Reposted In Response to The CRED Report April 2021
The second half of last year was a whirlwind, so much happened, time seemed to sweep by. In the midst of all that was happening there was some things we didn’t quite manage to share but which seem worth remembering. One of those was speaking at a Black Lives Matter gathering in Wandsworth. The XXAOC's Sarah was invited by the local group to speak to a young audience about how the built environment is a critical part of the conversation around social justice.
Our cities belong to all of us.
Sarah Akigbogun 17.07.20
Our cities belong to all of us.
For many of us, they are where we build our dreams, make our memories…
Have our families.
They are the backdrop to our lives.
And they are places where we should be able to breath.
Places where all of us can grow and thrive.
And so all of us, should see ourselves in those that create them.
Access to decent Space is a right, and should be equitable.
And that is why I am here today, to encourage you to consider being part of that process.
Making sure you have a say…making sure your vision, your needs, your heritage, are part of what shapes our future cities.
I am an architect, so part of what I do is about making cities.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve worked with someone who looked like me. I have worked in an office where I was the only black woman in a thousand. This won’t be the first time you’ve heard a black woman talk about being the only one in the room. I believe empathically? that we need to be in the room where the decisions are made. That we need to smash through the glass, and indeed the concrete ceilings. We need to do that to bring about change.
I am not going to pretend it’s easy: My own journey, may be in some parts familiar. I am the daughter of West African parents who met in this city[London]. This is where I was born. I consider it my home.
My journey into and within architecture has not been simple or easy despite that I was lucky to go to great schools and work in leading offices
I try not allow myself to be invisible – I speak up, I make sure my voice is heard.
And by doing that we can bring powerful things to the table.
I know it is not that simple. That there are structures, societal barriers, that keep people like me out of those rooms and that we need to continue to push to bring those down, and to keep banging on the doors of exclusion. I know many of you are already doing that. And I want to encourage you to continue to make sure your voice is heard in this space too.
All our voices matter!
We all need to be heard in the process of making and changing the places where we live.
Many thanks to Black Lives Matter Wandsworth and to Jane Briginshaw and Leonie for the Invitation.
Note: The recent CRED report, has minimised the importance of structural racism in affecting the access of ethnic minorities to the professions. The profession of architecture is still one which still presents barriers for many, on the basis of gender, class, and yes race. These issues do intersect, however structural racism is still a prevalent force in our society, limiting the opportunity of many. If young people are bashing at those concrete ceilings, then then society needs to be creating ways of tearing them down. It is not enough to simply tell individuals to ‘try harder’. (Reposted from The Studio Aki Blog on Sunday 11th April, In Response to the CRED Report April 2021)
Photo Credit - Taylored Photography
[Coronavirus] "is not a great leveller, the consequences of which rich and poor suffer the same. This is a myth that needs debunking". So said Emily Maitlis in her introduction to Newsnight on April 8th.
She was of course absolutely right, she continued.
"Those on the front line, bus drivers, shelf stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shop keepers are disproportionately the lower paid members of our workforce, they are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed..."
This was also, Maitlis noted, about housing and access to open spaces.
“Those who live in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown tougher. Those in manual jobs will be unable to work from home. This is a health issue with huge ramifications for social welfare, and a welfare issue with huge ramifications for public health.”
However, this is not just about socio-economics. In the UK, at the time of writing, all of the 14 doctors who have died here have been from ethnic minority backgrounds, some 68% of deaths amongst health caseworkers have been amongst those from ethnic minorities. People who came to this country to save lives.
In the US the statistics have been shocking, though not all data is being recorded, at the time of writing, analyses by Associated Press showed that 30% of COVID deaths have been of African Americans, while they make up only 14% of the population.
The Reverend Jessie Jackson says that “this exposes a poverty of opportunity’ and is “America’s unfinished Business”
So, what do we as architects do? We are not on the front line, our work may not seem essential in this moment, some of us may have been adversely affected in the ways described above. So I, possibly like many, have felt a little impotent. If only I had done the second-generation migrant thing of becoming a doctor, perhaps I could be of more use in this moment.
However, when the crisis is over, as Maitlis notes in her insightful introduction, there will need to be a “social settlement”. Architects will be a part of that. Poor housing and a poverty of opportunity have contributed to the exacerbation of this crisis for many and helping to alleviate that for future generations is something we can do.
To discuss the effects of the current crisis and what a response might look like we at xxaoc will be holding a round table discussion. Please get in touch to join in.
XXAOC founder, Sarah Akigbogun is currently selling prints from the Little Lola Architect Series, in partnership with Studio aki for charities helping to alleviate inequality.
If you are interested in the XXAOC project or getting involved with any of out initiatives. Please drop us a line.
For International Women's Day 2020
"It was a whole time of thinking that you could change the world" Sharon Egretta Sutton
'It would be great for young people to say "I know what an architect is and they can be from everywhere' Stephanie Edwards
Super excited to share a first little teaser from our film about female architects of colour . Over the next few weeks we'll be releasing snippets of video and audio from our interviews.
First up Stephanie Edwards of Urban Symbiotics. Stephanie was one of Vogue Magazine's. 'Forces For Change' in 2019.
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