This podcast was recorded during our first DAYLIGHT event of Season two, Inclusion, held on March 21, 2019. This conversation was between Jha D Williams, spoken word artist and Senior Associate at MASS Design Group and Danicia Malone, artist and Programs and Facilities Manager at the Black Cultural Center at Purdue University.
Lourenzo Giple: [00:00:01] Hello. You're listening to the DAYLIGHT podcast series created by People for Urban Progress and Exhibit Columbus, made possible with the support of the Cummins Foundation, and brought to you by Ambrose Property Group and Central Indiana Community Foundation.
Lourenzo Giple: [00:00:15] Daylight Season 2 brings together national and local thought leaders around the topic of inclusive design. In this season we have authentic conversations on the realities of equity, dignity, and justice as it relates the responsible design for Indianapolis. As Indianapolis grows and changes, these hard-hitting topics have an impact on the overall city and thus have an impact on you.
Lourenzo Giple: [00:00:38] Daylight Season 2, Episode 1, Inclusion. This podcast was recorded on March 21st 2019. During the event we heard from Jha D Williams, Senior Associate of MASS Design Group, and Danicia Malone, Program and Facility Manager at the Black Cultural Center at Purdue University.
JHA D WILLIAMS + MASS DESIGN GROUP PRESENTATION
Jha D Williams : [00:01:02] Good afternoon. Good evening everyone. OK, that was about four or five of you. Let's try that one more time. Good evening everyone. All right. This is better... what are you all drunk already? [laughter] Yeah OK. We can do this. So first and foremost, I'm very excited to be here tonight. Thank you all, anybody that made this event possible. It's a very–it's a great honor to be able to be part of these conversations and to do it in a place that I've never been before, this is my first time in Indiana, so thank you all for giving me an excuse to come here for the first time. So what I'm going to do for you was I'm going to give you a very brief, brief overview of MASS Design Group so that you can better understand where I'm coming from in the conversation that we're going to have momentarily. So I'll start with who we are. MASS Design Group as was already mentioned, we are a nonprofit organization that practices social justice through the lens of architecture. As a result we believe that architecture is never neutral, it either hurts or helps, it either heals or hurts. And our mission therefore is to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity. With that, we work with organizations that are also mission aligned and I'll talk a little bit more about that as I'm going through this presentation. I'll also back up a bit and say that I've personally been with MASS for about a year now and it was very exciting to join the collective a year ago because for quite some time I had believed that architecture could do the things that I'm currently doing now, but I had not fully seen it in practice until I arrived at MASS. So it's very exciting to finally be in a place to do the work that I've always thought was possible through architecture.
Jha D Williams : [00:02:44] So our firm was founded in 2008. Our very first project was in Rwanda, we built a hospital with Partners In Health in Butaro, Rwanda. If you fast forward to today–we need to update this slide–but in 2019 we are a team of over 100 people. We have about 30 or 40 folks in our Boston office. We have about 60 to 70 in our Rwandan office and we also have a Poughkeepsie lab, Poughkeepsie, New York lab. So we're a little spread out and of course you see on this slide as well that we have some other cities kind of called out there. And what that is is that those are places where we have projects, enough projects such that we've had to put some team members there on the ground permanently and that speaks to our desire to get proximate which I'll also talk about in a moment. So who are we? What do we look like? Where are we all coming from? I will not go through all of these spaces but you can see that we have an architecture team that makes up the most of our team. We also have a few landscape folks. We have industrial and product design. We have an ever-growing engineering team–I swear every Friday there's a new person added to our engineering team. It's amazing. We have narrative and operations teams that are definitely in control of everything we say and do which is super helpful because it allows me to continue to design. And then we have fellows, which I'll talk about momentarily, a business development team, and for those that don't know, Michael Murphy and Alan Ricks founded MASS Design Group.
Jha D Williams : [00:04:09] So in terms of project involvement, we are all–all architects and designers in this room are pretty much familiar with these phases of design or of a project, rather, and normally you have the client kind of upfront with the visioning and the planning and the architect does not come in until the design and construction process and then we're kind of out. Once the building is built we're kind of out again and we're not really necessarily part of the evaluation process. At MASS, we believe that it's very imperative, necessary, that we actually participate in the entire process. So more often than not we hope to meet our clients before you know whatever the project is is even envisioned. So for example there was a client that we had that came to us and said we want to build a school. And we said, OK let's talk about it. Why do you want to build a school? What do you hope to achieve by building a school? Et cetera, et cetera. By the time we got to the end of that conversation what we realized is that we needed to build housing for teachers before we could build the school. Had we not been there for that conversation and they instead instead came to us and said, This is the plot of land, this is you know the number of classrooms that we need, et cetera, we would have missed out on an opportunity to actually support an entire community once we eventually got to building the school. We did build the school, but we built the housing first. Right? So we aim to find our partners, our clients well before the visioning process starts so that we together are able to define a mission of a project and really be there from the start to the finish, finish being the evaluation of the project not just the complete construction.
Jha D Williams : [00:05:46] How is this possible? How do we do this? As I mentioned before we are a nonprofit organization and we are in part funded by catalyst funding. We have dozens of partners and sponsors that we work with, but it is with our catalyst funding that we're able to support a lot of the projects that we work on in stages before they're even really fully realized. So for example how many folks buy a show of hand are familiar with the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery? Excellent. So that's a project that our catalyst funding was able to support. We reached out to Bryan Stevenson, we said we understand that you have this project, that you're thinking about this, you know... can we help? How how can we help? How can we be involved? And it was in those initial phases of us working with Bryan Stevenson and his team that we were able to come up with some narrative, some initial design ideas, that then led to fundraising, that then led to the actual project. Right? And so how we were able to fund ourselves in doing that was through our catalyst funding. What's also really exciting about our catalyst funding is that it actually supports initiatives of us MASSers within the office. So if you've ever read my bio on the actual website, or maybe it's even in the information that you got, I'm currently working with one of my colleagues on developing a social justice fellowship in the office that creates entry points into design for folks who have never studied design before. I mean a lot of firms and a lot of organizations currently offer fellowships for people that are in design school. We are currently creating one for somebody that might be an artist or an activist or involved in something else but is interested in the design field, and the catalyst funding will ultimately support that.
Jha D Williams : [00:07:30] So these are some of our partners and clients that we have worked with in the past. Much love to them appreciate the opportunities that we've had with them and so I'll talk to you all a little bit about how we work. So we have, I'd say maybe three main ways of our system thinking how we approach the work that we do. And first and foremost we start every project with a mission. Each architectural project must achieve a simple, legible, and transmissible idea. I'll talk to you a little bit more about that in a moment. We also fully believe in immersing ourselves in the context. This comes from this idea that if we do not ask the right questions or build consensus we may fail the very people we seek to serve. So really... you know, getting to the table, asking the hard, uncomfortable, anxious, questions is what we are great at. You know, sometimes we go into a meeting that we anticipate is going to be an hour. And it ends up being five or so because we're diving deep, we're asking the necessary questions in order to really understand what a project ultimately has to do, but more importantly, who it has to serve. And a lot of times–or not a lot of times–but some of the times those people and those things are perhaps not what our partners thought it would be when we first sat at the table.
