Posts tagged with "Civil Rights":

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Is Torkwase Dyson's abstract recount of racial violence a missed opportunity?

Torkwase Dyson’s 1919: Black Water, on display at Columbia GSAPP’s Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery through December 14th, is an inscrutable meditation on an incident of racial violence that took place in Chicago on a hot summer’s day in July 1919: the killing of a black 17-year-old named Eugene Williams on a Lake Michigan beachfront by a white man throwing rocks. Represented in the form of abstract paintings, geometric sculptures, and ink drawings, Williams’ story becomes a framing narrative for Dyson’s installations, which combine expressionist, minimalist, process art, and postminimalist elements in the manner of Mark Rothko, Dan Graham, Theaster Gates, or Nari Ward. Dyson describes her projects as “spatial systems that build upon the architectural typologies that people have used to liberate themselves.” But this is not social practice art or urban interventionism. There’s no evident intention to interact with or build a community, educate a group, or communicate a didactic message. As the accompanying exhibition pamphlet discusses in an engaging conversation with architectural historian Mabel O. Wilson, the works are at least partly meant to function as abstract ciphers for the re-imagination of architectural space through black experience. Deciphering that code for practical uses might require an advanced Ivy League degree. Dyson tends to fixate on sites of trauma in black history, seeking the potential for liberation within spaces that otherwise appear to lack all potential for agency: Henry “Box” Brown, who freed himself from enslavement by having himself mailed in a crate to the north, or Samuel Osborne, a janitor at Colby College who earned the school’s dedication by exemplifying an upright moral code. In the case of 1919: Black Water, the redemption emerges from an experience of pleasure-seeking and invention turned tragic: the fabrication of a boat to create a group space of joy, interrupted by racial violence. The story behind the show is compelling. In the summer of 1919, Eugene Williams and his friends had constructed a makeshift raft to carry them to a small island on the shores of Lake Michigan near 25th Street, in between the two unofficially segregated sides of the waterfront. There they were free to swim and play away from the crowds. It was a summer of heightened racial tension: The black population had more than doubled in Chicago during the preceding decade—the beginning of the Great Migration of six million African-Americans from the south. Competition for jobs had intensified at the nearby stockyards at the end of World War I and white supremacists had been increasingly fomenting hatred. The teens had apparently got caught in the middle, accidentally crossing an invisible boundary between the informally segregated areas. A group of white men began throwing rocks at them; as Williams ducked in the water and resurfaced, he was hit in the head, going under and drowning. The police neglected to arrest the rock-thrower, instead arresting a black man following a complaint by a white person. An explosion of violence ensued. In the following week, police killed seven black men; mobs and individual gunmen murdered 16 blacks and 15 whites; more than 500 others suffered from injuries; mobs burned more than 1,000 black families out of their homes. A mass of black string congealed with black acrylic hangs on a wooden bar against a blue background with a geometric abstraction above (Pilot), possibly invoking a blue sky mingling with its reflection in the water, a raft floating on top, a black body bleeding from the head, and maybe, sinking below. Thick black acrylic paint and graphite on canvases suggest a line of polluted water (Just Above and Just Below; Place, Raft, and Drift), and slices of brass bisecting canvases evoke segregated division of space, the surface of the water, and the horizon (Plantationocene; Being-Seeing-Drifting). A few geometric figures appear on canvases that resemble towers or antennae (Hot Cold; Extraction Abstracting). On the gallery floor, shiny black plexiglass tetrahedrons with voids on some sides (Black Shoreline) reference the reflection of the water, which gain energy from the presence of gallery visitors. The absence of figurative representations of Williams, the raft, or the crowds after the drowning—though historical images do appear in the catalog—recalls the protest a few years ago of Dana Schutz’s Open Casket at the Whitney Biennial. Schutz had portrayed the open casket of Emmett Till, a young black teen lynched in an incident of racial terror. His mother insisted on an open casket so everyone could see what was done to her son, producing a shocking image of brutality that spurred the civil rights movement. Did it do violence to his memory to represent his broken body? Was Schutz making common cause or exploiting Till’s suffering? In this case, the inverse question might apply: why isn’t Williams represented more powerfully rather than rendered in abstraction? Is it a missed opportunity not to deploy figurative tools to animate Williams’ story, bring it to light, propel it into the present, deploy it to inform policies, use it for more than personal expression? Or is the freedom to be a black expressionist a worthy end in itself, our desire to see his body exploitative, and art that exhorts politically tedious and doomed to failure anyway? “These systems also consider infrastructure and the environment to create a visual amalgamation that recognizes the ways that black people move through, inhabit, cleave and form space,” Dyson is cited as saying the catalog, describing her nomenclature of representation as “black compositional thought.” Often Dyson uses dancers accompanying installations to animate them with exuberant gestures, and the presence of performers might make this rhetoric seem less overblown. If these works constitute a kind of expressive freedom grounded in black narrative and experience, they operate within the exclusive prison-house of the institutional contemporary art and academic architecture world, its markets, nonprofits, grants, and formalist language games. It’s a project worthy of poststructural critique to seek liberation even within the most repressive situations. As with the collapse of the New Museum’s Ideas City program in the Bronx, it can be challenging to reconcile the sustained intellectual discourse with the urgent, viscerally felt problems of the world: lack of control over space and governance, being unable to afford a place to live or to find adequately paid work, and abstract financial forces determining the fate of your community.
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NOMA President Kim Dowdell on the politics of Detroit and the architecture profession

