Dear WMAIA Members and Community:  In light of recent tragic events, the WMAIA is sharing two statements.

FROM KRISTIAN WHITSETT AIA, ON BEHALF OF THE WMAIA BOARD

WMAIA, like our peers at BSA and the AIA, are appalled and deeply shaken by the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, as well as the many other Black Americans who have historically been killed by police, or targeted by racist policies and actions in the U.S.  We stand with black and brown Americans in saying “Black Lives Matter.”

We also want to acknowledge the racial disparity within our own profession, which is amplified even further here in Western Massachusetts. The fact that our organization — and our profession in general — is so white is in itself indicative of the problem.

Given that fact, we ask our members to do more than simply stand in solidarity with Black Americans, or to try to address disparities through our work. We ask ourselves, and you, to look inward – to the profession and even our organization itself.

The WMAIA Board of Directors, as well as the COTE and Women in Architecture, will be working on some programs and activities that can help us be better allies against racism, and of better service to the communities of Western Massachusetts.

At right is a letter from Aelan Tierney AIA, President of Kuhn Riddle Architects and co-chair of the WMAIA-COTE, about how racism derails our efforts at sustainability; she includes a number of suggestions for action and involvement.

I am heartened by much of the work and outreach that WMAIA has done in the past, and continues to champion.  May we maintain and improve that direction in an effort to make our world, and this geographic region in particular, more equitable and inclusive.

Here are a few beginning suggestions for action, and education:

Sincerely,

Kristian Whitsett AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C
President WMAIA

FROM AELAN TIERNEY AIA CO-CHAIR WMAIA COTE

Dear WMAIA Colleagues,

This global pandemic has brought to the surface many inequalities in our country and in our communities. As co-chair of the WMAIA COTE and as the mother of an African and American daughter, social equity within our goals to create sustainable environments, holds a central place in my heart. The past few weeks of civil unrest due to yet another violent murder of a black person, has created a global movement unlike one we have seen for decades. It is a moment for us to open our eyes, listen to the people of color in our lives, educate ourselves, and support change in whatever way that we can.

The article below was sent to me by my daughter, Aisha, she is flooding me with articles and information, and we have been having very intense discussions at home. I hope that you take the time to read it, and understand how racism impacts our ability to push the needle on climate change, and hopefully have conversations within your firms, and at home with your families, about our current racist climate.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/06/03/im-black-climate-scientist-racism-derails-our-efforts-save-planet/

As architects and designers of the built world, it is our responsibility to help create a more sustainable environment, and while we may focus mostly on the buildings and landscapes, it is only one small piece of the puzzle. We must also focus on the people we design for, and the people in our profession. Without a representation of the diversity in our country, in our profession, we will move very slowly towards solving not only climate crisis, but many other deficiencies in our built environment, like affordable housing for everyone, quality schools for all children, quality healthcare facilities in all communities, prison design that is focused on reform vs. punishment, and the list goes on. Until there is equity, liberty and justice for all in this country, there will be civil unrest, and that impacts everyone, black or white, or any of the many identities we all have. We cannot expect perfection, but we can all do better.

When this pandemic started, we at Kuhn Riddle Architects, put all contributions on hold, however, UMass has asked if we will continue our KRA scholarship for high school students of color, who would like to attend the summer design program. Initially when asked in March or April, I said no. In speaking with Jonathan Salvon and Charles Roberts, partners here at KRA, we agreed that we cannot afford not to fund this scholarship, and we have offered it again this year. In addition we seek interns of different cultural backgrounds, with the belief that diversity of experiences only adds to better designs, and enriches our “corporate culture”. I ask all of you in this profession to consider how we can improve diversity within our profession. Could every firm in WMAIA offer a $500, $1,000, or full scholarship, to a student of color to attend the UMass Summer Design program? If yes, I am sure that Stephen Schreiber FAIA schreiber@umass.edu, would welcome hearing from you. What are some other ideas that you have, can you share them? Collectively we will make a bigger change, and we need everyone to participate in whatever way they are able to.

Within the last week, you may have heard requests from many to defund the police, whatever your position on that topic, you should watch this documentary, called 13th on Netflix. It is very relevant to our current situation and why we are in this position right now.  It also speaks to the design of prison systems, and how that failure in design, impacts reform of individuals, and is solely designed for punishment. Here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8

Thank you all for reading this. I hope you will all use your voice, and participate in being a part of the change that has been a long time coming, and needs to happen now.

Aelan B. Tierney, AIA, LEED AP

Co-Chair WMAIA COTE