Jha D Williams : [00:08:48] Proof of impact is also very important. So the question is never if for us, but it is always in what way and by how much. So when we're starting out a project we start to develop metrics with our partners so that we can then go back after the project is completed and occupied, and begin to measure the success of a project. Too often do we find that these these buildings are built, these projects are constructed, and there really wasn't a system in place to evaluate the success rates of it. And so we really intend to set out in the beginning how we're going to measure the success and the impact of the project. Investing upstream. Who benefits from these projects and at what cost? How are we ensuring that the communities that we say we are building for, that we say we are elevating are actually built up and elevated? Again, that comes back to uncomfortable conversations but it's also about getting the right people at the right table and at the right time. And sometimes yes, that does prolong a project in a process, but it's necessary if we're actually going to change this industry. And then lastly, we fully believe that justice is beauty. Everyone has a fundamental right to a built world that is beautiful and one that improves our quality of life. I'm pretty sure I'm not–I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but we fully believe that architecture and just design... just really believing that architecture should, or design rather doesn't have to just be architecture, but design should be accessible to the greater masses. This notion of elitism, or just certain connotations that have historically come with architecture and design, we are working to change and do away with.
Jha D Williams : [00:10:32] Another way in which we work is the impact design methodology we call this are IDM. And essentially this is something literally I'll show you, actually I'll go to the diagram now, we sit down with our partners at the beginning of every meeting and we talk through this IDM and so we say, What is the mission of this project? We develop the method together, we decide what the impact is going to be, and then we talk about what we anticipate the systematic changes or the behavioral changes to be as a result of this project. Sometimes this IDM changes about a hundred times over the course of a project. Sometimes it stays the same. Sometimes we have to have five of them depending on all of what's going on with the project, how many stakeholders there are, and really what it is that we aim to achieve. So to give you an example of how this works for us, we designed a maternity waiting home in Malawi and at the beginning of the project we started with the IDM and the mission was to improve the mother's experiences at the maternity waiting home. Very simple, very straightforward, but that's what we set out to do. The client agreed and we were moving forward. How do we begin to do that? We create a comfortable, safe, and healthy space for the mothers; we incorporate space for guardians; and we incorporate education space. That second point was very important because what we learned when we first went for our immersion trip was that a lot of the mothers, or expecting mothers, in Malawi were not going to the existing maternity waiting wards because there was no space for their families to come with them. And these women are being supported by their families. They're being supported by their mothers and their mother-in-laws, and these women are sleeping outside while the expecting mothers are sleeping, you know, inside on the bed, and it wasn't a very supportive conducive space to the relationship that they were having. And so making sure that we were actually accommodating the entire family was very important as one of the methods. The impact was to improve the user experience, there were also some metrics that were eventually assigned to this, and then the system was that the mothers–the system change, the behavioral change–was that the mothers knew about the maternity waiting home. That's one, so making sure that folks are informed; that the word is spreading, that they're having a good enough experience that they will go back to their villages and tell people. That they come to stay, and actually have their children there; a lot of times these mothers were coming to these existing maternity waiting homes and then leaving prior to actually having the baby. That they have a positive experience, and again, that they returned to their communities and encourage others. So that's an example of what I mean by an IDM. And again, we we start this with every single project it could be a small project, it could be a large, long term project, we will not move forward until we and the partners that we're working with have agreed on an IDM.
Jha D Williams : [00:13:20] The last system–systematic way that we work would be Lo-Fab construction or locally fabricated construction. So whenever possible, we aim to leverage the design and the construction process to create positive and systemic change. We create opportunities for empowerment through the construction process and we invest through training in the next generation of emerging professionals. This is more true, perhaps, in our Rwandan work than it is currently in our U.S. work because as we're all aware there are some very historical systems of construction industry here in this country that we are currently navigating, but we still aim to make it happen in all of the projects that we do. So we hire locally, we source regionally, we invest in training, and we uphold dignity. And this is a goal of all the projects that we work through. So really quickly, I do want to share two projects with you all that are very near and dear to my heart, and then I want to give my new friend here an opportunity to express the work that she's doing.
Jha D Williams : [00:14:18] So if you read anything about us we just recently were announced as the winners of the King Boston Memorial in Boston which is a memorial design on the Boston Common to honor Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King. As a native of Boston, I am so excited, y'all. I called my mother crying, screaming, I'm like oh girl we made it, like I was so you know it was it was it was really unprofessional, but professional at the same time because you get to invent what professionalism looks like everyday you show up, but anyways. So this is the Boston Common, it is one of the oldest common spaces/largest parks in the United States definitely in Boston, for sure. And our office for those of you that are wondering, is right here on the corner of the screen, so it's also very exciting for our office that we're essentially contributing to the neighborhood that we're currently working in. The King Boston Organization decided a few years ago that they were going to really honor and celebrate Martin Luther King's legacy in the city of Boston, in collaboration and in conjunction with that of Coretta Scott King. Most folks do or don't know that they actually met in Boston while they were studying, Martin Luther King at BU and Coretta Scott at the New England Conservatory. And so this is where their love story started. And so when we started this project we were working with the artist Hank Willis Thomas and we immediately decided that we were going to elevate and celebrate the love of the couple, as well as obviously celebrate the individuals, but so many of the existing memorials in this country contributed to Martin Luther King are of his likeness, are statuary, they're these figures and there's one that honors Coretta Scott King and neither, or none, rather, talk about them as people, as a couple, as their love. And so we started being inspired by this photo here of the couple and moved forward with this notion of the embrace. And so it's this you know 22 to 25 foot tall sculpture that is an interpretation of that photo that we actually do expect people to occupy, we expect them to get in it and hug, you'll see a rendering of that in a moment, because there was definitely a consistent message of love and everything that the Kings promoted. In all the work that they did throughout the entire civil rights movement there was always this notion of love, and essentially that is our call to action for this project.
Jha D Williams : [00:16:42] And so we had a great time working on this project, there were a lot of debates back and forth, yea no, I'm not I'm not playing you're going to hug when you come here. You're going to take your Instagram photo, and then you're going to hug, and then you can be on your way. There's plenty other things to see in Boston but you will stop here. And so you know we, this was definitely an interesting process in terms of one, you know working with Hank's team they're amazing we worked with them on the memorial, we've worked with them on other competitions, but just working on a memorial in general, especially right now at this day and age what you know what does what does it mean to memorialize someone? Or a moment in time? Should we still be building memorials as a society? Should we be building them in the ways that we are? And so one of the things that we did in Boston Common, there are currently a ton of memorials and statues and they are all bronze, and they're all on these stone plinths, and we decided to use bronze, but we want it to kind of speak to the lack of being able to see oneself in the current statues that are in the common and so we use a high-polished, reflective bronze so that as somebody approaches the sculpture they actually have an opportunity to see themselves in the love, and in the work of the Kings. We won. I'm excited. Thank you. Thank you. I'll also say that that was the fourth competition that I worked on in the time that I've been at MASS. If you remember, I said I've been there a year so you can imagine I'm a little tired. So when we won I did a full lap around our office because it was very exciting to have won a competition since I've been there.
