Black Urban Planners Are Redesigning Communities to Help People of African Descent Thrive

Changing the legacy of racist planning policies requires a creative vision, practical solutions, and centering of the Black experience.

2 minute read

February 2, 2024, 7:00 AM PST

By Mary Hammon

Black woman in brown sweatershirt and Black man in purple sweatshirt stand in front of food truck.

Planner Dee Powell, founder of Do Right By The Streets, on site at the Sunny South Dallas Food Park. | Dee Snyder / Do Right By the Streets

“From food deserts to tree inequity, racist planning practices have left Black neighborhoods devoid of amenities that promote health and well-being,” writes Alexa Spencer for Word in Black. The stark differences between Black neighborhoods and predominantly white communities are not happenstance, Spencer states, but “well-thought-out designs by urban planners, people who direct the development of cities and towns.”

This article, part of a series called Black to the Future, spotlights a “new crop” of urban planners that are seeking to change the legacy of racist planning practices with imaginative vision and practical planning solutions that center and uplift Black experience.

Such planners include Dee Powell, founder of Do Right By The Streets, a Black woman-owned urban planning and place creation group that crafts community-driven spaces. She is “on a mission to bring economic mobility and spatial justice to South Dallas, an area that is 35% Black with the highest rates of poverty in the city,” reports Spencer. Her most recent project is the Sunny South Dallas Food Park, which aims to provide a commerce space for Black-owned businesses and a place for residents to gather, have meetings, and connect to wifi. Powell dreams of “a revived Tulsa — or South Dallas — of the 1950s and 1960s, where Black folks thrived in health, community, and business.”

Do Right By The Streets is one of many groups nationwide working to build a prosperous future for Black communities via urban planning strategies. Others highlighted in the Word In Black article include Thrivance Group in California, Albina Vision Trust in Portland, Oregon, and Jima Studio on the East Coast. 

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