Black in Design: Session 3, Mobilizing and Organizing

Thank you, and welcome back
to the Saturday afternoon session of Black in Design. In the spirit of
this session, we hope that you were able
to take the first steps towards building coalitions
in the sharing of your meal. Through coalition
building, we identify collaborators who
share our values and offer unique perspectives. Together, we craft
a design process that can be used to
organize and build capacity within our communities. We are delighted to have join us
Dr. Sharon Sutton, Diane Jones Allen, and Antionette Carroll
for the third session, Mobilizing and Organizing. Dr. Sharon Sutton is an
activist, educator, and scholar who promotes inclusivity
in the cultural makeup of the city-making professions
and in the populations they serve, and also
advocates the use of participatory planning and
design strategies in low-income and minority communities. Dr. Sutton currently teaches
at Parsons School of Design and is a professor emerita of
architecture, urban design, and social work at the
University of Washington. Diane Jones Allen
has over 30 years of experience in professional
practice focusing on land planning, open space
and park design, and community development work. She is currently
the program director for Landscape Architecture
at the University of Texas at Arlington. She is also a principal
landscape architect with Design Jones
LLC in New Orleans. Her research and
practice is guided by the intersection of
environmental justice and sustainability in
African-American cultural landscapes. Antionette D. Carroll
is the founder and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab, a
nonprofit social enterprise that educates, trains,
and challenges cities to co-create solutions with
black and Latinx populations to design healthy and racially
equitable communities. Within this capacity, Antionette
has pioneered a new form of creative problem
solving called equity-centered
community design. Throughout her
career, Antionette has worked for
nonprofits working for social justice, human
rights, and diversity and inclusion. This session will be moderated
by Ceasar McDowell, Professor of Practice of Civic Design
at MIT’S Department of Urban Studies and Planning and
founder of MIT’S Co-Lab. Oh, Ceasar. Oh, I’m sorry. Dr. Sutton. Good afternoon from New
York City and Parsons School of Design, where we
do talk about architecture, and design, and social justice. And I just want to give a
shout-out to the GSD AASU students, who have not only– [applause] –who have not only opened their
privileged space at Harvard to this national community
of black designers, but they have organized the
dialogue around social justice. And I’m going to talk
about another time that that occurred in history. But first, let’s
talk about today. Today’s news is filled
with crises, ecological and political. These crises challenge
designers not only to construct
resilient environments, but also to be resilient
as activists in mobilizing for social transformation. Resilience is the ability
to overcome adversity, learn from past experiences,
and acquire the robustness that crises demand. As a concept, it
evolved from observing the persistence of ecosystems
in the face of change. Beyond the environmental
fields, the term appears most often in psychology
and characterizes the qualities individuals and communities
exist during traumatic events. Resilience derives from social
cohesion, self-confidence, and positive individual
and community narratives. Resilience is about give and
take, movement, flexibility. It is about optimism in
the face of Armageddon. It is about resistance. It is about storytelling
that provides inner strength. It is about being The
Little Engine That Could. Resilience is surely the
quality activist designers need to mobilize a
social justice movement. This afternoon, I offer an
example of derailed resilience that can inform
your own efforts. It is the story of the
1968 student rebellion at Columbia University, which
is narrated in my recent book When Ivory Towers Were Black. The rebellion occurred at the
height of the Civil Rights Movement and was, in
part, about race relations with the nearby
Harlem neighborhood. I had always believed
that the rebellion was the reason for the
ambitious affirmative action efforts undertaken at Columbia’s
School of Architecture. Through my research,
I discovered that the student rebellion was
only part of the recruitment story. The other part occurred two
years prior to these events when the Ford Foundation
provided funding for the University to carry
out new work in the field of urban and minority affairs. The nearby Harlem
neighborhood was to serve as a
demonstration site. These funds allowed the
School of Architecture to mount what was arguably
the boldest recruitment effort among the country’s
architecture and urban planning schools. The funds also supported
ambitious community outreach projects that gave the
recruits a leadership role in the school. The rebellion took place
during the spring of 1968, a year of heightened
social protest. One source of unrest
was the Vietnam War. As the media documented
its horrific casualties, many Americans took to the
streets, especially draft age male undergraduates
and their supporters. In addition, hundreds
of race rebellions were occurring nationwide,
as ghetto residents lost hope that the Civil Rights Movement
would reverse the ravages of racial oppression. As the war in Vietnam
intermingled with the war in the ghetto, a rebellion
following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination took
center stage, increasing fear of a racial Armageddon. The national psyche was
running at full tilt during a year that
was perhaps even more tumultuous than the one we
are experiencing right now. Imagine a mood
across the land that was a bit like today, where
every morning, you would wake up and say, what the? [laughter] All this national angst was
occurring on Columbia’s campus with an important twist, due to
the University’s relationship with that Harlem neighborhood. Racial tensions were
at an all-time high because of the
University’s expansion there, which included a plan
to build a University gymnasium in a neighborhood park. After expansion activities
displaced thousands of mostly black and
Puerto Rican tenants, the University became the locus
of a racially charged town gown conflict, which is what may have
attracted the Ford Foundation’s funding. The rebellion that erupted
on Columbia’s campus not long after Dr. King’s
assassination was catalyzed by the draft for
the Vietnam War, and relatedly, the University’s
participation in war research, and by the University’s
plans for the gymnasium– the latter providing the
most compelling spark. One afternoon, thwarted
in their intention to enter the main administration
building, about 300 students marched to the park and tore
down the construction fence. Upon their return
to campus, they began a takeover
of five buildings, including Avery Hall, home to
the School of Architecture. Eventually, the New York
City Police Department, with the approval of
University administrators, violently removed
the protesters. The violence provoked an
even bigger resistance that shut down classes
for the entire summer. What had begun with a
few hundred students expanded to include about
1/3 of the student body, with its elected
representatives calling for the ouster of the
top administrators, a total boycott of classes, and
an end to the gym construction. Thousands of
students participated in Colombia’s liberated campus,
attending outdoor teach-ins, listening to a performance
of the Grateful Dead, and staging a
counter-commencement that ended in a frolic at
the gymnasium site. Meanwhile, students and staff
at the School of Architecture convinced faculty to support
a resolution that refashioned the school’s
