DCP EP. 92 Black Legacies: Kenyatta McClean, Emma Osore
Transcribed by: Sydney Henriques-Payne
Completion date: Dec 2, 2021
DCP EP 91: Black Legacies: Kenyatta McLean and Emma Osore
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:00:03] Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast that gives you news you can trust for the culture, I’m your co-host, Gerren Keith Gaynor, managing editor at theGrio
Shana Pinnock [00:00:12] and I’m your co-host on a Shana Pinnock social media director at theGrio, and this week we’re asking Dear Culture, who is protecting and preserving Black culture? So I’m finally reunited with my beloved co-host, Gerren. Yay, it’s been I mean, we been… I mean…tag teaming it. So, I’m so hyped to finally, catch up and really chat. Again to our listeners or rather to our viewers if you’re watching on YouTube, My house is in disarray right now because I am packing for my move to Atlanta, so please excuse all of that. So before we get into the show, I have to know, G, what is on your mind this week,
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:01:01] Yes, and showing off first? Yes. Reunited. And it feels so good.
Shana Pinnock [00:01:06] So Good!
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:01:06] I’m so happy that we’re back together. And what’s on my mind this week is a serious topic, as I’m sure many people saw this past weekend in South Africa, they identified a new variant, so we talked so much about the Delta variant. There are memes about it. You know, you are, you know, a member of Delta Sigma Theta. I’m sure you’re very familiar with the memes around the Delta variant. And now there’s now there’s a new meme around the Omicron variants, and they’re calling it the Omarion variant, which I mean, it’s hilarious. Let’s just I mean, I know that this is a public health pandemic and it’s serious. But you know, Black Twitter… Black people always find a way to inject some humor in the midst of, like, you know, global trauma. And… But it is a serious topic, and it was identified first by scientists in South Africa and almost immediately President Joe Biden… His administration, issued a travel restriction. So no flights, no travels from South Africa, to South Africa and southern parts of the African continent. And it it started a huge debate. Many South Africans blasted not just the travel restriction instituted by the U.S., but other nations. They see it as something that is xenophobic and racist. And many have compared it to what the Trump administration did when… When Trump incessantly called the virus the China virus and targeted China. And in South Africa, they’re like, “Listen, we didn’t create this variant. We were just we just had the technology and the science to figure out this new variant before you did. And now you’re punishing us by not allowing by restricting travel,” which which we know will impact their economy. And so there have been arguments that this was a rushed haste decision. And President Biden spoke to the American people on Monday. He stood by this decision. He said that he said that while it wasn’t a cause for panic it’s a cause for concern. But some people argue that when you when you have a restrictive travel ban as as widespread as this one is, that sounds like panic and not just concern. And so some people feel like there should have been more of a wait to see. We don’t even know what we… We don’t even know enough about the variant to decide how we should deal with it. They’re saying it’s going to take a couple of weeks for them to really identify enough information about the variant. Is… Are the vaccines that we have enough to protect us from it. Some scientists are predicting that it won’t, and they’re saying now we we especially now need to get a booster. All adults in the US are able to get a booster. So that is important. But then you have the problem with the vaccine. There are poor countries and countries in Africa who are a part of this travel restriction ban that don’t have the access to vaccines like America does. I think 30 percent of South Africa or parts of Africa are currently vaccinated, whereas here in the US, I think I think over 70 percent of all adults in the U.S. are vaccinated. Biden has said that, you know, basically the U.S. has done their job that the US has issued more than 200 million vaccines. I don’t think 200 million vaccines are enough. I do understand that it’s not just the United States, and it shouldn’t be just the United States’ responsibility to provide vaccines to the rest of the world. There are other rich nations that have that capability. But when you proclaim yourself to be a powerful, rich nation like the US, you want to be a leader — it’s in times like this, in times of of crises where you have to step up. And so I hope that this is resolved. I hope the variant, the Omarion variant, the Omicron variant, whatever you want to call it, I hope that it is not what some scientists worry it will be and that it will be more like the Delta variant where we saw an uptick in hospitalization, but overall, the Delta variant did not do does not have as much destruction as some people had feared. So we need to closely monitor this. We will do that, obviously here at theGrio. But this is just a public service announcement that the pandemic is not over. I know that here in D.C., the mask mandates indoors has been lifted, but an across the country there are different policies around mask wearing and people still haven’t gotten vaccinated. People still have apprehensions and fears. But please do take this seriously. This pandemic is it’s been almost two years. I’m exhausted. I know you’re exhausted. Let’s just work together to get through what we hope will be the last leg of this pandemic. But yeah the Omicron variant is here.