Jha D Williams : [00:18:18] Another product that we're working on is in Shaker Square, Cleveland. Is anybody in here familiar with Shaker Square, Cleveland? OK perfect. And so this is the second oldest transportation-oriented development in the country. Very unique space, a lot of historical character. It's a it's a space that means a lot, to a lot of people we have very quickly found out. And essentially this is an opportunity to revitalize the square itself, but more importantly help to create stronger connections between the two, between the four, rather, neighborhoods that are immediately adjacent to the square itself. So in doing so, for those that are not familiar, this is Shaker Square here in the center. And on one side of the square you have a very affluent, predominantly white, wealthier community population and to another side of the square you have a less affluent, predominantly black community. And a lot of this, I'm sure you all are familiar, was created by redlining and a few other strategic, systematic goals of folks in our history that created these disparities and created these disconnections and so the square is an opportunity to heal some of that.
Jha D Williams : [00:19:35] And why I wanted to share this project with you all–this is one of the concept designs that we're currently working through, this is like beginning, beginning concept, I apologize that we don't have any final renderings to show you but we are in the process of it–but why I wanted to share this project is because it's speaking very directly to the way that we do community engagement. And so you know we we are going to Cleveland every 2-3 months, as an entire design team, and we are working with the community to ensure that we're hearing from as many people as possible. And what we learned in our first wave of community engagement, we ran some surveys and we had about 5% response from the Buckeye community, which is the predominantly black community. And we were like That's not going to work, that's just simply not enough. You know they're not, how do we, how do we include this community in this conversation, understanding that historically they have been disproportionately excluded from these types of conversations? And so we hosted a bunch of community meetings public meetings that the Buckeye residents also did not attend. And so what we decided to do instead was go to meet them where we are. Again, we are dedicated to this notion of being proximate and immersing, immersing ourselves into the communities, and so we organize these shop talks which are literally moments where I, and some of the other folks from my team, we go into barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, we ask the owner if we can park there for about 30-45 minutes and we talk to anybody that is willing to talk to us. We introduce ourselves, we familiarize them with the process, we ask them if they know what's going on. We give them an opportunity, or not give them, rather, excuse me, we sit and listen to what it is that they have to say about the project, the process, the design team, and then we also inform them of the meetings that are coming up. And I cannot tell you how many people have said to us, "had you not been here I would have not engaged in this process." "Had you not been here I would not have known that this process was happening." "I do not normally attend these things because I never feel heard at them." "I do not normally attend public meetings because they are not comfortable for me." "They are not a format in which I feel comfortable participating." And so we are in the process of figuring out how to get more proximate to these communities that historically do not participate in these processes with this particular project, and so I wanted to share that.
Jha D Williams : [00:21:54] So that's a very short story of who MASS is and what I am currently working on. So, thank you. Am I bringing you back up? Yes.
DANICIA MALONE PRESENTATION
Donna Sink: [00:22:13] So, thank you so much, Jha D, I can't wait to hear more. I feel like we can all just sit and listen to you speak about your projects, but we are also going to–I mean it's going to be better that we have this conversation between two amazing women. So number two is coming up now, Danicia Malone. Again, the program has everyone, has their bios so you can read through that, but I do want to point out Danicia is the Program and Facility Manager of the Purdue Black Cultural Center and she's currently pursuing a PhD in the User Experience of Race, so the user experience in space to me, as an architect, in the space of race and I am super excited to hear her speak about the built world. So welcome to Danicia Malone.
Danicia Malone: [00:23:12] Alright, can you hear me OK? OK. So I'm going to go pretty quick because I just want to talk to Jha D. So, I'm going to speak a little bit about, I guess, what brought me to this world, and maybe some things that influence me, and why I continue to stay in the work that I do. And then we're just gonna dive into it, I hope that's OK? But if it's not, it doesn't matter. We were asked today to talk about inclusive design. When I was about 16, 15 or 16–I was just telling Jha D this–she asked me where I grew up. While I was born here, I did not grow up here. I spent a lot of time here; in the south, but then I left home at the age of 15 to go live, work, and volunteer in Quito, Ecuador. And I was there for roughly six months doing that work and that was that was a feat for me as a 15-16 year old. One, to convince my mother who is a traditional Midwestern but also like a Southern woman who was like "you're going where?" So, but when I left home to live there it opened my eyes to what it means to be in a space that has inclusive design. It opened my eyes to what it means to be in a space that actually values community, because while I was there I recognized that these spaces were designed, built, and set up by the people who existed in those spaces. And I thought that was really profound. There are spaces that are colorful and quaint and the exterior is seamlessly tied to the interior. They exist in kind of a valley so you're always surrounded by nature and these spaces were not terribly disruptive to the nature around them, to the mountain region. And I thought that was just amazing. It was vastly different than how I grew up here in the midwest. So me being here in the Midwest, I didn't really understand how valuable it was to bump into community and what it meant to have neighbors until I went here. It was when I got here that I grew an appreciation for that. So this is what I would see walking around Quito, Ecuador–Quito is not that big–I would see people on the streets selling their wares, people talking to each other, everyone's always in the plaza. There's always something going on, there's industry happening everywhere. But this was Indy, for me, growing up so it was like large, brown, buildings. It was very boring and dull. And there didn't seem to really be a lot of life, when I left my neighborhood just went into the city proper, of things happening. But when I got back I did recognize that there was opportunity for me to bump into community because this was my community. This is what I saw constantly walking my neighborhood. I saw people engaging and so gave me a deeper appreciation for that. And so what I what I what I came to understand is that what I was experiencing were places that gave me agency, places that gave me a stronger sense of self, because while I was in Quito, all of those spaces I could manipulate at will. While I was here, I couldn't do that as seamlessly unless I was in my neighborhood. And so that to me is a user experience–designing spaces so that it's comfortable for the user to manipulate that space for their needs, for their wants, for their desires. So that is what I consider design justice.
Danicia Malone: [00:26:30] So I'm looking at spaces that are people-centered, that are culturally competent, that are sustainable and malleable. Those are the types of spaces that I think exist within the model and the framework of design justice. And I think as professionals of color, if you exist in this world of design in any way, the design process in any way, having an understanding of what culturally competent design is and what it means to be mindful when you enter that process is vastly important. And we're going to talk more about that because I heard a lot of that coming from from Jha D.
Danicia Malone: [00:27:05] But I think we have some very real examples of how design justice has not worked even though we think it has. So this is this is a design from Paris that was negated, turned down, they didn't want to do it but then it was adopted by Robert Moses. Who knows Robert Moses? Right. This is what it became. So this same design which was meant to have all these beautiful things: green space, quality food, recreation etc. Things that brought community together centered around the idea of design justice. But this was long time ago so that the term design justice didn't exist then, but when it turned into this? This was kind of the blight of the African-American experience when you're talking about New York, right? This in a lot of ways destroyed what it meant to have community if you were a person of color, specifically black or Latino, in this space. Because it didn't center itself around green space, quality food, transportation, having those nodes of interaction are very important when you're talking about design justice. I borrowed this from a mentor and a colleague, I want him to be my colleague–he's not yet–but he will be one day. His name is Brian C. Lee, he talks a lot about what the necessities are for the built environment. We all know about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, right? We have certain things that we need. But spaces, too, have certain things that they need. And when you negate them you automatically set them up for a disservice and for there to be a lack of sustainability.