hierarchical governance structure as a democratic one. The resolution created
student-led councils that in turn specified
a transformation of the curriculum,
including a revision to the traditional top-down
studio instruction. The councils also
made a commitment to recruiting ethnic minority
students, staff, and faculty. Their commitment grew out
of a widely held belief that black and Puerto
Rican professionals were needed to address
the ongoing crisis in the inner city. After all, they understood
the needs of ghetto residents and thus would be best suited
to solve their problems. One of the councils produced
an audacious proposal, directed to the
University president, that offered a forward-looking
and provocative vision of community engagement,
which was remarkably prescient of the role that many
urban universities have adopted today. This vision of an
engaged urban university is likewise what made the School
of Architecture’s recruitment effort so successful. Thanks to the ingenuity
of two black students already enrolled in the
school, a recruitment process got underway that was one of the
most successful university-wide and, arguably, the
most successful nationwide in architecture
and urban planning. The recruitment strategy relied
upon grassroots initiative. But it also included
administrators’ active engagement
in the process. And of course, recruitment
would have not been possible without the serendipity
of the Ford Foundation funding. My informant’s stories, which
are contained in the book, not only illustrate
the wide net cast by the School of Architecture in
its search for ethnic minority applicants. But they also
illustrate the sense of drama, the almost
breathless excitement surrounding the one by one
tracking down and enrolling of these mostly working
class prospective students. Lest you befall
victim to stereotype, I want to make crystal
clear that the recruits were fully qualified to enter
the School of Architecture. [applause] Many had been introduced to
architecture early in life. Some were enrolled in
professional programs in architecture-related fields. Others already held professional
or undergraduate degrees. Others had teaching experience,
including at Columbia. Still others had worked
in offices and agencies. And most had developed
leadership skills as Civil Rights activists or in
their churches and communities. Once accepted into
the program, recruits equaled or outperformed
their white counterparts. 49 of 59 ethnic
minority students graduated, with quite a few
being the first in their family to earn a college degree. This group received
a total of 51 degrees from Columbia, including
17 master’s degrees and three doctoral degrees. After graduation, eight
earned 11 advanced degrees. 21 are licensed architects,
with five being Fellows in the American Institute
of Architects and two having foreign certification. Two are licensed planners. One is a licensed
interior designer. Two are distinguished
as fine artists. And one is a college president. [applause] They didn’t clap last
week when I did this at the University of Michigan. [laughter] Although the recruitment
effort was extremely successful in mobilizing a
large cohort of ethnic minority city-makers, it was
very short-lived. In addition to
resistance to change within the School
of Architecture, social dynamics helped smother
the transformation, including escalating violence, white
backlash, forced busing, rising energy cost, and a middle
class unwilling to support social programs. Facing the reality of
achieving a democratic society, many whites felt besieged, their
1960s vision of racial justice devolving into a meaner,
more selfish outlook, as is occurring now. Today, diversity
among architects remains virtually the same
as it was 20 years ago, with 68% of black
architecture graduates leaving the field due to a
mix of reluctant patrons, unsupportive majority firms,
low pay, and outright racism. Even more sobering,
segregation in schools is basically the same as it
was prior to the Civil Rights Movement. In an ideal world, resilience
follows a trajectory of resistance and recovery. In an unjust world, a
more likely trajectory is relapse followed by
delayed dysfunction and even chronic dysfunction. The 1968 rebellion at
Columbia illustrates a hybrid trajectory. It began with resilience
and heightened resistance after the police bust. However, internal and external
whitelash to black progress derailed the
upward-moving trajectory and propelled it downward
toward relapse and dysfunction. Moving forward, consider
what lessons in resilience this case study holds for
today’s activist designers. One lesson is that
resilience requires strong social relations. The recruitment effort created
an incredibly strong peer network, because the recruits
were not “only ones,” but involved a
significant cohort, which the AASU has created here. They were a force
within the school. And they remain
connected even today. A second lesson
is that resilience requires the agency that comes
from self-efficacy, optimism, and hope. The experimental curriculum
offered a sense of agency because it aligned with
the recruits’ worldview and commitment to address the
inequities they themselves had experienced. It help the recruits
see that they could achieve a better tomorrow
in their own communities. The third lesson is
that resilience requires problem-solving
savvy, which helps people adjust their behavior
as they encounter challenge. The experiment took the
recruits into Harlem to address real
problems, some of which had been created by Columbia’s
insensitive expansion there. Among their projects were
a renovated townhouse, a storefront community center,
a real estate management institute, thus pocket parks. Housing feasibility
studies, plans for a community-owned
mini bus system, plans for an alternative high
school for the New York City Board of Education, publications
on tenant rights and tenant ownership, and a cost-estimating
course for small minority contractors that the
business school implemented. Such projects equipped the
recruits with the savvy to overcome adversity
and continue functioning in the face
of racism and resistance to change. To summarize, the 1968 student
rebellion and its aftermath suggest that the resilient
activist designers need to mobilize a social
justice movement are the strong social relations
that exist within families, peer networks, and communities. The agency that comes from
self-efficacy, optimism, and hope. And the problem-solving
savvy that will help them continue functioning when
faced with adversity. Thank you very
much for listening. And now,– [applause] And now, it’s my pleasure
to welcome Diane Jones Allen to the podium. [applause] First, I want to say
thank you for having me. It’s just wonderful to be
in the presence of beauty and brilliance. So thank you. Let’s see. OK. Actually, this is
a good follow up, because I’m actually going to
talk about an action, actually political and design action,
as opposed to calling it a project. I’m going to talk about
Gordon Plaza, which is a community which
exists currently in New Orleans, Louisiana. I’m going to start
by just reading a little bit of the history,
because it’s a lot of dates. I’m getting old. Can’t remember all these dates. OK, so this is a
residential subdivision that was built on the site
of the agricultural landfill located in New Orleans’
Upper Ninth Ward. The landfill operated
as a municipal landfill and a garbage dump
from the early 1900s. And it was closed in 1958. The site was reopened in
1965 to dispose of debris from Hurricane Betsy. Subsequently, the
City of New Orleans allowed homes to be
built on the site without conducting proper
remediation of the land. The residents were
allegedly not told. They were allegedly not told
that the site had once been used as the city’s landfill. A school was also