Shana Pinnock [00:06:21] Hmm. Oh, and it’s certainly here, and I am not at all shocked. Not at all surprised at the very racist, the very racist and xenophobic reaction that has that has occurred. And it’s always the very interesting to me that we we like to address those things, but we’re not addressing the fact that late countries like the United States likes to… Like to hoard vaccines, you know, like. And there are people not even wanting it. There… Republicans are actively paying people to not get vaccinated. So, I mean, but OK, that’s cute, right? But we’ll see what ends up happening. So for me this week, and funny enough, it was actually brought on by not this recent episode, but in a recent episode of the show Insecure. And it has just been… Black folks and estate planning. Listen, I’ve been trying to do this with my grandmother. You know, like I’ve told you guys about like the house that we live in. My mother and my father are right now about to like, buy this house from my grandmother. I might possibly, you know, double dabble and put my name on the mortgage as well. We’ll see. My… But even like having the conversation about estate planning with my grandmother has been an enormous challenge. Same thing with my father and my mother who… What I found is the vast majority of Black folks. They usually are like, “well” or rather like what has been on. Like my father, my mother’s thing has been like, “Well, you know, you’re our kid. Like, everything would just go to you anyway.” But then there are situations like, you know, with my dad, my dad has my brother right? And I’m like. Granted, we just met him a few years ago, but technically he can legally have some kind of access to these funds and granted, I’m not… I would never hoard any money… I’m sorry, but my brother’s not getting 50 percent of nothing, but I’ve been in the trenches too long. I’m so sorry. But you know, but
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:08:32] You and this brother saga,
Shana Pinnock [00:08:34] Listen, you know, but I would absolutely make sure that my brother is taken care of. But I’m also just like “Dad, you need to put pen to paper on what you actually want and need to happen.” When he was going through his spinal surgery earlier this year and you know, he he we all were hoping that he wasn’t going to see the heavenly gates… That’s when he took it very seriously. He was getting paperwork together and making sure, like retirement stuff was happening and pension plans were going to go to my mother’s name, et cetera, et cetera. And then now he’s he’s on the mend, and I’m like, “Why is it like pulling teeth with you to get this stuff going?” Same thing with my grandmother, who loves to be morbid and say things like, Well, you know, I don’t know how much time I have left, and I’m like, “You know, that’s a really great point. What’s going on with the wills? What’s going on with the documentations?” And it I don’t, I don’t know. It’s like this weird trust thing among Black folks, especially elder like older Black folks who are so they’re not sneaky but secretive about it. And I’m almost like, “Are you expecting to be like on an episode of Dateline?” I promise you, I’m not going to try and take you out. The money is not that important. I just want to make sure that we are contributing to generational wealth, you know, and making sure that the family is good. Like that… That’s at the end of the day. Let’s make sure that not just you, but the kids, the grandkids, the great grandkids are going to be all right like we… we done fought too hard to be here to end up with nothing. You know, at the end of the day. So that has been a point of frustration. I tip my hat to all of y’all who are basically parenting your parents and your grandparents right now, especially with this, this time with the stuff going on with the pandemic. And you know, we you literally you never know. And so it is important to take this stuff seriously. It is not a comfortable conversation to have. No, no one wants to think about death and all this other stuff. But in the grand scheme, you need to make sure that, like your family is going to be good. You know, I’m now also harassing these folks about like, well, do you have life insurance? Because here’s the thing the money that you leave me, if I have half of it is going to go to putting you in the ground. What is the point? So, you know, but yeah, just shout out to everybody who is going through this really annoying period of life. But we got to hold on strong, y’all. We…We all we got.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:11:12] Indeed, indeed.
