Editor’s Desk: Do the Work

Advancing Racial & Gender Justice in Architecture

In 1971, 12 black architects in Detroit, Michigan, formed the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA).  Fueled by the fervor of the Civil Rights Movement, NOMA’s goal has been to minimize the effect of racism on the architecture industry and champion diversity within the design professions by promoting the excellence, community engagement, and professional development of its members.  In light of recent events, NOMA updated its mission to include the fostering of justice and equity in communities of color through outreach, community advocacy, professional development, and design excellence.  America has undergone a summer of sorrows, with racial injustice and unrest taking its toll on communities of color across the nation.  It’s time for all design professionals, architecture firms, and industry associations to take a look in the mirror and see if previously held beliefs and commitments to equity are simply hollow promises.

         The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is taking steps towards promoting and advancing racial justice in architecture.  In September, AIA announced that it will launch a new program, Next2Lead, to advance leadership pathways for ethnically diverse women.  “We are fully committed to addressing racial inequality within our profession and recognize that it must begin within our own organization,” said AIA 2020 president Jane Frederick, FAIA.  This is so true.  You can champion racial and gender inclusivity all day long, but if you don’t put pen to paper and make it a priority within your own department, firm, or organization, your thoughtfulness doesn’t carry much weight. 

         The AIA, after evaluating its integrity as an association, decided to develop education, systems, and processes that are inclusive for both the short and long term. Now, I challenge you, as well as myself, to look at how our businesses are led and what types of workplace environments we are fostering.  Are we providing resources and attitudes to allow for the expanded growth of minority professionals in our industry?  NOMA has used BRAVE as an acronym for committing ourselves to leveraging our positions of privilege to help our most vulnerable colleagues: Banish racism, Reach out to those who are grieving, Advocate for the disinherited, Vote in every American election, and Engage each human that you meet as you would want to be engaged.

A diverse workforce, particularly in leadership positions, guarantees that your business will not only develop unique ideas that stem from distinct backgrounds and experiences, but the work you produce will be created through a multitude of lenses that can help facilitate the critical changes that the world needs right now.  The architecture industry has a long history of pioneers who forged paths for the systematically overlooked and undervalued, and while they were and continue to be important, it’s time for all of us to do the daily work at institutionally changing the future of the design industry

Marcus Dodson

editor & publisher

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