Archive for the ‘Brooklyn’ Category

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.

For the past three months I’ve been living in Brooklyn, in a very slowly gentrifying area between Crown Heights and Prospect Heights. Historically, I understand it to have been a largely West Indian neighborhood, though I’m not sure who was there before that. Presently there are more whites and young professionals slowly moving in, myself included though only passing through (gentrification in process). For me, it’s a blessing to live here — beautiful brownstones lining the streets and enough amenities within walking distance where I don’t feel like I have to break an arm and leg to find groceries, coffee shops, boutiques, and ethnic restaurants. Not to mention easy access to the Brooklyn Museum, Main Library, Botanical Garden and Prospect Park.

One of the coolest neighborhood spots I learned about is Tom’s Diner, located at the corner of Washington Ave and Sterling Place (it even has its own blog!). They serve excellent food, and you get to dine within an atmosphere of a traditional and authentic feel of a diner. The owners knew nearly everyone, young and old, walking in and out of the restaurant. You could sense that it was a place people cherished.

Suzanne Vega fans may already know that her song Tom’s Diner references this very diner. The song also appeared on the soundrack of 90’s flick ‘Untamed Heart’.

Tom’s Diner opened in 1936, and it is a testement for this restaurant to have remained a strong neighborhood establishment through all those years. I learned that in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, neighborhood residents and patrons held hands to protect the diner from the riots, looters and violence resulting from King’s death. Tom’s Diner is the kind of place that holds together the fabric of urban neighborhoods. These kind of places require an openess and generosity from the owners, who offer a place where individuals and families can commune. It’s the kind of place that keep communities intact and thriving, even through times of economic hardship or social unrest.

Today I pack up my belongings into my car to complete my move to New York City/Brooklyn. While living in Detroit, I remember lamenting over the handful of folks who decide to leave the city each year, for whatever reason. It is not my intention to be that person who couldn’t see the beauty of what is taking place in the city.

Rather, I’m on a pursuit to become a landscape architect/designer and trying figure out how to pull together my background as a community organizer into this new path. In putting a lot of my writing energies into composing a reflective and honest personal statement for grad school applications, I realized that much of what I wrote was about Detroit and its people that impacted my life.

Sharing the text of my personal statement seemed like the perfect way to give tribute to Detroit and to the residents who are continuing to lay the seeds of social change. I will post my Love Letter to Detroit as soon as I hear back from schools, so regrettably, I must ask you to check back in April for the tribute. 😉