Shana Pinnock [00:11:14] So, you know, in more access to that and really just thinking about overall about planning here, you’re also thinking about legacy, right? And specifically preserving Black culture, which we know influences the world. So protecting Black culture feels more important than ever before, and we’re going to talk about it today on the show. So at the past few years have taught us anything is that we live in a country that loves Black culture, even if it doesn’t love Black people, which is why it is more important than ever to make sure our stories, communities and legacies are captured accurately. As always, it’s up to us to do exactly that. Earlier this year, a study by the Urban Institute reported that Black Americans were likely undercounted on the 2020 census at a rate three times higher than they were undercounted a decade ago.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:12:11] This literal erasure from history books is just one of the reasons why preserving Black legacies is important. Our guests this week say their nonprofit organization BlackSpace is committed to quote, demanding a present and a future where Black people, Black spaces and Black culture matter and thrive. Later today, we’ll be joined by Emma Osore and Kenyatta McClean from BlackSpace to talk more about preserving Black legacies.
Shana Pinnock [00:12:39] Yep, yep. Yep, I’m really. I’m so excited for them to join us. But G, you know, I do want to know what’s the history that you feel like you do know, like in particular, Black history, obviously. What’s the history that you feel like you like? You actively know that you were actively taught? And what are some aspects of history that maybe you had to learn, you know, from outside sources like movies or TVs or elders? You know, what are those type of things?
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:13:06] You know, I talked about this before on Dear Culture. I forget what episode, but I remember as a child in school in particular, not really being taught Black history. I went to Catholic schools throughout my entire education with the exception of like kindergarten, but like from like first grade to through high school. It was Catholic school, and so it was a very Eurocentric. And I remember when I went to Morehouse College and I took, you know, some history courses and Black literature courses, and I really learned the true history of slavery and and European oppression. And you know, this episode is about, you know, preserving Black legacies, particularly around urban planning. And, you know, as we’re preparing for this episode, I was thinking to myself, What did I know as a kid when I was growing up about my neighborhood, which was which is Bed-Stuy do or die Brooklyn, New York. At the time, I will say my childhood what I knew about Bed Stuy was always centered around the dangers of the neighborhood and not what the neighborhood had to offer or what the rich history that obviously lives in Bed-Stuy. My dad was very protective, and so he always focused on the violence and gang activity in the neighborhood. People often talked about, I think about Spike Lee and “Do the Right Thing.” Obviously, he’s also from Bed-Stuy and the that movie was centered and It was based in Bed-Stuy and is center on police brutality. And so, so much of what I knew and understood about Bed-Stuy, I was negative, and so I started doing research about Bed-Stuy, and I didn’t know that Black people actually came to Bed-Stuy in the nineteen hundreds early, nineteen hundreds because Harlem was so overcrowded and so they had to find available housing. So they went to went to Brooklyn. And this is such a rich history in Bed-Stuy that I just really didn’t know. But Shana, I want to pose the same question to you like, well, what did you know about your neighborhood and what are some of the things about Black culture that you think is important to preserve?
Shana Pinnock [00:15:29] I also grew up in Brooklyn, but I was a sheltered only child, didn’t really get to go out anywhere or do anything, so I didn’t know much about my neighborhood. It was the West Indian Day parade happens out there. Make sure your ass is inside?
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:15:41] Right?