Detroit is an entrepreneurial city. In its heyday, it was full of forward-thinkers who were breaking boundaries by building big business dedicated to innovation and manufacturing. That same spirit still exists in the Motor City today, though some have written off the gritty, Michigan enclave as a place of the past. Many dedicated Detroit natives are working hard to rebuild its legacy as a capital of American economic and cultural development. Kimberly Dowdell, in particular, is using her experience as an architect and a real estate developer, as well as her innate entrepreneurial drive, to change the face of urban housing in Detroit. Along with her team at Century Partners, an emerging firm in the city, she’s tackling long-standing social injustices through the lens of home ownership. She’s doing the same in her new role as president of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA) by advancing representation in the architecture industry and fighting for professional equity. AN spoke with Dowdell about her unique career path, what drives her to rebuild Detroit, and why addressing architecture’s internal issues can help build stronger cities. The Architect's Newspaper: You spent time on the East Coast working as an architect and developer, and then studied public administration as a graduate student at Harvard University. What drew you back to Detroit? Kimberly Dowdell: I grew up in Detroit in the early '90s when the city was in pretty bad shape. The buildings were ghosts of their former selves, which fascinated me, but economically, Detroit was devastated. Instead of moving back after graduating from Cornell with my bachelor’s in architecture, I decided to sample cities on the East Coast (Washington, D.C., and New York), rounding it all off in Cambridge for the Harvard program. Many people ask me why I studied government since I came from a design background, but I firmly believe buildings are intrinsically part of the public realm, so it’s our responsibility to learn everything we can about how policies can work to better the built environment. In 2015, I was recruited by the City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department, where I worked closely with the Planning and Development Department, collaborating with a long-time mentor, Maurice Cox, Detroit’s Planning Director. That unique opportunity to contribute to Detroit’s resurgence ended my 14-year East Coast tour. AN: Since you’ve been in Detroit, you’ve transitioned into a more entrepreneurial role as a professional and within your current firm, Century Partners. How does your background in public service and design serve you in thinking about housing in Detroit? When I was younger, I didn’t like that Detroit looked bad, so I decided I was going to become an architect. I didn’t really see many people trying to solve the city’s big problems growing up, so I aimed to do it myself. A lot of what I’ve chosen to do in my career has been in response to things that I think are not ideal. As a kid, I actually wanted to be a doctor, which is funny now because I consider myself kind of like a doctor at the macro level. I get to help heal neighborhoods. Architects have to be knowledgeable of all the issues at hand in order to get a project done successfully. To be a developer, you also have to understand the bigger politics at play. With Century Partners, I’m able to use my design eye as I try to maintain the historic fabric of Detroit as much as possible through our projects. AN: What’s the biggest thing you’re working on at Century Partners? Detroit is well-known for its expanse of single-family homes. We’re currently looking at building out neighborhoods that are positioned to contribute to the multi-family housing fabric of the city. We’re currently fundraising to purchase commercial and multi-family buildings in Detroit’s core that will spur economic development, increase density, and create a 24/7 neighborhood. The other major project that we're working on right now is called the Fitz Forward Neighborhood Revitalization project, a city-backed, public-private partnership that will eventually revitalize over 300 parcels of land, including existing homes, open lots, and parkland, across the Fitzgerald neighborhood in central Detroit. AN: You spend a lot of time thinking about Detroit’s future and how to solve these big-picture problems. How is this mindset helpful as you start your new position leading NOMA? I’m three months into my presidency and the biggest thing I want to be really mindful of is fundraising for the organization. As a woman, I think there’s a general consensus that we don’t directly ask for money—as if fundraising is a taboo thing to do. But as president, I want to commit to doing that, which coincidently ties into my fundraising efforts with Century Partners for the commercial property and multi-family housing fund I mentioned. Money is always part of the bigger picture in architecture, but it’s a new challenge for me to think about it so directly.   AN: How could more money for your organization have an impact on architecture? I was recently possessed to say out loud in a podcast interview that if someone gave NOMA a million dollars, it could change the face of the profession. We’d have money to fuel our access-related programs like exposing K-5 students to architecture through classes and products, while middle and high school students could more deeply engage with our NOMA Project Pipeline summer camps. College students, especially aspiring architects of color, need help with studio supplies, technology, housing, transportation, and scholarships. As the first millennial president of NOMA, I’ve also begun considering how the architecture profession can alleviate the student debt crisis. Many of my colleagues have really high levels of student debt coupled with comparatively low professional salaries (consider lawyers and doctors) and limited flexibility and financial freedom. How can we as an organization motivate or incentivize people to pursue architecture knowing that compensation is a challenge and the student loan debt is higher than ever? We will miss out on some really talented people if things don’t change. This is also a diversity issue. Minorities in particular struggle with this given the wealth gap. NOMA is about getting people to believe in the power of diversity and the success of companies and organizations who support that vision. I want to make the case that investing in NOMA is investing in the future of a more diverse and equitable profession, which can help build more diverse and equitable cities. AN: So you think addressing the architecture’s internal inequalities would have a trickle-down effect on not only the way firms are set up, but how projects and cities get built? I absolutely think that there is a correlation between who is empowered to author the built environment and how that environment shapes the well-being of the community that it serves. In the words of Winston Churchill, "we shape our buildings and thereafter our buildings shape us." I believe that this statement holds true and I would add that the heightened diversity of our built environment stewards (developers, architects, builders, real estate brokers, etc.) will contribute to a more thoughtful and responsive set of buildings, spaces, and places that will equate to more sustainable cities. I believe in quadruple bottom line sustainability—incorporating financial, ecological, social and cultural priorities. While everyone in the development process has a particular purpose and role, I think that the more we see greater cohesion between those quadruple bottom line priorities, the better off our cities will be moving forward.
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Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group plan MLK and Coretta Scott King memorial

