Race, Space and the Poetics of Planning: Toward a Black Feminist Space-Making Practice

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R A C E, SPACE &THE POETICS OF PLANNING toward a black feminist space-making practice Harvard University graduate school of design department of urban planning & design

by chandra christmas-rouse | advisors: toni l. griffin & lily song


may 2019

masters thesis





This thesis explores Black feminist space-making as a challenge to dominant spatial practices and planning apparatuses that drive urban redevelopment in the United States. Recognizing the suppression of Black women’s spatial claims and agency as a manifestation of racialized and gendered structural violence in American cities, this thesis examines how Black women navigate and contest dominant practices of spatial production as well as negotiate new spatial imaginaries and practices. Revisiting Henri Lefebvre’s theory on the production of space and building on critical geography and Black feminism theories of Katherine McKittrick, Carole Boyce Davies and Patricia Hill Collins that critically engage questions of space, place, identity and belonging, I argue that Black women are far from passive recipients of structural violence despite conventional approaches to the study of urban planning that often depict Black women as un-spatial, and worse as lacking in respectable claims to the city and belonging. Rather, this research illuminates processes by which Black women space makers, beyond simply surviving, express forms of creative agency that undermine convergent systems of structural violence. Using Chicago as a critical, emblematic and embedded case, I conduct seven in-depth, multi-method case studies of Black women creative practitioners. This research investigates how by reclaiming the city and interrogating spatial politics, Black women creative practitioners vigorously rework the meaning and significance of urban space in ways that carry broader implications for urban planning and development.



To Black women everywhere who make space.




This project has been many years in the making and I am grateful to far too many people to name, all of whom have made this journey lighter, brighter, and more transformative than I could have imagined. To the people who first encouraged me to pursue this project when I was an undergraduate student at Duke University in 2014- Dr. Danielle Purifoy, Barbara Lau and Chandra Guinn. I carry your words of encouragement and the books that you gave me with me to this day.

To the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the Just City Lab for supporting my work. To my Chicago community who guided me on this research journey- Eric Williams, Erin Harkey, Krista Franklin, Emily Lansana and Demita Fraizer. To those who have walked with me- my mentor Jeana Dunlap, UPD thesis cohort and my community at Harvard and MIT. Special thanks to Natasha Hicks, Sarah Hakani, Sivan Bruce, Emma Ogiemwanye, SunĂŠ Woods and Stephanie Black. To Dr. Eve Ewing, Amanda Williams, Tonika Lewis Johnson, Dr. Jackie Stewart, Tracie Hall, Isis Ferguson, Maya Bird-Murphy, Rae Chardonnay and Nick Alder for opening up your hearts and trusting me with your stories and Jamila Woods whose storytelling through music got me through writing this thesis- you all inspire me every day as exemplary Black feminist space-makers To my family- Mom, Nana, my late father and late Auntie Vin and extending wide in all directions. Thank you for your endless love and patience. You made this journey so bright.


To my advisors for steadfast support- Lily Song and Toni L. Griffin. You all pushed me and saw me when I couldn’t see myself.



Some women were impressed with my ability to capture the impact of their work. Others were curious why I focused on particular women’s experiences and not others. Some were booked and busy and kindly declined my request for an interview but were supportive in other ways. I used every formal and informal interview I’ve had during my trips to Chicago over the past year and a half to tease out the assumptions that I was making as well as those of my interviewees. I began to see my transcriptions as a springboard for future research that I plan to pursue. Of course, this was not always an easy project. I was afraid that my polished vignettes could potentially betray the messiness of social life as a Black woman creative in Chicago. I addressed this by including passages from the stories that they shared throughout my research. Their voices bring to life the activities that take place on Chicago’s street corners that I did not grow up on. Their voices bring a new dimension to the diversity of identities, life struggles and privileges of my selection of Black women creative practitioners. Their voices paint a portrait of the varied desires that stem from imagining space anew that have informed this project. This research seeks to restage Black women in Chicago within societal institutions and fields of power like urban planning from which they are often presumed to not be legitimate contributors. Despite the lack of inclusion of their work in such contexts, I foreground the passion it takes for Black women creative practitioners to keep making space anyway.


This research centers Black women creative practitioners based in Chicago. I worked in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago during the summer of 2018 and have returned three times since to conduct formal and informal interviews for this research. My interviews taught me many things: how to build social bonds, how to respectfully listen to people’s desires and hold their vulnerabilities, and how to learn from the ways people imagine alternative futures. In fact, my interviewees were so open about their experiences- so profoundly vulnerable- that I felt compelled to take my own dreams more seriously. I wanted to write a thesis. But I didn’t want my work to tread merely in theoretical planning language since my desire to challenge dominant planning practices called for me to critique such abstractions. I wanted to craft my research and writing out of the people-centered evidence that I was witnessing all around me while I was in Chicago over the winter and summer of 2018. I wanted it to be meaningful and useful for everyone who was gracious enough to share their perspectives with me- people whom you’ll soon meet. Inspired by their space-making projects, I too, wanted to produce something that was wrought from a communal experience, something that could help people dream bigger, something that could transcend the silos of knowledge and expertise, something that truthfully articulated and amplified the work of women.


research design

conceputal framework


discussion & next steps

findings & analysis

page 15 page 25 page 37

contents page 57 page 69 page 81 Colo(red) Theory by Amanda Williams, 2015


1.1 poetics of planning 1.2 terms of poetics 1.2.1 structural violence 1.2.2 space-making 1.2.3 black feminism 1.3 research question

South Side Home Movie Project by Jackie Stewart, 2018


1. introduction

Within hours of arriving in Chicago during the summer of 2018, I found myself at what Chicagoans told me was their favorite part about summertime in Chicago: the festivals. This one in particular was Bantu Fest. Stretched alongside the Midway Plaisance Park in the neighborhood of Hyde Park was a dizzying array of sights, sounds and smells of the African diaspora like shea butter, ankh jewelry, afrobeat music and collard greens. It felt familiar. Everyone exchanged smiles, compliments or sometimes just head nods as they pushed through the crowd. Above the horizon of twist outs and messy buns of box braids, there was a sign. Seeing this sign raised a series of questions for me.

Building a new Chicago for whom? What is deemed old Chicago? What does this mean for the current residents? What does it mean to modernize a neighborhood? Who are these jobs for? Who is “our” in “our future”? Whose spatial imaginaries will inform this new Chicago? I reflected on these questions and wondered what practices would inform the process of building a new Chicago. I saw a disjuncture between the rhetoric of the planning department and the language of the Black women creative practitioners who I saw making space and reimagining the city of

Chicago in new ways. I could clearly see how poet Dr. Eve Ewing, singer Jamila Woods, visual artist Amanda Williams and other Black women creatives were pushing the boundaries of our collective spatial imaginary. They were also building new understandings of urban planning as they seriously challenged the privilege and power structures that use urban planning as a means to perpetuate injustice through the development of cities. I did not see them being included or acknowledged as legible and legitimate contributors to the field of planning and development in planning agencies. I wanted to address this disconnect by investigating the space-making practices of Black women creative practitioners and how it can inform dominant planning practices. Throughout this research, I explore the spatial awareness and knowledge of Black women’s positioning to avail us of particular ways of reseeing, re-inhabiting, and re-imagining space and ultimately the world. Urban planning and other disciplines can learn from this spatial awareness and knowledge about how to plan the future of cities across the world when they’re becoming increasingly unequal. In light of the building of a “new Chicago” as many planning departments in their respective cities are seeking to do, there is a major opportunity to challenge dominant approaches to urban planning and development and to reflect on whose spatial imaginary has informed past development and consider whose will inform the future of development. Fundamentally, this project is my effort to comprehend Black women space-makers negotiations with space and re-imagining of space within uneven spatial development of cities while simultaneously coming to terms with my own often beleaguered, Blackness, womanhood and planner identity.