Shana Pinnock [00:15:44] You know, after a certain hour because you can wave your flag from the fires, from the fire escape. That was pretty much it. But one thing I will say and and kudos to my parents because they were so intentional and low key, we actually just had this conversation last week about this. My mom and my dad made sure I had the foundation for the quote unquote militant bit that I do right now. I went to a preschool called Johnson’s Preschool, which was hella Afrocentric. I learned about Black pride, and I knew the principles of Kwanzaa at like three.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:16:24] Wow.
Shana Pinnock [00:16:24] Like like there is, there are VHS tapes that my father owns of me reciting this and then doing, you know, being the narrator for the school showcase, you know, winter showcase and stuff, you know, one of the little snot nosed kids coming out and do all this. But I I it was really and truly like beautiful, and it helped lay the foundation for a lot of things. You know, again, I come from a family of Jamaica and Guyana. From Guyana. I knew about, Old boy, who was out here poisoning folks. I can’t even remember his name right now. I don’t know what’s been going on lately. I’ve been having brain fart all day. But the cult leader who was having people drinking Kool-Aid in Guyana and killing folks, that was the history of Guyana. I knew. From Jamaica it was Marcus Garvey. And, you know, my dad talking about Jamaican Independence Day and him growing up in in Jamaica. And I was also really, really fortunate. The schools that I went to, I think I maybe had from first grade to to my senior year of high school I maybe had four or five white teachers across all of those years, every other teacher, it was like 90 percent Black teachers. Like. Eight percent Latinos, and then here goes the two percent white folks. And not saying that white people aren’t Equipped to teach Black history, but there’s just a certain level of connection that comes, you know, so my math teacher was teaching us stuff about about Black history in Africa and like, no like like our African ancestors are mathematicians. My global history professor, our global history teacher, rather, Mr Smith, shout out to you. I don’t know if that man is still alive. I got to go look for him. Even our forensic science teacher in high school, Mr Morgan, like I was really blessed to have people who taught me those things and to have pride in them. And then, you know, going to Spelman that first year, you got to take African Diaspora in the World. You learnin’ all the terrible histories of slavery, but also how we as a culture have managed to preserve as well as just overall, just, you know, continue to thrive despite being oppressed every single day. But yeah, I am. I’m just I’ve been pretty, pretty fortunate.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:19:00] And with that said, let’s get into our conversation with our guests can.Kenyatta McLean is an urban planner and strategist interested in neighborhood resource distribution and heritage conservation. She works with organizations to deepen their understanding of spatial narratives and curated conversations, and to develop projects centered in racial justice. Emma Osore serves as as Co- Managing Director alongside Kenyatta, and her work has focused on building creative community, building, operational leadership and projects of a growing urbanist collective. Emma… Kenyatta, welcome to Dear Culture is such a pleasure to have you.
Kenyatta McClean [00:19:41] Thank you.
Emma Osore [00:19:41] Thanks for having us.
Shana Pinnock [00:19:44] Awesome. So we’ll get started. For folks in our audience who may not be familiar with the term. Can you guys give us a brief synopsis of what do we mean by urban planning and how do urban planners help shape Black communities and Black culture?
Kenyatta McClean [00:20:02] Yeah, I can jump in. This is Kenyatta. We use the term urbanists really to be inclusive of multiple different folks, which might be urban planners who do a lot of like community engagement work to try to think about where do resources go in a city or like in a town. It also includes artists that do work in the built environment, in the cities and the places that we live, and also include people that think about policy and writing, like the laws that control the space that we’re in. So all of that becomes this term urbanist.
Emma Osore [00:20:33] Yeah, urban planning is really about the sidewalks where the lamps are placed on the street, where the bus stops are located. And so when Kenyatta was talking about how resources are decided. Urban planners are kind of these professional technical roles that really have a huge impact on whether there’s a highway running through a Black neighborhood or not. And so as Black people and as we call ourselves Black urbanists, it’s really important that we’re at the tables making the decisions about where these kind of infrastructure is, but also how people are involved in the process of this like public domain. So we are.. That is kind of… The people who we organize are the people who make that work happen. And then we sort of leverage our power together to influence how cities spaces and public goods are kind of designed and happen in our communities.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:21:28] And I would love to better understand the work that you to do with BlackSpace. You guys are a collective of teams in Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Oklahoma, so you’re pretty expansive. Can you tell us why BlackSpace was created and what’s the vision you all have for BlackSpace?
