Oak Park native charts nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

In 2010, around the same time that "The Social Network" was playing on big screens worldwide, there was another network in the making with a similar goal in mind — to bring the world together. But not through "likes."

Oak Park native Alisa Robinson envisions helping people understand each other better through a network of ideas.

Robinson is the founder and creator of Elephrame, a website with one primary goal: "To help curious people like me," Robinson writes on her site, "understand the world through other people's eyes."

With sage-like clarity the Fenwick High School alum explained what Elephrame, the combination of "elephant" and "frame," means.

First, Robinson wanted to highlight that this new venture was bringing different perspectives together. The second part, the "elephant" part of Elephrame, was inspired by an Indian proverb she once heard.

In the proverb a group of blind men are led to an elephant and each is asked to describe what he is touching. One describes the tail, another describes what he feels, but all of these are pieces of the whole.

"That's what Elephrame is about; bringing people with different frames of references together to get to the truth."

Anyone can create a free account on the site to contribute their thoughts and ideas.

"Initially I wanted to have people come on [Elephrame] and talk about a topic they were interested in," said Robinson.

Those topics could be anything from time travel to Eric Garner, a 43-year-old man who died in Staten Island, New York in July 2014 after being put in a chokehold by a New York City police officer. But in December, after months of Black Lives Matter marches and protests, Robinson began to wonder how many demonstrations were happening nationwide. So, she set out to document them.

Robinson graduated from the University of Chicago in 2010 with an undergraduate degree in political science. With only a small amount of experience with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) under her belt, Robinson taught herself how to write computer code by going to the library and using online tutorials.

Elephrame has undergone some redesigns, Robinson said, but now the site includes a comprehensive list of Black Lives Matter demonstrations going back to July 19, 2014.

With daily Google searches, Robinson compiles a list that includes the location, number of demonstrators, date, time and motive for a number of demonstrations around the country as well as a link to a news source explaining more about the event.

"When I started this project in December it took about three to four days to get the bulk of the information," said Robinson. "Now it takes about 10 minutes to an hour."

Elephrame receives about 20 to 30 visits to the site per day, Robinson said. But size is not one of Robinson's primary concerns right now, it is documenting the movement.

"I think the reason it is important to record this is because people stood up and it is important to show just how big the movement got," she said.

Robinson not only documents demonstrations, she also participates in them locally, including the December Black Lives Matter rally in Scoville Park.

Reader Comments

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PO Transplant  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 8:38 AM

Really? - If you link to the original story, you'll see that the crowd was more diverse than the picture above would indicate. I do think the estimate of 700 people in the story is high. I was downtown and saw part of the demonstration, and it looked like half that.


Posted: January 19th, 2015 5:29 AM

Hey check that out.... They put a token black person in the article pic. Funny, from the looks of the demographics of the pic of the protesters you would think that black lives only matter to geriatric white burn outs cause there seems to be a lack of diversity at the function.


Posted: January 18th, 2015 3:58 PM

Can we also get a map of crime incidents where blacks murder or rob whites? How about a map of the "all lives matter" marches?

Bob Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 10:58 PM

Thank you Alisa Robinson for documenting a very promising social movement against the endemic racism that is so pervasive in our society.

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