I am Kristen Jeffers. I call myself the Black Urbanist.
I started doing so five years ago today (October 16, 2010), because I felt like not enough conversations on the built environment, on civic spaces, on transportation, were actually including people like me (Black, young, woman, cisgender, straight, U.S. Southeastern, Christian) in conversations as a participant in the process of creating and building infrastructure. If you hear about me, it’s because I’m the main person using your Section 8 housing or because of my college degree and birth year. Or, I’m your gentrifier and your cash cow to make your development legacy different from your father’s.
It’s still a necessary conversation. Every day I read articles that highlight the disparities of different groups of people, that argue for and against actual integration and common community development. House prices are rising. People are dying on their own blocks and stoops because the police (and some neighbors) don’t think they belong there. Jobs are disappearing. Even among our own ranks of development professionals, we don’t always come together and when we do, those rooms aren’t always diverse in thought and body. Plus, there’s the idea that unless you are plopping money down or employed by a government or nonprofit entity that helps the neighborhood, you don’t matter when it comes to what you think about the neighborhoods and your metro (or rural) region.
I will admit that I don’t write as much as I could or speak as much as I could about these things. I’ll also admit that I don’t like my car and I need better sidewalks and bike lanes and heck, places to go in a 5 minute radius so I don’t feel compelled to jump in my car to go everywhere. I am starting to do my part in the resources/affordability/community-making exchange, though. I’m learning how to cook more and save money. I walk to work many days. I walk to the stores and restaurants we do have in our community. When I travel, I use transit, other people’s bikeshares and I walk there as well.
Yet, when I started this page, I did it to not become the absolute authority on urbanism. I did it not to slam rural life or actual small cities and towns that aren’t just appendages created on bigger cities to make people feel better about themselves by choosing their perfect neighbors and schools and allowing them room to flaunt their relative wealth, admittedly in the early days courtesy of government grants and provisions. (I know that was a long one, let me breathe for a second).
I did this so I could make sense of the things I observe on a daily basis. I did this as my way of helping people, to extend out my life calling of making communities stronger and better.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the right answers. I certainly don’t have all the “token _________” answers and ONLY those answers. I have so many more questions.
In that spirit of five years of writing, speaking and talking to people about these ideas casually and formally, plus the fact that this is what you do on milestone anniversaries, I’m going to spend the next few weeks drilling down on my philosophies on various areas of development and life of which I think we need to pay attention.
Many of you have been reading for years. Others of you are new to the site. I, as this is my life’s work, and as I’ve gone through various transitions and examinations of who I am as a person, want to clarify how I practice community and economic development.
I also want to talk to you more, in different channels. On Tuesdays, you’ll get what I call the classic TBU experience. I drop a post or email and I share that information throughout the day (and you share it too!) On Wednesdays, I’ll be coming to you in an audio format, at the very least live on Periscope or Google Hangout or both and in a few weeks, recorded or live podcasts with various other planning and development leaders.
There will be breaks for holidays. There will be a season, like I’m producing a media program (which this is) and hopefully, you’ll be inviting me out or I’ll be attending the various conferences and gatherings that go on throughout the year.
Oh and my first book is still for sale and I’m working on a second! Details forthcoming about what that’s about and how to get it. I can sincerely promise that it will be easier to get you hands on book 2. But for now, here’s book 1.
I’m so excited to get back to blogging and writing, which is the core of my planning and development practice. I’m looking forward to talking to all of you and enjoy your Friday!
(Also for those of you who have sent guest posts in the past, I’m not doing any right now and I apologize for not making that clearer on my blog or in any correspondence).
And finally, if you don’t get my emails, make sure you do so right here.