Architecture Hosts Annual Black Alumni Coming Home Event

By: Chelsea Mistretta

“Do not get lost in the troubles of the present, as they may consume you. We have surpassed the expectations of our ancestors. If you keep on the journey, you will surpass your own.”

When asked about the importance of the March 15 University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning School of Architecture Black Alumni Coming Home event, Jacobie Ricard, Senior Director of Construction at Sinai Health System, expressed this quote. The event brought together via Zoom Black alumni from the DCP SoA and celebrated their professional experiences all over the globe operating different aspects of the construction and design world.

The main theme was an open and honest query into the professional path and lived experiences of each speaker, including the many forces that have impacted them. According to Amie Edwards, a UF DCP Ph.D. student researching African architecture and identity, “The importance of this Coming Home Series is to bring awareness to the impact of systemic racism in society towards individuals of African descent, and to explain how marginalization has affected the overall success of Black Americans in the architecture and design industry.”

Beginning with introductions for each individual speaker including a recap of their career journey, a question-and-answer session with students and the alumni soon followed.

The speakers talked about many topics, but the most prominent one was regarding the racism they have faced in their workplaces. Many of the speakers talked about being looked over, but also how to combat it. Tahir Edwards, principal architect at the Weitz Company, said you have to be intentional and “Prove that you aren’t what they think you are.”

Some other great advice came from Justin Garrett Moore, program officer at Humanities in Place in the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, who expressed that there is no distinction between your academic and professional lives. Oluwabunmi Fayiga, project team member at Adjaye Associates, expressed how important it is to have people of color in positions of power. This way, there is representation in higher positions for people of color.

Dan Kirby, the leader of People + Places Solutions Group at Jacobs, summed up the event by saying, “We don’t celebrate the achievements of our fellow black graduates often enough. We have important and inspiring stories to tell. The Coming Home series is an excellent opportunity to give voice to these experiences.”

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