Danicia Malone: [00:28:41] So when I'm talking about design justice it's a very slow process, it's a very intentional process, and it requires you to be thinking about all of these elements that must go into a certain space. And you can only do that if you're engaging the people who live, work, play, worship, and exist in those spaces on a daily basis. So here's bad design, right? I'm sorry. It's not. Yeah, yeah. It's just not good. Sorry. There's good design, right? Bad. That's good. Like very simple things, but these came by way of having conversation, watching, observing, how do people actually move in spaces? How did people actually work, play, worship, act in spaces? That's really bad design.
Danicia Malone: [00:29:37] So the idea of having culturally competent design–this is where I work, this is Purdue University, black, Black Cultural Center. I love this space, I've been here for a year and I feel like I'm their number one cheerleader because this space was designed by Blackburn Architects. Who knows Blackburn Architects? If you live in the city of Indianapolis you should know Blackburn architects. Black architecture firm, right? Started by a husband and wife who did a tremendous job. But, they designed this building. They designed this in 1997 to 1999 it was erected in 1999. But I love this space because this is the Black Cultural Center and every element within this space speaks to the vernacular of the African-American experience or to the black experience in the Black Diaspora. Even from the exterior, which you can see here, you see that portal right there? If you visit some West African villages you may walk through a portal before you before you enter into a space and that means that you're welcome. Our design team on the outside, the ribbon up top, harkens back to Adinkra symbols. When you walk into the space everything that's laid out in the space from the carpet, to the chandelier, to the cast iron railing, harkens back to African symbology, traditions, customs and everything gives you a sense of having peace, having strength, understanding where you're coming from, understanding where you're going. So the vernacular of the space inherently gives you energy. It's healing you, it's helping you. That's very important. That's culturally competent design that's design justice. I'm actually going to leave it there because I want to have a conversation. So I hope that was OK. And we'll just talk.
Danicia Malone: [00:31:32] Alright. How you feeling?
Jha D Williams : [00:31:40] I feel good. I feel like I had to rush through that a little bit, because I was like we got to get to the conversation, but I still feel good.
Danicia Malone: [00:31:47] OK.
Jha D Williams : [00:31:47] Yes. How about you?
Danicia Malone: [00:31:48] I'm good. I just want to chit-chat, you know?
Jha D Williams : [00:31:50] OK.
Danicia Malone: [00:31:53] So we're here to talk about inclusive design. I don't think we can really say that without recognizing that two people of color were asked here to be featured to talk about inclusive design. You can clap for that. That was actually more of a little poke. But what do you think about that?
Jha D Williams : [00:32:14] I don't know. I think it's it's a very fine line to walk and it's a very difficult line to walk right. Because just the same it would have been, there could have been an opportunity to poke, had the conversation been about inclusive design and there what we're not to people of color, or women, or queer folks invited to be part of the conversation, right? And so it's like I think we as a society, as an industry, are in the process of trying to figure out what is the best way to have conversations that were never intended to happen. And how do we actually do these things that you know the societies before us and the folks before us never really set us up to have? So I think it's, I think it's challenging. I think it's frustrating, but I would not want to be anywhere else.
Danicia Malone: [00:33:01] Yeah, yeah.
Jha D Williams : [00:33:02] So it's a very complicated answer.
Danicia Malone: [00:33:05] It is, very. And I'm glad you said that, I wanted to–that's, I want to draw attention to that, because either way where we are today you're kind of on the right side and the wrong side. There is no middle ground with this. So thank you for answering that in a very welcome diplomatic way.
Jha D Williams : [00:33:21] You're welcome.
Danicia Malone: [00:33:21] You know I also want to draw attention to the, you know looking out into the audience I think it's fantastic that there's such a great crowd here for this conversation but it also makes me think about a Whitney M. Young quote who, let me find it cause I wrote it down because it had to go look for it, he said, "One only need take a casual look at this audience to see that we have a long way to go in the field of integration for architecture." He said that in '68.
Jha D Williams : [00:33:47] Ooh, damn we are not doing good.
Danicia Malone: [00:33:47] Right? So I mean I'm not I'm not really–I'm not trying to, I want to have an honest conversation. And so I think to do that it's just fantastic that we're all here but a lot of individuals in the audience are not those on the margins of this conversation.
Jha D Williams : [00:34:03] Mm hmm.
Danicia Malone: [00:34:03] So, do you have anything to say to that?
Jha D Williams : [00:34:06] Yeah I mean I think this industry is is so challenging. I mean they're, not just this industry, I love what we do and I'm not saying that this is the only industry that has these issues, but I think part of the problem is that disproportionately architecture, or design, has not been a field of study that has been readily available to certain communities. And so for example, you know a lot of firms and a lot of offices talk about hiring for diversity and for inclusion and et cetera and then you always hear "well there's there's no one to hire from".
Danicia Malone: [00:34:44] Right.
Jha D Williams : [00:34:45] You know that the application pool is is low and in part that is true because like when you actually look at who's studying architecture, who's completing architecture school, who's going to get their licenses, who's staying in the field, The numbers certainly are dwindling and so for me what that means is that we have to start younger, you know? Like, had somebody told me as a kindergartner what architecture was I'd be way–I mean I'm okay right now like, I'm good. You all saw, I'm all right–but I'd be way better off I would've been way more informed rather than having found out what architecture even was, you know as a high school student. And so I think there's this opportunity for us to diversify, if that's the words we're gonna be using today, a younger, a much younger population to really help folks–and not even just the younger population–older folks, there are a lot of people that I encounter that have no idea what an architect is. They still don't know what I do, what it like, they've heard it before, they've seen it on TV, but there's really not a clear understanding of what we do and what it takes for us to get to where we are to be able to do what we're doing and so I think generally being in a position to continue to educate folks will help, but also being intentional about how we educate a more diverse, younger population will help to remedy, I think, some of the lack of inclusiveness that we have, currently.
Danicia Malone: [00:36:07] Yeah there's a, I think it's a, his name is Robert Bodega, I think I see it wrong every time, but he and even Brian C. Lee who I mentioned, he started a project called Project Place*. He goes in and mentors young individuals. Really anyone but they're usually of color from the third grade up into the seventh grade on just what it is to be in design. How do you, if you look at your neighborhood how would you be designing it differently? And he gives them the blueprints and toys and says "have at it". So I mean I think that's vastly, you know, just terribly important. But how do you do that practically?
Jha D Williams : [00:36:44] What do you mean by how do you do it practically.
Danicia Malone: [00:36:45] How do you actually put that into practice?
Jha D Williams : [00:36:47] You do it. I think that's part of you know one of the challenges is is in a capitalist society, and maybe that's too extreme of a statement or a way to preface what I'm going to say, but too often are people trying to figure out what is the immediate return. What is the short game? You know do I really have time for this? Do I really have resources for this? Is this really necessary? And the long answer is yes. And you just do it regardless as to what it's going to cost, regardless as to what it's going to take. You figure out a way to prioritize what needs to get done and you do it. Or you find the folks that are willing to do it and you support them in doing it. One way, you just get it done.
Danicia Malone: [00:37:31] Mm hmm.
Jha D Williams : [00:37:32] I think.
