Archive for February, 2019

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Black History Month: Black In Business

View More: http://edwardunderwood.pass.us/nspiregreenMy mind races and my heart swells as I reflect with pride on the ability of black people to persevere and overcome in these United States. 400 years ago, in 1619, the first enslaved people from Africa were brought to the shores of the United States of America, landing in Jamestown, Virginia. From slavery to Jim Crow laws, which were abolished in the latter part of the 20th Century, to current institutionalized forms of discrimination we press forward.

Although this forward movement is evident in all facets of life such as education, entertainment, and politics there is still a considerable amount to grow, particularly in the business world. While rates of black entrepreneurship are astoundingly high in certain sectors, I do question how many businesses in the government contracting arena have experienced the ability to build wealth – especially firms that are still in the subcontracting space.

As a professional services firm that wants to grow our capabilities to prime more projects, we have often found ourselves as subcontractors beholden to nominal percentages and abnormally slow payment processes that threaten the solvency of our business. It often feels like programs designed to help such as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program and others pigeon hole us in a way that larger companies either don’t realize or are accustomed to. For example, if a project states that 30% should go to DBE firms that percentage is often split up over a number of companies making the revenue generation and ability to build the capacity of the business pretty low.

If I were alone in this feeling, I wouldn’t be writing this piece; however, I’ve talked to a number of minority companies who live this experience regularly. We are often told to not lead with our status as a minority business but on the flip side, we are often only called because we meet that requirement on a contract. I’ve had this stated explicitly. It’s disheartening that because there are programs designed to ensure some level of fairness and collaboration for underrepresented groups, there is often a perception of less value add and inability to perform.

Business ownership can create the opportunity to bring generations out of poverty, build communities, and create prosperity. Until minority businesses are seen for the value that they bring to the table, the diversity of thought, technical merit, and the quality of our work, I wonder if we will be able to truly flourish in a system that still marginalizes our contributions and takes advantage of our disadvantages.   While there are ways to overcome and outgrow some of this, it’s an unfortunate box we maneuver around – being black in business.


Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC a community, multimodal, and environmental planning firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

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Placemaking Needs Updating

Placemaking promotes connections and experiences for everyone by building spaces around the community’s needs. The intimate connection between people and the places is shared by emotion. To continue building these connections, placemaking should be updated more often to accommodate the communities needs beyond seasonal celebrations and festivals.

Planners, designers, and artists have the responsibility to shape the public realm and maximize experience in these spaces. When Projects for Public Space (PPS) surveyed people about what placemaking means to them, we found that it is a crucial and deeply-valued process for those who feel intimately connected to the places in their lives.

Chinese New Year was on February 5, 2019, this year, it’s also called the Lunar New Year! In Chinese Culture, this was the most important festival in the year. Similar to Christmas and the Gregorian calendar New Year’s in American culture, placemaking starts around one month before the actual date.

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Chinese New year Parade

2019 is “The Year of the Pig”. As a tradition, there was an annual parade on February 10th to celebrate. Also, traditional red lanterns and flags were hung in Chinatown to represent welcoming luck and prosperity.

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Chinese New year Parade

I was at Las Vegas during the weekend festivities, and I was impressed by their efforts to welcome Chinese tourists by decorating all of the casinos with red and Spring Festival decor. You will see “pig” decorations throughout the Las Vegas Strip and throughout the city.

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Unfortunately, Spring Festival is always in winter, where the weather has the chance of being harsh, making it hard to do placemaking or event outdoor. Some community gathered people by hosting events to do some culture traditional such as making dumplings, cutting paper, traditional drawings and singing.

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But placemaking should not be limited to celebrating the festival, it should be updated according to the community’s needs. Some placemaking changed by season, artists change different mural or design from time to time.

For examples:

Melrose Avenue, California:

Same wall but different mural all the times:

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Sources: Pictures from google

Rockefeller Center:

(Different set up by the change of the season)

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Making the user connect to the place, one of the tricks is to update the space by season and festival to refresh the vision and feeling. Planner, designer and artist’s new design to space would give it a different meaning and keep the space energetic and interesting. Think for the users, the culture of the community, demographic, and find the point to make the connection with them.

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What is the Placemaking

Mei Fang, who is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety of culture inside of the city.

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Exhibits to Visit in DC to Learn about Black History

Two years ago, for Black History Month I shared some of my favorite urban planning books about the Black community and how transportation shaped black communities. This February, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite exhibits DC area celebrating Black History. Whether you visit in February or any other time during the year, they are an opportunity to learn more about the past, present, and to think about the future.

Do you have any suggested places to visit?

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.





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