A monumental sculpture symbolizing the love and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King will be erected in the historic Boston Common sometime in 2020, according to The Boston Globe. Designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, The Embrace was chosen from a pool of impressive works honoring the beloved civil rights leaders; the 22-foot-high pair of clasped bronze arms rose above the fold. King Boston, the organization behind the memorial project, announced the winning design yesterday. Cochairman Paul English told The Globe the decision was near unanimous—both the art committee and the members of the public who viewed the proposal on display at various locations around town, agreed it should be built.   “The committee was really moved by it,” English said. “They thought it was iconic. People would come to see it and take pictures and share it. You could imagine people hugging each other next to it.” Not only did the selection committee and thousands of Bostonians consider The Embrace a moving work of art, the design would also be much less expensive and easier to construct than the other five finalists. Adam Pendleton and Adjaye Associates’ collaboration with Future/Pace and David Reinfurt would have brought an elongated steel walkway—part of which was cantilevered—into the park. Walter Hood’s project with Wodiczko + Bonder and Maryann Thompson Architects, The Ripple Effects, would have also significantly altered the landscape with a large, public plaza and terraced field. The Embrace is reminiscent of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (a.k.a The Bean) in Chicago's Millennium Park. People will be able to walk beneath the interlocked arms and gather in the public spaces surrounding the piece. It also provides a literal point of reflection for visitors and exists as a stand-alone sculpture that surprises but doesn’t overwhelm. According to a statement by King Boston, the sculpture and landscape call people toward empathy and action. ”Is there a more radical act of justice than love?” said Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. “The choice to love your neighbor, to love someone that is not yourself, to go into a community and act is the foundational seed of social justice. To us, there was no better way to honor the Kings’ legacy and advance collective action.” With such community support and government backing—Boston’s City Hall has already greenlighted the project, according to English—the group expects the project to be built fairly quickly. It’s likely to rise in conjunction with an already-planned restoration of Boston Common, reported The Globe. The nonprofit aims to raise up to $12 million for sculpture, which is likely to cost between $3 and $4 million. Some of the money raised will go toward the new King Center for Economic Justice in Roxbury, Massachusetts, as well as the local congregation of Twelfth Baptist Church where Dr. King preached and the couple first met. King Boston also plans to fund a 25-minute documentary on their love story and lives in Boston during the early 1950s. So far, $6 million have been raised.
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nARCHITECTS' Equal Rights Heritage Center frames the history around it

