|by Jennifer Molinsky|
Senior Research Associate
Earlier this month, the Joint Center for Housing Studies, together with the Loeb Fellowship and African American Student Union at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), hosted InFORMing Justice, an interactive conversation about designers’ roles in promoting racial justice in our communities. The event evolved in the wake of national discussions about the deaths of black men in Ferguson, Staten Island, South Carolina, and elsewhere, as a way for GSD students and the broader community to discuss how design and designers can promote community empowerment and ultimately justice (and its requisite parts, including equal access to safe, healthy neighborhoods and economic opportunities).
In the opening panel, moderated by Professor Michael Hays, architects Kimberly Dowdell, Theresa Hwang, Liz Ogbu, and artist Seitu Jones touched on the intensely personal nature of their professional work in disadvantaged, racially segregated communities. They urged architects, designers, and planners to reflect on their own biases and assumptions as they work to build what Jones called “the beloved community;” the importance of active, intentional listening in engaging with community residents; the critical role of the design process in bringing about change; and the value of working collaboratively across disciplines.
Following the panel, participants broke into small groups to brainstorm ideas about how design professionals can address racial injustice in the university curriculum and in practice.
If you missed the event, you can now watch the webcast, view our Storify of tweets & images from the evening, or read more about design for equity, including contributions from panelists Liz Ogbu and Theresa Hwang.