constructed on the area. And the school board
allegedly did not inform parents or employees
that no environmental tests had found– wait. Excuse me. Did not inform
parents or employees that environmental tests
had found toxic materials on the site. The school, the townhouse,
and the apartments, and recreation center– as
you can see, the locations– were closed. But residents still
reside in the subdivision. There was a class action
suit initially filed in 1993 after a study by the US
Environmental Protection Agency found the former landfill
site was contaminated. The agricultural street
landfill neighborhood was placed on the EPA’s
National Priorities List and declared a
Superfund site in 1994. Katrina came. People moved for Katrina
but came back to those sites and used their little
bit of Road Home money to repair their houses
and live there now on the contaminated site. There was, from the lawsuit– OK. So from the lawsuit, most of
the money went to the lawyers. And each family got about $400. So they live there today. If you can see from
the picture, in 1947, you could see the smoke rising. And this is 2017. And their homes are still there. And this is basically just
a chronological chronology that it was declared
a Superfund site. And there was a partial removal. But it was just partially
removed and capped. And debris still rises up. Several people died. But the remaining
families still live there. So myself– and I live
in the Lower Nine. And in my travels, I pass by
this neighborhood all the time. And it was just
driving me crazy. How can this happen? And the City was
basically saying, we’re done because
they got their $400. And you have to understand
that the development around that you saw on the first
map, that was public housing. So the public
housing, because it’s owned by the federal government,
those people were evacuated. The school– because
it was a public school, the school was closed. And they were evacuated. These houses were built
so that black people would have home ownership, without
telling them in 1976 when they built this stuff, that they were
building it on these landfills. So these people
just can’t leave, because they’re working class. And this is all they have is
their home, the quote, unquote, “American dream.” So they’re just stuck there. So I just felt like there
has to be something. So it happened in 2016. There was the American Society
of Landscape Architect. I’m a landscape architect. I belong to the ASLA. And they were having their
convention in New Orleans. So I had the idea. I talked to Monique
Hardin, who’s actually been working really hard. She’s an environmental
justice lawyer. And she’s been
working with them. They won the lawsuit. They got it made a
EPA Superfund site. But the people are still there. So I went to her and
said, what can we do? And she said, we have to
let people know this story. So ASLA, during
these conventions, they have field sessions. And so I had the idea
that, well, why don’t I make this a field
session, and to get all these fancypants landscape
architects to come and walk through this site, and
get them to see what’s happened to get the word out? And someone said,
oh, come on, Diane. ASLA is never going
to choose that. They’re going to choose, go
to the Garden District field session. And go see the French
Quarter sketching. And I said, yeah, they’re
not going to pick it. So I submitted it,
and they picked it. They picked it as
a field session. And so on the field
session, these were our people– my
business partner, myself. John Taylor, who’s
a citizen scientist. He grew up in the bayou. So he knows all about– he grew
up in the Lower Ninth Ward. So if you ever go to
the Lower Ninth Ward, look up John Taylor. He can tell you everything. And Monique Hardin. And also Reverend
Tyrone Edwards, who used to be a Panther,
works in Plaquemines Parish with the black community there. So we had this field session. So we brought
participants to the site. And basically, we
had them– actually, the residents brought
them in their houses. And they were really surprised
when they went into the house. I might actually have a picture,
which should come up next. They were surprised because
the interiors of these homes are beautiful. They were built in the 60s. So they’re not like your
traditional New Orleans shotgun. Unfortunately, it was
like– or Creole cottage. Unfortunately, it was people
wanted that suburban tract house. But they’re really well-kept. They’re beautiful on the inside. So they walked around. This is the old school
where just six months, kids were getting
sick, having diagnosis of asthma, respiratory illness. Many of the residents
died of cancer. There are 52 families
that are left. So we walked people through
the homes, through the school. Then we went over to
Delgado Community College, which is a community college. They have a satellite that
they built in the Lower Nine. And we had this thinking
session about, what could we do? And of course, the
landscape architects was like, oh, we can’t believe
this could happen in America. We didn’t know this happened. [laughter] We didn’t know this
about New Orleans. We knew about the Lower Nine. But we didn’t know about this. This is just awful. So we’re like, OK, good. Now let’s do something. So what was done is, so
we continue to have– so this is the interior of one
of those homes in Gordon Plaza. So one of the things that
the landscape architects did, they wrote all these letters
to the mayor of New Orleans. And this letter, I pulled
it out because this was written by the– there’s an environmental
justice PPN. And there’s also a Black
Landscape Architects Network, which is a loose network. We communicate through LinkedIn. But when we need each other,
we get together and do things. So they heard this,
and they sent letters. So everyone wrote
letters to the mayor and then also came up
with some ideas of what could happen for the community. And so one of the things
that was suggested was, let’s get the City to put
an amendment into the Master Plan that says you will
not build on landfills. Do you know, in the
City of New Orleans, there was not anything in the
Master Plan or in the city code that said you cannot
build on landfills? And then also, things
about doing remediation. This is a list of things about
capping, closing the site down, letting the community college
maybe use it for science, and what would
happen to that land. So this is the amendment. But we got the community–
we were celebrating. We got the City
Planning Commission to approve the
amendment, that they would no longer build houses. But then we said, we
want you to relocate. You have to relocate
Gordon Plaza. Well, they wouldn’t allow. You have to do it. So they said, OK. The Planning Commission
can’t do that. You can go to City Council. So we went to the City Council. And the City Council
approved the relocation. And so this is a meeting that
just happened September 12th. And now we’re coming up– [applause] Yay! I’m so happy. And now we’re coming
up with design ideas. And one great thing about this
is– and I’ll be really quick. I only have a minute– is that the Lower Nine itself– OK, in my opinion,
the land was taken. So the Lower Nine
had 18,000 residents. There are only 6,000
people living there, because the Road Home
money was not enough. So people gave their Road Home
money, stayed where they were. And that land got taken by
the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority. So we’re getting the
Redevelopment Authority to relocate them
to the Lower Nine. This will help the Lower Nine,
because right now, developers are looking at all these
vacant lots that are there. It’ll bring
community back there. And it’s just, how do you do it? How do we build
there responsibly, given where the Lower
Nine is and understanding of the environment
and landscape? So we’re going to relocate those
