Dear AIA Brooklyn Members –
At the AIA National Convention in 1968, Whitney M. Young, Jr. addressed the audience as the Keynote Speaker and said: “You are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights . . . You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence.” In honor of not remaining silent, and along with so many people around this nation and globally, we mourn the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the distressingly long list of black people who have senselessly been killed due to racial injustice. As an organization of professionals and as human beings, we should demonstrate that we are willing to rise to the challenge that this moment in our history has presented. As such, AIA Brooklyn stands up for and stands behind black people by denouncing ALL racial inequality and violence.
Often, “our racist history” as a nation is deplored as the cause of current strife, but the word “history” does not convey currency. In fact, the racism that stretches back to our founding, is alive and thriving today, everywhere. This racism is a current, daily degradation of the human spirit that has caused people to reach a breaking point – a breaking point begotten from a sense of hopelessness and despair, from fear and unfathomable frustration, from sadness, from a knowledge that you do not matter as much as others.
We must acknowledge the environment and society in which we live and, though it is good in many ways, we must bear witness to its inequity and malice and dedicate ourselves to changes that will address the systemic degradation of black people. As AIA Brooklyn members, we are fortunate to live and/or work in a very ethnically diverse and balanced borough of New York. Therefore, I encourage our body to demonstrate our will through our actions. Words of good intentions and solidarity are not enough to make a difference. As Eldridge Cleaver once remarked: “You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem”.
“Actions speak louder than words” – Abraham Lincoln (in his “Cooper Union Address” here in New York.) AIA Brooklyn is committed to helping make these Actions accessible to you and we feel that education and community engagement are good places to start. Here are a few ideas of ways we can take action to demonstrate that Black Lives Matter to us:
- Our Brooklyn Architectural Scholarship Foundation continues to support the financial needs of needy college students at schools of architecture in the city. But we must increase financial grants by working harder to support fundraising for the Foundation.
- We must strengthen our relationship with City Tech (CUNY) to create meaningful, supportive relationships with its architecture students. We should create a connection to Williamsburg HS for Architecture and Design, and to Brooklyn Tech HS and its architectural engineering program, to nurture change in the profession.
- To get more involved and to engage with Black Architects, or to volunteer in a local Project Pipeline visit https://www.nycoba.org/ .
- Visit the Equity, diversity and inclusion page at the AIA website to learn of ongoing efforts that need your support. Read the AIA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Commission Executive Summary
- Visit https://www.blackspace.org/ to learn more about how you can get involved in creating environments of equity and justice through design.
- Join your local Community Board and become a force for the common good.
In this time of tests on our patience, our hope, our solidarity, our caring, our understanding, our creativity – let this be a defining moment not only for our work, but for our beliefs.
In conclusion, please consider these two excerpts written by prominent leaders in NYC that have profoundly impacted me:
From the Anthony Marx, President of the NYPL: “Our varied backgrounds and experiences within our city and society are our greatest source of strength: bringing new ideas and perspectives, teaching empathy, and shining a light on how we falter. But not if we close our eyes and ears to the lessons of diversity, rejecting the validity and equal value of experiences and lives other than our own. When we fail as a society to respect learning and each other, we become inhumane and untold tragedy follows.
We all have a responsibility to actively participate in our democracy as informed citizens, to collectively refine, demand, and enact justice. Educating ourselves further about the legacy of racial injustice in this country is a key piece of this.”
From the American Theatre Wing: “It is our duty to make sure the black lives in our community are not marginalized or endangered in any way, that they are not silenced or demeaned. … Black stories matter. Black opportunities matter. We must all speak out, do better, and drive out hate and prejudice from wherever it hides…”
John Hatheway Raymond Peebles Talisha Sainvil Jane McGroarty
President President-elect Secretary Treasurer