The first new civic building in Auburn, New York, in 40 years lets visitors explore the city’s place in the history of civil rights movements. The nARCHITECTS-designed Equal Rights Heritage Center, now open to the public, frames views of surrounding landmarks to expand the reach of the center to the building's historic context. What began as a request for proposal from the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation and the City of Auburn for a Finger Lakes–region welcome center in 2017 quickly snowballed in importance, according to nARCHITECTS principal Eric Bunge. In light of the rapidly changing national political climate, the governor’s office reoriented the project to focus on New York’s progressive history as a leader in promoting equal rights.  The center specifically focuses on women's rights, the abolition of slavery, civil rights, and the more recent efforts for LGBTQ rights. The 7,500-square-foot, $10 million Heritage Center opened to the public on November 13, 2018, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, local officials, and Pauline Copes Johnson, the great-great-grandniece of Harriet Tubman. A statue of the historic abolitionist and activist stands to the south of the new building. The single-story Heritage Center sits smack-dab between several historic landmarks; the building is directly across the street from the Memorial City Hall, is next to the William H. Seward House Museum, and is in the city’s South Street National Register District. A corbelled, pink brick facade was used to better blend the building into the mainly federal-style neighborhood. Inside, the building’s structure was left exposed. Board-formed concrete walls and glulam beams (which appear to continue past the confines of the center thanks to clever mirror placement) were left exposed to open up the interior as much as possible. Radiant geothermal heating emanates up through the terrazzo flooring, eliminating the need for a bulky overhead HVAC system. Double, sometimes triple, height windows frame views of the surrounding city, and the building’s three main interconnected volumes were each rotated to maximize the range of views. Graphic design studio MTWTF worked with nARCHITECTS to co-design the exhibition and wayfinding across the building’s figure-8 circulation path, and the nARCHITECTS-led team pulled double duty as the Heritage Center’s curator. Zones are organized by medium rather than topic, and the center uses posters, videos, recordings, games, a large interactive map, portraits, and other materials to chart the history of equal rights in New York State. But the center will hopefully become the first stop in a broader historical tour of the region for visitors, said Bunge, including the local landmarks visible from the building, and that the “context is content.” Siting the Heritage Center was also an issue for the design team, as the building rose on what was formerly a municipal parking lot. Although there’s a parking garage directly across the street, the community raised concerns over the potential loss of parking at the site. Ultimately, nARCHITECTS chose to exclude any on-site parking to encourage a pedestrian-friendly scheme and included a new public plaza to the center’s east. Construction took only nine months and the project team was able to come in 20 percent under budget. Interested in visiting? Admission is free, and the center is open from 10:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. daily.
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Stop asking where all the female architects are; we're right here

In 2014, a year after I graduated from architecture school, I read Karrie Jacobs’s Fast Company piece on Nicole Dosso, “The Tallest Tower in the U.S. is Being Built by a Woman.” A perfect title, a perfect piece. In it, Jacobs wasn’t describing Dosso as a “female architect” or as a “woman in architecture.” She simply stated that the tallest tower is being built by a woman, period. As a 23-year-old female starting out in her career, I was energized and in awe of Dosso, and my peers who weren’t in architecture were too. It was a breath of fresh air, a moment of strength. Another example is a recent New York Times article titled, “Architecture is No Longer Just a Gentlemen’s Profession.” Precisely. These are the types of headlines and stories we need. Last Saturday’s New York Times op-ed, “Where Are All the Female Architects?” was not titled to advance our cause. The piece did talk about redefining success since there’s often a limited view of what being an architect means. But its headline, along with a slew of others lately asking where are the female architects, adds to the misleading narrative that there are none out there. It’s a negative story to suggest because there are truly so many. It’s time to change this narrative. I no longer want to hear people asking, “Where are all the women architects?” or saying, “I can’t name five female architects.” I’ve published interviews with 50 women on my platform Madame Architect who build, design, or otherwise advance the practice of architecture, and I’ve spoken to even more. We need to listen to them, write about them, amplify them, and support them in combating the issues our industry faces in order to change this situation.

Instead of asking “Where are these women?” start writing about them and telling their unique stories.

Yes, we need to call out the systemic issues in the industry that are perpetuated time and time again and prevent many women from rising through the ranks. They need to be discussed and approached thoughtfully. But why not show what the redefinition of success looks like by writing about the myriad women who are doing exceptional, sensitive, and important work while simultaneously running businesses, acting as caregivers, and making time to mentor? To me, that is the beginning of change. Instead of asking “Where are these women?” start writing about them and telling their unique stories. Show their successes, their reinventions of practices, and how they forged their own paths. Take Andrea Simitch, who leads the nation’s top-ranked undergraduate architecture program, or Nina Freedman, the former “secret wing” to Shigeru Ban and founder of Dreamland Creative Projects. There is also Sylvia Smith, senior partner at FXCollaborative, who started and oversees the firm’s award-winning cultural and educational practice, as well as Sandra McKee, who spearheaded Rafael Viñoly’s Tokyo International Forum but now owns her own international studio and hosts ArchiteXX’s mentorship sessions. Younger women are also emerging as leaders in the field. Elyse Marks, a restoration architect, rope-access technician, and marathoner, defies gender norms every day while hanging hundreds of feet in the air, while Alda Ly, one of the co-founders of MASS Design Group, runs her own practice working with entrepreneurs and startups like The Wing. Danei Cesario is raising two girls while traveling to speak on industry equity and diversity, while Isabel Oyuela-Bonzani introduces architecture to high school students.

There are clearly many women who are architects, but the yardstick for evaluating good architecture and success is shortsighted.