Danicia Malone: [00:37:32] Ok, y'all heard her.
Jha D Williams : [00:37:37] [laughs] Just do it.
Danicia Malone: [00:37:37] Just get it done. I mean I think you mentioned a couple of things that are you know had someone told you what it was when you were in kindergarten that would have changed your thinking. Did the idea of representation in the field have anything to do when you were starting out? Did it deter you or encourage you?
Jha D Williams : [00:37:56] So I had a slightly unique experience in my, what is that, grade school education. So as a Boston resident, born and raised in Boston, my mother was a Boston police officer. I grew up in predominantly black neighborhoods and I was part of a program called METCO in Boston. That was a busing program, so everybody remembers busing from the '60s? I was part of that experience in my childhood and so I was bused to predominantly white schools as a child. So not seeing representation in the field of architecture, unfortunately at that time did not faze me because it was a norm for me. And so when I applied for architecture school, at the time I had no idea what I was applying for my guidance counselor suggested it–I can tell you more about that later, but I applied to schools that didn't require a portfolio because I didn't have one and I ended up at Northeastern University in Boston which has a Boston address, but if you look at it geographically it's in Roxbury which is a predominantly black neighborhood. And so I was able to find myself still in my home city and be able to relate to the communities that I needed to relate to and still studying in a predominantly white cohort. And it wasn't until I was working that I began to feel the effects of it not being super representative of who I am and what I needed and when and when I went to my very first NOMA conference I cried because, for those that don't know it's the National Organization for Minority Architects, and I literally cried because I was like I had no idea how starved I was to see people like me in this profession because the entire time that I had been in it from school to jobs I had just grown accustomed to being the only person of color, the only woman of color, the only queer person in the room, like I just I put on the shield, right? And so now–oh they done messed up–now I'm mad. And so now I'm seeking it out and now but I just didn't know. Like I, I figured this is this is what it is.
Danicia Malone: [00:40:05] What do you say to those, I mean if the stats are what is it 2 percent
Jha D Williams : [00:40:10] Mm hmm.
Danicia Malone: [00:40:11] Of the field is of color.
Jha D Williams : [00:40:13] Yep. And there are currently 453 black women architects, licensed architects, in this country.
Danicia Malone: [00:40:18] Right. So what does that like two tenths? It's like two tenths of a percent.
Jha D Williams : [00:40:24] Mm hmm.
Danicia Malone: [00:40:25] So that's. Ugh.
Jha D Williams : [00:40:30] Yeah. What are you. I don't, I have no idea what to say to that. I don't. I don't know.
Danicia Malone: [00:40:36] What would you say to encourage individuals through that?
Jha D Williams : [00:40:40] You know.
Danicia Malone: [00:40:41] I mean that's that's a stark landscape.
Jha D Williams : [00:40:42] Yeah. I mean it really would depend on where that person is, right? So if I'm talking to someone that's working in the field already they've already graduated they're already in the workplace and they're they're going through the motions of being in the workplace. I would tell them find your tribe, immediately, find your tribe because this this work that we do is already not easy, right? Like just being a designer is exhausting. Do you just. Oh my God the creative energy is so exhausting, right? So like that in and of itself is exhausting, but to be doing it and to feel isolated is more exhausting. So I would tell them to find their tribe if it's a student you know I would courage encourage them to ask themselves like what is the worst thing that could happen if you don't finish? If you don't push through. If you do not figure out how you're gonna make it out of this what is the worst thing that could happen? We could continue to live in the world that we currently live in. Right? And like we don't get to participate in creating our physical environment.
Jha D Williams : [00:41:37] For high school student, I would encourage them you know to familiarize themself with the field before they actually apply to school, because I think that was for me one of the most shocking things was it was kind of like a culture shock coming into design school because the jargon in the environment was just so vastly different from anything I had ever experienced. And I had a lot of professionals in my life, you know adults, but they were mostly firefighters and police folks and you know I knew a few lawyers, but like I'd never heard architects talk, I had never heard designers talk. So I would tell a high school student to familiarize themselves with the industry before pursuing. And then you know younger folks, I'd be like let's let's just go everywhere. Let's let's look at buildings. Let's talk about buildings, let's talk about design, let's you know really encourage them to kind of open their minds to understand. So again it would depend on where that person is but essentially the overall message would be keep going. Just push through.
Danicia Malone: [00:42:34] So you know we're talking about let's say it's Mable Wilson has this really good quote, she's an architect and a professor at Columbia. "Race in modern architecture is not about being inclusive. It's about questioning racial concepts, how we think racially, how that is embedded in the very things, the tools, the discourse through which we learn and understand architecture." And so you just said this work is exhausting. And especially when you start to incorporate the idea of being inclusive because that's a slower process, when you start to incorporate the ideas of cultural competency, because that's a learned process. And then to just be a person of color and aware right now of all the things happening socially, is exhausting. So to do this work, to be building spaces for individuals who have a hard time just taking space, just having space where they can be free, that's like a double burden. How do you, what do you think about that?
Jha D Williams : [00:43:45] Prayer. Umm, no, umm. I think it sucks, to be honest with you. I think it's it's a challenge and it's a it's an opportunity for us as a society, as an industry, as a generation of designers, to resolve, to remedy, to address, to fix. And we're going to have to get very creative in the ways that we do it because it is, it is an unfortunate truth. Like I was talking to a friend of mine who is a planner and we were talking about housing and we're talking about designing housing and in the conversation we realized we were like has it ever dawned on you that there were literally policies in place that would have prevented us from ever owning a house and here we are sitting in a room designing housing and like very simple question but mind-blowing and frustrating and so it's like how do we begin to address these elephants in the room and how do we begin to talk about the things that have occurred that have gotten us to the places that we're in? And how do we, one, encourage one side of the table to be vulnerable enough to have the conversation, and then encourage the other side of the table to be persevering and comfortable enough to continue to push the conversation, right? And it is constant, consistent work. And it's not easy, but ultimately I think it's worth it because you know I don't have children yet, but like I will, and they will, and I just, you–I'm, I'm looking forward. I'm not even thinking about the now,I'm thinking about 10, 15, 20 you know years from now what do I want this built environment to look like and what am I willing to go through to get it there?
Danicia Malone: [00:45:43] So with that, what would you offer–looking at the audience today, that question was very leaned towards one side, but looking at the audience today for those who are our counterparts, not of color, what would you say to them in this field of design?
Jha D Williams : [00:45:59] One thing I always tell everybody, everybody, everybody every space I ever walk in or have an opportunity to speak to, is check your unconscious and conscious biases. Check them, often. Like you don't just check them once and you're like "Oh no I got it". No no no. You continue to check them, you continue to ask yourself the difficult questions, ask, investigate, unearth, dig for, bury, talk about it, read. There is, I cannot, there are so many articles, so many publications, so many books that people can read to inform themselves about their potential unconscious biases because those those biases play out in our design work, they play out and how we talk to people, how we treat people, how we think about people and it is it permeates through everything and if you are not aware of this and you just you're just waking up and you just going through your day, you are perpetuating some of the things that have disproportionately, like, disenfranchised folks and so that I don't even go anywhere else when I'm talking it, like when people ask me I'm like no no no we got to start here with you, then we can talk about your workplace, then we can talk about the industry, then–and when I say you talk about us you know because me, I also have some biases some unconscious biases that happens to me all the time. I walk into a space a lot of times and just assume I'm not welcome. Just assume that I'm going to have to defend why I'm there. Just assume that it's gonna be a battle and I have to work myself out of that, right? So like it, it goes both ways but that's what I would say.
