The Black Elevation Map

//  02.01.22


This New Map Visualizes Black Cultural Data as Elevation

Black & Abroad launches data-driven follow-up to its celebrated “Go Back To Africa” campaign.

Two years after its provocative and acclaimed pan-Africa tourism campaign “Go Back To Africa,” travel brand Black & Abroad has launched a powerful, data-driven domestic travel platform: “The Black Elevation Map”.

Residing at, the platform takes cultural data, including Black population data, historical markers, Black-owned businesses and social media activity, and visualizes it as points of interest on a dynamic, searchable elevation map of the United States. The greater the density of data, the higher the elevation.

“From redlining to modern urban planning, you don’t have to look far to see ways in which maps have been used to marginalize, divide and oppress communities around the world,” says Eric Martin, Chief Creative Officer and co-founder, Black & Abroad. “We wanted to help Black travellers see the country in a way that prioritizes and celebrates the contributions of folks who look like us – and facilitates travel choices that deepen engagement within our community. Repurposing a traditional elevation map is a way for us to weave joy and uplift into the story, the experience, and our interpretation of the data.”

In addition to thousands of places of interest, the Black Elevation Map includes 12 curated city guides and 10 national guides, that include Black-owned wineries (“Melanin Vines”), notable start-up companies (“Black Silicon Valley”) and restaurants that fuelled civil rights (“Civil Bites”).

The project is the second major collaboration between Black & Abroad and the team at creative-data advertising agency Performance Art. In 2019, that team launched “Go Back To Africa”, which led to a measurable shift in sentiment and usage of the racial slur, and won nearly every major global advertising award, including the Grand Prix in Creative Data at Cannes, the D&AD Black Pencil, and the Global Grand Effie in Positive Change.

“We’re inspired by the relentless positivity at the heart of the Black & Abroad brand, and wanted to once again explore what happens when you push a bold, brand idea into a sophisticated technology ecosystem,” says Ian Mackenzie, Chief Creative Officer, Performance Art. “We know the data we’re visualizing represents just a fraction of actual Black cultural contribution. We see this as part of an ongoing conversation, and a conceptual counterpoint to a long history of maps created with harmful and unacknowledged biases.”

The Black Elevation Map is launching with a 60-second film called “A Hymn Away From Home” (posted above), directed by Kelly Fyffe-Marshall (whose “Black Bodies” was an official selection of TIFF 2020) and produced by the Black-owned production company Alfredo Films. The film combines aspirational footage of more than 30 business owners from across America with iconic images of mountains, and original poetry commissioned and performed by Washington D.C.-based poet Jasmine Mans (“Black Girl, Call Home”).

The project’s other contributors include designer Tré Seals, whose “Martin” typeface was inspired by protest posters from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike. Seals also created an original set of icons for the project, inspired by a survey of African symbology.

Site functionality includes the ability to create and email “favorites,” an “Add to map” feature, search by city, a freestyle explore map mode, a Black travel social media feed, and buttons that enable users to toggle between several powerful elevation-based data visualizations. The map also pulls in Black travel-related social media conversations from Twitter and Instagram based on hashtag use, categorized across three streams.

“We have always seen an opportunity to elevate the community through world exploration,” says Kent Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder Black & Abroad. “The Black Elevation Map is a way for us to share the brand’s positive view from a domestic travel standpoint, while encouraging exploration across our diverse community. We’ll always have miles to go. We hope this map helps with the journey.”

About Black & Abroad
Black & Abroad is a multi-platform travel & lifestyle company. Since 2015, our digital campaigns, international events and travel experiences have redefined exploration for the modern Black traveler. We pride ourselves on working together to connect people all over the world through culturally conscious & thought driven initiatives centered around exploration while providing crowd-sourced information hubs for urban travelers. Seeing a need to elevate the community through world exploration, our company was created to expose the world to nuanced, diverse narratives within the travel community.

About Performance Art
Performance Art is a full-service agency network that brings together deep data, technology and customer-centric strategy with highly awarded leadership and creative talent. With a specialist approach focused on the individual, the agency leverages technology consulting and implementation, creative-data and CRM, systems design and customer experience strategy to help brands make the highest performing work, in the most creative way. Performance Art is an independent network in the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG). Learn more at and follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram (


The data journey.
Data is at the heart of the platform. To help fulfil on the promise of visualizing the heights of The Culture, Performance Art and Acxiom (IPG’s data arm) examined a wide range of data sources and sets. The process considered scale, quality, accessibility across all 50 states, ethical sourcing and race-based bias. Current data sets include self-reported Black-owned business listings from Yelp and Google, as well as U.S. Census Bureau data and The Historical Markers Database.