Emma Osore [00:21:48] Yeah. So BlackSpace we created because a lot of us were feeling very creatively stifled. You know, a lot of these organizations that we worked at, you couldn’t even say the word Black when we were literally dealing in neighborhoods that were Black. And so it was like very confusing about why we couldn’t do that when that was like. And we wanted to think and dream from a perspective of Black culture, Black people and the ways that we have always made places and built up our neighborhoods and cities and towns. And we couldn’t do that on a day to day. So we were like, “Hey, we see an opportunity here.” We met at a conference like randomly and started having brunch and start having these beautiful conversations about what the future and vision might look like. And felt very inspired. And so five years later, we’re literally redesigning farms and helping Steward like Black heritage spaces and museums in Brooklyn. And so it’s it’s really exciting that we think our vision encompasses like people and continuing to organize around this idea of Black urbanism, but also like building things in the public sphere and helping people, especially Black people and people in neighborhoods like where we came from, imagine and dream the kinds of infrastructure they want in their own neighborhoods.
Shana Pinnock [00:23:10] So I mean, like with everything in this country, right? Urban planning has such a nice root and racism, right? So.
Emma Osore [00:23:19] Strong root.
Kenyatta McClean [00:23:20] Strong roots.
Kenyatta McClean [00:23:23] Strong. As my grandmother calls it a “rut.” It’s just right there, right? Yeah.
Kenyatta McClean [00:23:27] Yeah.
Shana Pinnock [00:23:29] You know, from the fact that there are racially segregated neighborhoods that experience higher classes of violence, you know, in part due to racism and in part due to urban designing. I mean, hell, even just from a climate perspective, like there’s discrimination discriminates. These practices that, you know, like redlining that have essentially made some Black neighborhoods and communities of color hotter, physically hotter than others. We got no trees around here like I’m a born and bred New Yorker, I believe the New York Times even reported that Red Line communities can be five to 20 degrees hotter than whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. So fun. I would definitely love to hear from both of you about this, but I’ll start with you, Emma. You know what are some of the ways of, I guess, discriminatory urban planning practices have impacted and erased Black communities and culture?
Emma Osore [00:24:24] Yeah. So one of the examples that I already brought up was sort of highways through Black neighborhoods in… Under the guise of progress…. But really, they severed a lot of places where poor people lived, Black people lived… Other marginalized bodies. And so we see the impacts of that today, where our communities have literally been divided by urban planning infrastructure. We also… There are things like restrictive zoning, where zoning codes basically determine what kind of buildings or type of buildings can be built in certain places. So industrial versus residential and in places where there are restrictive zoning, you can also say what the density should or should not be. And so in some towns, they’ll say, oh, only 13 houses per square mile or like Acre.. Right. Which essentially means that there is not clustered housing for like apartments or other kinds of housing that might be less of an impact on the environment, but also more able to accommodate people with fixed or lower incomes. And so though that kind of zoning code really impacts where poor people, where marginalized people, Black people do and can live. So those are two that are really thriving and alive in still in our fabric and diving.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:25:59] OK, go ahead.
Kenyatta McClean [00:26:01] Oh, I was just going to say, Yeah, I think when we think about urban planning in general, it’s often historically been, how do we keep Black people away from here? Or where can we put Black people? That’s like where it’s beginnings are. And so there’s so many decisions that are exactly what I’m speaking about that decide that these resources should not be near Black communities or that Black community should not have access to certain resources
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:26:24] and diving more into what preserving and looks like. Could you talk about what that has traditionally looked like when I think about preserving our culture I think about like institutions like the Schomburg Center in Harlem or the recently instituted African-American Museum of Culture here in D.C.. What does that look like and how does preserving our culture address this discrimination and racism in urban planning that you just spoke to?