Danicia Malone: [00:47:40] Have you done like bias training or undoing racism or understanding cultural competency?
Jha D Williams : [00:47:47] I have, but I've done them–and not to say that's completely different–but I've mostly done that in spaces around activism and art. I've not necessarily done them for like workplace trainings.
Danicia Malone: [00:48:02] How many in here, by show of hands, have ever taken an Undoing Racism workshop? That's pretty good. How many in here, by show of hands, has ever taken an unbiased learning, learning to unbias yourself workshop?
Danicia Malone: [00:48:17] Nice.
Danicia Malone: [00:48:18] Little fewer, ok. How many in here know what cultural competency is?
Danicia Malone: [00:48:25] Ok. Little fewer, so dwindled each time. All right. Well the terms are now out, there so you can go explore.
Jha D Williams : [00:48:32] Are there resources here in Indianapolis for that?
Danicia Malone: [00:48:33] There are resources. So, Indianapolis has, they host Undoing Racism workshops monthly, actually, by way of Child Advocates. Umm, they're free, first come, first serve. It's a two, sometimes, three day workshop and it is all day, but it is fantastic. I've done it five times and I learn something new every single time. I lead, Purdue Black Cultural Center, facilitates Unlearning Your Bias. Umm, the LGBTQ center teaches Safe Zone. Like all of these things are resources to assist you when you're thinking about your personal bias, and then you're gonna be facilitating built spaces for people to live in those spaces, to work in those spaces, to worship in those spaces. So again if they're not, if they're not talking to the needs and desires of those who are actually going to be using them then I think they're defunct. But. So yes, there are resources.
Danicia Malone: [00:49:33] So you mentioned something about housing, right? Your friend was like How crazy is it that we get to design houses because there was a point when we couldn't be, right? But also looking at at the site, at the MASS site, there was a statement that said you all think that architecture is a right. Can you qualify that for me as we exist in a country that doesn't have a right to housing.
Jha D Williams : [00:50:08] Such a loaded question. Umm, mercy. I will qualify in the way that we obviously take issue with the fact that we live in a country where housing is not a right and the way that we work, and the way that we approach architecture, and even the way that we approach our partners, like there have been times where we've been asked to participate in an RFP or we've been approached by a potential partner and we say no because we don't feel like they or that work or that project is mission aligned enough for what we want to contribute our time and our energy to. And so you know when we say architecture is a right it kind of goes into this conversation around, I mean we all know this, like for a while architecture was, sometimes still is, very very elitist like it was a was a classist thing, you had to have a certain amount of money, you had to have some amount of resources, you had to have land, et cetera et cetera in order to have a right or access to architecture, in order for things to be aesthetically beautiful and pleasing. And we feel as though that just does not make any sense, especially because every single day everybody in this room, or just in the world, is experiencing spaces. You are always in some sort of space, and so why not have it be something that is immediately accessible to the masses. Why is it, why would it have ever been reserved for only a certain class of folks, right? And so obviously we cannot change the country overnight. We cannot change the industry overnight but we certainly set forward in our work to begin to implement the change and effect it and inspire folks to have conversations very much like the one that we're having right now.
Danicia Malone: [00:52:02] So I'm more of a critic of place and space, and I do that by by using my relationships, my community relationships. By using art, I'm an artist, performance-based art. And just like creative commentary as a whole. Yourself, you're a spoken word artist you create spaces for individuals to share their truth, in a very powerful and impactful way. Can you speak to how important it is to design spaces beyond the traditional markers of the built environment, using people and asset-based development in that form, in that structure, and how that can be just as powerful to influencing the context of space, and maybe not the actual brick and mortar of a space. That was such a, I know it was a lot in that question. How important is it, how important is it to utilize and to appreciate the ideas of people and what they bring to the table for the essence of a space and not necessarily the brick of space.
Jha D Williams : [00:53:19] I think it's very important. I'm glad you asked that question earlier today, when I landed I had lunch with a few folks that I had worked with previously at Sasaki and that now you know Merritt Chase and Bob Culver and we were talking and I was explaining to them I was like you all for the past year that I've been at MASS I have not talked about a building. I don't, I don't talk about buildings anymore the only conversations I've been having are about people. All we talk about are people. Those are, that is at the center of our conversation and it is always an investigation, an exploration, an unveiling, revealing of how people actually move through the world because I think for so long you know architecture or design was about the icon of the building. Does the building make a statement about where we are as a society? Does the building, do the materials, does orientation make a statement about who we are and what we're doing and it was not necessarily always about how is a family going to move through this space? How is someone that's differently abled going to enjoy this space? How will somebody walk into this space and know that they are welcome here? How will somebody be able to come into this space and be encouraged to use it differently than this group of folks would or than that group of folks would? And so I think it's a very important and it has come to the forefront of my mind like it's I literally do not talk about walls and floors and materials anymore I talk about people and characters and narrative and experience and it it has just completely changed the way that I design because I was trained to talk about the walls and floors and now I'm I'm retraining myself to talk about the people.
Danicia Malone: [00:55:08] Are you doing that alone?
Jha D Williams : [00:55:10] No. I'm so happy to not be doing it alone. We are doing it together as a collective at MASS.
Jha D Williams : [00:55:17] Like the our discretes are pinups the conversation, like the language is just completely different.
Danicia Malone: [00:55:23] How does that affect the sustainability of a project?
Jha D Williams : [00:55:26] I think it has a great impact on the sustainability of a project because if you if you are people-forward then the then the people will carry the project, right? Like, if you have considered how the body will experience the project–and I'm not saying that traditionally architecture has not done that like that is obviously not what I'm saying this is not a larger critique of like our entire history of design, but I think being open and forward–thinking about it certainly contributes to the sustainability of the project because when you when you when you focus on the people and you also involve them in the process, right? When you focus on the end user and they are at the beginning of the project then they have some ownership over the project itself, they have some ownership over the building itself and so then they in turn take care of the building, they take care of the space, they take care of the programs that are in it because they're invested and so I think it totally supports and upholds the sustainability of it.
Danicia Malone: [00:56:24] Also I'm going to dig into a little bit of semantics here because in the DAYLIGHT series blurb it says you know it's time to go from community engagement to participatory design. Are the two different? Or are we just looking for kind of another slice, right like it used to be.
Jha D Williams : [00:56:45] Right.
Danicia Malone: [00:56:46] Are you diverse?
Jha D Williams : [00:56:47] Right.
Danicia Malone: [00:56:47] And then it was, are you inclusive? [Jha D laughs] And then it was, are you culturally competent?