part i


“I want a map to not know things are but to know where I am.” – Eve Ewing, Electric Arches When Eve Ewing writes, she writes the city. Her collection of poetry Electric Arches is a map. But this map does not easily follow the typical zoning rules, borders and lines. Electric Arches provides a different spatial story of Chicago, one which allows streets to mediate on race, gender and identity. As the city is swallowed by a Black girl’s mouth, the street grid shifts through an unspecified future, deftly navigating the boundaries of space, time and reality. And Eve leaves the city, too. She not only blends stark realism of the city, neighborhood and local streets with the surreal and fantastic imagery but also alters them by demonstrating that Black girlhood and womanhood is infused with sensations and distinct ways of knowing space. Eve’s desire to know where she is and to not know where things are exposes that space is always human and that humanness is always spatial. Her surroundings give her identity as much as her identity creates space. Her work emphasizes the alterability of space and locality of self, to see one’s self in space and imagine new spatial stories; in her work, imagination holds the possibility to dream of new futures. I find that Eve’s spatial sensibility highlights the gaps in urban planning theory and practice. Dominant Western planning theory teaches us that control over land is primarily the power to exclude. The concept of exclusion spans political and cultural issues over the legitimacy of knowledge, the use of surveillance and the power that planners exert; the power to define process and who is included or not; and finally, the incommensurability of Western and non-Western cultures’ ways of thinking about cities and the rights to the city (Koh and Frietas, 2018). It has centered a White spatial imaginary leading to the planning of cities that doesn’t reflect many other identities and raises questions around thinking about how the White spatial imaginary works through urban

planning like: who is erased? what is erased? what remains and what is reconstructed? what was and is imagined? (Lipsitz 2011; Koh and Frietas 2018). In urban planning theory, this dominant Western planning theory has created gaps regarding the needs of those who have been erased and in practice, the White spatial imaginary has led to disinvestment in neighborhoods where those who have been erased live in racialized communities and low-income residents inhabit. In an effort to not only survive but thrive, Black women have responded to disinvestment in these communities with creative innovation. Their work asserts that being erased does not render them incapable of making space. Most notably, Black women’s spatial work has contributed to the canon of Black geographies within the critical geography field. My research makes the case that the field of urban planning also can learn from Black women. Specifically, their spatial strategies present a new aspect of the discipline of urban planning. Eve’s creative practice exemplifies this work. She reminds us that a map is also embodied space and that a young Black girl can legitimately take possession of a street or an entire city albeit on different terms than dominant urban planning theories have taught us. So, attention to the aspect of planning that I present in this research is not only needed because existing urban planning rules unjustly keep human hierarchies in place and reify uneven development in seemingly natural ways. This attention is also needed because when we follow Eve’s insights, we see how these urban planning frameworks are alterable and we can create a new planning canon through which different spatial stories can be and are told. It is not only Eve whose work I find poetic. It is many of the Black women creatives whose practices and projects poetically transform such violent confrontations into a catalyst for greater collective consciousness and more effective resistance, thriving and joy in the built environment. The very title of this research, “Race, Space and the Poetics of Planning: Toward a Black Feminist Space-making Practice,” asks the reader to engage critically with the rhetoric of planning that


1.1 poetics of planning

part i

By making spaces in cities, Black women space-makers forge new approaches to urban planning. Over the course of this research, I argue that Black women space-makers in cities function as alchemists of urban planning. These Black women experience a range of realities of urban containment and create wellsprings of possibility. Using the wisdom gleaned from navigating urban spaces, the space-makers here actively reimagine the social, political, and physical landscape of the city. Responding to academic gaps in the contributions of Black women space-makers in the urban planning field that I will discuss in my literature review, I document how Black women space-makers move beyond the boundaries of spatial politics to identify allies and build alliances across diverse communities and ultimately how others can become allies in their work and challenge spatial domination in cities. In this research, I outline a theory and practice of Black feminist space-making that is informed by how Black women space-makers navigate, negotiate and transform urban landscapes.


predominantly uses language as that in the Chicago Department of Planning and Development sign. I also ask you to engage critically with I describe as the “poetics of planning” which is a type of rhetoric of planning and will be illustrated in the case studies for this research. Historically, we have seen how the dominant form of the rhetoric of planning uses narrative structure to exclude and erase communities considered to be disposable along racial and class lines using tools like redlining and urban renewal. It is this rhetoric that teaches us to depict communities by deficits instead of their assets. I argue that these women have contributed poetics to the rhetoric of planning. The poetics of planning refers to the language for planning that is rooted in works of art and vernacular expressive cultures. This language has the power to disrupt assumptions about the logic of spatial hierarchy. The poetics of planning encourages us to question the logic of spatial hierarchy- Western logic- to see the forces of history, especially the history of colonialism and slavery, and the work that these communities created despite that. This logic expresses itself through the philosophical certainties and ideological presuppositions about the planning and development of our cities. This research is in its broadest sense, an interdisciplinary analysis of Black woman creative practitioner’s space-making process in Chicago. It seeks to consider what kinds of possibilities emerge when critical geography studies specifically Black geography and Black feminist studies encounter dominant spatial production theory to illuminate the racial and gendered realities of urban planning. Drawing on material, conceptual and imaginative spatial production, I explore the interplay between structural violence in urban planning such as exclusion from particular areas like redlining and Black women’s spatial sensibilities meaning their unique knowledge borne from their experiences navigating the city. This interplay enables a new way to inform and generate new spatial imaginaries and practices that challenge dominant approaches to urban planning while addressing our present spatial organization.

1.2 terms of the poetics Black women matters are spatial matters (McKittrick 2008). And while we all produce, know and negotiate space, although on different terms, urbanization in America has been shaped by racist and sexist paradigms of the past and their ongoing hierarchical patterns of urban planning and development in the present. I want to create a platform for Black feminist space-making to be understood as an important aspect of urban planning in a world that has incorrectly deemed Black women’s spatial strategies and the spaces that they have produced as non-spatial and/or theoretically irrelevant.

communities in American cities’ streets and neighborhoods, to ongoing out migration of and fatal police encounters with Black and brown bodies; to everyday life in the form of how racialized and gendered blocks and neighborhoods are portrayed in the news (Sharpe 2016).