Kenyatta McClean [00:26:52] Yeah, I think one is it continues the point that, like Alicia Wormley offers us, which is Black people exist in the future. We also exist in the present. So like the preservation of our culture, the preservation of our existence, like other, you know, just like the places that you just spoke of. Also, Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn is a place that saying “Black people lived here,” right? And Black people are living here and here are all the different ways that we make culture, make routine, make connection with each other because that culture, really, if we think about it, has been a lot of the ways that Black different communities, especially in the U.S. I’ll talk about, particularly if we think about all of the different things that Emma mentioned that are breaking up and dividing our communities. The preservation of culture has been the way that we preserve, preserve ties and we preserve lifelines between each other. Right. It’s why I, a Black Girl from Southern California can like go somewhere in North Carolina and feel family. Right? And feel at home with people. Because no matter how the divisions happened in the way that you know, our our families literally great migration, a lot of our families are moving because of the different racism that’s happening. And they. But we still have these ties to each other through that culture. And we also offer this term of conservation as well as preservation because we want to bring up this piece of not only do we want to preserve and hold like, you know, grandma’s pocketbook, right, but we also want to think about what is it look like to live with that and like then be able to use it and move that into your own like, you know, your own bag, right? Like and how do we use these, like different artifacts in the present is exciting for us to think about, too.
Kenyatta McClean [00:28:32] So this is this is not your mi-maw’s archiving experience. All right. OK. Yeah. So when you know, when we’re talking about preservation, I guess what exactly are like the kind of things that we’re talking about, like the… Are these museum exhibits, are these digital archives, are they, you know, historical site designations? And I guess my next question would be then what? How do we determine what’s worth preserving?
Emma Osore [00:28:59] Whew! Big questions. I think. Double clicking on Kenyatta’s mentioning of conservation. A lot of what we do is try to figure out what are the values of what people are already conserving when they are just doing what they do at the neighborhood level. And so we worked in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and you know, typically historic preservation is like, let’s look for buildings of architectural significance. Let’s find the historic sites and put a monument. Let’s make a museum, let’s make a library archive. And all of those things are very important in preserving history and culture. We’re also looking at what are the ways Black folks are doing that as well. And so we are talking about things like street naming or their homecoming events where people who used to live in the neighborhood come back every summer or, you know, different festivals that are happening consistently throughout the year that are gathering spaces for community, for culture, at the neighborhood layer. Right. It’s not just like I’m going over my family member’s house. It’s like the neighborhood is coming together around these kinds of events or ways of commemorating space or people who are important to the neighborhood. And so we are really interested in kind of articulating that value. Or there are also like funeral rituals that people do when somebody dies, like at the neighborhood level, there’s there’s gathering, there’s ritual. And so we want to look and articulate what those values are. In addition to these more, you know, archival preservation practices and figure out how to kind of merge them together. And so, for example, we’re working now. We’ve had a relationship with the Brownsville Heritage House, which is a physical structure that has a lot of Black artifacts… In a Black in like the Black esthetic. And we’re working with them along these traditional archival practices to help them re-imagine the space, but not necessarily preserving the exact object for preservation sake. But because we like to interact, we like to converse. Like how do we use those artifacts as a jumping off point for a conversation versus like you have to look at it behind a glass window? You cannot touch, you have to be quiet, right? And so we’re currently kind of exploring what a community archive looks like that is related to spaces related to artifacts is related to the preservation, but also the future of like what Black spaces can be.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:31:30] Kenyatta. I would love to hear from you on this. You know, for someone who might not see the value of preserving this Black heritage in particular, why is preservation important for Black people?