families to the Lower Nine. And this is some
of the things we’re thinking about in the
redesign of Gordon Plaza and then a Master Plan
for the Lower Nine. Thanks. [applause] Wow. That was phenomenal. Again, I’m sorry. That was so good. Thank you. [applause] Well, thank you
for having me here. I’m really excited to
talk about the work that I’ve been doing on the
ground in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as the work I continue
to do around the country. And so first, whenever I
start my presentations, I always want to
acknowledge people on the ground doing the
hard work every single day. [applause] As you can see, we have new
incidents up on the slide. And the list
unfortunately continues to go on, because we sometimes
get so used to it that we tend to forget that these are just
constant occurrences that we just have to be aware of. In St. Louis, it’s
not just Ferguson. In St. Louis, the
protesters have reignited due to the
Jason Stockley verdict. Because we have to
acknowledge that these issues that we’re addressing,
particularly racial inequities, are systemic. And they’ve been
around for centuries. One thing I will
also say is I’m very intentional about language. You probably would never
hear me say citizens. I always say
residents, because I want to acknowledge
those individuals that don’t have that privilege or
that title but still get up every day and do that hard work. So I want to thank the
residents that do it as well. [applause] So in 2014, I started
Creative Reaction Lab. And I’m going to talk a
little bit about that journey. But what I’ve been
doing lately is really looking at, how do
we build a movement of equity-centered
community designers? How do we have people around
the country, around the world, make pledges to create change
and address these issues through even their acts? Because I’m one of
those individuals that believe in
drops in a bucket. I don’t think that it’s going to
be one silver bullet solution. And that’s what we
tend to hear, right? We hear, well, they should
have protest this way. Well, ooh, is that really the
way they should go about it? Guess what, we need
the people kneeling. We need the people that
are social media activists. We need the people on the
ground in front of City Hall. We need the corporate
individuals. We need the politicians. We need all of that. And so, for us,
we are looking at, how do we activate
these individuals, particularly in four
different fields? Which is education, media,
government, and health, because within
those spaces, that’s where our perceptions are
shaped about cultures. And that’s also the
industries that impact the life expectancies of
marginalized communities, particularly black and
Latinx populations. And so these are some of the
pledges that we’ve received. We’ve received hundreds of them. And we would love for
you to join that movement to help us fight this
fight on the ground. The reason why I
focus on design is because I went through
a traditional journey. I worked in design. And I continue to
work in design, but in a nontraditional
sense now, for over 10 years. And design originally was
graphic design for me. It was advertising. And it just felt
incomplete for me. It was a little hollow. After doing so many
campaigns for AT&T, you’re like, oh, who really
cares about your mobile device? [laughter] And so I wanted to do more. And that’s when I really
started to pay attention to the nature and the fabric
of design and what it truly is. And because I believe
that design is everywhere, because it is. Design is that invisible
innovation and disruptor will before innovation
and disruption was a word. And so how do we use
it to create change? And so I love this quote
that was within a book. I always forget the
name of the book. It’s like design activism. I kid you not. This book is literally
across my desk, and I just won’t reach for it. It’s just so tiring for me. But– [laughter] –this quote is so
powerful because it talks about the power of design. And many people
are not even aware that Occupy Wall Street
was started by designers. And there’s a recent article
that was written by– I want to say it was the Equity
by Design Collaborative– that said, “Are activists
the true designers?” Because many times,
we look at this term, and we look at our industry. And we want to say, well,
we’re the specialists. But in reality, we are all
specialists in something. We all have expertise
in something. And how do we use that as
a form of value and power to create change? So on August 9, 2014
if you’re not aware, this was the day that the
hashtag Ferguson ignited. This is the day that Michael
Brown Jr. was shot and killed in the middle of an apartment
complex within my hometown. And it was the time period in
which we started to stand up. And I say we because it was many
people across the city started to stand up and
say, this is enough. We are tired of it. Because, yes, a young
man’s life was taken. But then also the fact that
a young man’s life was taken. He laid in the middle
of a apartment complex for four hours with no
governmental assistance. They were meant to relive this
trauma over and over again. His parents was not
able to get to them. And we were expected to go back
to work like everything was OK. And what was interesting
about this is in 2014, that was actually the 250th
anniversary and birthday of St. Louis. And so prior to this,
everyone was celebrating. And I say “everyone”
very loosely. [laughter] Were celebrating with
campaigns and galas. Oh, my goodness. 250 years. We have been phenomenal. Just think what we’re
going to do in 500. And then this date occurred. And it was a community
that many time has been excluded and forgotten
that said, guess what, you haven’t been that great. And unless you
create change, we’re not going to be as great
as we possibly can be. So what are we going
to do about it? At that time, I started to ask
the question of, why should I, or why should we respond? Because I was working
in-house at a organization called Diversity Awareness
Partnership in which I was head of communications. And I was looking at, how
do you design diversity? And how do you design
diversity in two fronts? One, visually,
because the reality is, if you google diversity,
you either see a color spectrum, or you see that stock
photo with the same people with the laptop. [laughter] And it’s like, that’s not
actual diversity, right? We’re intersectional. We have so many
different identities. And yet, visually, we’re
not depicting this. But then also, how do
you design diversity through human connection? And it was at that
time that I started to collaborate with the director
of diversity and inclusion and training. And we started to co-create
trainings together. And there was this moment that
I saw the true power of design. But then I also started
to ask the question of, why should designers and
other creative practitioners respond? Because many times,
we’re excluded. If we’re invited to the party,
someone slid us a napkin and said, go for it. But it’s not really
to have a conversation about social justice rights. Most of the time,
it’s self-ignited. And that is problematic. And so I wanted
designers in the room because I acknowledge that
designers create culture. Designers have
created our world. And we are more than our craft. Yes, we have technical trade. We have technical skills. But yet, we literally build
something out of nothing every single day. So why are we not in
these conversations that talk about the longevity of
these issues that’s been around for centuries,
and have us create something out of
nothing that actually is going to create an impact? And so I created a 24-hour
challenge, so to speak. And we had designers. And I use that loosely. It was designers,
