Open Cleveland Statement for Racial Justice by The Open Cleveland Team

9 July 2020

Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” As a community of volunteers with technology and civic data in the Cleveland area, we reiterate that Black Lives Matter, and that we will fight against racism and white supremacy. We share the demands Black members of our community and allies have made for generations for justice.

The needless deaths of George Floyd, Desmond Franklin, Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and numerous other Black Americans is abhorrent and continues a pattern of abuse and racism sanctioned by public policy and the willingness of bystanders, elected leaders, and citizens to allow injustice to continue unchecked. Violence against Black members of our community is the most blatant and horrifying manifestation of white supremacy, we understand that it is not the only problem and that technology and open data can be used to further white supremacy.

Technology and open data are inherently political. How a technology is designed and used and what civic data - quantitative data that is usually managed by a local government that describes a government’s function - lengths of sentences, road information, and more. - is collected, how it’s organized, how it is shared, and how it is used is critical and should be determined before it is made. The technology that we build upon and data that we use and share can be used for harm regardless of our intentions. This also applies to our local government.

We aim to put our skills and experience to work to dismantle all forms of white supremacy, in government and beyond. These recent events remind us of our responsibility to take a more active role in both directly dismantling the systems that have continued to oppress members of our community, and in supporting the organizations and leaders who have been working for generations to carry out this vital work.

For organizations in Cleveland leading in this fight, please know that these are not empty words: starting immediately, our brigade can continually improve to serve our community and the cause of justice better. We understand that it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and examine our own actions, and then strive to meaningfully partner with and support the people who have been doing this work for longer than we have. If our experience and skills can be helpful to your organization, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to talk with you about how we can assist on all things tech-related.

For allies in the Cleveland area who wish to contribute to locally based organizations that fight against racism, we encourage you to get to know and support including and not limited to:

For information on Code for America’s (our partner affiliate) work on reforming the criminal justice system and improving the equality of access to government programs, read the statement by CEO Amanda Renteria and Open Cleveland’s Code of Conduct that strives to create anti-racist environment for our attendees.