Jha D Williams : [00:56:52] [Jha D laughs] Right. I think that ideally or inherently the two are not different. However, I feel like now when I see community engagement you know there's always like kind of this quotation around it and it is stemming from this checking of a box. Did did we engage the community? Yes, we had a public meeting, we engaged the community. And so I think when when folks say you know we're moving away from community engagement and towards participatory design it is an intent to say we are actually, honestly interested in working with, and not through, a larger community. We want to be informed by the community, we are willing for the design and the process to be changed and impacted by our doing the community engagement. Because a lot of times you know in other products that I've worked on sometimes in certain places we would do community engagement but there were a lot of decisions that had already been made and it was not necessarily a "Hello community, give us your input into this so they can actually affect how we're thinking," it was, "Hello community, this is what we're going to do, good night" you know and like and so I think it is when when you see that you know participatory design moving away from community engagement I think it is a critique of what our industry has been known to not do as well as it should have.
Danicia Malone: [00:58:19] Mmm hmm. So, ok ok. So I'll do two more questions because we could just keep talking.
Jha D Williams : [00:58:26] I'll give short answers.
Danicia Malone: [00:58:29] Yeah, so we've talked a little bit. We've talked a lot about this from one perspective the idea of the designer. But what do you say to the individuals who might be in this space or who you might be working with who are not the designer, the trained designer, but they are very aware that their narrative is not already in space or in the process, the traditional process.
Jha D Williams : [00:58:50] The short answer to that is you know, because obviously a lot of our partners are not designers, I would do what I say to them is is that your opinion, your input, your narrative is perhaps just as if not more important than you know my design expertise. Right? Because you know this place better than I ever could. You know what your needs are going to be in this space better than I ever could. I am here to translate what you are saying, what you are needing, what you are asking for into a product, if you will, right? And so kind of creating that entry point is you know something that I think is important to convey to somebody that's not a designer like, you don't have to be a designer to sit at the table of a design project. Right. Like we are all pen holders of what needs to happen.
Danicia Malone: [00:59:43] Right. Ok, my last question, I just want to know. Place making or place keeping?
Jha D Williams : [00:59:48] Oh my, I don't like–who put her up here? Both. [laughter]
Danicia Malone: [00:59:53] Well I guess we got to open it up to questions from the audience, is that we're doing? Yeah?
Donna Sink: [01:00:03] We are recording to do a podcast so I will be doing the Oprah thing where I run around with the mic.
Q + A WITH THE AUDIENCE
Mark: [01:00:18] Hey. My name is Mark. My name is Mark. I'm a graduate student at IU, so we've got a new program called IU J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program. And she was part of the critique last year. So I've got a question for you, my classmate is Stacy over here, and so what do you have to say for you know students of our students of color you know like, do you have any advice for us?
Jha D Williams : [01:00:52] So much. Sleep, first and foremost. No but, honestly like I said before when Danicia asked me the question of like, what would I say to somebody and I said at different–it depends on what stage they're in, for students, I said find your tribe. And I meant that. And by find your tribe I mean find other folks who are studying, whether it's design or architecture, or just studying things that traditionally have not been studied in their families. Find your tribe and talk through that. Also find your mentors. I looked, I sought out a mentor way too late in life. I mean granted I'm fine. Again, I'm fine. I'm OK, y'all, I don't need a hug. I'm all right. But I wish that I had–that I would have sought out mentors earlier in my career than I did. I didn't start looking for mentors until about two years ago. And had I been looking for them in undergrad and in grad I feel like I would be less exhausted than I currently am. So find your tribe, search for your mentors, and also you know really decide for yourself why it is that you're that you're doing this. Like what do you hope to gain? And again, what happens if you quit? What happens if you don't do this? What happens if you are not in the room 10 years from now? Twenty five years from now? And if that bothers you then you stay right where you are and you push through, you know like you figure it out. But yeah, those are the things... and then also the last thing I'll say is, for me I really had to explain to my mother what I was doing and why it was important because she was ready to burn U Penn to the ground. She's like, Why are you there every night? Like, What are they doing to my baby? And I'm like Mom, it's called Studio. I have, you know, a review tomorrow. It's–all the other students are here. But like really helping her to understand so that then she was able to better support me was also something that I had to do. So I don't know where y'all at and how your family's feeling, and that's for anybody, that's not just for students of color, but really helping your family to understand what this entails helps them the better support you.
Audience Member: [01:02:54] First of all thanks so much for being here.
Jha D Williams : [01:02:56] You're welcome
Audience Member: [01:02:57] It's really insightful. OK, so I am a student myself, as well. Interior design, actually, and I have a question. This might be like a blatantly obvious question for a lot of people who are already practicing, but what is the best way to go about, like, asking those questions about when you're planning for a space, like how do I best represent the different cultures and communities around me without just making assumptions, obviously.
Jha D Williams : [01:03:23] So I cannot answer that question because it will vary depending on what communities you're in, but I will say that you cannot ask a question until you've listened for an answer. Right? So you start by listening. You start by just creating opportunities or spaces to hear from the communities that you'll eventually be doing the project in, and then that will help you to begin to understand what questions you should be asking. And also help you to understand what assumptions you're making that might not necessarily be true. So it's about trust building and relationship building that then should inform the questions that you're going to be eventually asking. Right, so my answer is listen, first.
Danicia Malone: [01:04:07] So something that, while I'm not a–I'm a planner, I'm not an architect but as an urban planner who travels a lot. I love listening. I think yes, that is number one. And also being curious, like being intentionally curious and starting with the mode of appreciative inquiry. So that everything that you're observing you find all in it, and you're like, Wow how does that work? So you're asking questions where you're already giving praise to a system and you're learning from that system. i]Instead of going in thinking that the system is broken or there's a deficit in any way.
Donna Sink: [01:04:42] So I'm going to pass the microphone over to one of my mentors, we were speaking about mentors, Olon.
Olon: [01:04:49] She's my mentor. Hello. How're you doing? It's been a while. Congratulations. Yes. So this is, I just hear the word social justice a lot and I've struggled in my own college, and in my own department, with my own–with our own alumni. But we followed through and establish the first minor and certificate in social environmental justice in the United States, in the architecture school at Ball State. [applause] And I would love to have you come back and talk to our students up in Muncie about the commitment to social environmental justice at MASS who we've been working with in Montgomery on the on the memorial to peace and justice. We just finished a memorial to Peace and Justice Center which is across the street from the moral that opens next week. So I would love for you to come back and talk to our students at Ball State. And I wanted to see if you could speak to your impression, at least in the academy and in an academic environment, how you imagine–how you would justify a relationship between social environmental justice and architecture.
Jha D Williams : [01:06:18] I mean I think we should be at a place currently in our society where the two cannot be divorced like we are no long–we no longer have the luxury of talking about architecture, design, the built environment and not also talking about social justice, not also talking about equitable spaces, not also talking about access, like they cannot be separated any longer. They cannot be treated as two different arenas any longer and I think that the academy has a huge responsibility in the way that they're educating us as designers. Like literally I had to seek out studios, or rather they were electives, that were anywhere near related to social justice as it relates to design while I was in grad school and I was extremely frustrated because I was in a major city studying and I could have been in the middle of nowhere because we were not even looking at the class, or at the city as a classroom, and so I think the academy certainly plays a huge role in helping to shift the way that we as designers practice and exist in this world.