Kenyatta McClean [00:31:43] Y’all, these questions OK. I think it’s important because it extends so OK. I’m a try not to get too…but time right, like the time this concept of time is really important and this idea of us being connected and bounded through time. So if we think about the past, the present and the future. Right. We like live, but we currently like our living in this present dimension. But it’s really important to see ourselves extended out and also like backwards. So to me, I think I think about the Sankofa Adrinkra symbol as I’ve really been and always important to me and my values. And so preservation like allows for that and allows for those for the feet to be like, place forward and moving into the future, but not forgetting, you know, and looking back from there’s so many lessons, so many memories, so many like healing or like, you know, traumatic moments that are left in these artifacts. Whether it’s, you know, we’ve talked about the pieces that people in, particularly in Brownsville as folks are immigrating to Brownsville or migrating to Brownsville. What were the things that they brought on the trains and the car right there, right? And what were those things that when you if you think about how much forced migration, different Black communities have experienced, the preservation of our existence in those communities and the preservation. And just like of those different objects that we take with us, it also preserves like culture back down to this. Like, “What are these?” I think the earlier question of like, how do we decide something’s important? Right? Like, it’s the things that hold close to our heart? Right? I know I walked into my grandmother’s house and it was being sold, and it’s like there’s a there was like this pressing home in the kitchen, right? And I, it’s important to me to preserve it because that person calmed down, burnt the edges of like half of my family, right? And I’m like, That’s important to me to. Think about Black hair care and like, you know, why I care about hair, so I think it’s important for individual reasons, but there’s this collective tie to like we are here and then we are connected with each other. We have bounded experiences and we can see that through those items that we preserve.
Emma Osore [00:34:02] Yeah. And I think moving that to a like, that sentiment is also happening at the neighborhood level. At a regional level, I’m from Prince George’s County. It’s a predominantly Black county, you know, and so a lot of those ways of organizing ourselves, the systems that we use and carry forward could probably work better if we were to be more connected with those ways of those kind of ways of thinking and ways of being rather than being like “We need to copy whatever they’re doing over there in this like white town to bring over here.” It’s like, how do we bring forth the future of our communities through the stuff we’re already doing that has worked for us.
Kenyatta McClean [00:34:45] OK, so I got a really, really, really real question for you. So, you know, I think we we definitely have to take it a step further and let’s talk about gatekeeping authenticity as it relates to, you know, preserving Black history. Right. So with the work that you guys do at its core is essentially storytelling. I guess for you guys, my question would be how do we make sure that preservation is happening authentically/ right? And we’re avoiding falling into the traps of quote unquote whi.e dominant culture practices around the history, telling like, how do we essentially decolonize all of our, you know, all the archivist practices? How do we how do we do that?
Kenyatta McClean [00:35:31] I mean, for us, our manifesto is a big tool that leads us. So we have 14 different principles that we offer to all fields, right? Like design, urban planning, architecture, preservation, we like. We handed them things out like candy, like, please look at these principles, actually digest them and use them to, like, do exactly the work that you’re doing. So one of the things we’ve talked about and that I’ve been in community now with Emma for like six years now doing is like centering ourselves right because the way that we are academically trained in all of these different fields centers white people. So then yes, you will always come back to, Oh, my architecture must be this reference to some European architecture. What am I? I’m forgetting the word, but person who does architecture because I’m…architect, Sorry y’all! Sorry y’all, It’s like you’ll always make those reference points. And this gets right back to that question that we just talked about of like wise preservation important because we need references that are centering us like our folks, like in different African countries and different like Black communities within South America have been planning. They’ve been designing spaces because they lived in them. And so if we have the preservation of those spaces, we can have them as actual reference points that allow us to center our folks right and center the lived experience of our people in our work.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:36:55] And this is our final question, and I know our listeners are probably going to be saying to themselves, How can I be a part of this work, this incredible worth of you two are doing what Black space is doing. How can we, as a collective, serve as good stewards of the culture in our own communities?
