Black Lives Matter. Those who think that means only Black Lives Matter are choosing to miss the point. The point is, until Black Lives Matter, until the loss of black lives receives the same outrage, the same justice: swift, firm & final, the same compassion and empathy that the majority expects and demands of their losses; as they would say at NASA, “Houston, we have a huge problem”. A problem with the very foundation of our society, our country, but we knew that already.
We knew that already because we know our American culture, our history, the foundation of this country, was built off the blood and sweat equity of indigenous people, indentured servants and, more specifically, people brought here against their will as slave labor. We're not going to go into detail about the callous indifference, inhumane, brutal, process of breaking and managing slave labor. We're not here to bore you with the relentless cruelty, the physical and mental abuse necessary to maintain such an enterprise; or the underhanded and laborious efforts to perpetuate oppression even after slavery was abolished. What we will point out is that the foundation of our country is cracked because deep in the soul of our America, restitution was never made. The fact is that our country was built off another's suffering, on the backs of those never having received recompense. We know this because, if it had, we wouldn't be where we are right now. Where we've been before. Demanding the same things: basic rights of a citizen of this country.
We in the building design and construction industry know that foundational problems are some of the most challenging to resolve, to fix. The first step to addressing any problem, no matter what facet of life it presents itself in, is to acknowledge we have a problem to begin with. The current events have widened the fissures and are bringing them to the surface. The fact that the list of issues that come in various names like: systemic racism, white privilege, racial discrimination, implicit biases, microaggressions, prejudice, etc, etc, etc, means that the engine that runs our great country has many faulty parts. Acknowledging the problem is a big step, but now that we know the depths of the problem, what are we going to do about it? What actions now and moving forward are we going to take to solve the problem?
There is a lot to unpack and a lot of work to be done. It may appear daunting but there is strength in numbers. We have power and have always had endurance. It is time to roll up our sleeves and get to being the change we want to see. In the building design and construction community we might not think we have much pull in the grand scheme of what we are facing, but the built environment in its various forms and scales; site, landscape, building design, space planning, city planning, interiors, building systems, and construction tells a very real story about a society's values, beliefs and how people interact, communicate and engage with one another.
We, the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects mission is to set a solid foundation on which our members are empowered to promote justice and equity in communities of color through outreach, professional development, design excellence and community advocacy.
As part of our plan of action, Wisco NOMA creates programming that aids in the growth of minority presence in architecture by providing materials, support, and resources at all stages of our members careers.
The Wisco NOMA Pipeline allows us to partner with local K-12 schools in Wisconsin to facilitate informational workshops, foster design thinking, and develop critical analysis skills of the built environment within minority youth. It also allows us to support and collaborate with the student chapter, NOMAS at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in their endeavors, initiatives and transition to the workplace.
The Wisco NOMA ARE Coalition bridges the gap between education and examination by creating structured study groups and partnering with institutions to obtain materials, resources, and guidance for WISCO NOMA members.
The Wisco NOMA Catalogue maintains an active roster of minority architects in Wisconsin and highlights their achievements. The catalog provides opportunities to promote minority-owned businesses and partners.
Through Wisco NOMA Advocacy we will engage with local firms, organizations, local, state and national government to agitate and help influence the decisions that impact our lives, careers, economics and communities.
Small steps become big steps just as thoughts become buildings. Buildings become places and places make a lasting impact on the people that engage with them. To grow the knowledge and understanding about the building design and construction industry, foster growth in our communities and have a hand in starting to heal the foundation of our country is the fruit we would like to harvest from the seeds we are planting now.
So, take some small steps with us.
Marion Clendenen-Acosta, Wisco NOMA President
Wekeana Lassiter, Wisco NOMA Vice-President
Teonna Cooksey, Wisco NOMA Secretary
Muhammad Shehata, Wisco NOMA Treasurer
Kouyate Toure, Wisco NOMA Parliamentarian