Updated: Jul 22, 2020
It took a few days to find the strength and will to start writing this. On top of some personal things I was facing last week, hearing/seeing another hashtag of an unarmed Black man murdered by police was icing on the anxiety cake. I, like many others in urban planning + all over the world, felt the huge weight of George Floyd's murder on our hearts, our minds, and our profession. I was numb to it at first then a string of rage-driven emotions flowed after... safe to say I wasn't in a great mental space. Social media drowned me in clips of the video and hashtags everywhere; from George Floyd to Ahmaud Arbrey to Breonna Taylor to Christian Cooper (who is alive thankfully) - it was overwhelming and too much to take in.
You don't know the lump in your throat that comes when you even think about the ever-growing list of innocent Black people that have been murdered..
You don't know the discourse of having to downplay your "Blackness" to make white colleagues feel comfortable..
You don't know the extra level of fear when you go out in BROAD daylight, at night, or hell any time of day, not knowing if you'll get to come back home..
You don't know what it's like to have someone stare in your face while wearing a t-shirt from the university of which you're an alumni then question whether you graduated..
You don't know what it's like to be harrassed for existing in "equitable" places..
You don't know what it's like to be told to calm your Blackness,
You don't know what it's like to fear for your own life plus the extra fear of the lives of your brothers, dads, uncles, cousins, etc..
You don't know what it's like to read hate comments of justification every time WE become another hashtag..
You don't know what it's like to have ancestors, grandparents that tell/show you scars from being whipped or those that were housekeepers on slave plantations..
You have NO IDEA what it's like to simply exist as a Black person in 2020... it's exhausting, frustrating, heartbreaking, and then some. I can't speak for every other Black person, but I know for damn sure even the strongest of us are simply tired of this. I'm tired of it.. I'm tired of quietly trying to explain our right to be HUMANS treated with respect.. I'm tired of hearing "I have Black friends" or "I don't see race/color" - that's essentially part of the systemic and subconscious problem. I'm no longer shielding my language or vernacular to assuage my white colleagues, white friends, white classmates, and white associates.
While I've been daunted with how to feel and what to do from a personal + professional standpoint, I found myself realizing how distorted every system; race, class, social equity, mobility access, goods/services access, education + more, has been blatantly designed for us to fail. I've known that for awhile but actually feeling, seeing, visualizing, and resonating with it is entirely different. What about my Blackness proves to be threatening? Or terrifying? Or deviant? Or criminal? I'm barely 5 feet tall with features of a 16 year old - but the color of my skin depicts me as much more than my physical appearance shows. I can't lie, I was full of anger and rage the last few days, which wasn't really conducive, but those were the only emotions I could sort through at the time. I get a little lump in my throat looking at my brother or my dad or my uncles because I know the world loves them a little less every day and I felt helpless.
Now, after retreating from society + social media a little, I feel refreshed, revived, and determined. All the things I've seen, heard, and read over the last few days showed me why I chose urban planning and why I chose to create this space - call it divine intervention if you will. I still feel beaten by the amount of ignorance + racism that exists in people of POWER that's undercover, but I'm not trippin' about it anymore. I stand behind every pro-Black statement I've made/will make, I stand behind my platform aimed to bring place creation to Black + brown communities with GENUINE intention, and I stand behind my skin color as WHO I AM - PERIOD.
Although education and status doesn't shield me or other Black professionals from the hate, it's a damn good start - they hate to see us thrive, hate to see us come together, hate to see us infiltrate their "secret clubs" of power, hate to see us WIN. That's what I'm on now - Black empowerment through urban design + community development that creates Black-owned communities that thrive with Black-owned businesses. If you're not seeing the impact of what police brutality does to us, our communities, and our livelihoods then you're apart of the problem - that's it. I'm reloaded and I'm better than ever to serve communities that look like me with confidence, heart, and passion. It's what I'm dedicating my career + life to with zero regrets... if you're a non-Black urban planner now more than ever we need GENUINE solidarity and allies. If you're a Black urban planner or in the development-related field please know your work means so much more right now. Keep going despite whatever challenges are placed in front of your work and your voice - YOU MATTER!!!
To my Black people: I love you. I love us. I love our culture. I love our struggles. I love our story. I love our existence. I love our communities. I won't stop pushing the narrative shift for US - no matter what. I won't stop doing all I can to bring needs-based services + amenities to Black communities. I won't stop talking about race, class, and elitism in this profession - you can't truly change until you FULLY accept the wrong.
Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year I will be Black. I'll be Black for the rest of my life. I've existed as a Black female for 28 years now. I'm Black FOREVER and I'm proud as hell of it. To be Black is exhausting, trying, heartbreaking, and even overwhelming at times but I wouldn't trade it for anything. To be Black is to be strong, to be relentless, to be EXCELLENT, to defy the odds every time - it's the best thing I can be. Here's to pushing through for change in the narrative and discourse of being Black in every realm..
Black FIRST AND FOREMOST. Urban planner second. ✊🏾🖤
“I’m not quite sure what freedom is, but I know damn well what it ain’t. How have we gotten so silly, I wonder.”—Assata Shakur
#blackinamerica #blacklivesmatter #urbanplanning #blackurbanplanners #blackcommunitiesmatter #blackexcellence #blackjoy #blackboyjoy #tobeblack #policebrutality #changethenarrative #beheard #solidarity