Thursday, April 23, 2015

Violence in Neighborhoods

After another black man died related to police action, Baltimore is in the news around the nation and as far as the BBC, not something to be proud of.

One has to ask what the debate of police brutality or violence in neighborhoods has to do with urban design. To which I would say: A lot. 

How much so, I became acutely aware again in discussing Baltimore's authenticity with the young African American former street kid and now writer in demand, D Watkins. We spoke the same language (give or take) but we didn't have the same experiences, we didn't know the same city and we didn't know it from the same perspective. And that was true, even though I have fairly good knowledge of the black communities he grew up in from working for decades on projects in areas like Sandtown, Middle East, Somerset Homes, McElderry Park, Sharp Leadenhall and Druid Heights.
Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore, a world not known to whites

A city in which white people and black people are so segregated that there are many neighborhoods that are almost 100% black and through which most white people have never driven, let alone set foot into,  communities cannot easily come together as one  on even the basics like policing, trash, schools, jobs or food, not to mention discussing growth, the role of the arts, urban design or anything else. 

People in the two Baltimores live like people on different continents. And the disparities between some of our poorest communities and some of our richest are indeed, like those between Rwanda and Denmark.

We will not solve anything until we mix ourselves up and get to know each other. Not a new insight, but one still unfulfilled. We will find that we actually need the same peace and services for a quality life, the very attributes the poor communities don't currently have. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

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