mission of using data science to create concrete and measurable change in the lives of Black people. For far too long, data and technology have been weaponized against Black communities, reinforcing inequality and perpetuating injustice. But we know that new advances in data science and technology can and will be powerful instruments for social change.
Over the past ten years, dozens of US cities have appointed Chief Data Officers, and many more have unveiled open data portals, in which troves of data are made available to the public. With these new initiatives, there is more data on Black people than ever before. But little of this data is being used to address the pressing issues facing Black communities.
We will be building a national network of Chief Data Officers and other elected officials with a commitment to using open data to promote racial equity. Coordinating with this network, we will amass the largest trove of historical and real-time data on Black people. Because it will take more than access to the data to create change – we will be developing a toolkit to empower people to use open data to win policy and advocacy campaigns, shift media narratives, and build real political and economic power.