There are also countless women I’ve met who may not build, but advance the practice and advocate for the value of architecture and architects, like critic Alexandra Lange, public relations expert Tami Hausman, strategist Ashley Bryan, and activist Jessica Myers. These women show there are different types of success at all levels that deserve to be celebrated and talked about. There are clearly many women who are architects, but the yardstick for evaluating good architecture and success is shortsighted. Good architecture now has a broader definition, and we can be more inclusive in showcasing the architecture that addresses the issues facing society today. I should also note that the women I’ve called out in this article are all based in New York. Since I live and work full-time here, these are the architects with whom I can have meaningful, intimate, face-to-face conversations. Of course, I am trying to profile more women located elsewhere in the country and around the world. But just imagine: If there are so many unique stories held within a singular city, there must be countless architects out there doing fascinating work that we need to acknowledge. In last week’s New York Times op-ed, writer Allison Arieff quoted Caroline James, a graduate of Harvard’s architecture program and founder of the advocacy group Design for Equality. James told Arieff that it’s “time to ID the problem and what we need to do moving forward” by giving women the tools they can use to succeed, such as mentorship and access to information. This is exactly my goal for Madame Architect, and the same spirit drives other organizations like ArchiteXX, Rebel Architette, Equity by Design, and Girl Uninterrupted. We should also start early by speaking and listening to students, asking them what questions they have, what resources they’ll need, and what kinds of mentors they want. When I was studying at Cornell, I read Toshiko Mori’s newly-released monograph and remember focusing on the following words which have since fueled my attitude toward my career: “Architects cannot be defeated by disappointments. The profession requires mental strength, good health, and especially a strong stomach. An unlimited amount of optimism, a healthy dose of idealism, and high energy and high spirits help us to persevere through difficult circumstances.” This industry is tough and we need to infuse it with this kind of motivation. We need a strong start in 2019 where we can mobilize, spread knowledge, build community, and support men and women alike within architecture. I don’t believe this is the only solution, but this moment is a new beginning. So let’s write about these women—these architects—in the way that Karrie wrote about Nicole. We are not missing and we will no longer be hidden. Julia Gamolina is the founder and editor of Madame Architect. She also currently handles business development at FXCollaborative.
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Atlanta puts up murals exploring the city's civil rights legacy for Super Bowl LIII

Leading up to Super Bowl LIII, Atlanta, Georgia, is being outfitted with 30 new public murals depicting the city’s strong civil rights legacy. WonderRoot, a local arts and advocacy organization, has teamed up with the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee to detail these stories in a new citywide initiative called Off the Wall: Atlanta’s Civil Rights and Social Justice Journey. Ten artists were chosen for the seminal project and were asked to create permanent murals based on 43 separate community conversations with over 1,000 local participants this summer. The extensive public engagement process is part of Off the Wall’s five-part program which, in addition to installing the large-scale artworks, includes a public media campaign and policy push to boost awareness of Atlanta’s history and current work to advance equality. Chris Appleton, executive director at WonderRoot, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that hosting this national sporting event is a can’t-miss opportunity to showcase the city’s diverse cultural landscape and create lasting iconic works for the residents of Atlanta.   “We started asking the question: How will the stories of the communities be told during the Super Bowl?” he told the Chronicle. “We started pulling on that thread: Atlanta's legacy relationship to the civil rights movement. We had a desire to shine a spotlight on Atlanta as a beacon for hope and change.”
The murals are currently being installed around downtown Atlanta and the neighborhoods of Sweet Auburn, Vine City, English Avenue, and Castleberry Hill that surround Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the championship football game will be held on February 3, 2019. Installation of the art works will continue through the end of 2019. Check out some of the murals here.
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It's high time to memorialize the South's history of lynching

