Right now, we are living in a pivotal moment in our nation’s racial trajectory, and the whole country is paying attention to the Black Lives Matter movement’s call to action. From small backyard gatherings to busy city streets, people everywhere are standing in solidarity with Black lives. They’re listening, they’re learning, and they’re fighting positive change that will move us all toward a more racially just society.
We know that we have a long way to go until we get to justice, but we know that achieving racial justice is possible. It will take neighbor leaders like you uniting to celebrate and honor Black history, stand against racism and fight for justice in the present, and look toward the future with hope.
So today, we’re sharing the stories of several ioby projects that are exploring what a just future might look like, and investing in their communities as they chart a path to that future. We hope you’ll be as inspired by these changemakers as we are! This is the final piece of a three-part series on fighting for Black lives; be sure to check out our previous posts about honoring Black lives of the past and sustaining the fight in the present.
The idea for the BlackSpace Urbanist Collective first emerged in 2015 at the Black in Design Conference at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. “The conference was about Black urbanism and looking at it from the perspective of architects, artists, urban planners, and other designers,” Emma said. It’s a perspective that was, and still is, often overlooked in the mainstream urbanist world despite a long history of racist systems and actions, from the urban renewal and highway projects that devastated Black communities in the 20th century to the contemporary processes of development and gentrification. Naturally, it struck a chord. “We wanted to continue having the conversation after the conference, so we started having brunch,” Emma said.
In its first few years of existence, those brunches were an informal communal extension of the conference for the Black designers and planners who craved it. “When I look back,” Emma said, “a lot of that time was about unlearning and sort of unpacking a lot of the things that were happening in our professions and the toxicity that we inherited through our institutional jobs, our education.” Having been educated in, and often working in, predominantly white places, the opportunity to do that work was significant for BlackSpace’s members.
Last night, ioby’s cofounders — Brandon Whitney, Cassie Flynn and Erin Barnes — were awarded the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal in a new category, New Technology and Innovation.
To ioby, the Jane Jacobs Medal is a huge honor for a number of reasons. First of all, it is very humbling to be counted among great giants in our city — like Ron Shiffman, Rosanne Haggerty and Carl Skelton — who have dedicated their lives to making NYC neighborhoods great places for all New Yorkers, as well as ridiculously important past medalists without whom this city would be very different: Omar Freilla, founder of Green Worker Cooperatives, Peggy Shepard executive director of WE ACT, Alexie Torres-Fleming from YMPJ, Barry Benepe, founder of the Greenmarkets, Damaris Reyes, executive director of Good Old Lower East Side, Richard Kahan, from Urban Assembly, Robert Hammond and Joshua David, cofounders of the High Line, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers from the Central Park Conservancy, Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal, Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, and Janette Sadik-Khan, the transformational head of NYC Department of Transportation.
Second, Jane Jacobs, her work and her legacy is very much a part of the ioby spirit. Fiercely concerned with the people who make up cities, their role in political participation and planning and their value in the everyday ballet of the city, Jane Jacobs (de)paved the way for a platform like ioby to exist and thrive.
And finally, Jane herself was, compared to the urban planners, real estate owners, developers and architects, not expert. She was criticized for being unscholarly and challenged experts in urban planning. One of ioby’s founding principles is that people who live in a community know what’s best for the neighborhood. ioby’s role is that of a platform for leaders to bring attention to their work in urban neighborhoods — however expert or nonexpert those leaders may be. Sure, many ioby projects are led by professional urban planners or professors of urban planning or practitioners in architecture or design , and many are not. In fact, most ioby projects are led by a person who has lived in a neighborhood for many years and sees the need for positive change. And that’s as expert as you need to be to lead a project on ioby.
So, outside of being one of the greatest thinkers on urban spaces, urban planning and sociology that the world has ever seen, we would also like to call Jane Jacobs an early ioby project leader and count her among our Backyard Blazers and Heroes in Our Backyards.
Thanks to Edwin Torres, Dr. Judith Rodin, the Rockefeller Foundation, MAS, the ioby Board of Directors, funders, project leaders and donors who have been the lifeblood of our work since the very beginning.
We are really excited to be working with the Portland Sustainability Institute. For our east coast friends who might not have heard about PoSI yet, we want to share the PoSI premiere from the May 2012 EcoDistrict Institute. Check out the video to learn about this collaborative learning environment for practitioners in urban sustainability.
Yes, this is a 117-minute video. But if you are obsessed with new digital technology platforms to power citizen-driven urban planning, you’re going to love it. Created by Aaron Neparstek, Harvard Graduate School of Design Loeb Fellow, this is #Wikicity.