By Arnelle Jean-Jacques | March 6, 2021
Despite the ongoing Covid-19 situation forcing the transition to online events, the University at Albany still managed to celebrate Black History Month to the fullest extent, including the Department of Geography and Planning, which kicked off its Planning for Racial Justice Conference on Feb. 23.
The series kicked off with remarks by Arlene Way, Executive Director of the Arbor Hill Development Corporation, who diligently commits her time advocating for access to equal development in educational settings across the United States. She previously held a position doing identical work for the New York City Department of Education, taking great pride in her work with students, especially those in college.
“The reason why people of color suffer financial hardships,” she said, “is because they’re not connected to jobs in the ways that these predominantly white communities are. When we, as people, truly step outside ourselves and our own intentions, we truly become one community.”
Soon after, Tanya McGee, a graduate of the University at Albany’s Department of Planning, provided suggestions to help support planners of color in the workplace, stating that challenging gender and racial biases along with systemic inequities, and, furthermore encouraging those around us to discuss race allows for the greater and more frequent discussions about unequal development that are extremely necessary, especially in the Capitol Region.
The main attraction, however, was the keynote event given by keynote speaker Dr. Ruth Wilson Glimore.
Gilmore is the Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at CUNY and a prison abolitionist who was recently presented the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Geographers. Named one of the world’s “top thinkers for the Covid-19 age” by Prospect, she was raised in New Haven, Connecticut by members of the workers’ union of Yale University.
During her session, she emphasized the importance of having planners of color, not only in the Capital Region, but nationwide. She vehemently spoke on the injustices of planning towards communities of color, while also offering a vivid view of what the future holds for aiding these marginalized communities. While this is no easy feat, the demarginalization of these communities rests on the efforts of those who inhibit and surround them.