Managing Editor’s Column: April/May 2017

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In mid-March, Boston Public Schools changed the world map used in their classrooms. Now, the 1569 Mercator projection, one familiar to most Americans, will hang side by side with the 1974 Gall-Peters projection. Each map reflects a very different perspective of the same world.

The Gall-Peters projection and the true relative size of the United States and Europe.

The trouble comes when trying to smooth the Earth’s round sphere into a map’s flat rectangle. Imagine slicing an orange in half and unwinding the peel, trying to make the flat edge you cut straighten out again. There are folds and bumps. Smoothing out the wrinkles creates distortions.

The power – the choice – is in the hands of the mapmaker. Gerardus Mercator shaped those folds to suit European colonial navigators. Trade routes across oceans became straight lines. Europe grew and became the center of the world as Africa and South America shrank. The Gall-Peters map warps the Earth in a different way. The shapes of the continents stretch but become proportionately sized.

It’s not surprising that the choice of one man, 500 years ago, could influence how we imagine the globe. It’s not surprising that those two maps, hanging side by side, tell two different stories of the same world. What might surprise is how powerful a reimagining can be.

With the Northside News as my map, I’ve learned more about the Northside since I started working with NPC last July. One of my first tasks (and still one of my favorites) was delivering the paper. From Troy Gardens to Kennedy Heights, Vera Court to WPCRC and NESCO to Brentwood and Sherman Plaza, these community cornerstones anchor my mental landscape of the Northside.

In this issue, the map will bring us into a tunnel beneath Sanitarium Hill and across the world to Kenya, accompanied by East High School students. Perhaps most of all, it will bring us an infectious excitement for warmer weather and spring. From spring cleaning, plant and rummage sales to nature walks, Springfest and the MSCR summer program guide, this issue is rich in opportunities to celebrate outside with neighbors.

It can often feel like we’re navigating an entirely different world from our neighbors. Sometimes we are. To chart a path forward, we’ll have to recognize our distortions. If the Northside News is a map, it will have to be a constantly reimagined map. What does it mean to be a Northsider? Where is your equator and what are your routes? We invite you to share your stories with us and with your neighbors.

Although we are emerging from a long winter, this issue reveals how Northsiders stayed busy during the cold months: sharing time, money, art and food (and diapers!) with each other and planning collaborative projects. This issue showcases the strength of Northside partnerships and the power of a community mapping out its future together.

I’m excited to join such a wonderful team and rich community as the managing editor of the Northside News. 

Oona Mackesey-Green, the Managing Editor, and Abha Thakkar, the Editor, can both be reached at editor@northsidenews.org.