Next Tuesday, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith will go head to head in a runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy for Mississippi’s remaining U.S. Senate seat. Since the midterm election in which no candidate received over 50 percent of the vote, her campaign has been under major threat, and she’s been laying low due to an off-hand comment she recently made at a rally. In praise of a local supporter in Tupelo, Mississippi, she laughingly said:
“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
After a video of the moment went viral on Twitter, her challenger, Espy, called the remark “tone deaf.” The incumbent senator is defending it now as “an exaggerated expression of regard,” claiming it was taken out of context. She'll face Espy in a debate tonight without outside press or an audience present, reported the Jackson Free Press earlier today. Hyde-Smith’s poor choice of words, whether meant as a joke or not, represents the irreverent and ignorant way many Americans look back on the horrific lynchings that took place in the Jim Crow South. What makes this even more deeply inappropriate is that Hyde-Smith said this in her native Mississippi, the state that notoriously conducted the most amount of public hangings on record. President Trump is set to a hold rally in support of Hyde-Smith next Monday ahead of Tuesday’s election, but Democrats appear to be reinvigorated and could pull off another upset in the South.    While we as a country have worked to acknowledge our harsh history of racial tension and inequality through monuments and museums dedicated to slavery, black culture, and the civil rights movement, we’ve barely begun to take the much-needed step toward memorializing the thousands of victims tortured, murdered, and hung in 12 U.S. states from 1877 to 1950. According to a new report by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) entitled, Landslide 2018: Grounds for Democracy, numerous lynching sites in Shelby County, Tennessee, are virtually unmarked for their historical significance. Walking by these nondescript places, no one would know that hundreds of spectators once gathered there in carnival-like fashion to witness these unforgivable acts of racial terror. TCLF makes its case for the recognition of these places by digging into the lynchings of four African Americans in and around Memphis: Mississippi-laborer Lee Walker who was arrested and hung in 1983 for looking like a man who allegedly tried to sexually assault two white women; People’s Grocery owner Thomas Moss, and his employees Will Stewart and Calvin McDowell who all suffered fateful deaths in 1892 because a white grocer nearby instigated a rumor that the Stewart had injured him; cotton farmer Jesse Lee Bond who was shot, castrated, and drowned in 1939 because he asked for a receipt at a store; and woodcutter Ell Persons who was lynched and burned in 1917 after being accused of decapitating a 15-year-old white girl. While there aren’t any grave markers for these victims, their deaths have continued to echo through America’s development as a 21st-century country. TCLF noted that, according to Dr. Jacova Williams of Clemson University’s Department of Economics, southern counties that held more historical lynchings have lower voter registration rates among African Americans today. This sad reality must be altered, and TCLF argues the only way to do it is by shining a light on such sites and their jarring stories. It’s key to our country's ability to heal and move forward as a collective society, they say.  “Our shared and fragile landscape legacy has a powerful role to play in helping us understand where we come from,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF President and CEO, in a statement, “especially in the current debates, conversations, and analyses of our national identity.” These Shelby County sites are listed among 10 other at-risk historic sites and landscapes associated with human and civil rights in the U.S. Laid out in TCLF's Landslide 2018 report, every site is currently in danger of being redeveloped or demolished altogether. Some simply suffer from a lack of resources, an equally foreboding issue that plagues communities and organizations trying to bring recognition to near-forgotten places around the country. Other sites, like those found in Tennessee, have long been suppressed. But things are changing. This summer, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened in Montgomery, Alabama, and was dedicated to the more than 4,440 African American men, women, and children who were hanged in the South. The memorial, built by the Equal Justice Initiative and designed by MASS Design Group, has been praised by visitors and design critics alike for its beauty, timeliness, and national importance.  Architect and speaker John Cary, who authored the 2017 book Design for Good, has toured public projects around the world. He described the National Memorial as “one of the most extraordinary memorial buildings" he's ever seen anywhere. Others agree and are calling it the most significant memorial on U.S. soil since Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.   While a massive work honoring those lynched in the South is an incredible step forward, it’s still important to preserve the other places where the lynchings actually happened. TCLF placed these sites in its Landslide 2018 program to call attention to their fading history and to urge Americans and preservation groups to help keep them intact. The other at-risk sites include: Blair Mountain Battlefield in Logan County, West Virginia, the site of a four-day uprising by over 10,000 armed coal miners fighting for basic workers’ rights; Druid Heights in Marin County, California, a bohemian enclave north of San Francisco where poet and lesbian feminist Elsa Gidlow lived among a group of LGBTQ activists; The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College, a monument featuring 96 busts that honor high-achieving individuals across various fields; Hog Hammock on Georgia’s Sapelo Island, home to the last descendants of the enslaved Saltwater Geechee community; Japanese American Confinement Sites located across the West Coast where over 120,000 people were held during World War II; Lincoln Memorial Park in Miami, Florida, a 20-acre African American cemetery in Dade County housing soldiers from the Civil War to the Iraq War; Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, Texas, the first desegregated course in the South; Princeville, North Carolina, the first U.S. town incorporated by African Americans; and Susan B. Anthony’s Childhood Home in Battenville, New York. All of these landscapes have played a critical role in America’s growth and continue to shape how we interact with one another, as well as how we fight and vote for a less violent, more equitable future. Get the full story behind these historic sites and why they’re in danger here.
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Rosa Parks house reconstructed and put up for sale

Artnet News recently reported on a Berlin-based artist who reconstructed one of Rosa Parks's homes and is now trying to sell it to an American institution so that it can be publicly displayed. The Rosa Parks house sheltered the famous civil rights pioneer after she left Montgomery, Alabama, for Detroit, Michigan, because of death threats that she was receiving because of her activism. After Parks's death the building was eventually abandoned and fell into disrepair, and the City of Detroit had slated the structure for demolition. The house was saved by Rhea McCauley, Parks's niece, who bought it for $500 in 2014. She then offered the building to Ryan Mendoza, an American artist based out of Berlin who had previous experience moving a house from Detroit to the Netherlands, so that he could move the building to a secure location. He then deconstructed the house, shipped it to Berlin, and rebuilt it in the European capital. Artnet News talked to both McCauley and Mendoza, who said that Berlin was just a stopping point for the house while he found a more permanent custodian for the structure in the U.S., where it could potentially serve as part of an educational exhibit on the life of Parks, the civil rights movement, or the history of African American housing throughout the past century. As Mendoza notes in the artnet News article, the Parks house is a testament to the low-quality structures that many African Americans were forced to accept as racist policies and redlining excluded them from housing loans and affluent neighborhoods. The article reported that Mendoza and McCauley were having trouble finding a suitable buyer, but that they are continuing their search and still hope to bring the structure back to the U.S.
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Civil rights landmark in Austin is threatened by development