Ron : [01:07:37] Good evening. Thank you for being here. My name's Ron Searcy I work at Meticulous Design and Architecture. It's a black-owned firm and I worked with a gal who is black and she is on her way to licensure she's taking the exams right now. One of the things that she negotiated when she came to the firm was the ability to exercise an outside business which she calls the Next Great Architects. She goes to schools and it doesn't matter what–high school, middle school, grade school. She teach-she works with kids to try to teach them about architecture. So she is doing exactly what you're describing in terms of exposing children of all ages to architecture, the profession, the variety of things that can be done within it. So she is exercising that right now and I wanted to let you know that it is happening in our community right here right now.
Jha D Williams : [01:08:46] Thank you. I'll ask you later for her information. Thank you. I do have a question is the firm still supporting her in those efforts? (Ron: Yes) Excellent. All right. Because if not I was coming by, no I'm joking.
Starla: [01:08:59] Hi my name is Starla. I wanted to know more about the social justice fellows, in the spirit of the last two questions, program that you have at your organization. And as a follow up to that really getting a gaining understanding of your assessment of your colleagues experience having a fellow in the office, a person that's contributing to the design process that might not be a designer, and what's that's like, what that's like as a firm.
Jha D Williams : [01:09:26] So I hate to disappoint you but you're gonna have to ask me that question in a year because we literally just got the funding approved for this fellowship two weeks ago. So I am in the process of building the fellowship, but I can say that right now my colleagues are perhaps more excited about this fellowship than they have been about anything else that I've seen in the past year. When my, my colleague Jeff Mansfield who is working with me on the fellowship, when he and I pitched this idea at our retreat this year it was a unanimous decision that it would be funded. So the firm is behind us. And if you asked me in a year I will have a whole report of an answer for you
Audience Member: [01:10:15] Okay. All right. So I am not in this field at all in architecture but very excited that you are here to talk about community involvement in this process. So one of the–so I'm in actually communications, marketing, advertising. So my question to you is you talked about a lot of these architects are not a part of–they're not engaging the community in the planning process, or in the evaluation afterwards. So what advice can you give to someone who would be engaged at the point where the planning is kind of already happened and now there's community engagement. What advice could you give for someone who would then need to go out to the community and engage them in the process moving forward?
Jha D Williams : [01:11:02] Assuming that I fully understand the question, I mean I think the advice that I would give is to be mindful of that right to be cognitive of the fact that as you're going out into this community they may or may not, the folks that you'll encounter, may or may not feel left out. And it is important that you actually address that upfront and you explain where you are coming into the process and therefore where you now have to meet them in the process. Right? Because in part it's kind of out of your control and so I think being upfront and honest about that, and then leaving space to have a dialogue about what that means and how that makes them feel so that you are able to then move forward. So I think it's about transparency and it's about open communication at that point in the process. Does that answer your question? OK.
Danicia Malone: [01:11:49] So I would just encourage you to and no longer think that you're not a designer because, communication and marketing and all of that is design. You know even one of the simplest examples that I like to share is and I live in a Latino neighborhood right now and I grew up in a black neighborhood but I worked in a very white neighborhood and there were three ads that I would see in all three four McDonald's that I had. In the white neighborhood. Right. Two Dollar Burger very simple, the ad in the black neighborhood changed the language, and the ad in the Latino neighborhood changed how it was, it changed the language completely by putting it in Spanish. That is design very simply and that's very intentional. Until that happens, like I'm not just going out and getting something that's not directly marketed to my community. That's how these industries build their followings. So you are in many ways like one of the most important components of the design process because you're telling me how to relate to this thing. And if you're in that process yes, be listening again, be asking them questions from a point of appreciative inquiry, be understanding what it is that they relate to, whomever they are. And how they hear, and how they translate, and how they view all of those things. So you're just as much of a designer as everyone else.
Gary: [01:13:30] Hi I'm-I'm Gary Reiter and I'm board president of Riley Area Development which is a community development corporation focused on affordable housing. So MASS Avenue, of Lockerbie in Chatham March, is now largely a white affluent neighborhood but there is a black history in MASS Avenue that was kind of destroyed, or was actually destroyed intentionally, by the highway system here. So we would like to see some inclusive cultural design in our next project in the MASS Avenue area that would honor the African-American history that is based in that area. At the same time you might look at like 16th Street and Monon trail which is facing possible gentrification and the acts that you could take in that neighborhood to preserve the cultural identity, from our priority basis, could be more of a priority than honoring a tradition when you have limited resources in the MASS Avenue area. So when you say what is the choice between placemaking and placekeeping. I'm curious about how you feel about that difference and in that kind of analogy that is placekeeping more of a priority with limited resources do you think then placemaking?
Danicia Malone: [01:14:47] I think place keeping is always a priority. I have, I don't have much respect for place making at all because I don't think it comes from a place of seeing that people exist in a place. I think it comes from a place of seeing deficits in a place and that something needs to be done in this place instead of honoring that already here exists culture, exists assets, exists history and all of those things have existed before you got to that place. So I always advocate for placekeeping and I think there are ways to uplift whatever is in a certain, within a certain space regardless of resources because these communities were doing a lot with very little already. So that's I think it's a place of learning for firms or developers to come in and say we don't need a million dollars to make this thing super shiny. What do they actually want and need and what are they asking for? And you might be able to get it done for a hell of a lot cheaper then are you thinking. So that's my answer to that. Yes, I think placekeeping can always be done with limited resources but I think placekeeping should always be done with the utmost integrity and quality and just throw out placemaking.
Jha D Williams : [01:16:02] I don't know it's a bit challenging for me because you know you brought up earlier semantics and like are the, what are we talking about when we say placemaking? And to an extent, like what are we talking about when we say placekeeping? And so my answer to that question would be people like how are you centering whatever the conversation is around the people? Who is there? Who wants to continue to be there? Who is invested in the place? Who has built the place to become what it is? Amd how are you centering the design, the narrative, the efforts around those people? And then when you answer that question then you can begin to find out like is this placemaking? Is this placekeeping? Are we distributing resources correctly? And in that of course takes longer. You know, that is more of an investment like that is a process because you know nine times out of ten you have to start with trust building. You have to start with you know educating in both directions, then you finally start having a conversation around planning, then you have a conversation around design, like it is a much longer process but it is a much more sustainable process. And it is a process that is much more dedicated to the people and not the place, like even the fact that we're leading the conversation with placemaking or placekeeping to me is the challenge, right. So it's the people, and then you go from there.
Donna Sink: [01:17:23] I think we need to to end. I'm sorry. We do have another half hour or so to hang out and ask some questions. This has been uncomfortable in a really good way. And that is the goal of DAYLIGHT Season 2. So thank you for coming. Jha D, Danicia, Thank you. We are so indebted. [Music plays]
CONCLUSION + THANKS
Lourenzo Giple: [01:18:00] You are listening to the DAYLIGHT podcast series made possible with the support of the Cummins Foundation and brought to you by Ambrose Property Group and Central Indiana Community Foundation. Thank you to our sponsors CVR, The Basemant, Browning Investments, Hendricks Commercial Properties, Merritt Chase, Holladay Properties, Plat Colelctive for making this series possible. And also a big thank you to the staff of PUP, People for Urban Progress, and Exhibit Columbus and all the individuals involved with the creation of this speaker series and podcast series.
*Speaker's note: she was referring to James Rojas with PLACE IT!*