Harvard Design School Graduate Dana McKinney Merges Architecture and Social Justice

Architect Dana McKinney (photo via news.harvard.edu)

article by Christina Pazzanese via news.harvard.edu

When Dana McKinney was a girl, her family drove every week from their small town in Fairfield County, Conn., to Sunday dinner at her grandmother’s home in Newark, N.J. To a child who loved dance and art, the changing scenery on those trips revealed stark contrasts that stung of economic inequality.

“I was going back and forth between a very comfortable lifestyle in Connecticut to a very depressed environment in Newark and became really inspired to look at how people can affect the built environment,” McKinney said. “I want to be able to fix this! — That was my immediate reaction — I’ll be an architect!”

After studying architecture at Princeton University, McKinney went to Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) to earn master’s degrees in architecture and urban planning. It’s an unusual and demanding course of study, but one McKinney felt would merge her design work with her interest in social change, social justice, and the power of architecture to transform people’s lives.

“I want to make beautiful spaces and buildings, but I don’t want … the pitfall of only working with elite clients, and I think a lot of times architects end up serving a very high-income population. A majority of housing is done by developers in the U.S., [so] good architecture barely reaches outside a certain economic class,” McKinney said.

Much of her academic work has focused on institutional change: improving elderly housing and studying the effects from the abrupt closure in 2014 of a large homeless facility in Boston. But with one in four Newark residents likely to spend some time in prison, McKinney’s thesis focused on “sensible and sensitive” design alternatives to prison that would help break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

It was an unconventional choice. When she put her idea before her faculty advisers, “I could hear the crickets in the room,” she said. But “by the end of it, they were all about it.” While McKinney doesn’t believe architecture alone can end homelessness or poverty or incarceration, she does believe the field has something important to offer.

“Everyone has a role in social development and in making sure that our society is a reflection of what we want it to be.”Indeed, though “spatial justice” is often thought of as an enterprise in the public realm, like the construction of parks and community centers, it’s not as frequently addressed in the private realm. Because housing is essential to well-being, McKinney hopes to eventually create spaces that promote not just equality, but equity. “Your self-worth and what you need to do well as a person starts with the safety and comfort you feel in your own home,” she explained.

Outside the classroom, McKinney has been active in bringing together African-American students at GSD and shining a spotlight on black women and men in a field where only 1 percent of architects are African-American. Having sometimes found herself one of only two black students in a class of 80, McKinney was among the earliest members of the African-American Student Union five years ago, serving last year as its president.

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Yale University to Drop White Supremacist John Calhoun’s Name From Building

article by Noah Remnick via nytimes.com

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced today that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

Mr. Salovey and the other members of the Yale Corporation, the university’s governing body, made their decision after an advisory committee unanimously recommended the renaming. The school is still determining when exactly the change will be carried out, but Mr. Salovey said it would be by fall at the latest. Continue reading

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Becomes Reality

This photo provided by the U.S. Department of Interior shows Harriet Tubman’s home, now officially recognized as a national park. U.S. Department of Interior (photo via nbcnews.com)

article by Associated Press via nbcnews.com

Federal parks officials have formally established the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in upstate New York. Members of the state’s congressional delegation joined U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Washington, D.C., for the official signing ceremony last month that makes the park part of the National Park Service system. It encompasses the site of Tubman’s old home on the outskirts of Auburn, about 25 miles west of Syracuse, and a nearby church where she worshipped.

The New York park will focus on Tubman’s work later on in her life when she was an active proponent of women’s suffrage and other causes. It will be a sister park to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland.

“These two parks preserve and showcase a more complete history of one of America’s pivotal humanitarians who, at great personal risk, did so much to secure the freedom of hundreds of formerly enslaved people,” Secretary Jewell said. “Her selfless commitment to a more perfect union is testament that one determined person, no matter her station in life or the odds against her, can make a tremendous difference.”

To read full article: Harriet Tubman National Historical Park Becomes Reality – NBC News

Obama Designates Three Civil Rights Monuments as National Monuments in Last Week of Presidency

A young protester confronted by a police officer and a snarling police dog is depicted in a sculpture in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, AL (Butch Dill/AP)

article by Chandelis R. Duster via nbcnews.com

Evoking images of newly freed slaves who sought to help reconstruct a war-torn nation and Birmingham civil rights crusaders who marched against injustice, President Obama announced Thursday several new civil rights monuments on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, Freedom Riders National Monument, and the Reconstruction Era National Monument designations comes during Obama’s last days in the White House.

“These monuments preserve the vibrant history of the Reconstruction Era and its role in redefining freedom. They tell the important stories of the citizens who helped launch the civil rights movement in Birmingham and the Freedom Riders whose bravery raised national awareness of segregation and violence. These stories are part of our shared history,” President Obama said in a statement.