When nine-year-old African American caddie Alvin Propps was arrested for playing golf at the newly desegregated Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, Texas, in 1950, it set off a firestorm that eventually made its way to the mayor’s office. As the first peacefully desegregated golf course in the former Confederate South during the Jim Crow era, the course became the center of controversy. But when the mayor’s office decided to drop the charges, it set a precedent, and Lions Municipal became open to African Americans from that day forward. However, the course is now threatened by private development, after the University of Texas Board of Regents decided not to renew the City of Austin's lease in 2011 on the 1924 course just two miles west of the Texas state capitol. In 2019, it could be handed over to developers. In a post by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, Glenda Gilmore, the Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History at Yale University, said, “Historians searching for the impetus of the ‘classical phase of the Civil Rights Movement,’ preceding Brown v. Board in 1954 and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, have posited a ‘long civil rights movement’ that preceded those iconic struggles. In other words, Lions Municipal Golf Course is representative of the ‘birth of the civil rights movement.'” The city has floated the idea of preserving the clubhouse, but not the course. However, many critics say that because the structure wasn’t part of the site when the desegregation happened, preserving the clubhouse alone is not enough. The Congressional Black Caucus has voiced support for measures to protect the course, and the Texas House of Representatives, the City of Austin, and Travis County, Texas, have all passed resolutions acknowledging the historic importance of the site.
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AIA Baltimore to recognize projects that advance social equity

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Baltimore recently added a new category to its Excellence in Design Awards Program: the Social Equity Design Award, which will be given out in collaboration with the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC), an organization that promotes community-engaged design. The award was created in honor of the 50th anniversary of the non-profit’s establishment and the civil rights leader Whitney M. Young’s landmark speech at the 100th Convention of the AIA. In his historic 1968 keynote address, Young urged architects across the country to address social issues and diversity in the profession. Later that year the NDC was founded by a group of Baltimore architects mobilized by Young’s speech to rebuild their communities following the riots following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The Social Equity Design Award is meant to recognize projects that “promote social equity and align with NDC’s values,” according to a statement by AIA Baltimore. The statement goes on to say that, "Healthy places are built with consideration of social justice, environmental sustainability, and the true character of a place and the people who live, work, worship, and do business there.” "Architecture is about people, and the Social Equity Design Award celebrates that architecture can and should improve quality of life for everyone," said Laura Wheaton, AIA, program manager at the Neighborhood Design Center and member of the AIA Baltimore board of directors. This award coincides with the exhibition A Call to Act(ivism): Echoing Whitney Young, 50 Years Later, which is being put on by AIA New York to commemorate Young's speech and its implications for architects today. It is currently on view through September 15 at the Center for Architecture. The judging panel will consist of local architects and community leaders. The awards will be given out at the 2018 AIA Baltimore Excellence in Design Awards Celebration, which will be held at Center Stage on October 19. The deadline for submission is September 4. Click here for details.
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Threatened landscape: A civil rights landmark in Austin

When nine-year-old African American caddie Alvin Propps was arrested for playing golf at the newly desegregated Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, Texas in 1950, it set off a firestorm that eventually made its way to the mayor’s office. As the first peacefully desegregated golf course in the former Confederate South during the Jim Crow era, the course became the center of controversy, but when the mayor’s office decided to drop the charges, it set a precedent, and Lions Municipal became open to African Americans from that day forward. However, the course is now threatened by private development after the City of Austin decided in 2011 to not renew the lease on the 1924 course just two miles west of the Texas state capitol. In 2019, it could be handed over to developers. “Historians searching for the impetus of the 'classical phase of the Civil Rights Movement,' preceding Brown v. Board in 1954 and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, have posited a 'long civil rights movement' that preceded those iconic struggles. In other words, Lions Municipal Golf Course is representative of the 'birth of the civil rights movement,” said Glenda Gilmore, the Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History at Yale University in a post by the Cultural Landscape Foundation. The city has floated the idea of preserving the clubhouse, but not the course, but many critics say that because the structure wasn’t part of the site when the desegregation happened, preserving the clubhouse alone is not enough. The Congressional Black Caucus has voiced support and measures to protect the course, and the Texas House of Representatives, the City of Austin, and Travis County, Texas have all passed resolutions acknowledging the historical importance of the site.
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Absence is made tangible at the new national memorial to lynching victims

