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Black History Month – February 2020

Black History Month

February is Black History Month and is a time to celebrate and recognize the tremendous achievements and the central role people of African descent played in U.S. history. As a MBE firm, February holds a unique significance and provides a time to reflect on some of the giants whose shoulders we stand upon. 

We asked a few team members to provide a specific quote from a Black leader that holds specific significance. 

I derive a tremendous amount of pride in developing places that everyday people can experience. I like to create beauty in everyday lives.” -Phil Freelon

Phil Freelon reminds us that we are designing spaces that will be used daily for years to come. We have a responsibility to make them full of delight and beauty, accessible to all. – Rand Lemley, Job Captain

Nothing ever comes to one that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” – Booker T. Washington

I never had to work as hard as when I applied to the architecture program at Auburn University. It was a top ten program in the country and their rural studio initiative was world renowned. When I initially applied, I worked in the studio till 10:30 pm every night and got there by 7:45 am every morning; but it wasn’t enough, I wasn’t accepted. 

I spent the rest of the year in the mechanical engineering program and decided to try again at the architectural admissions process. Facing the possibility of yet another failure, I decided that I would do anything in my power to earn my spot in the program. Weekends and late nights until 4 am in the studio were expected, and all-nighters became part of the strategy for perfecting the work. Some of us cried as two or three days went by with only a few, precious hours of sleep. We all suffered collectively, but retrospectively, it was great. 

When I got my letter of acceptance, I was proud. For the first time in my life, I understood what true, hard work, really means, and how I could use it to achieve things which seemed impossibly beyond my means. When I read Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, this is what resonated with me, he understood the fact that hard work not only shapes the thing one is working on, but the person itself. – Sebastian Toro, Design Coordinator II

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.” – James Baldwin

I apply this quote to my life every day because you need to do things now to make it work for tomorrow. It is good to plan things, but make them happen requires the “now.” – Greg Mateo, Operations Manager

That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained” – Emperor Haile Selassie

As a fan of history, I’m often amazed at how common it is for people to repeat the mistakes of their forbearers.  I think this quote is a good reminder that you can literally enable liberty by just allowing people to be themselves, and you can be an amazing person if you are prepared to embrace differences. – Nick Brooks, Project Manager

It took a great deal of skill and creativity and imagination to build the kind of situation we have, and it is going to take skill and imagination and creativity to change it. We are going to have to have people as committed to doing the right thing, to inclusiveness, as we have in the past to exclusiveness.” – Whitney M Young, Jr.

Rules, codes, policies, are written by people. People, who all too often, have not experienced the conditions that those rules manifest. Architects and developer’s need to question the rules and regulations that are in place, and understand that they may not be valid solutions to the problem they seek to resolve. We have new ways to measure, seek input, and most importantly, collaborate with residents of our work, with neighbors who are impacted by our work, and with the agencies who write housing policy. As Whitney Young Jr stated in this speech in 1968, it is going to take a lot of “skill and imagination” to make our work more inclusive and more relevant than it is now, to reshape the way we build our future. – Sara Kudra, Director of Design

“I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” – Harriet Tubman 

Harriet Tubman’s words have always had a tremendous effect on me, and I am sure many others, this quote always reminds me of the fragility of life and the little structure we have around it. Take nothing for granted, especially our right and duty to speak up when we have something to say. – Giselle Portuondo, Administrative Assistant

“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” – bell hooks 

Gloria Watkins, better known by as bell hooks, is an American author, professor, feminist, and social activist. Her books resonate with me because of her boldness, authentic voice, accessible language, and most importantly, the abundant love and hope she brings to complex issues at the intersection of race, gender, and economics.– Harmony Larson, Director of Communication + Culture

If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

Maya’s  comment reflects a healthy view on how one can engage in the world around them.  We are change agents at DREAM, working with the forces that are under our control and being able to distinguish those that are not; the constraints    Understanding what variables you cannot change and which ones you can make us better designers….and human. : ) – Greg Zurlo, Associate Principal, Director of Project Management

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” -Desmond Tutu

This quote from Desmond Tutu points to something I feel very deeply about, that we are all interconnected, and our individual actions mirror the collective energy in the world. – Greg Smith, Senior Project Manager

Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.” – James Baldwin

I think about this James Baldwin quote quite often as it comes up sporadically throughout my life. It resonates with me because it speaks to a shift in mentality and the power of your own perception in changing a life and a community. – Jillian Wiedenmayer, Project Architect

I was raised to believe that excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism, and that’s how I operate my life.” -Oprah Winfrey

As an african woman, my career and education has been mostly about defeating the “system” that is designed to fail us and keep us within it. I believe in excellence ,I operate that way. With Excellence I broke many barriers within the system to get to where I am today. – Rania Karamallah, Project Designer

“Character is power.” – Booker T. Washington

As a business leader, character is a paramount trait in being successful in having people follow your vision. I believe it was MLK who said never judge people by appearance but by the content of their character. – Troy Depeiza, Principal