The platform has been built to be able to integrate new data sources, visualizations, content and functionality as they become known and available. The team is also working with data and analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet on a future iteration of the platform that will provide more points of interest, and a more complete picture of Black-owned businesses in the United States.

Helping our audience find the map.
In addition to the innovations at the heart of the platform itself, Performance Art has collaborated with its global media partners within IPG to develop a technically sophisticated launch plan for the project’s online video, banner and social media advertising assets.

Kinesso, IPG’s marketing and media data engine, has pioneered an innovative approach to defining a traveler audience based on cultural insights, which, when combined with digital media from Kinesso’s IMPACT marketplace – a group that supports BIPOC-owned media inventory sources and creators – they will help the media directly reach a Black traveler audience. This audience definition allows media partners Initiative, Reprise and Matterkind to manage the digital media execution with added confidence that the brand’s messages are reaching a culturally and personally relevant audience.

Separately, Performance Art engaged Meta to drive relevant, high-impact awareness of the platform across the company’s social media properties.

The Black Elevation Map
Launch date: Feb 1, 2022

Client: Black & Abroad
Chief Creative Officer & Co-Founder: Eric Martin
Chief Strategy Officer & Co-Founder: Kent Johnson

Agency: Performance Art
Chief Creative Officer: Ian Mackenzie
Associate Creative Director: Pedro Izzo, Benson Ngo
Copywriter: Hemal Dhanjee, Tobi Adebowale, Paula Purdon
Copywriter: Jasmine Mans
Experience Delivery Lead: Nzegwhua Anderson
Senior Experience Designer: Joe Szabo
Experience Designer: Leon Mullings
Studio Designer: Emily Plewes
Executive Creative Director: Colin Craig
Producer: Sharon Nelson-Bailey
VP Strategy: Kirk Linkletter
Strategist: Leandra Legendre
Strategist: Simran Kaur
Strategist: Eli Ferrara
Strategist: Cassandra Cervi
SVP, Head of Strategy: Priyanka Goswami
Program Manager: Kaylen Dillon
Digital producer: Darwin Garcia
SVP, Managing Director: Jordan Dinning
Account Supervisor: Ricky Gunawan
Account Director: Jon Rae
VP: Technology: Stuart Cheesmond
Technical Solutions Consultant: Suraj Patel
Group Director, Product Development: Arnaud Icard
Lead Developer: John Iacoviello
Full stack developer: Cody Schreiber
Interface developer: Heung Lee
Senior Technical Architect: Valerian Nasqidashvili
Quality Assurance Lead: Natalia Zadorozhna
Quality Assurance Analyst: Nataliya Vislyanska
Solutions Consultants (BAs): Suraj Patel, Kaivalya Kashyap
Analytics Manager: Anil Iqbal
Junior Analyst: Shaista Meghji
Analytics Analyst: Abdul Dau
Consultant: Gigi Basanta
Chief Executive Officer: Andrea Cook
Chief Operations Officer: Elizabeth Sellors

Type: Vocal Type Co.
Designer: Tré Seals

Production: Alfredo Films
Director: Kelly Fyffe-Marshall
DOP: Shivam Pandya
Producer: Alex Henry
Producer: Holly Rowden
Editor: Michael Ofori-Attah

Online: Alter Ego
VFX Executive Producer: Hilda Pereira
VFX Producer: Andrew Tavares
Motion Designer: Rob Fisher
Motion Designer: Ian Flaig
Colourist: Conor Fisher
Colour assistant: Daniel Saavedra
VFX Artist: Joel Osis
VFX Assistant: Victoria Gaston

Audio: TA2 Sound + Music
Audio Director: Simon Jain
Project Manager: Heather Ngo
Audio Engineer: Dean Metherell
Assistant Audio Engineer: Justin Poon
Creative Director: Steve Gadsden

Media: Initiative Canada
Chief Strategy Officer: Nish Shah
Director, Communications Design: Lara Senbanjo
Director, Strategy: Christian Kern

Performance Marketing: Reprise Canada
Head of Content: Cynthia Steele
Sr. Director, Strategy & Social Commerce: Tyler Dmytrow

Audience: Kinesso
SVP, Global Client Solutions: Wendi Dunlap
Director, Audience Solutions: Mandy Wong
Manager, Audience Solutions: Rory Materson

Agency Partner: Meta
Creative Agency Partner: Kayla Osmond
Creative Agency Partner: Katie Wall
Creative Director: Scott Drey
Creative: Michael Dooley

PR: Glossy
PR: Shannon Stephaniuk

Performance Art, Travel