The #CNU23 Post You’ve Been Waiting For

That CNU Post You've Been Waiting For

It’s another day in the world of urbanism. It’s a day when I feel like all of my friends are being heard and getting stuff done and getting money and doing whatever they want to do, many live from the 23rd Congress for New Urbanism in Dallas. That’s what makes it an interesting, invigorating, fabulous day. Because it’s not just a day, it is our day.

When I first drafted this, I was sitting at a co-working space in the DeepEllum district, a district founded by Black Dallaseans denied opportunities to do business and live in other areas. While many of these areas often die and get leveled, Dallas’s build and sprawl at any cost policies may have saved this neighborhood from complete ruin.While there’s not as much of the original blues, jazz and other black businesses and entertainment spaces, the area remains in tact, with quirky businesses and good property owners, one who has been a follower of the site and who I was able to chat with on Thursday evening.When we were at the co-working space, we’d not heard about the charges brought upon the officers involved in the recent police brutality action in Baltimore. I had yet to officially announce my upcoming move to Kansas City, MO to my family, friends and followers. I’d not seen a lot of the CNU crowd, just my fellow Streetsbloggers. The CNU had not had a fellow Black urbanist speak truth to power in a plenary session.

All I’d done was paint a few benches, sweat a bit and recover from being in Chattanooga.

Speaking of Chattanooga. I don’t often get to do design charrettes in the kind of places we like to write off as the “hood.” You know, the ones that for whatever reason, be it white flight, redlining, black flight, crimes real or imagined or sadly, the lost of livelihood and ability to live on in a place, the neighborhood suffers. I froze a bit physically as I walked the streets with my facilitation group. I met great people. I learned so much. I’m going to finish this post and write another about what I did learn.

Now back to what I felt in Dallas atCNU 23.It’s Friday night and I debated why cars have no place in new urbanism. I wish I’d itemized all the car related expenses that have kept me in a mild bit of debt over the past four years. I went to the mall. Figuratively, as I brought in the wrong type of consumerism, to make my point that we have to make our developments sustainable.

Honestly, I was doing well to debate. I was thankful that just a few miles away, a solidarity march for Baltimore march had one victory to celebrate, in the charges filed against those officers that sparked the latest round of unrest in the city. That a well-known Greensboro conservative finally saw the light on police violence. That I’m going back to work on Tuesday, for an amazing organization and I can keep blogging about how to make our cities better. Oh, I’m going to Toronto, to mentor, to nourish, to see Canada finally (and get a passport).

So yeah, I was a bit distracted and a bit tired during this year’s Congress. I spent several afternoons in my room and only went to one session in the convention hall, outside of sessions where I was actively participating. And I think that what will make future Congresses work best is that if we turn it into an opportunity to work together, while we are all in the same place.

I am a firm believer, that if we work hard as a greater Congress, that we can make any city we go to better. No, we can’t always eat after 11 p.m. or dance past 2 a.m. Sometimes we have to take Uber when we want to take the bus. Not every pie shop has whole pies on demand. You are never too old to play in a treehouse. Some eyes should stay shut. And you can make the transect apply to fashion.

I will say this though: WE MUST HAVE EVENTS THAT ARE FREE OR LOW COST. Now that we have a degree of racial and gender diversity supported in our movement, we need to take on class next. In the quest to make sure everyone’s voice is on the program, we must never forget that we have to keep extending invitations. We have to keep communicating together. We have to listen and learn.

On a more serious note, I want to give a shout out to the staff, the board, and anyone who I was able to meet throughout the Congress. I want us to realize that we, even those of use who feel like we are shut-out by the founders sometimes, are élite. People come to our seminars, read our books, hire our firms, and let us partner with our friends on projects. Even if we sometimes have to repeat our names, if we keep showing up (newbies, keep showing up), then someone will listen. Maybe we have to change the leaders, but we can make our own spaces, with paint or with words.

And if we stay on one accord, within intellectual reason, we can do what we need to do and that’s fixing our cities in both design and in policy.

About Kristen Jeffers

I'm Kristen. Almost five years ago, I got tired of not seeing black women as nerded out about trains, better streets, riding bikes, walking not just out of necessity, tall buildings, old buildings and honestly a lot of other things. I was in grad school for community and economic development (ok, it’s actually an MPA), and I wanted to make sure people knew I existed and that I could help them do this thing called placemaking better. Five years later, I’m still doing that, although not from my hometown of Greensboro, NC, but from Kansas City, MO. I spend most of my time in Kansas City promoting better biking and walking infrastructure metro-wide with BikeWalk KC and the Kansas City B-cycle. But I also wrote a book A Black Urbanist (you can grab that over on the right) and sometimes I give speeches and help other communities tell their stories at design charrettes and public meetings. I’ve also written or appeared in all of the major “urbanist” publications, either as a subject or as a writer, as well as most of my hometown papers as subject or writer as well.

  • Michael Lewyn

    Congratulations? when are you moving? (I live in KC but not for much longer). Here’s my KC web page

    • kristenej

      End of June. I’ll be out there from the 17-22 to apartment hunt and work on site. PM me so we can try and catch up