1.2.1 structural violence

1.2.2 space-making

An important component of Black women’s spatiality involves how Black women have resisted structural violence and what spaces they’ve made despite structural violence. It also requires that we examine their lives using an intersectional analytical framework that privileges the subjective contexts through which their spatial awareness emerge. In this research, structural violence refers to a process to diminish or compress spatial production and claims in a city. I am exploring how it functions as an interlocking systems of social violence through the built environment that circumscribe Black women’s lives. These include, but are not limited to, historic and ongoing discourses and practices of gendering and racializing spaces like restrictive covenants, urban renewal, redlining, racialized policing, deficit-based maps and media portrayals (Dhamoon 2011, Yuval-Davis 2009, Hancock 2007). When we situate Black women’s spatiality within structural violence, we are better able to see and appreciate the various ways that Black women act to resist negative attitudes, spatial practices and planning processes, thus illuminating how urban planning was not designed for all residents to thrive. The story of the spatial dimension of structural violence begins with the forced movements of enslaved Africans to the forced movements of the migrant and the refugee like the Great Migration, to the regulation of racialized

I join space with production to propose the term “space-making” so that we might continue to imagine new ways to make spaces within cities, particularly in the Great Migration’s deep legacy, and to survive and thrive in the afterlife of redlining and restrictive covenants (Sharpe 2016). In my research, space-making refers to the production of three notions of space that Henri Lefebvre outlines in his work The Production of Space: 1) representations of space referring to space encountered through the understandings and abstractions contained in plans, codes, and designs; 2) representational space referring to space of the imagination that symbolize lived experience and to produce meaning; 3) spatial practices referring to physical spaces, the everyday routines and experience that form their own social spaces. In my research, I use space-making as opposed to place-making, which is commonly used in urban planning and refers to site-based intervention to improve quality of life. I view place-making as more static in its meaning and limited in scale compared to space-making. Black women’s space-making have taken various forms and used a diverse set of strategies. These strategies include sister-circles, girls’ groups, book clubs, create formal and informal networks in their schools and workplaces in which they open their homes to create gathering



Naming language has power and evokes meaning. By reclaiming the city and interrogating spatial politics, Black women space-makers vigorously rework the language, meaning and significance of urban space. This research necessitates investigating the meanings attached to concepts around spatial production and urban planning specifically how and why meanings are named and legitimated or not. It is meanings that constitute the grounds on which the practice of Black feminist space-making take shape. The following sections outline key terms within the poetics of planning that I will use throughout my research.

part i

1.2.3 black feminism I employ the term “Black feminist” in my concept of “Black feminist space-making” because of its intentional intersectional approaches to knowledge production and praxis that is evident in the space-making that I am exploring. In this research, Black feminist refers to Black women who define themselves and how they relate to one another on their own terms while working to reconcile the intersection of multiple oppressions, mainly racism and sexism.i Furthermore, I use this bottom-up intersectional approach to magnify how macro-level ideological processes impact people at the level of the individual, neighborhood, and i While these Black women may or may not formally introduce their work as “Black feminist,” I want to acknowledge how their work reconciles the intersection of multiple oppressions.

community (Isoke 2013). Ultimately, this research is being done to better understand practice of Black feminist space-making. It merits study because while intersectionality has become more frequently adopted in Black geographies scholarship, the contributions of Black women are still relatively under-theorized and understudied. My research is of intellectual interest because I extend the field of Black geographies and advance urban planning scholarship by situating Black women’s negotiations with space within a Black feminist frame. Further, Black women space-makers deserve greater attention not only because of the circumstances, which in part informed their creative practice, but also because they comprise an institutional practice that is not new, but nonetheless offers an important perspective on the alternative possibilities of urban planning practices and the various spatial knowledges that can produce them. It is my particular hope that the praxis of Black feminist space-making, referring to the theory and practice of this space-making as modes of countering structural violence, are discussed here with enough specificity to attend to the direness of the multiple and overlapping challenges that cities face; it is also my hope that the praxis of Black feminist space-making might have enough capaciousness to travel and do work in cities that I’ve not here been able to research or anticipate.


spaces (Isoke 2013). Within traditional rhetoric of planning, their work might seem to be very much unspatial -meaning it seems not to have much to do with formal participation in urban planning and development. It may seem like they are creating space to hang out, share stories or vent about life struggles. Isoke argues that in communities that are struggling with racialized poverty, open and hostile misogyny, homophobia, and urban economic containment, these are intimate everyday spaces created to build the will to resist structural violence. It is these very spaces that make sustaining everyday life and asserting creative agency possible, particularly in the case studies that I analyze. It is these spaces where people learn that their voices are valid, their perspectives matter, their commitment to their hopes and dreams is needed and their sacrifices for creative practices are appreciated. These Black women have transformed spaces often abandoned by urban planning entities to create new possibilities and to change how people view themselves through design with the intention of resisting and finding joy.

1.3 defining research question The purpose of this research is to understand:

1. How do Black women space-makers’ negotiation with space in their daily practice relate to their creative process of space-making in their professional practice? 2. How do they operationalize their spatial knowledge in their space-making?

Recognizing the suppression of agency of Black women as a consequence of racialized and gendered structural violence and spatial injustice in cities, this project sets out to examine dominant spatial practices, representations of space, and representational spaces that Black women navigate, contest, negotiate, reimagine, and re-create. Through interviews with Black women spacemakers, this project will tell the stories of how Black women space-makers’ negotiation with space in their daily practice relate to their creative process of space-making in their professional practice as well as how they form a distinct space-making practice rooted in their spatial knowledge. In summary, I am studying the space-making process of Black women creative practitioners in Chicago because I want to find out how this space-making is imagined, operationalized and advanced in order to understand how the practice of Black feminist space-making can inform new planning practices that challenge dominant approaches to planning and development in Chicago.



3. How can this spatial knowledge and creative practice inform and generate new spatial imaginaries and practices that challenge dominant approaches to planning and development?


conceputal framework

2.1 literature review 2.2 survivalist and creative agency 2.3 toward theory of black feminist space-making 2.4 site selction 2.5 historicizing and spatializing structural violence in black chicago 2.5.1 experience 2.5.2 perception 2.5.3 imagination 2.6 precedents of black feminist space-making

Thrival Geographies by Amanda Williams, Andres L. Hernandez and Shani Crowe, 2018

The question of claims to space in cities has long occupied a central place in urban planning theory and practice. However, it is also a question that has recently been receiving renewed attention within the critical geographies and planning field. As cities have been redeveloped as primarily sites for capital accumulation and consumption by the wealthy, there has been both a theoretical and political recognition of the centrality of questions of urban spatial justice in Western societies. Two books, Seeking Spatial Justice by Edward Soja, and Mobility Justice by Mimi Sheller offers a chance to reflect on the understandings of urban spatial justice. While they offer some vital insights on defining the idea of spatial justice and immobilities in cities, respectively, they also overlook important notions of how identity shapes how we move through space. I discuss Soja’s work first, Sheller’s work second,and then offer a set of observations on the limits of contemporary understandings of justice in urban space. Lastly, I introduce how the work of Black feminism and Black geographies scholars fill this gap that my research will build upon and advance. By the 1980s and 1990s, the “spatial turn” in social theory began challenging notions of space as static or neutral, which was influenced by emerging scholarship in culture and resistance. Prominent theorists like Edward Soja often linked space to broader social relations and the inherent structures of the capitalist state in his books such as Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (1989), Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions (2000) and Seeking Spatial Justice (2010). In his work, Seeking Spatial Justice, Soja argues that the spatial dimension has traditionally been backgrounded in the social sciences, which typically focuses on the historical and social dimensions of social reality. He underscores the need to further develop a critical

geography, which considers the dialectics between space, time and social dimensions and aims to resolve the unjust geographies of contemporary society. Soja asserts that the “spatiality of injustice . . . affects society and social life just as much as social processes shape the spatiality or specific geographies of injustice” (Soja 2010). He stresses that scholars and activists should take geographies as seriously as they do social processes in analyzing social justice and recognize that there is a “dialectical” relationship between spatial arrangements and social processes. Inspired by social theorist Michel Foucault and sociologist Henri Lefebvre, Soja’s theoretical approach lays the basis for the view that geographies are the result of human agency and can thus be influenced. He claims that space can be just as well as unjust. Furthermore, space can provide advantage and disadvantage; it can empower and disempower as well as suppress and emancipate. As he moves between theory and practice, he describes how policies are made for each and all citizens on an equal basis, but the practical outcome of mainstream procedures is unjust. Starting in the 1990s, Henri Lefebvre’s work on space and urbanism, most notably The Production of Space, became central to many discussions in Anglo-American geographies (McCann 1999). The increased accessibility of his work like the translation of The Production of Space and collection, Writings on Cities (1996), which includes a translation of The Right to the City (1968) along with discussions of his theorization of space by geographers and others, were critical to his work being seen as dominant spatial production theory (Gregory, 1994; Harvey, 1989; Merrifield, 1993, 1995; Soja, 1989). Lefebvre’s work was critical to this rise in prominence. Lefebvre’s notions of space, especially his conceptual triad of conceived, perceived, and lived spaces, has received significant attention particularly among contemporary geographical and related literature. His work seeks to link representation and imagination with the physical spaces of cities and to emphasize the dialectical relationship between identity and urban space through power relations.

