Last June, after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black lives that matter, we made a pledge to do more. More mentorship of Black students at HBCUs. More scholarships and internships for Black design students. More recruitment and promotions of Black design professionals. More financial contributions to the National Organization of Minority Architects. And more pro bono services in the Black community.
The severity and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic slowed us down in many ways. Recruitment and hiring in 2020 all but ground to a halt, for one thing. While we haven’t yet achieved all of our stated goals, we have made notable progress—and we continue to work toward making them a reality.
As we celebrate Black History Month 2021, here’s a glance at what we’ve done so far:
- As part of the AIA Large Firm Roundtable, we co-created and co-funded a scholarship in 2020 to support the professional development of two Black designers. The LFRT ARE scholarship covers the full cost of the designers’ Architectural Registration Examination, study materials, and Associate AIA membership.
- We put the finishing touches on a pilot mentorship program for Black students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In collaboration with Harvard’s African American Students Union, Perkins&Will design staff will mentor Black GSD students, and those GSD students will, in turn, mentor Black high school students. The pilot will launch this year.
- The Nagle-Johnson Family Fellowship from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, which was established three years ago by our Global Design Director Ralph Johnson and his wife Kathleen Nagle, provided financial aid to a Black student for the 2020-2021 academic year.
- Last October, we were a proud Platinum Sponsor of the NOMA Conference, which—although virtual—afforded us the opportunity to engage aspiring Black designers for future recruitment opportunities. This year, we will once again be a Platinum Sponsor.
- We hosted and moderated a globally live-streamed panel discussion on issues of race and equity in design. Then, we shared the key takeaways publicly. Our goal was to open people’s eyes and ears to difficult, but necessary, topics that affect us all.
- We made Juneteenth an official holiday for staff in the U.S. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery. Just as we celebrate American independence from England on July 4, so should we celebrate the emancipation of our fellow Black Americans on June 19.
- We authored and published, in collaboration with the AIA, a Best Practices Guide for establishing Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) programs in the architecture profession. By creating a clear road map for architecture and design firms to follow, the industry can collectively make a difference.
Every year, Black History Month offers a time to celebrate the culture and contributions of the Black community. On the heels of a racially turbulent 2020, though, the moment feels different. And so we’re asking architecture and design firms everywhere to come together—right now—in the pursuit of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Change often starts small. But there is power in numbers. Together, we can be the change we want to see.