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument includes the Birmingham Civil Rights District, a historic landmark in Alabama and the heart of the civil rights movement, where civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched and fought racism. The district includes the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young African American girls were killed and others injured when a bomb exploded during a church service. Kelly Ingram Park, the A.G. Gaston Motel, Bethel Baptist Church, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute are also part of the monument.

The Freedom Riders National Monument is located in Anniston, Alabama honors those who rode integrated buses and were often brutally beaten, jailed or killed in their quest for equality.

The Reconstruction Era National Monument in coastal South Carolina includes four sites that chronicle the saga of newly freed slaves who sought to help rebuild and strengthen the region. Continue reading

Schomburg Research Center in NY Designated a National Historic Landmark

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article by Ameena Walker via ny.curbed.com

Late last year, St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue was named a National Historic Landmark, and in the months since, the Department of the Interior hasn’t been resting on its laurels. Yesterday, the agency announced 24 new National Historic Landmarks, including a few in the five boroughs. The biggest: New York City’s mecca for information on the African diaspora and culture, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. (h/t DNAInfo)

The center, located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, was named after Afro-Latino immigrant Arthur (Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg, and operates as part of the New York Public Library system. Here’s what the DOI had to say about it:

[It] represents the idea of the African Diaspora, a revolutionizing model for studying the history and culture of people of African descent that used a global, transnational perspective. The idea and the person who promoted it, Arthur (Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg (1874-1938), an Afro-Latino immigrant and self-taught bibliophile, reflect the multicultural experience of America and the ideals that all Americans should have intellectual freedom and social equality.

It’s currently in the process of receiving a $22 million renovation helmed by Marble Fairbanks Architects, Westerman Construction Company, and the City Department of Design and Construction. The entire project is expected to wrap up in 2017 and will present changes that include a larger gift shop, updated Langston Hughes Auditorium, expanded Rare Book Collection vault, and many more changes.

To read full article, go to: http://ny.curbed.com/2017/1/12/14247950/schomburg-research-center-national-landmark-nyc?platform=hootsuite

Civil Rights Pioneer Pauli Murray’s Home in NC Slated to Become National Historic Landmark

Civil Rights Pioneer Pauli Murray (Photo via thegrio.com)

Civil Rights Pioneer Pauli Murray (Photo via thegrio.com)

article via jbhe.com

The Pauli Murray Project at the Human Rights Center at Duke University has been working for many years to obtain landmark status for the civil rights activist’s home in Durham, NC. Those efforts have finally reached fruition.

Recently the Landmarks Committee of the National Park Service unanimously voted to recommend that the home at 906 Carroll Street become a National Historic Landmark. The final decision on the matter rests with the Secretary of the Interior and the decision can be made before the change in presidential administrations. The Pauli Murray Project has fully restored the home and it is expected that it will be made into a museum and social justice center.

A native of Baltimore, Pauli Murray was orphaned at age 13. She went to Durham, North Carolina to live with an aunt. After graduating from high school at the age of 16, she enrolled in Hunter College in New York City. She was forced to drop out of school at the onset of the Great Depression. In 1938, she mounted an unsuccessful legal effort to gain admission to the all-white University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1940, 15 years earlier than Rosa Parks, Murray was arrested for refusing to sit in the back of a bus in Virginia.

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Pauli Murray’s home before and after restoration

Murray enrolled at the Howard University in 1941 and earned her degree in 1944. She later graduated from the Boalt Hall Law School at the University of California at Berkeley. She became a leader of the civil rights movement and was critical of its leadership for not including more women in their ranks. In 1977, Murray, at the age of 66, was ordained a priest of the Episcopal Church. She died in Pittsburgh in 1985 after suffering from cancer.

Motown Museum Garners $6 Million Donation for Expansion from Ford Motor Company

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An artist rendering of the expanded Motown Museum in Detroit. (Image courtesy of Ford)

article via eurweb.com

Ford Motor Company and UAW-Ford have announced a $6 million investment towards a planned expansion of the Motown Museum in Detroit, reports Billboard.

The figure makes the auto giant and union the lead donors in a recently announced $50 million upgrade that will create a new Ford-branded theater, space for interactive exhibits and a recording studio at the tourist attraction.

“We are thrilled to play a role in the next chapter of a global music icon,” said Joe Hinrichs, president, The Americas, Ford Motor Company. “The enhanced museum will not only upgrade the visitor experience, it also fits with our commitment to investing in the cultural heritage of Detroit and southeast Michigan.”

As part of the Ford/UAW investment, the expanded Motown Museum will include a new venue to be called the Ford Motor Company Theater, as well as a new interactive activity called the CARaoke Experience that will incorporate music with Ford vehicles. The donation will also fuel educational, music and other programming.

The Motown Museum is located in the Hitsville U.S.A. house where record company founder Berry Gordy launched his music empire in 1959. Scores of stars and hits were created there before the label moved to California in 1972.

To read original article, go to: http://www.eurweb.com/2016/11/ford-donates-6-million-toward-motown-museum-detroit/#