Justice, Equity : Diversity and Inclusivity
Each of us have been shaken to our core by the events surrounding the racially motivated murder of George Floyd, a Houstonian who grew up in Third Ward, played football and basketball at Yates High School, and whose last breaths -- taken in 8 minutes and 46 seconds -- have changed our country.
His name has been added to an ever growing list of victims of police brutality and neglect by the justice system: Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Atatiana Jefferson, Pamela Turner and so many others we will never know.
We cannot be silent as leaders in our city. The architectural profession is not immune to systemic racism. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King remind us: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Therefore, the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIAH), the Architecture Center Houston Foundation (ArCH) and the Houston Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (HNOMA) join our voices with our affiliate organizations such as: AIA National, AIA DC, AIA Atlanta, AIA Austin, AIA Dallas, AIA Chicago, AIA Los Angeles, AIA New York, AIA Minnesota, and NOMA.
As Houston architects and design professionals, we work within and beyond the vibrant framework of the most diverse city in America. The turbulence created in the wake of recent events is not the time to be silent. We are committed to the Acknowledgment, Affirmation and Action required to bring about change in our great city.
We are asking ourselves how we can contribute to meaningful change amidst the anger, outrage, fear, grief and sadness of racially heinous violence and dehumanizing injustice. We recognize our profession is not a reflection of the demographics of our society or the residents of our city.
In 1950, John Chase was the first black student to enroll in architecture school at the University of Texas. Upon graduation, he founded his own firm because no one would hire him; he co-founded NOMA in 1971 to offer mentorship and support to other minority architects. Today, only 2.4% of the AIA’s 95,000 members are Black/African-American architects. Locally, 3.9% of AIA Houston members are Black/African-Americans. Only 5% of students enrolled in accredited architectural programs are Black/African-American. We cannot continue to let the plight of the next generation of architects fall upon deaf ears.
Historic and contemporary disinvestment in and gentrification of communities of color, and black communities specifically, have contributed to the racial oppression still plaguing our communities today. We challenge our profession to acknowledge our role in this problem and influence positive solutions.
We are architects, planners, designers, professors, academics and builders of the fabric of Houston. We inherently strive for conditions that improve upon the existing ones. We can do more and better.
As architects and design professionals, we are committed to the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
Justice, equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives are needed to reveal and remove barriers that have inhibited the growth of our profession and our communities.
To cultivate environments of respect, foster a culture of inclusion, and minimize unconscious biases and overt prejudices, we must say that black lives matter and act accordingly.
- Initiate candid conversations to begin to heal the deeply afflicted wounds compounded over generations.
- Integrate justice, equity, diversity, and inclusivity training and education for AIAH and ArCH leaders.
- Re-evaluate, build and support a pipeline of diverse leadership in AIAH and ArCH for the advancement of the profession and city.
- Conduct an internal audit of the gender and racial diversity of the past ten years of AIAH and ArCH board of directors, executive committees, committee chairs, juries and panels.
- Create an environment that encourages and fosters diverse award submissions, programming, and engagement in an effort to more accurately reflect our community and membership.
- Form and develop an AIAH Justice Equity: Diversity Inclusivity (JE:DI) committee.
- Adopt a JE:DI statement for AIAH and incorporate the goals into the strategic plan.
- Create an alliance between HNOMA, AIAH and ArCH to collaborate on programming, broaden our reach and deepen our community ties.
- Strengthen architecture education programs through outreach to and mentorship of Black/African-American students, maintaining measurable connections with students as they progress through school and into their careers.
It is deplorable that it took the murder of George Floyd for this organization to start talking openly about the murder of Black/African Americans, human beings, by those in positions of authority.
Therefore, we place anti-racism at the top of our priorities in order to fulfill our ethical obligations.
The collective community of AIA Houston, Architecture Center Houston and Houston NOMA is broad, diverse and resilient. We pledge to move forward as stewards of justice, equity, diversity and inclusivity with accountability. The changes and challenges outlined above require the support and efforts of all of us. We remain hopeful and committed to the future we can build together.
Chris Royster, AIA
James Evans, AIA
Daimian Hines, AIA, NOMA