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Racial Justice and Design: Strategies from the field (Association for Community Design Convening)

During the 2019 Association for Community Design Convening in Greenwood, MS, De Nichols will join design practitioners from across the nation to “explicitly look at equity through the lens of race, and how race impacts poverty and creates under-resourced communities.”

On a core level, the session begins with how people are impacted by racism and how white supremacy manifests in the built environment. Drawing from personal and professional experiences, the panel will focus on how design can impact people’s interaction with racism, from the perspective of both those who witness racism and those who experience racism.

This session aims to explore how professionals of the built environment use their practices and daily work to fight institutional racism and social inequity. Rather than reacting to downstream impacts of social injustice, this session will pose the question whether designers can “move upstream” to begin addressing the root causes of systemic racial injustice that typically produces issues of economic instability, poverty, and neighborhood disinvestment through the built environment.

This panel session will begin with a brief share-out of findings related to the Racial Justice and Design Research (RJD) initiative of ACD, showcasing profiles of racial justice and social equity-focused practices in community-engaged design, with the goal of facilitating a productive conversation for design professionals, about how they can proactively leverage their work in the built environment to advance racial justice and social equity.

Three organizations highlighted in the RJD research; Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative, Civic Creatives, and Design Impact will each share personal and professional experiences, strategies, and insights from their work integrating racial equity practices into their practices. 

The session is meant to share explicit strategies and tactics related to racial equity that practitioners have incorporated into their work- and those that have been challenging to deploy, and move beyond project highlights to focus on systematic impact on racism in our neighborhoods.

About the Association for Community Design 2019 Convening

June 27-29, 2019                                                                                                                                        Greenwood, MS


Community design work begins with an understanding of the power of people first. It is the web of relationships, history, narrative, mythology, and aspirations embodied in the people of a community that is the fabric of a place.  This conference will highlight these experts on place; the people who work, celebrate, struggle, organize, worship, and live in the neighborhoods we live, work, and play in. The 42nd Annual ACD convening will give us all a microphone and turn the amp up to 11 so as to focus on stories of PEOPLE+______.

The work of community design is frequently focused on strengthening urban communities, and this work is vitally important, however the work that is being done in rural communities is equally as important and this conference is a call to expand the conversation to include both the rural and urban. Rural places can sometimes feel like the end of the line, particularly for marginalized communities. Policies made in Washington, D.C. or state capitals filter down to the  organizations working in the neighborhoods who have to deal with the decisions of those who may, or may not hold their best interest at heart. Aren’t the residents, the locals, the radical few who stay put, sources of untapped breadths and depths of knowledge?

At PEOPLE+, we are inviting community designers to apply to speak alongside stakeholders and elevate the voices of the experts in place. As community designers, we seek to listen to those with whom we partner, and this year’s convening will carve out space for the voices of people plus the designers who work on their behalf to hear each other.



Just as rural places can feel like the end of the political, financial or geographic line, rural people can feel their work and ideas are peripheral to the bigger, newer and seemingly more innovative urban world. The Mississippi Delta is the home of the blues, a genre that inspired the vast majority of modern music. In the Delta, visitors can also be inspired by writers, painters, cooks, activists and others who have portrayed the best of the human spirit. The Mississippi Delta also lays plain the great injustices and inheritances of the worst of the human spirit through the ever present divisions that remain as a result of a history of slavery and civil rights battles. Despite this history, and though mired at the bottom of nearly every poll for health, education, and poverty, there is magic in the Delta, wrought of both the good and bad that seem to have seeped into the soil. 

The hosts, speakers, and events of the PEOPLE+ ACD convening will provide insights into the context of the Mississippi Delta and how both lifelong residents and those new to the area have sought out authentic and individualized understandings of the people and places in this region. Greenwood will serve as home base for a few days as the experience of the Delta unfolds through a gathering of those on a shared mission to understand and elevate context in their everyday work. Join us for long summer evenings sitting on the porch, enjoying iced drinks together!



  • Equity: Systems of oppression and inequity disproportionately impact Communities of Color.  How can community design actively work to build power and offset barriers to make more just places?

  • Engagement: Young people and vulnerable communities are valuable assets not often included in community decisions. What are ways to include these groups in design and community activism?

  • Resilience: In the face of adversity, our neighborhoods continue to bounce back. How do cultural heritage and people, as well as environmental conditions, impact a place’s ability to persevere?

  • Innovation: The practice of community design continues to evolve on large and small scales. What are alternative approaches to our practice that catalyze change?