At Urbanism Next, we have been grappling with finding the words to express our solidarity in this moment, but this is what we know:
We know that racism is systemic and is deeply embedded in our social, economic, educational, legal, and political institutions. We know that the disciplines shaping the built environment such as planning and urban design - of which we are a part - have helped to create, reinforce, and perpetuate these systems of oppression. And we know that we have work to do at every level - in our disciplines, in our organization, in our work, and in ourselves as individuals - to practice anti-racism and to hold ourselves accountable. We are committed to doing the work, to listening and learning, and we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
It has been a few weeks since our last newsletter because we felt it was important for us to take a step back and review the information we had already shared about the impacts of COVID-19 on cities. We wanted to look carefully at the language we used, the articles we linked to, and the voices we amplified before we moved on to the next round of topics, including land use and real estate. Here's what we've done:
- We have edited the language on our existing pages and reviewed the content with a concentrated focus on racial equity.
- We have added new links to articles that specifically address and discuss the racial inequities that have been exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- We have begun to diversify our sources and the voices we amplify on our site and are committed to continuing to examine our sources with a critical eye and to promote BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) voices as we move forward.
We have so much more to do, including broadening our network and diversifying our staff, but we have begun here as a way of taking immediate action. Below we have highlighted some of the voices that have have been shaping our perspectives in the past few weeks. If there are articles, voices, webinars, or other resources that you think we should include on these pages we absolutely welcome your input.
The Urbanism Next Team
"Black people have always contributed to the swag, the character, the economy, the dialect of cities. We have always done that. 'Urbanism' is actually sometimes used in place of Black. We will continue to contribute to the swag, the character, the prosperity of our cities and we will not ask for permission. No justice, no peace."
Jay Pitter, excerpt from the virtual conversation How do we respond to anti-Black racism in urbanist practices and conversations?
"Let's talk about opening up street plazas. Especially as we come out of peak of the COVID-19 curve, obviously people mean well, but so far, we're only really talking about opening certain outdoor spaces for certain reasons. So we'll say, for instance, it's okay to have a restaurant plaza; we say it's okay for people who paid lots of money for a meal to use that public space to eat; it's okay for folks, who are predominantly white, to gather en masse for that. And we'll also say it's okay for restaurant workers, who are primarily black and brown people who don't have access to vacation days they can use to maintain their livelihood if they don't feel safe in their workplaces during a pandemic, to go to work in those spaces, to essentially be forced into front-line jobs. But when black people choose to gather to participate in political speech - even when people gather to participate in protests in support of black people - well, of course that's still an issue."
Kristen Jeffers, Under the Banner of Urbanism: An Interview With Kristen Jeffers
"Right now, our obligation to each other, to the built environment, and in solidarity with black lives is to hold all complicit actors in these systems accountable. The profession of architecture is as complicit as any. This is a profession swarming with 'white moderates more devoted to order than to justice,' to quote everyone's favorite civil rights leader, Dr. King. Now the field is faced with another critical moment to act in accordance with justice over order. It is not clear if we will make the right choice."
Bryan Lee Jr., America's Cities Were Designed to Oppress
"You can want open streets and want to hold cities accountable to ensuring new policies do not further harm communities of color. You can want open streets and want to prioritize the acute needs of Black and Brown communities that have been forced to show up for themselves in the midst of a crisis that has impacted them severely. Realizing these ideals in tandem may demand greater imagination and the decentralization of personal desires, but they do not necessitate competition."
"If we want to see streets filled with joy and true low-stress access to quality of life, we have to be willing to disrupt what has been the default mode in urban planning - one that centers whiteness and silences Black and Brown people and low-income communities. This dynamic plays host to white supremacy by imposing pilots and experiments on low-income communities that deserve long-term planning and participatory processes."
Destiny Thomas, 'Safe Streets' Are Not Safe for Black Lives