conceptual framework


2. conceptual framework 2.1 literature review

grounds of Black feminism within anticipated realms of existing sedentary arrangements (referring to Soja’s conception of spatial justice), I have tried to use Sheller’s ideas to notice where Black feminist imaginaries might take us, specifically through time and with people. Sheller opens a new function for urban planning, one that takes process and differing relationships to notions of community and time as seriously as it takes participatory design and spatial organizations. The dialectic between structure and agency then becomes a projection of livability and possibility. It put demands on traditional spatial arrangements because they expose the racialized and gendered functions of the production of space and establish new ways to read and experience the city. Although a subsequent generation of sociologists like Sheller who argue that injustice is about “the process through which unequal spatial conditions and differential subjects are made,” have emerged, very little work has considered Black women’s process of space-making through an interdisciplinary framework or situated Black women as actors with significant agency. Black feminism scholars and Black geographers have considered how space and the efforts of Black women to shape spatial production theory and counter structural violence has changed our theoretical understandings of race and urban landscapes. Black geography scholarship asserts how practices of Black life, resistance and survival are inseparable from the production of space. Decades of work within and beyond the discipline have centered Black geography frameworks in reconsidering humanness, cities and structural inequalities. Using a frame of Black studies and human geography, Black feminist geographer Katherine McKittrick centers Black women and discusses how Black women’s geographies are meaningful sites of political opposition in order to make visible social lives which are often displaced, rendered ungeographic in her book Demonic Grounds. McKittrick analyzes Black women’s geographies throughout the Diaspora in confrontation with the geographies of domination. McKittrick also focuses on the multiple forms of


His work provides a conceptual framework through which the spatial practices of everyday life can be understood as central to the production and maintenance of physical spaces. Lefebvre often discussed how ideology, power and knowledge was embedded in space and describes the dominant space of any society intimately “tied to the relations of production and to the ‘order’ which those relations impose” and how they become an instrument in class warfare (Lefebvre 1998; Merrifield 2002). However, Lefebvre’s work does not fully consider the particularities of race and social politics outside labor relations. Understanding the role of racialized and gendered representations of space is critical to understanding the construction of urban geographies. Furthermore, such a sedentary approach to the city ignores the geopolitical mobilities of the city itself. Cities are made out of the negotiations of differently abled, gendered, sexualized and racialized bodies over space in relation to each other. Mimi Sheller moves beyond theorists like Lefebrve and Soja whose framing of spatial justice theories have been sedentary, “meaning that they treat their object as an ontologically stable or pre-existing thing, which stands still before it is put into motion.” In Mobility Justice, she frames a new mobility paradigm as enabling the development of a mobile ontology that tracks the effects of inequalities in mobility across various connected sites and scales. She argues how justice is a mobile assemblage of contingent subjects, enacted contexts and fleeting moments of practice and political engagement. In asserting dimensions of time and movement, she opens up potential questions like how does one move through time when your time is not as valued. By not centering racialized and gendered communities whose time is less valued, she misses the embodied experience of living in a city and overlooks how Black women in particular inhabit with people and through time. What Mimi Sheller’s analytical grounds make available for urban planning is a space to rethink the complex linkages between people, identity, time and place. Rather than situating the

ii I worked closely with my advisor Lily Song through this concept. It was informed by her scholarship and work of her Community Development course.

urban regimes using Black feminist space-making methods of making spatiotemporal formations of collective recognition and belonging.

2.2 survivalist and creative agency ii

The theme of using the dialectic between structure and agency to characterize Black women’s negotiations with space often emerged during my literature review. My conceptual framework proposes that Black women’s negotiations with space within a Black feminist frame creates a dialectic between structure and agency. Structure refers to the recurrent patterned arrangements in the built environment which influence or limit the choices and opportunities available. Agency refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to design their own space. My conceptual framework builds upon this dialectic by breaking down the term, agency, into two categories: survivalist agency and creative agency. Survivalist agency refers to the agency that Black women express in their daily practice of negotiating these structures as a means of survival. Survivalist agency is informed by the idea that Black women lives are necessarily spatial but also struggle with discourses that erase and despatialize their lives. It is about how Black women must navigate through the spatial conditions created by acts of structural violence in order to be seen, heard, lead and create. Whereas creative agency is what Black women who are creative practitioners express in their professional practice and how they are able to

conceptual framework


domination to reveal how Black women’s bodies and their struggle for freedom are profoundly spatial processes. This work is further supported not only by the way in which critical geographers use intersectionality, but also because of how spatial metaphors are embedded in Black women’s writings. A leading scholar of the writings of Black women across the African Diaspora, Carole Boyce Davies, investigates these metaphors in her work, Black Women, Writing and Identity: Migrations of the Subject. Her writing reframes narratives by going back in time to expand claims on space, and there are themes of subjectivity and agency weaved throughout. Davies often discusses the notion of migratory subjectivity and how it seeks agency. Distinguished Black feminism scholar and sociologist Patricia Hill Collins notes that “by using intersectional paradigms to explain both the U.S. matrix of domination and Black women’s individual and collective agency within it, Black feminist thought helps reconceptualize social relations of domination and resistance” (Collins 2000). McKittrick notes that Black women are not passive recipients of their surroundings but instead are “viable contributors to an ongoing geographic struggle” (McKittrick 2006). Furthermore, McKittrick’s, Collins’ and Davies’ writings along with the other Black feminism and Black geographies scholars discuss how Black women responded with their own unique form of geographies of resistance in shaping everyday spaces. One of my aims in this research, therefore, is to shift our attention to the ways in which an intersectional approach is fundamental to many forms of injustice and how injustices are perpetrated and perpetuated through the control and management of spatial production. Space-making does not always equal freedom, but is the concept of mobility and spatial justice enough? What if we understood locations or places of dwelling such as cities not simply as “spatial” or “mobile” but also as shifting across time and experienced with people? We could then envision Black feminist spatial imaginary as real and we could begin to challenge

2.3 toward theory of black feminist space-making

Building upon recent theorizations of race and power developed by Black geographers and Black feminists who critically engage questions of space, place, identity and belonging in their writings, including Katherine McKittrick (1996), Patricia Hills Collins (2000) Carole Boyce Davies (1994), as well as bell hooks (2008; 2015), I argue that Black women creative practitioners express creative agency beyond survivalist agency that undermine convergent systems of structural violence in Chicago. Theorizing Black feminist space-making requires destabilizing and unmapping stereotypical images of Blackness, womanhood and majorityminority neighborhoods. To unmap is not only to denaturalize urban landscapes by asking how spaces come to be but also to undermine world views that rest upon it. Unmapping is intended to undermine the idea of White spatial imaginary innocence (the notion that White residents merely planned and developed the city) and to uncover the ideologies, spatial imaginaries and practices of violence and domination (Razack 2002). In unmapping, there is an important relationship between identity and space. What is being imagined or projected on to specific spaces and bodies and what is being enacted there? How much does an identity of dominance rely upon keeping racial order firmly in place? How are people kept in their place? And finally, how does place become race? I ask these questions here in the belief that segregated cities can transcend their violent beginning and contemporary inequalities by remembering and confronting the racial and gender hierarchies that structure their existence (Razack 2002). This questioning informed how I structured my site selection.


