From redlining to urban renewal to stolen land, space has too often been an instrument of harm. As this country starts to finally confront the idea of a racial reckoning, concepts like “reparations” and “truth and reconciliation commission” are increasingly discussed. But if space has been intimately connected to racialized harm, it must also be part of the conversation of how we heal.
Across the country, there are communities, practitioners, and researchers engaged in exploring holistic approach of place-based grieving, reckoning, and repair. Studio O is working in collaboration with academics and community organizers to launch an initiative to bring these pioneering group together in a collective platform through which to exchange best practices and build a network that can serve as the basis for future cross pollination and transformation of culture, policies, and systems.
Grief is a concept that has been more widely discussed over the course of the pandemic. But as a practitioner committed to leveraging design to support the capacity of communities to thrive, I’m no strangers to its presence in my community-based work. From long-festering racial wounds to generational poverty, harm and grief are a persistence presence in the built environment. The Remembering Project is an ongoing research and writing effort to identify and explore a wide range of methods, processes, and traditions that can allow us to address the emotional and spatial wounds in our communities.
Esperanza Academy is a transformative girl’s school. Serving a primarily immigrant population, it foregrounds an empowered antiracism approach to education, emphasizing racial and cultural identity affirmation, love of community, and restorative justice. They are undertaking the transformation of an old mill building into a new home for the school. It is a journey in which students and faculty are exploring their relationship with place and the school community as a whole is seeking to understand how to create a place that not only embodies justice but becomes a platform to deepen their commitment to it.
West Oakland’s 7th Street was known as the Harlem of the West in the 1940s and 1950s when it served as a bustling place of commerce for a wide range of black businesses. But over several decades, West Oakland’s physical and social communities were decimated by eminent domain, urban renewal and federal programs and initiatives that tore apart the thriving neighborhood. Many residents still want to rebuild that thriving Black community, especially in the face of onset of intense gentrification. The mission of the initiative is to collectively create an inclusive economic development action plan centering Black business and culture on 7th Street.