technologists, activists in the room for 24 hours. Yes, 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Some people did not sleep. I personally did. [laughter] I mean, I brought them together. My job was done, right? No. No. Joking aside, I slept
for maybe an hour or two. But they came up
with over 60 ideas, from looking at
the talk of safety within the
African-American community, to looking at media
narration and framing. Ultimately, they worked on
five throughout the night. All five were activated in
St. Louis within a year. And three are still
active to this day. I’m going to quickly go
through these, because I want to be respectful of time. And I know we want to have
great conversation with you all. So first is called
Cards Against Brutality. Show of hands. How many people have heard
of Cards Against Humanity? We’re not going to discuss it. [laughter] This project is different. This project directly was
looking at media narration and framing and how we
have a tendency to victim blame within our media sources. And how do we overcome that? Not just with a card deck, but
also having curriculum tool pieces, tool kits
that we can use within educational institutions. What was interesting
about this project is that the pink cards was not
there for the first six months, even though the
team was 2/3 women. And it shows even our
own unconscious biases that we have when we’re trying
to do work for good, that we have to continually overcome. Now we can also
talk about the lack of non-binary representation or
other areas within this field. But this project was one in
which it said, let’s move away from using the term
“thug,” which I argue is the new way of
saying the N-word, to the term of student, son,
daughter, family member, cousin, friend,
coworker, human being. That was the point
of this project. Then we had Look
Beyond Your Fear. This project was
directly addressing the issue of culture of
fear within our society, within our region. And sometimes we hide
behind the worst “safety” to justify our actions. And in this project, it
was saying, guess what. There is a culture of
fear of black male. We need to acknowledge it,
and we need to overcome it. This project has since expanded,
looking at the culture of fear as it relates to capitalism,
political affiliation, legalization of
marijuana, et cetera. Then we have the
Vibe Switch Project. This project, their tag-line
is Stereotypes are Stupid, which I don’t disagree with. But this project
directly was looking at, how do we actually
acknowledge that many of us have been stereotyped
against, and actually take back our individuality,
own who we are as individuals, and be proud of it? I sometimes give the
example in which– I might get some side
eyes in this room– that as an African-American
woman, people assume that I love
R&B. I do not. [laughter] I’m sorry, people. I’m sorry. It’s too slow for me. I can’t do it. [laughter] Now I can do some
hip hop, though. I can do some hip hop. But that’s part
of me as a person. And we all have these
different nuances. And these stereotypes
that we assign people just based on culture, or gender,
et cetera, is invalid. Yes, in some cases,
it may be true. But that does not define
us as individuals. So what are we going
to do about that? The next project was
Connected for Justice. If you don’t know the artist
and social impact designer De Andrea Nichols, look her up. She is phenomenal. She created a project
called Connected for Justice in which she
acknowledged that there were people that were not able
to be on the ground protesting. But yet, they want
to do good work. And so she created
this online site in which people would be
able to come up with ideas. And then other people will
volunteer to make it happen. When that site shut
down in November 2014, because it was only
for the protest, there was over 700
actions that had occurred because of this site. And then the last project
was The Red Table Project. And this project was
looking at, honestly, the division and segregation
within our society. St. Louis is the sixth most
segregated city in the country. In 2012, BBC actually
did a mini-documentary on one of our streets
called Delmar Divide. Which is on one
side of the street, you have boarded up
homes, lack of amenities. Also, it’s 99%
African-American low-income. On the other side of the street,
you have gated communities. You have boutiques,
high-end hotels. 70% white, very affluent. And this is a real thing that
you actually can starkly see. And I know this through
my own occurrence, because my godparents
that are white live on the sides
with the condo. And my mother and my
brothers and sisters have lived in a condemned
home on the other side. So this is real. And so this project
wanted to look at, how do we turn
strangers into neighbors and have people actually
come across the street and connect as human beings and
have a conversation about who we are? So I’m going to quickly go
through the next slides. But one of the things I
learned on this journey is that human-centered
design is not enough. Design thinking
human-centered design is great as a
consultation model. But it does not start
in a space of equity, which is very much prevalent
in everything that’s happening within our society. [applause] Also, one of the biggest flaws
with human-centered design is that we tend to look
at community members as research subjects, opposed
to actually seeing them as the experts on their lives. And so, for us, it’s how do we
challenge this notion that’s become the Goliath? And in turn, become David,
to actually sneak up and say, that’s not good enough. And let’s actually
create a change there. Also, we need to get
over fragmentation. We, in the first lab,
fell into that trap with having designers
only, per se. We’ve since expanded
that, having police officers in the
room, having students, having physicians,
having individuals from all walks of life. Because we are all
community members. These communities are our own. And we’re all responsible
to create change. And not just one sector,
and not doing it separately. So this is a tool
we created called The Table of Collaboration
in which we’re directly looking at the
values and expertise that people bring to the table. The creative sector are
problem-solving creativity experts. We are honestly very good at
creating things, and making it happen, and
bringing it to action. And we’re very human-centered
and people-centered in our approach. Then we have the social
and civic sector. They know the theory, history,
and policy of whatever issue you’re trying to address. But most of the time, they’re
working within the system of status quo. How do we get them to
think beyond that space? We have the business sector. And while we love their money,– [laughter] –we want them for
more than that. They know about how to test
for visibility, viability, scalability. And we have too many
yo-yo effects happening within these communities,
opposed to looking at, how do we create
sustainable ideas and approaches and solutions
to address these issues? Because what we’re addressing
is centuries of work here. And so we need to
address something that’s going to be more
than a one-year project or a two-week project. And then lastly, we have
community members, which we refer to as the living experts. They know the day to day
impact of whatever issue you’re trying to address. And most of the time,
the barriers that come into place of
us working together has to do with access
and power-sharing. And it’s partly
our responsibility to have the strategies
to overcome that so that we can have a CEO,
an artist, and a Burger King worker working together. Because guess what, I am a CEO. I am an artist. And my first job
was at Burger King. And I want to see all
of them at the table. [applause] So lastly, when we have
everyone to work together, they become the teachers,
the strategists, the doers, the researchers. And then they’re
able to take over. So we need to redefine design. We need to redefine designers. And we need to
