Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

[From Boggs Educational Center]

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An Open Letter to Time Inc.
On the occasion of the first article reflecting your yearlong commitment in Detroit.
By SHEA HOWELL

I just read Daniel Okrent’s article “Detroit: the Death—and Possible Life—of a Great City.” If this is your best effort, you might as well sell the house and move back to New York. The article offers nothing new and is a recycling of stories already told. Moreover, it continues to perpetuate the myths that Detroit’s ills are because of myopic auto companies, self-interested unions, riots and racial tensions. While there are measures of truth in these images, they are caricatures of the people and events you chronicle. You don’t need to be in Detroit to drag up these tired images and superficial views. Continue Reading »

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We featured Kian Goh at the Unspoken Borders Conference this year, during the Talk20 session.   Having Goh be part of the conference was fantastic, particularly because of her direct engagement with the queer community on design issues.  One of her projects is featured in our hot-off-the-press publication.  She was also recently interviewed by the American Institute of Architects – be sure to listen to the mp3 of the interview.  She articulates the importance of promoting social justice through design.  Though she specifically speaks to an architectural audience, her words resonate well with other design fields.

Two weekends ago, we wrapped up an inspiring, thought-provoking conference. Fortunately, we had a representative from Arch Paper cover the conference, and they’ve just posted a review of their reflections. Here’s a highlight:
Amidst the discussion of what designers can do about social inequities, a related question emerged: should design education address the root causes of those inequities? “There’s no lack of design-build studios going out to poor neighborhoods to build houses, but there’s no discussion [in architecture school] of why those neighborhoods exist,” said architect Kian Goh. But isn’t there a trade-off between expertise and generalism? Some participants thought so, and urban designer Felipe Correa countered: “It is important that we not overextend the net, that we bring it back to what we know how to do best,” he argued. “Allow sociologists to deal with the sociology.”
I think this has been our best conference yet, particularly because we were able to attract a wide cross-section of students to attend.  In addition to the various methods of collaboration, great graphic design and aggressive outreach effort, I believe our theme, “Ecologies of Inequality”, strategically peeked the interest of students. As a designer of color, this conference is a nourishing reminder why I decided to pursue this profession in the first place.
Another participant also posted her thoughts of her visit. After the conference, two PennDesign architecture students have launched an interactive blog to continue the dialogues around design and social justice.

This is one of the few, if only, student-run conferences at PennDesign that explicitly explores the intersection of race, politics and design. The theme, “Ecologies of Inequality”, investigates the systems and institutions that create and perpetuate disparities in public health, transportation, economic access and spatial disenfranchisement. It will also feature projects that are using design to develop new systems of equality and justice.

We’ve got an amazing line-up, so check out the website when registration opens on February 15.

The Philly Chinatown community is once again fighting to maintain their survival.  Threats to Chinatown’s future began as early as the projects that brought the Vine St. Expressway (I-676), Market East and the convention center  during the urban renewal period.  Because of the fast-track nature of the casino proposal, the community and its allies are put in a tough position to respond quickly, and the op-ed sums up the questionable package put forth by the mayor. Perhaps Philly activists can take a cue from Detroit’s anti-casinos struggle. Detroit former mayor Coleman A. Young challenged the anti-gambling activists to go beyond merely protesting the construction of casinos and to answer the question: if not casinos, what kind of development could save our city?

Thanks to Joanie for sharing this op-ed with me.

IT’S HARD TO imagine how answering a call to revitalize American cities could go wrong for Philadelphia, but somehow it happened.Last month, the Nutter administration submitted a $2.6 billion wish list for President-elect Obama’s economic stimulus package. Out of 400 cities, Philadelphia ranked No. 2 in the amount of money requested. And second on the city’s list (in dollars) was $125 million for the redevelopment of Market East in anticipation of a proposed casino.

Never mind that city officials rushed through a rezoning process saying the casino itself would be the catalyst for development in the area. Never mind that four months later, there isn’t even a plan in place. Continue Reading »

It’s been a long time since I’ve read something that’s motivated me enough to start a new blog post.  Attending design school has been one of the most consuming and exhausting endeavors I’ve undertaken. But today I read an explosive speech by Jeff Chang, and it has helped me re-orient myself back to the first reason I decided to become a landscape architect/urban planner.