reimagine space. Creative agency is informed by the idea that Black women creative practitioners are not only making space in their lives as survival but also as a professional practice. It is about how Black women claim leadership, voice, power and creative influence to ultimately transform space. They are able to create acts that counter the structural violence. Throughout my research, I discuss the concept of Black women’s survivalist and creative agencies and how it has influenced American spatial politics, urban planning and various interdisciplinary engagements of Black women space-makers throughout history. When we map a cityscape from a Black feminist perspective, we capture a view of the city that is shaped by gendered processes of racialization. From this vantage point, we can clearly see the embedded power structures in urban space. These analytics are a critical first step in illuminating Black women’s spatial agency and subjectivities. They help us understand how identities are spatially constituted within the contours of the city not only by one’s physical location in space but also by the efforts people make to imagine, appropriate and make new spaces in which to be a creative practitioner and space-maker. When we situate current racialized and gender identities in historical processes of land theft, genocide, enslavement, racial apartheid and economic marginality as well as the spatial agency like contestations and community resistance to respond to this structural violence, we shed new light on Black women’s urban experiences that are too often deemed as victims and generally invisible within the dominant disciplinary frameworks of urban planning and hegemonic feminist studies.

The City of Chicago is an emblematic case for Black feminist space-making. I use Chicago as a point of departure for exploring aspects of racial and gender identity and spatial development in an urban environment with complex racial geographies. The isolation, disinvestment and marginalization that characterizes racialized communities in major American cities like this can be understood as a form of spatial domination that scholars have typically discussed in the urban context. This section will outline how structural violence has been spatialized in Chicago through its history, beginning with the early twentieth century. Spatializing structural violence is important because it demonstrates the site-specific ways that processes of slavery, gendered racialization and neoliberalization produce social geographies in US cities. Too often our discussion of these terms is divorced from the specific geopolitical practices and processes in which they occur. This ahistorical discussion often erases or obscures specific racialized and gendered subjectivities that have been produced by macro-level social processes and their contestations by local planning actors.

conceptual framework


2.4 site selection


2.5 historicizing and spatializing structural violence in black chicago

The first level of the diagram refers to Henri Lefebrve’s spatial production theory. The mechanism constraints built into urban planning and system of control that functioned through the policing and the establishment of borders literally and figuratively created a violent environment (Shabazz 2015). This section demonstrates the ubiquitous ways that power relations embedded in dominant spatial production theory impose structural violence on Black women and how to bring the historical geographic connection into focus.

2.5.1 experience

This section explores how the power relations embedded in experience space as spatial production lead to exclusion from particular areas as a form of structural violence. It provides historical and contemporary examples of this type of spatial production. The process of the Great Migration which led to what White residents described as the Black “invasion” and subsequent White flight is critical to understanding the socio-political context of metropolitan areas in following the end of World War II (Nieves 2008). After the Great Migration of Black southerners to Chicago during World War I, the population spiked to over 100,000, with Black

2.5.2 perception This section explores how power relations embedded in representations of space as spatial production impose structural violence through the erasure of their humanity in the portrayal of space. Like a building, representations of space like mapping and media set up spatial hierarchy and arrange encounters. They revise our idea of the city: what it looks like, how to live there and how it may be navigated (Kennedy 2000). Historically, mapping blight as part of redlining and urban renewal created the racial and territorial identities and shaped imaginaries and probabilities of social change. Americans continue to define space, neighborhoods and cities in racial terms, affecting how racial identities and interests are formed. It is how a problem, which means blight in this case, is viewed and who is defined as a problem. It is which solutions are imagined and deemed possible. In researching how newspapers, magazine articles, maps, reports and social media portray racialized communities in Chicago, I find that the presence of persistent deficit-focused narratives and violent media portrayal of these neighborhoods exemplify this type of spatial production in practice. For example, mapping concentrated poverty in Chicago’s South Side shows only socioeconomic status of people but not the materiality of race and racism which often is not discussed as part of the mapping. Concentrated poverty maps distort understandings of time removing their socio-economic conditions from a broader sociopolitical perspective. This depiction is ahistorical. The wealth that Whites inherit from previous generation is rarely mentioned and never mapped. These depictions often lack an acknowledgement of cumulative vulnerabilities that these individuals and communities face from centuries of impediments to asset accumulation, decapitalization and discrimination. This representation of space in the form of map creates a limiting and deterministic view of these communities’ spatial experiences and imaginations.

conceptual framework


population rising 148.5 percent between 1910 and 1920 while the White population increased by 21 percent. The spike in Black residents led to the solidification of racial boundaries in the city, as the areas available to Blacks for housing became increasingly circumscribed and became what is known as the Black Beltway. Restrictive covenants contributed to securing the boundaries of the Black Belt, and by 1919, over 90% of Chicago’s Black population lived in the South Side Black Belt. Violence intensified with the introduction of political and legal phenomena, such as exclusionary zoning, racially restrictive covenants, and in more localized actions like organizations of “keep em out” homeowner groups. In the 1930s, federal policies formulated such as the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), reflected and reinforced racial segregation and led to white flight. Other federal initiatives and policies, such as public housing, urban renewal, tax incentives and highway constructions, also imbricated race into the city’s social geographies. In addition, this legacy of restrictions on mobility and the enforcing of territory, surveillance in the form of racialized policing and displacement through gentrification has produced racialized and gendered consequences for Black communities in the city of Chicago, particularly the South and West sides (Shabazz 2015). Surveillance and displacement exemplify forms of spatial production in practice that has in the most recent decades become more visible. The actors of this particular structural violence include police who racially profiles residents, bank lenders and landowners who exploit poor Black people, real estate board members who advocates segregation to maintain property value and public-housing authorities that wants to contain crime and federal policy makers that wages wars on drugs.

2.5.3 imagination

Rendering of River District. Credit: SCB


This section explores how power relations embedded in representational space as spatial production impose structural violence through the homogeneity of the future in the imagination of space. It is the imaginative work that transforms the built environment of the city into a space that people call home. This looks like a place of inclusion and place of safety, but for whom? The figure below is a rendering of the multi-phased redevelopment master plan for the new River District, a 30-acre district between Chicago Avenue and Grand Avenue along the Chicago River, which “is envisioned as an innovation and technology hub in the heart of the city’s ‘Tech Triangle.” (SCB 2019). The rendering begs the question of how could people of color call this neighborhood home when they are not represented in this future. The lack of diversity in the rendering reflects how the future specifically the future of technology and innovation is predicted to be a homogenous space in which people of color do not exist.

This also raises question around who is imagining this future. The way in which space is predicted in the future through imaginaries centers White communities. These renderings of a future of Chicago that predominantly show young White people exemplify how representations of space can be weaponized. These renderings not only erase people of color from the future of the neighborhood but also are inaccurate. They do not reflect a city’s vast cultural diversity. Renderings are an act of convincing. They are part of the rhetoric of planning. They serve as a guide to illustrate a vision. Renderings and other representational space have the power to inspire us, limit us, empower us and oppress us. This type of spatial production can shape where people feel like they belong in the present and define the limits of what we can reach in the future. If this neighborhood illustrates the future of Chicago, then the future of Chicago seems out of reach for slightly over half the population of Chicago who don’t identify as those depicted in the image.