acknowledge that it is something that is very
much prevalent in our lives. These systems have
been designed. This is not something that went
off the rails a few years ago. And then all of a
sudden, we’re just dealing with the aftermath. Everything that’s happening was
designed to happen this way. And so we need to use
design to address it. I just want to leave you
with this definition, because it is so important. Because some people
use the term “equity.” And they use it just to say it. Saying “equity” doesn’t
mean you’re doing equity. And guess what, reaching
equitable outcomes, that has yet to happen. And it may not happen
in my lifetime. But I’m going to
work towards it. And it’s when outcomes
are not predicted by race. When in my city, there’s
an 18-year life expectancy gap between black residents
and white residents, that is a design. When it would take us black
communities over 200 years to accumulate the same
amount of wealth as whites, and the Latinx population
to the year 2097 to accumulate the same
amount of wealth as whites, that is a design. And so we need to use
design to dismantle them. And I’m going to leave with
that question right there. You have on your
chairs, actually, one of the processes
we developed, which is equity-centered
community design. Let me be very clear
about that process. The point of it is
not process adoption. We are not telling you to
go to a 45-minute workshop and say, oh, I got it. And that I went through
this eight-step process. And all of a sudden, I have it. What we are looking
for is mindset shifts. That’s what we want. We want people to be more
intentional about the work we’re doing, and acknowledge
the power dynamics that come into play. Acknowledge that history is
very much relevant to the work that we’re doing. And there’s trauma
associated with it, and that we need to have healing
practices within the design work we’re doing, and not
just creating just to create. So thank you so
much for your time. And I’m looking forward to
having more conversation. [applause] Hello. So hi, everyone. So I guess the first
thing I want to say is they finally got
the balance right. [applause] And it’s really
wonderful to hear you– what each of you have brought. And, again, like
everyone else, I’m just amazed looking
out at this audience. It’s– yeah. I’ll keep it to myself for now. I’m just going to ask– I really want to open
this up to questions from everyone in the audience. But I do want to go back to
the main theme of this, which is mobilizing and organizing. And throughout the movement,
particularly the movement, the African-American movement
for justice in this society, there’s been a tension
between those two things and how the mobilizing
tradition and our movement work versus the
organizing tradition. And they really are
about different things. We sometimes equate
the mobilizing work, which was some sense
emblematic of King. Which is, can we get
people out to do things? Versus the organizing work,
which was really emblematic by Fannie Lou Hamer. Which is about, can we
actually bring people together to actually set up
their own definition of what needed to be? And Fannie Lou had
this quote once. It said something
like, when I hear for the people, of the people,
and by the people, what I really say is, for the
handful, by the handful, with the handful. Because that’s how work
really happens in the world. So the question I have for you– and I see this come up a lot
with people who are designers and working in communities. As you go, and you’re
working with communities, how do you know when you have
enough people to move forward, that you’ve heard
enough, that you’re OK with what you’re doing? The people who
came are the people that are supposed to be there. You work with whatever you have
and whoever it is you have. And I think you have to
adjust your own agenda to who is in the room. So I don’t think there’s
any such thing as not having enough people. For me, I agree. I don’t think there is
such thing as I not having enough people. But I also believe
that we need to be intentional about the
work that we’re doing. Because there’s sometimes–
so I respectfully disagree a little
bit with one piece, which is assuming that
the people in the room are the people that
should be in a room. Because too many
times, we’ve had people in the room that don’t
have the knowledge or honestly have
the desire to do the work that needs to be done. And most of the time, we also
don’t extend that invitation that needs to be there. And just giving a
invitation doesn’t mean that people are
able to actually attend. I can’t tell you how many
times I meet with people. And they know who I am. And so they’re like,
Antionette, you’re not going to like the first
part of this presentation. And it’s because
I’m always going to ask, how are community
members involved with this? How are you extending
beyond what you normally do? And it’s even built within
the structure of invitation. There’s groups in which they
will have meetings at 8:00 a.m. and then expect
people to attend. Only people that are
going to be able to attend are the people that have
the jobs, and the resources, and the access to attend. If you’re a parent,
you can’t come. If you’re working
9:00 to 5:00, you can’t come, if you are literally
trying to pay your bills. And so it’s also thinking about
the intention of invitation. And how do we extend that
space and actually meet people where they are? Opposed to just telling them
to come to you, go to a church. Go to a restaurant. Go to that bodega. And actually engage
people within the spaces in which they feel comfortable. And you will find that you have
a different amount of people in the room than when you
just set up a town hall and expect people
to come to you. [applause] It should be on. Yeah. I agree. I think it’s about having– I don’t know– quote, unquote,
“the right people” in the room. And the right people are the
people that live the problem. Because those are
the– you can’t really solve something that you
don’t live and understand. So if you’re going
to solve a problem, you have to have the
community in there and the community
that live the problem, in order to get the
right information. Could I follow up a little bit? Because there’s an
assumption in the response that the problem doesn’t
include white people or doesn’t include
privileged people. There was a question
about that this afternoon in the videotape
of, do you think that you should be videotaping
from the white person’s perspective and not only from
the black person’s perspective? So when I say,
whoever’s in the room is who I have to work
with, I’m speaking as someone who’s spent 41 years
teaching mostly white students. And what I’ve had
to do is to learn how I can address social
justice with those students wherever they may be. So that’s my perspective on it. And I think we need them all. We need all of the– We need them all. –perspectives. Yeah. As stated, we need all
of the perspectives. We can’t do it alone
as black individuals, because most honestly,
we didn’t create it. So why are we the ones always
responsible for addressing it? But that being stated, we
need white individuals. We need people across
the full spectrum, because they’re going to– one, when we talk
about power, everyone has a variety of
power and opportunity to give access that
others may not. And so we need those allies
to do the work as well. So I 100% agree. Yeah, I mean, the project
that I just showed, that was an example of that. I knew that the members
of ASLA are mainly white. But if that’s what it
took to get, to bring– and that was a gamble,
bringing all those white people into that black community. But the black community lead it. They sanctioned it, of course. They invited them
into their homes. But it was about that. It was about using the tools. Having the people that