I’m starting to piece together and articulate how the policies that the past 40 years, which Jeff summarizes in his speech, also encompass the physical and spatial disenfranchisement of communities of color. When Jeff describes hip-hop as a response to the “story of the rise of the politics of abandonment and the politics of containment”, it is not just that these policies have socially disenfranchised communities, but that there is a a physical displacement and exclusion of communities that has resulted.  The urban renewal policies of the 1950s, combined with the drug economy, destroyed our Paradise Valleys and Hill Districts around the country, p

In school, this sense of urgency is mostly absent among students.  Too bad most of us are caught up perfecting our renderings and drawings, clicking away in front of computer screens (and here I sit blogging).  We need more conscious, justice-oriented designers to join the fight to restore our communities and take up the questions that Jeff posed at the end of his speech.

Continue Reading »

The Clinton campaign swooped onto Penn’s campus late this afternoon.  Loud cheers and a whole bunch of hoopla took place until Hillary appeared around 8pm.  Obama supporters came out with signs and people to counter the rally, but the best show came from a neighboring fraternity house that blasted “Obama! Obama!” from their loudspeakers.

This last-minute Clinton rally was very telling about her campaign, and its lack of support among college-aged voters.  I’ve been hard pressed to come across any Clinton organizer or volunteer up until this evening’s rally.  Whereas the Obama camp had been present since February, tabling every day, registering voters, signing up volunteers, conducting dorm walks, holding visibility events.  Clinton’s campaign hardly tried, for whatever reason, and swooped in on campus the day before our primaries.   Plainly speaking, you can’t really top the 35,000+ folks who attended Obama’s rally last Friday.

Politician – 1. a person who is active in party politics; 2. a seeker or holder of public office who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles; 3. a person who holds a political office; 4. a person skilled in political government or administration; 5. an expert in politics or government; 6. a person who seeks to gain power or advance within an organization in ways that are generally disapproved.

Statesman – 1. a person who is experienced in the art of government or versed in the administration of government affairs; 2. a person who exhibits great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.

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Obama’s presidential campaign has arrived in Philadelphia, and I’m amped about the elections coming right to my backyard! Last week I took another step to seal my residency in PA by registering to vote. Pennsylvania’s going to be an important piece in the election, particularly since our governor has publicly endorsed Clinton.

Tonight, I went to check out a voter registration kick-off event, hosted by Philly Students for Obama. Featured speaker was Kal Penn, who’s been volunteering for Obama’s campaign since Iowa.

I’ve been a fan of Kal Penn, through Harold and Kumar, and more recently The Namesake. It’s pretty incredible that this actor, self-proclaimed cynic, and registered independent has put himself out there for a presidential campaign.

The crowd, mostly composed of college students, was quite diverse, something I think has become uniquely characteristic of Obama rallys and events. Much like what I saw in South Carolina, Obama truly draws people from a wide range of backgrounds. And the man wasn’t even in town tonight!

Throwing in a bit of humor through his speech, Penn talked about how he got involved with Obama after hearing his DNC speech in 2004. Penn outlined the three main reasons drawing him to Obama — college grants ($4,000) for anyone who wants to attend college, being against the Iraq war from the beginning, and universal healthcare.

Penn also shared a moving story about the head of the Iowa Independent Farmers Union who told Obama volunteers that this was the first time he met a statesman. I don’t remember the last time I heard anyone use the term statesman to describe someone. I was drawn to Obama because of his organizing background, but I believe that statesman captures an additional element to his integrity as an elected official.

For folks in Philadelphia, click here for Obama’s Pennsylvania Campaign.

This week, Grace Lee Boggs featured some of my recent entries about presidential candidate Barack Obama in her Living for Change column of the Michigan Citizen.  Having been a movement activist for over 50 years, GLB has a keen sense of the pulse of our nation, and I have always appreciated her dialectical analyses.  Together the Boggs Center and members of Beloved Communities Network have been discussing the significance of Obama, the movement that surrounds his candidacy, and the potential for Obama’s campaign to spark actual change.

Below is the full text from Living for Change: Continue Reading »

Obama sweeps Virginia, Maryland and DC primaries!

On a side note, this announcement seems unethical…and desperate.