Sometimes a crisis acts as an aperture to focus society. The events of the last week have, for the time being, narrowed our nation’s collective vision. An important moment in time where we all must reflect on how all are represented and treated and what opportunities are afforded for every citizen.
The senseless killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many other black citizens throughout the years must be condemned by all Americans. It must mobilize everyone to confront the systemic racism and inequalities that exist in American society. Every American must gaze inward and ask themselves the hard questions. To wit, we must as a design community take a critical look at our organizational, firm, and individual commitments to inclusion, equity, outreach, and diversity.
This year finds AIA North Carolina at a triennial weigh stop, a rewriting of the chapter’s strategic plan. Like most AIA components our previous plans have given lip service to the platitudes we hear about equity and diversity, but at a time like now can we honestly say we have given our full measure of effort toward achieving those goals? We commit to asking these questions and focusing our energies and ACTION toward these goals.
It’s not simply about immediate action. In fact our colleagues at the center of this conflagration in Minnesota probably said it best in their statement this week,
“Instead of architects assuming we know what is right and jumping in to assert our experience, expertise and good intentions, we need to step back, listen and be ready to learn, unlearn, and adapt.”
In this spirit, the leaders of AIA North Carolina will be outlining a pledge for the coming year. One in which we invite a broad spectrum of our members, future members and design community partners to take part in so that we put ourselves and our Chapter on a clear path to measurable results.
Kimberly Dowdell, AIA, NOMA, 2020 President of the National Organization of Minority Architects, beautifully summed up the challenge in front of us in her recently released statement,
“We must all leverage our positions of privilege to help our most vulnerable citizens, neighbors and colleagues strive for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I urge you to consider what’s happening right now as an American problem that we must all face together.”
Our strategic planning process must embrace this challenge and include those in minority and oppressed communities who can design a more inclusive and equitable destiny for our profession in North Carolina.
The honorable North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley wrote,
“The recent deaths have once again shed light on the truth that injustice and discrimination still exist. And the protests that have followed have shown us just as brightly that we can come together in expressions of solidarity and grief. My hopeful prayer is that we continue to learn and grow together and that we have the courage to make change where change is so desperately needed.”
We concur with Justice Beasley and challenge our design community to do the same. Justice Beasley went on to conclude her remarks by saying,
“The work of improving justice is never truly done. Justice is not an achievement. It is a practice.”
As it is in our courts, so too is it in architecture.
As we challenge and commit ourselves as a Chapter to clarify our plan to take ACTION regarding our commitment to inclusion, equity, outreach and diversity we are also called to challenge and make a change in our organizations, our firms, and as individuals. Now is the time.
From AIA North Carolina Officers:
Rod Lindsey, AIA, President
Laura Miller, AIA, President-Elect
Matt Hart, AIA, Treasurer
John Paquin, AIA, Secretary
Jim Williams, AIA, Immediate Past President
David Crawford, Hon. AIA, Executive Vice President
Also, see the AIA Board's statement on systemic racial injustice here.