Absence is not abstract. It is felt and perceived. Absence implicates all of us inasmuch as it confounds the very writing of our stories. To see absence is to have our limits revealed, not as if in a mirror, but in a manner that shows that we are entangled with distant tethers that keep our bodies, our histories, in check. Absence, when made visible, is not observed immediately. It takes time. The April 26 opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, is perhaps one such catalyst for the effacement of the visitor with respect to the racial terror that led to the loss of thousands of lives through lynching. Lynching victims who were burned alive, hanged, shot—murdered—in and along the towns and byways of our nation from 1877 until 1950, are documented in this memorial initiated by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Such violence continues today in the form of excessive imprisonment; by the murders of black women and men by the police; by the enforcement of state-sanctioned economic violence. By crafting spaces in which the subtractive is both a tool and a frame, the design of this memorial signals the recuperative agency of building as a means to affect the erasable and irascible conditions that established and purvey hatred, fear, and ignorance in this country. Here, looking away is not conscionable, as it moves against the habitus of memory, where our own individual pasts intersect with the Past. That the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum are realized in this, the 50th anniversary of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, is indeed an extraordinary feat indebted to the efforts of many individuals that came before. However, I would be remiss in not reminding readers that in recent reportage, including The New York Times and Rolling Stone, there is scant mention of the architects. During the spectacle of the opening ceremony, EJI’s Executive Director, Bryan Stevenson, acknowledged builders, contractors, laborers, and “local” architects—but did not name the project architects, MASS Design Group. Only on the EJI website can we find mention that the Initiative had the “assistance” of MASS Design Group. It feels purposeful, and we are thus left to speculate. I am left wondering: Are architects supposed to fade away in the fashioning of a memorial? I can think of recent examples for which this is clearly not the case. What has been wrought in other locations, including Washington, D.C., Berlin, Johannesburg, New York City, and Birmingham, all speak through their authors. And, in varying degrees, formal aspects of each of these memorial spaces are present now in Montgomery. Memorials render ghosts. And Boston-based MASS Design’s work with the EJI on the design and building of this structure is no less haunted by the iniquities of American history. With distant views of limpid hills and a semiformal state capitol town center with its empty shops, deserted lots, 59 Confederate markers, and recent loft conversions, the Memorial for Peace and Justice is adjacent, without irony, to the storefront of the State of Alabama Office of Pardons and Paroles Day Reporting Center. From the street below, the memorial structure is partially indiscernible due to its horizontal profile cutting across the sightline, but it may also be read as an empty pedestal through and on which the lives of so many passed, passed away, disappeared. One climbs farther up the hill alongside a boundary wall upon which a series of chronological narratives is posted to convey the story of “Why here?” and “Why now?” The manifestations of slavery, of incipient racism that persist today, are described as a backdrop to an unfolding of both landscape and architecture as marked sites for unceasing brutality. We are soon confronted by a bronze sculpture of humans in chains by Kwame Akoto-Bamfo. The signs begin too high to be read easily and meet our eyes as we climb the hill. A sharp corner, and one rises again to the structure while unfortunately overlooking the conclusion of the memorial space one floor below. There is no fixed entrance, per se, except a momentary pause with a large fire extinguisher. Stepping onto a timber floor, one is immediately surrounded by a dense array of body-size steel casks hung from pipes that disappear into a paneled metal ceiling. One moves cautiously through a grid of “bleeding” Corten steel containers, each incised with the name of the county and names accompanied by dates, including those unknown, of the lynched. The floor gradually descends as the casks remain above our heads; their intact volumes remain whole. By moving downward, one returns into the ground. The horizon has been excised. Gravity is idle. A series of narratives printed on thin metal strips is hung in a similar manner to the initial chronologies, describing in the briefest of ways the events of individual lynchings. The blunt quotidian language, their facticity, arrests our movements. At the next corner, one is presented with two very large indictments. A cascade of water pushes across the adjacent wall, merging with, not obscuring, an extended text. The temperature changes. Two choices are apparent: Climb a ramp or stair into the center of the quadrangle or leave. The empty center, while perhaps disguised as a space of confrontation, is more like a cloister in which condemnation is subdued, internalized; here it is possible to see across through the casks while observing others. It is not a sanctum. Greeting one’s unceremonial departure from the memorial upon moving outside, another sliver of text is located across from the pipes and pumps of the interior waterfall. This is not as much a “door of no return,” as merely a way out. This non-exit merges with an unmarked landscape of horizontal metal casks, akin to those held inside the structure—a topology of loss. Despite being worrisome for those who might wish to touch one of the steel containers after a hot day, one walks between their seemingly geographic order(s) locating states and counties, and names. Farther on, a series of bronzes by Dana King, depicting Rosa Parks and her heroic companions leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott, intersects the path. A small circular garden of mushroom-like concrete stools is sited nearby and is unlike anything seen elsewhere, with no explanation as to its role. One moves across on pathways above, around, and below another bronze, this one by Hank Willis Thomas, spelling bodies of containment, of stability falling away. With the building of such thresholds for historical reckoning, the arc of our knowing also asserts unknowing; absence lingers. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum attest to our own entanglements with reconciliation and truth. Memorials, like museums, are structures that attempt to keep us in their grasp as long as possible, allowing for the disclosure of our interior selves with multiple worlds. Such “new worlds” are partially uncovered at the intersection of reflection and remembrance, yet allow for and point to the rupture of what our passages have been and continue to be.