understand the problem, and using the tools. And the tools happened to
be those white landscape architects. So I totally agree. [inaudible] [laughter] We agree. I didn’t mean that
metaphorically. [laughter] I don’t actually think
I’m needed up here. But– [laughter] But here I am. That’s probably a bigger
comment than I meant it to be, actually. We’re going to pass
the mics around, if there are questions
from the audience. Please raise your
hand if you have one. And I can’t see. Stand up, please. Hello. You got to be kidding. No, I’m just playing with you. Come on. What you got? [interposing voices] All right. My name is Jonathan. I work for a company that
does sustainability consulting and resilience consulting. And we’re always advocating
for the social process and its being the core
to the resilience. And that’s something that
we’re trying to integrate in all of our projects. But we suffer from
an element of time, which is the developers
come or the architects come. And they push, push, push. And they see it, I
think, as a slow process, which I think it inherently
has to be, to some degree. And I don’t know how to inject
that into the design process so that they can slow down
and get the voices that they need that can really make it
resilient and a better design. No one wants to
backtrack, in a way. And that’s hard to get over. And I don’t know if
you’ve experienced that. And what have been the
methods to address this? Going too fast is what
creates the problem. And so making people aware
that speed kills, I think, is a really good place to begin. In Seattle, where
I used to live, it was known that the
Design Review Boards, which were a matter of having
public hearings on projects, did slow down the process. But we had empirical evidence
that it stopped lawsuits. And so that saved
money and time. And so you have to gather
your evidence of why spending this amount of
time is going to be worth it in the long run. And usually, I mean, it takes– people have suffered
a long time. For instance, the
people in Gordon Plaza had suffered
decades, a long time. So it takes a long time for
these injustices to play out. So it’s going to take a long
time for them to be righted. And getting the designers,
developers, politicians to understand, that’s going
to take continual work. Because it took people– even though, yes, overnight
they [inaudible] that landfill. But people have
suffered a long time. And they deserve that
much time, if that’s what it takes, as long as they
suffered, to get this right. Yeah, so it’s getting
them to understand that. Maybe you could use a line
from the diet industry. You didn’t get this
way overnight, so– [laughter] That’s good. [laughter] The only thing I
would add to that is also providing
the opportunity to train and educate
concurrently. And recognizing that,
while one project may not meet the ultimate goals you
want the first time, if you continually educate and
train over time, that you start to see that shift happen. Case in point, in St. Louis,
there’s a new design challenge, because that’s all we do. And there was one gentleman–
because he actually was on a panel which judged one
of my organization’s projects. And we received it. And because of that, he became
an advocate of our work. He learned more, and he
continued to learn from us. And so when they put
out a list of jurors, he was like, oh, no, no, no. You’re not about to have
all white males here. And so because of that–
he’s a white male himself. Because of that, he forced
them to rethink the way that they were doing what
they were doing, just because of him constantly going
through that learning journey. And I think it’s something that
we just need to continually do. And acknowledge that it will
take time for it to happen. There are some hands over here. [inaudible] And in the back, too. Hi. First, I want to
acknowledge how powerful it is for me to have three
women of color representing in this field. So thank you. [applause] Yeah. I am just coming
into this field. And I didn’t even
know it was an option to be a designer,
as a woman of color, until maybe two years ago. And so my question is, how
do we engage not even just college students, but
little girls of color, to know that this kind of
work is an option for them? I had a similar journey
when I started college. I was a biology major. And I was studying biotechnology
and the human genome. And I was good at it,
but I was really bored. As you can probably tell,
I don’t like being bored. And so, for me, I had to go
through this journey, very much self-led, to learn about
the industry of design. And the reality is, is that
we very much see this even happening on the
ground now, where we are telling our children
that art isn’t a hobby. They’re not learning
that there’s so much power in art or in design. They’re getting fed the
starving artist mentality. And because of that, we are
starting to continually build out generations that are moving
away from their actual desires and leading towards what society
has told them they should do. And so, how do we interject
ourselves into it? Part of it is working
with organizations that’s continually–
that’s actually doing that work on the
ground, such as the Interact Project that was started
by Maurice Woods. As well as supporting
organizations that are all about raising
awareness of the industry. And if you don’t see it,
create it, and do it. And it could be something as
small as going into classrooms and sharing about the field. But I encourage you to not just
go into the classroom and say, look at my portfolio
and how great I am, which is what tends to happen. But actually give them a space
of application and actually able to build their own skills. Because what I found
in looking at this, because my other
hat is that I was to founding chair of
Diversity Inclusion Task Force for AIGA, the professional
association of design. [applause] And what I found was
that we want to go in. And we want to raise
awareness, but that is all that we’re doing. Whereas when you talk
to many people that have been in the industry,
and they have internships that are at the top companies,
they have started doing art– they had art classes, and after
school programs, and portfolio development opportunities
in elementary school. And so by the time
they’re in high school, they’re going to National
Portfolio Day, which in turn is sending them to
RISD, and Harvard, and all the other schools. Which in turn is giving
them their mentors. It’s literally a pipeline. And so, how do we not
only raise awareness, but give the students
the space to learn how to build their portfolio
so that they can continually be competitive within this field? Because there’s a
lot of them there. We’re just not giving them that
pipeline to make it happen. Hello. My name is Jennifer
White-Johnson. I teach graphic design at
Bowie State University. And I’m a big fan of
everyone on the stage. It’s a beautiful audience. I’m so happy to be here. I braved 12 hours on the train
to bring my design students here. So yeah. Yes. [applause] I first heard Antionette
speak at the AIGA Conference in New Orleans. And I’m so amazed and
inspired, especially when I saw the young leadership,
civic leadership, to continue to just rise. So I guess my
question is, how do we continue creating those
partnerships, specifically with HBCUs, who
have those direct– I have a lot of students
from Baltimore in my classes, a lot of students from D.C. What do we do to continue
those partnerships? Is there leadership
retreats where we just make it a requirement that
they go to every semester so that they can just
continue to just understand civic leadership, creating those
relationships with young folks within the community? Because, like you said, bringing
it back to the young people, those five-year-olds
that need to be inspired by the next