Emma Osore [00:37:14] Yeah, I think there’s a lot in resisting what’s going on in your community. And so in in every place, there is often a place where Black folks are congregated, you know, and what is that space? And making sure we water, nurture, acknowledge that space and its challenges, its triumphs and then figuring out, you know, like how do we engage with that? And sometimes it won’t always be accessible even to people who are Black. If you’re in a different neighborhood. So I think it’s understanding that we’re everywhere. We’re making spaces everywhere, acknowledging that and finding out a way to water those kinds of spaces and a part of the part of resisting the status quo is doing that. And what I mean by that is it’s a lot easier to join the I don’t know. Boys and Girls Club board of directors or something than it is to like, figure out how you can, I don’t know, make a meal at a community event that’s happening at the in a Black neighborhood. And so I think it’s resisting the urge for prestige, for elitism, for clout, for whatever and moving into spaces where you can. I don’t know where you’re you’re you’re in community with people and you can work alongside people over a long term,
Kenyatta McClean [00:38:47] Yeah, I think that be in community with people, but being community with people, peace, that image is mentioned. And so like a central, that’s like what we all have to do is just kind of re become humans and like, get personal with people, know your neighbors like you will save yourself. And we talk about climate change knowing your neighbors names and their phone numbers, like changes your life expectancy. And so it’s like even those type of things are in this more like gentrified world where everyone kind of lives in their own little units, like breaking that down and breaking that down through an act of preservation. Like maybe there’s a tree or there’s something that everyone’s interested in and we have little plug. We have a heritage preservation playbook on our website, so that’s a way. It’s a free download for folks. And it just is our offering of getting people to be able to start these kind of small neighborhood level projects of preservation.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:39:38] That’s amazing. I’m going to definitely download that.
Shana Pinnock [00:39:41] Yeah, I love that because I mean, in the grand scheme, we came up in the realm of, you know, it takes a village to raise a child and all this other stuff. And then all of a sudden community has just, you know,.
Kenyatta McClean [00:39:53] Where the village go, where the village!?
Shana Pinnock [00:39:55] With a village. And I know like, what is this, you know? You know, and especially now, especially during this pandemic and where we’re supposed to be showing an abundance of community. My God, we we have taken so many steps back. But I I applaud the both of you, ladies. Thank you so much for all of the incredible work that you are doing. You know, yet again, we all we get. So I.. I really I definitely appreciate all of the work that you’re doing, all of the work that your organization is doing. Thank you both so very much for joining us today again, where this work is so important and we appreciate your continued commitment. I know it’s not easy. We, I know.
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:40:42] Kudos to you.
Kenyatta McClean [00:40:43] Thank you all. thank you all for being inConversation with us.
Emma Osore [00:40:46] Yeah. Thank you for offering this platform.
Shana Pinnock [00:40:49] So of course, if you want to learn more about our guests and the work they do as part of Black Space, visit their website at W WW dot Black Space dot org that’s Black Space dot org or follow them on Instagram. And I believe your ads are just Black space. Org. That’s O R.G..
Shana Pinnock [00:41:17] We want to remind our listeners to support your local Black businesses and donate to your local organizations and religious institutions. The business that we will highlight this week is the Black Home. The Black Home is the destination for inspiration dedicated to highlighting the Black experience, understanding the fear associated with Black as it pertains to color and culture nephew. Walker designed and curated a space where Black is celebrated always in all ways. The Black home represents a celebration of Black artistry, creativity and excellence. Their carefully curated home decor selection allows you to bring the Black home into your home. Walker’s adaptation of Minimalism has been featured in essence Black City, Domino, Apartment Therapy, and more. To learn more about the Black home, visit their website. W w w dot the Black home dot com. theGrio has published a list of 50 plus Black businesses to support during the coronavirus pandemic. If you like your business to be featured. Email us at Info at the Grio dot com that i o dot com.
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