Despite this history of structural violence, the communites of the Black Belt and other predominantly Black neighborhoods asserted agency and their right to exist. This is evident in the development of political power building in response to systemic oppression like the organizing of the revolutionary Illinois Black Panther Party, economic vitality of entrepreneurs in the Black Beltway like the iconic Johnson Publishing Company and cultural authority of the visionary artists of the Black Renaissance movement. Black women creative practitioners profoundly transformed claims to space and urban landscape given the lack of public recreational facilities like parks and field houses in their neighborhood due to disinvestment (Bachin 2004). This section explores some of the Black women artists and activists who contributed to the development of Chicago in the 19th century until today and who lived and worked on the South Side. The majority of them established or were part of community development organizations that addressed community needs while others were artist who documented in various forms the conditions of their neighborhoods and shaped the culture of the city and beyond. These organizations included churches, settlement houses, businesses, civic associations and social clubs. They worked to make Chicago a city that worked for all of its residents within and outside the Black community. They were on the vanguard of the Black Chicago Renaissance from the 1930s and 1950s (Knuper 2006). The Chicago Black renaissance was a multidisciplinary arts & cultural movement infused with a Pan-Africanist and internationalist focus on social justice. These artists included Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Goss Burroughs, Lorraine Hansberry,

Mahalia Jackson, Katherine Dunham, Charlemae Rollins, Tyra Edwards and Alice Browning. Despite a lack of public investment in cultural institutions, they made several spaces that focused on cultivating the arts, celebrating a Pan-African identity and teaching youth asset-based history of their ancestors. Some of the institutions still exist today like the South Side Community Arts Center (SSCAC) and George Cleveland Hall Library. Their efforts organizing for community development issues and establishing artist collectives, social groups and political clubs are historic examples of Black feminist space-making. This section will highlight a few of these women and their space-making practices. Ada Sophia Dennison McKinley is known as one of the most influential social welfare activists in Chicago’s history. In 1919, she started a settlement house providing food resources, relocation assistance and employment support services for Black soldiers returning from World War I and migrants coming in from Southern states. Recognizing the growing needs of her community, she expanded her initiative that would later become the South Side Settlement House (SSSH) to provide services like health care, youth education and political organizing. Due to lack of public investment, the SSSH became a critical community development institution. Nearly 100 years since its founding, this organization now called the Ada S. Kinley Series is one of the country’s largest institutions providing services to Black people and has located throughout Chicago. Journalist, Olive Myrl Diggs, served as editor of the Chicago Bee during the 1930s and 40s. Founded in 1926 by Anthony Overton and first edited Ida B. Wells, the Chicago Bee was a Black newspaper with all women staff. The newspaper focused on connecting literature, art, history and politics and (Knuper 2006) and were the first to publish the poetry of prominent South Side native poet, Gwendolyn brooks. After the Bee closed in the late 1940s, Diggs went on to work in the Chicago Department of Urban Renewal advocating for the expansion of quality public housing in Chicago. Accomplished artist and educator, Dr. Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs recognized

conceptual framework


2.5.2 precedents of black feminist space-making

conceptual frame, I developed a research design that seeks to clarify Black women’s systemic spatial knowledge and how Black women space-makers’ negotiation with space in their daily practice relate to their creative process of space-making in their professional practice. My project disrupts hegemonic spatial imaginaries and acknowledges the racialization and gendering of urban landscapes. This research hopes to bring visibility to the use of agency that is central to the practice of Black feminist space-making in order to address racialized and gendered dimensions of cities.


the lack of African history, Black arts, cultural artifacts in Chicago and local history in schools by transforming the first floor of their home into a museum. The museum called the Ebony Museum of Negro history and was later renamed the DuSable Museum of African-African Museum in honor of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable. Her work of uplifting and celebrating Black culture has led to one of the oldest African-African museums in the country. She went on to become a founding member of the National Conference of Black artists, Lake Meadows Fair and the South Side Community Arts Center. Minister Lucy Smith founded Langley Ave All Nations Pentecostal Church in 1918. It started off as an outdoor traveling church with no set location. It was a pivotal community resource especially during the Great Depression serving food and clothing needs to thousands of Chicagoans. Smith profoundly impacted the religious culture of Chicago by providing social services and support. In 1926, All Nations began to congregate at a physical building. It was the first church ever built by a woman pastor in Chicago and she served as the Black woman pastor at a major congregation in Chicago. Civil rights leader known as “The Little Warrior” Reverend Willie T. Barrow founded the organization that later became Rainbow/ PUSH Coalition in Chicago. She began her career advocating for affordable health care and women and labor rights. In the mid-1960s, she worked with Jesse Jackson to launch Operation Breadbasket on the South Side that focused on economic empowerment for Black Chicagoan. It later evolved into Rainbow/Operation PUSH where she serves as the first Executive Director in addition to being the first woman to lead the organization. She was also heavily involved in the National Urban League. The confluence of legacy of these historic space-makers and the broader socio-political processes that they worked within makes Chicago a critical and emblematic case of Black feminist space-making. I will analyze how Black feminist spacemaking counters all three violent implications of dominant spatial production in my case summary section of my research design chapter. Using this

research design

3.1 case selection 3.2 case studies 3.2.1 rae chardonnay & nick alder and party noire: experiential space 3.2.2 tracie hall and rootwork gallery: experiential space 3.2.3 isis ferguson and arts block at arts & public life: experiential space 3.2.4 maya bird-murphy and chicago mobile makers: representational space 3.2.5 jackie stewart and the south side home movie project: representations of space 3.2.6 tonika lewis johnson and folded map: representations of space 3.2.7 amanda williams and colo(red) theory: representations of space 3.3 methodology

3. research design 3.1 case selection


I analyze seven cases of Black women space-makers. The purpose is not to generalize across all space-making processes by Black women creative practitioners in the United States or to deductively test Black feminism theory. Instead, the purpose is to gain analytical insights from seven unique cases that are seemingly positive examples of Black women space-makers. I base the selection of the cases on the type of space-makers, how they negotiate space and the types of space-making in the figure below.

I also considered their involvement in particular networks (creative fields) and demonstrated outputs (credibility and visibility from creating successful spaces in their respective fields). The diagram below illustrates the cases of seven Black women space-makers and a select space-making project. The diagram also features two additional cases, Jamila Woods and Dr. Eve Ewing, who I did not formally interview but include them as examples and will reference them in this research. Following the diagram of my conceptual framework, it describes the type of space that they produce and the structural violence that their work counters.


