Planning processes are not democratic, said Bob Terrell, executive director at the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston.
“If you’re serious about real political empowerment and economic empowerment, why aren’t you hiring people from this community who have the skills and the background to do any and all research?” said Terrell. “I have yet to see a municipality that will turn over real decision-making power to its citizens and residents.”
To make black lives matter, Terrell said, planners need to look to the community rather than seeking outside consultants.
“There is no such thing as value-free social science,” Terrell said during a UEP colloquium about Making Black Lives Matter through Policy and Planning on October 19.
Policy work and activism are not mutually exclusive, said Melissa Colón, a doctoral student at the Tufts Child Studies and Human Development department, and former executive director of Massachusetts Education Initiative for Latino Students. She added that leaders need to disrupt education systems that continue to oppress some of its students. School is supposed to be an equalizer, she said.
Drawing on his own life, panelist Abrigal Forrester illustrated how the education system devalued him and his peers.
Forrester, who is now the director of Community Action at Madison Park Community Development Corporation, said he always performed well academically, but was never vetted for opportunities to attend technical schools.
“It really made me feel like, why am I doing all this when I’m not getting the recognition?” Forrester said. He added that many like him engaged in a “devaluing of self through the system.”
Forrester recalled his friend Walter, who frequently stole cars and was eventually killed by law enforcement. The next day, Walter was not at school and everyone knew why.
“There was no discussion about what we all knew about losing Walter. We just said, ‘Wow, Walter’s gone.’ Is anybody going to talk to us?” Forrester said. “We’re losing children every day and no one’s saying, ‘Let’s stop your academics for a minute and allow this process to heal. Do we really matter when you don’t give our children a chance to stop and allow them to grieve?”
Offering some advice, Colón asserted that students of urban planning and policy should not accept theory or facts as a given.
“I don’t believe in neutrality — you can either stand up for racial justice or you’re complicit to the oppression of others,” Colón said.
Tufts UEP students can access a video of the full colloquium session on Trunk, in the UEP students site, under Media Gallery.