generation of design leaders. But then realizing that my
students have that power. And they don’t have to
wait until school’s out. So just continuing to
create those opportunities. So I’m open to
that conversation. So thank you for– Thank you. –just being you. You want me to answer that? Yeah. Yeah? I’m trying not to
make it self-centered. Let’s see. So because the thing is, most of
those platforms are not there. I was having a conversation with
Maurice Cherry a few years ago. He’s the creator
of Revision Path. He’s also in this audience. And it’s a podcast literally
showcasing black designers. So if you don’t know
about it, follow it. It’s phenomenal. But we were talking. [applause] We were talking a few years ago. And we were talking about,
how do we actually support design education within HBCUs? And I will also argue within
Hispanic school associations, as well, because
it’s not being done. And so we, honestly,
have really just had the conversation about it. I have platforms, such as Design
+ Diversity Conference, which I’m the co-founder
and the co-leader of, which we host every single year. Next year, we’re actually
developing a scholarship and fellowship component,
particularly for students, so that they can gain access. But then also, at
Creative Reaction Lab, our program designed to better
our community, which we’re launching next summer, is
directly focused on, how do we have a near-peer model
of not only high school students going
through the program, but being mentored
by college students? And our partners right
now are HBCUs locally. And we’re always
looking for more. And so let’s definitely have
a conversation afterwards. And I can help with that,
either through my own platforms or other platforms that I
know they are continually trying to raise this bar. Because a lot of
it is grassroots. I wish it was, we’ve done
this 10, 15, 20 years. But it’s OK. We’re going to continually
build it together. And I’m pretty
sure there’s plenty of people in this room that can
also help build that as well. So there are a lot of
organizations within the design profession that you can
network with, as you mentioned. We can also get out of
our idea about design, and look at what kids
are doing without us. And it’s quite amazing. And a place to look are the
community design centers that often have
youth groups that are doing absolutely amazing
stuff as part of the hip hop tradition, but applied
to my community. And so if you have a
community design center– I was talking with
someone earlier, I think, yesterday
about The Point in– who was that? Anybody in the room? [inaudible] Yeah, terrific organization. Just– [inaudible] Exactly. Boys and Girls Club. Community– the Boys and Girls
Club, all of those things. Because black teens live in
disenfranchised neighborhoods, they’re very aware
of their environment, of their poor schools. And they organize to
do something about it. And so instead of
recruiting them, and in addition to recruiting
them into our organizations, we can go to them and
offer to support what it is that they want to do. So the sad news that
I have to deliver is that we only have
one more minute left. And– Can I just add to
it really quick? I was going to ask each
of you to give a little– Can I just– –closing statement. –add to that really quick? I’m just going to
say graffiti artists. That’s an example
of that, right? Those are the hand letters. We’re just not
calling them that. So just yeah. [inaudible] So as a closing, I would just
like to offer each of you a last word for the group. Yeah. OK. So I just wanted to say,
and I’ll use this time just to say, that landscape
architecture really has that issue. I mean, it was a
long time before I knew that landscape
architecture existed. And the way I found out was
there was a program here at Harvard called
Career Discovery. I was actually on my way
to be a art restorer. And I came for this
six-week program. And I hear that you still
have this 30 years later. Anyway, and that’s what got me
to be a landscape architect. And even at the HBCUs,
because I taught at Morgan State,
the design schools, especially in landscape
architecture programs, are mainly white,
even at the HBCUs. So we really have that problem. And so I would suggest
landscape architecture students, black and white, go into the
schools, the communities. Let people know what
landscape architecture is. I think it’s one of the– it’s
a profession that you really change how people live. So that’s a real issue for me. When I’m in the
community, I always tell. Because they always say,
oh, you’re an architect. And I said, no, I’m a
landscape architect. Try and explain what this is. Because that is a
profession that really does suffer from people
seeing what we do but not knowing that
that is a profession. Well, you do
gardening, don’t you? [laughter] I’m always being asked
about the azaleas. That’s right. We shrub up the architecture. [laughter] I just want to express
my deep gratitude for being here and
the hospitality that you’ve extended
to me, and to note that you guys looked much
better standing up and wiggling around. [laughter] But we talked about
the grid this morning. We didn’t talk about
the grid last night when we were looking at
that gothic space that had Black Is and Black Ain’t
in it, arranged like you guys are arranged, on the grid. So what I’m really
hoping is that when you invite me back two
or three years from now, that you will have figured out
a way to get out of this grid. And it’s very hard. I forget her name. But there was a woman, who
was the president of AIA a few years ago, who
tried to figure out a different way of
having the convention, to do it in the round. So it wouldn’t be
everybody facing the– and it worked for about
one of the sessions. And then by the end
of the convention, it was back to
the frontal thing. So it’s a real challenge,
I think, to figure out– we’re designers. How can we create
a space that is not based on the one of oppression? [applause] The last thing I
would leave was, one, continue to support the
work of these phenomenal women. Get her book, seriously. They can’t self-promote,
because it’s weird. So I’ll do it for them. [laughter] But then the last thing I
really will say is that we need, obviously, more people of color. We need people from
marginalized communities within these spaces. But having pipeline programs
and diversity inclusion programs is not enough. Because what we’re
expecting is that once we have people of color within
these roles, then automatically they’re going to have
an equitable lens to make society better. And we ourselves have yet
to go through that journey of understanding our own flaws. Because within our
own space, we really promote empathy, which
is important, right? We need to be empathetic. But one of the things
that we talk about is that before you
truly have empathy, you first need to build
your own humility. And that is something
that we are not having enough
conversation about, is about admitting
your own flaws, and looking at
yourself in the mirror. Acknowledging you have
biases and that you need to address them even in
the work that you’re doing. So we’re going to continue
to build these pipeline programs, which we should. Let’s also concurrently
train ourselves to think about unconscious
bias, to look at our history, to acknowledge the
trauma, to heal from it. And integrate that
within our practice. And that’s the same even
when it comes to youth. We need to train early. But training and technical
skills is not enough. We also need to train our minds. And so I encourage you, if
you haven’t already started– which I would argue you have
if you’re in this room– but continue to do so. And then also help train and
build those mindsets outside of this room as well. Would you please join me
in honoring and thanking? [applause]

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