Rae Chardonnay Taylor is a DJ and Arts Administrator with a background in events management and production. She began DJing in 2010 and has since held residencies at venues in Chicago including Underground Wonder Bar and The Promontory and has circulated many private and public events to share her musical styling techniques. She is the Founder of Black Eutopia, a series of segmented programming intended to cultivate space for marginalized communities. She is also a co-founder of Party Noire. Rae utilizes her passion for activism to create community outreach and development strategies through event coordination. Her involvement in programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Stony Island Arts Bank, School of the Art Institute and various arts organizations have catapulted her career. She is graduate of Columbia College Chicago, holding a B.A. in Arts Management. Nickecia “Nick� Alder is the founder and editor-in-chief of Black Girl Fly Magazine as well as co-founder of Party Noire. She is a doctoral candidate at Loyola University and researcher, digital content creator and strategist, engineering online communities and digital stories that celebrate the complexities of Black women and girls. As a researcher, she interrogates the intersections of media representation of Black women and racial and gender identity. Nick is a multifaceted creative

with a passion for shaping brands through strong digital and social media storytelling especially for Black millennial women. Her background is in community mental health and therapeutic practices and her passion is about connecting with people both in physical and digital spaces. The #PartyNoire community is an inclusive cultural hub celebrating Black femmes, QWOC, and Black womynhood along the gender spectrum and holds space especially for queer, trans and genderqueer and gender non-conforming Black people. They create experiences and intentional space for uplifting and affirming the lives of Black womyn. When in this intersectional orbit of #BlackJoy, Party Noire believes that their space, love, uplift and make space for all Black Joy. CoFounders Nick and Rae are divinely connected in their mission to affirm, uplift and celebrate Black womanhood along the gender spectrum.

research deesign


3.2 case studies 3.2.1 rae chardonnay & nick alder and party noire: experiential space


Tracie serves as the Director of the Joyce Foundation’s Culture Program and Founding Curator of experimental art space, Rootwork Gallery. Prior to her appointment as Director of the Joyce Foundation’s Culture Program, Tracie D. Hall served as Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) for the City of Chicago where she oversaw the Arts and Creative Industries Division which included the Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Music Industry, and Farmers Market programs, as well as the Chicago Film Office. A poet, fiction writer, and playwright, Tracie is a Cave Canem fellow and recipient of various awards and residencies for her writing, creative and community work. Holding degrees from the University of California, Yale University and the University of Washington, Hall was born and mostly raised in South Los Angeles and has spent much of her career working in Chicago. Founded in 2016, her gallery, Rootwork, showcases artistic expression that has healing, reconciliation, or the investigation of folk, street and indigenous cultures at its core.

research deesign


3.2.2 tracie hall and rootwork gallery: experiential space


Isis Ferguson is a cultural producer with over 15 years’ experience in education, social service, and arts administration in Chicago at community, city, and state agencies. As the Associate Director of City and Community Strategy at Arts + Public Life at the University of Chicago, Isis currently develops process, narrative, and projects for the Arts Block, a geographic site and ideological approach that exist at the unique nexus of community development, urban planning, and art. sis holds a M.A. in Gender and Cultural Studies from Simmons College and a B.A. in Women’s Studies and Black Studies from Knox College and is a photographer, writer and member of Chicago Torture Justice. Isis currently develops process, narrative, and projects for the Arts Block, a geographic site and ideological approach that exist at the unique nexus of community development, urban planning, and art. The Arts Block accommodates a wide range of cultural, civic, and commercial spaces, combining University-led initiatives, programming produced by cultural organizations, and private investments from entrepreneurs. The University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator and the Green Line Performing Arts Center, led by Arts + Public Life, currently shares the block with privately-owned neighbors Peach’s at Currency Exchange Café and BING Art Books.

research deesign


3.2.3 isis ferguson and arts block at arts & public life: experiential space


Maya is an architectural designer, educator and Founder and President of Chicago Mobile Makers. Founded in 2017, Chicago Mobile Makers is a nonprofit organization in Chicago, Illinois that offers free and low-cost youth workshops encompassing design, architecture, digital fabrication, basic construction and place-making in Chicago communities. Chicago Mobile Makers creates programming that encourages Chicago youth to become advocates and change makers in their own communities through design focused skill-building workshops. Their objectives are threefold: 1) engage and empower youth through making and skill building; 2) train and support future public interest architects, designers and makers; and 3) advocate for social, economic, gender and racial diversity in the architecture and broader design fields. Chicago Mobile Makers offers during, after school and summer workshops; design, digital fabrication, architecture and construction education; continuous presence & support, mentor program and access to professional connection. A native of Oak Park, IL, she earned her Master of Architecture degree from Boston Architectural College in 2017 and Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 2014 from Ball State University.

research deesign


3.2.4 maya bird-murphy and chicago mobile makers: representational space


Jacqueline Stewart is a Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Her research and teaching explore African American film cultures from the origins of the medium to the present, as well as the archiving and preservation of moving images, and “orphan” media histories, including nontheatrical, amateur, and activist film and video. She directs the Southside Home Movie Project and is the Director of the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at University Chicago and co-curator of the L.A. Rebellion Preservation Project at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. She also serves as an appointee to the National Film Preservation Board. Stewart is the author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity, which has achieved recognition from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Stewart earned her AM and PhD in English from the University of Chicago and an AB in English with interdisciplinary emphasis from Stanford University. The South Side Home Movie Project (SSHMP) is a five-part initiative to collect, preserve, digitize, exhibit, and research home movies made by residents of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods. The SSHMP seeks to increase understanding of the many histories and cultures comprising Chicago’s South Side, and of amateur filmmaking practices, by asking owners of home

movies (shot on 8mm, Super8mm, 16mm film) to share their footage and describe it from their personal perspectives.

research deesign


3.2.5 Jackie Stewart and The South Side Home Movie Project: Representations of Space


Tonika Lewis Johnson is a visual artist/ photographer from Chicago’s South Side Englewood neighborhood. She received her BA in Journalism & Photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2003 and her MBA from NationalLouis University in 2005. In 2010, she helped cofound Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.). ShSelected work from her two projects were n exhibited at Loyola University’s Museum of Art (LUMA) from Feb. - June 2018. Her latest and ongoing multi-media project, Folded Map, uniquely illustrates Chicago’s residential segregation while bringing residents together for a conservation was also exhibited at LUMA from July 2018 to October 20, 2018. Tonika’s Folded Map™ Project visually connects residents who live at corresponding addresses on the North and South Sides of Chicago. This is an ongoing project, whereas more interviews, an interactive mapping, companion website and Chicago West Side study is in the works. She investigates what urban segregation looks like and how it impacts Chicago residents. What started as a photographic study quickly evolved into a multimedia exploration with video interviews of residents. The project invites audiences to open a dialogue and question how we are all socially impacted by racial and institutional conditions that segregate the city.

research deesign


3.2.6 Tonika Lewis Johnson and Folded Map: Representations of Space


Amanda Williams is a visual artist who trained as an architect at Cornell University. Amanda’s practice blurs the distinction between art and architecture. Amanda is an Efroymson Family Contemporary Arts Fellow, a 3Arts awardee, recipient of the 2017 Pulitzer Arts Foundation Design/Build commission in collaboration with Andres L. Hernandez, part of the ensemble selected to represent the US in the upcoming Venice Architecture Biennale, and a member of the multidisciplinary Exhibition Design team for the Obama Presidential Center, 2018 Ford Fellow, 2018 United States Artists Fellow, and a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grants. She has current exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Arts Club of Chicago, and the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a highly sought-after lecturer on the subject of art and design in the public realm, including talks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New Museum’s Ideas City series. Amanda’s practice blurs the distinction between art and architecture. Her projects use color as a lens to highlight the complexities of the politics of race, place, and value in cities. She is best known for her series, “Color(ed) Theory,” in which she painted the exterior of soon-to-be-demolished houses on Chicago’s south side using a culturally charged color palette to mark the pervasiveness of vacancy and blight in Black urban communities.

The landscapes in which she operates are the visual residue of the invisible policies and forces that have misshaped most inner cities.

research deesign


3.2.7 Amanda Williams and Colo(red) Theory: Representations of Space



To collect and analyze data for the seven case studies, I conducted interviews with key informants and undertook between-methods mixed-method research in order to gain a deeper understanding of each case. The core fieldwork for these seven case studies involved conducting in-person interviews. These semi-structured interviews focused on the space-makers, their life history, daily practices navigating spaces in Chicago and professional practices of space-making. The research design of each case was proposed as a mixed method process evaluation and relies heavily on qualitative methods. The figures below list the data needs and the data sources that aim to answer components of the research question.

