In cities across the United States, racism exists in built form. There’s a long history of intentionally racist policies such as race-restricted covenants preventing minority groups from moving to certain areas, and redlining that limited access to housing finance and concentrated nonwhite residents in neighborhoods that were then systematically underserved. These policies have had long-term negative impacts on access to jobs, wealth creation, health, and countless other socioeconomic factors.

But even when they haven’t been overtly racist, urban development policies and practices have often neglected or harmed communities of color simply by cutting them out of the decision-making process. From community meetings scheduled at times that are difficult for working people to attend to preservation efforts that associate historical value with economic prosperity, many of the ways design and development happens in cities is rooted in practices that tend to disenfranchise Black communities and other nonwhite groups. They continue to result in discriminatory outcomes, whether planners, designers, and developers realize it or not.

BlackSpace, a collective of 200 Black designers, architects, artists, and urban planners, seeks to change that. Committed to Black-centered planning and design, the organization works through community workshops, planning exercises, and cooperative design efforts to proactively bring Black voices and concerns into a development process that has long ignored them.

“Unfortunately most people who work on this day-to-day aren’t necessarily thinking about ‘How do I work, why do I work the way that I work?’ And it has grave consequences actually for Black presence in public space and Black people generally that people are not interrogating the practice of how they work,” says Emma Osore, one of the founders of BlackSpace and the director of community at the New Museum’s cultural incubator, New Inc. “It’s important what we do, but I think one of our messages is the process by which you do them is as important as whatever the outcome is.”

Read the full article about Black urban planning by Nate Berg at Fast Company.