For the between-methods mixed-methods research, which Gaber and Gaber define as the use of different research methods to explore one research topic, I proposed using the following qualita-tive and quantitative tools (Gaber and Gaber 2007):

I used qualitative coding methods to analyze four types of data—interviews, reviews of the spacemaking and historical planning documents. They analyzed independently and in the following ways:

The data was coded into two central themes— spatial experiences in daily practice and vision of creative practice. The next chapter on data analysis includes my research findings which describe the subthemes within each theme. The next chapter also includes my analysis which explores the relationship between the theme of daily practice and the theme of creative practice and the spatial strategies.

research deesign

3.3 methodology



4.1 spatial experiences in daily practice 4.1.1 comfort, safety and belonging 4.1.2 identity and triple consciousness 4.1.3 multiculturalism and homecoming 4.2 vision for creative practice 4.2.1 recognition for spatial capacity and everyday genius 4.2.2 making the invisible visible 4.2.3 bridging spatial imaginaries 4.2.4 seeing themselves differently

A Map Home by Eve Ewing, 2015

4. data This section outlines the two central themes from the interviews: spatial experiences in daily practice and vision for creative practice.


4.1 sPATIAL EXPERIENCES IN DAILY PRACTICE In this section, the space-makers reflect on how they navigate, contest and negotiate spaces in their daily practice. They share how self-identification, the process of racializing and gendering space and the tension between their self-identification and these processes profoundly impacts their daily practice resulting in what I call “triple consciousness.” Their experiences of where they feel exclusion and marginalization; safety and strength; and inclusion and centered form a distinct spatial knowledge.

4.1.1 COMFORT, SAFETY AND BELONGING All the traditional art institutions I ain’t never felt comfortable. Never. Yeah in this way I am such a typical Black kid from the south side like I grew up knowing I was interested in art, but we did not access those places to fulfill our creative desires. That’s not the way it was happening. I was like nah. We create spaces (Lewis Johnson 2019). Tonika elaborates on the everyday spaces that she and her community created to feel comfortable in their neighborhood and sense of belonging in the city. Despite not having access to

particular institutions due to structural barriers, she asserted agency as a form of community building and development as an artist with her photography and an activist with her work with R.A.G.E. Nick and Rae both reflected on feeling uncomfortable in nightlife spaces; in the case of Nick, these feelings were present in her neighborhood where she lived when she first arrived in Chicago as well. It sucks to be a Black woman in that [Lakeview] neighborhood. It fucking sucks. Yeah, it’s like I hated it because it was so devoid of like character community like all the things I was just used to being around. A space that felt like a home that you know your neighbors talk to you it’s young working millennials white folks… The first two years of being in Chicago was very difficult and like trying to find my way through community and find the places that felt like home. Those first two years were extremely hard (Alder 2019). [The nightlife in] like those North East neighborhoods… real white real bro-y there would be a handful of Black people in the bars. Loud as shit uncomfortable, just uncomfortable (Chardonnay 2019). Tonika and Jackie often find themselves in institutionalized space that they appear to be comfortable because of their power or status in whether it is through speaking engagements or senior leadership, but it is these very spaces that they do not feel comfort. In the case of Tonika, it is work to make knowledge from her community legible and legitimate to art-related institutions. Within traditional rhetoric of planning, she presents a new concept of “civic engagement” that differs from connecting residents to institutions and instead is about making institutions connect to people. I still have a weird relationship with these very institutions that I’m being invited to speak to. You know I just feel like that’s my city-wide civic engagement to shed light to give people a little bit of knowledge yeah

The space-makers discuss how they experience a sense of belonging through the racialization of space. Maya Bird-Murphy in particular references how racialization processes that are directly experienced as spatial. She expresses how she experiences the spatiality of the racial order during her commute in neighborhoods in the North Side. This is the Facebook post I was going to say. I was waking up in my white neighborhood walking to the train getting on my white train going to my white work then I was like maybe I shouldn’t post this but that’s when I was getting super angry. I was just so sick of this. [referencing to the neighborhood of North Center]. (Bird- Murphy, 2019)

Walking the Gold coast is awkward, and I try not to ever do that because it’s rich white people and they look at you and wonder why you’re there, so I just try to not walk

there but sometimes you find yourself there. That’s probably the one that is most blatant (Bird-Murphy 2019). Maya recognizes a codified racialized language latent in the design of and interaction with the built environment. This reflects how sociospatial location controls movement and creates a hierarchy in order to accommodate those deserving of protection and recognition. She also discusses the reaction of neighbors when she walks her dogs. It is not viewed as a common activity but instead a challenge to this spatial hierarchy in which she is not viewed as a legitimate owners of a pure breed dog and how she asserts survivalist agency. Just because when people see me out walking sometimes I don’t this as much probably because I don’t live in that neighborhood anymore, but people would ask if they were my dogs. They would assume I was the dog walker because I have two Australian shepherds and they’re pure breed or whatever and I got them from a breeder so I must be the dog walker and so depending on where I’m walking, I would get that sometimes. One time, my dog was walking on the house side on the lawn which is perfectly legal and fine, and this dude was sitting on his porch and he literally stands up and yells that’s private property. She wasn’t even pooping we’re just walking down the street like my dog couldn’t be on their grass so that was a thing. When I’m walking the dog is when most things happen (Bird-Murphy 2019). The space-makers also discuss how they experience a sense of belonging through gendering of space. In her discussion of street harassment in Rogers Park, Isis offers a compelling example of how we might consider space as a social product by attending to the social hierarchies that sustain and sustained by public space and how public space is gendered. Public space produces the women who might transverse the park as visitors while men as having claims to the space.


this knowledge was homegrown in your city now you value it because this institution has told you I’m important but no there’s many of us grown here (Lewis Johnson 2019). I can’t say that I feel [included or centered] about any of the university spaces. Even the center that I direct. I direct the Gray Center for the Arts and Inquiry. To me it feels like a place of tremendous imagination and work experimentation. It’s not a comfortable space (Stewart 2019). Maya shares how a lack of sense of belonging manifest as having to explain the need for her program. She expresses a frustration with having to make her work legible and legitimate to different audiences. When we were presenting, there were many times someone would ask me like why was this program necessary. I’m not going to describe systemic racism to you like that’s not my job (Bird-Murphy 2019).

work (Chardonnay, 2019). Isis described how her space of solidarity created much more than community. In 2005, I started organizing and working with a group of other women who. We wanted to put on women’s art shows. Just one night visual and performing art. The labor would be all organized by women, produced by women all the performers and in doing that I gained an understanding of event planning, of arts programming, of access to space and how important it is like who control space and how you try to get space for free and the costs of space and we produced them for 6 years and we grew beyond coming together once a year… We wanted something between those times so we began kind of like 1970s conscious raising things like we did sister circles and focused on leadership development that would help us produce those really sophisticated exciting events (Ferguson 2019). It functions as skills-building, education on spatial politics and leadership development. It establishes belonging.

4.1.2 IDENTITY AND TRIPLE CONSCIOUSNESS The space-makers recognize how space revealed how their identity is interconnected. My focus on historic racial segregation is automatically a focus on gender hierarchies as well. Racial hierarchies come into existence through patriarchy each system of domination mutually constituting the other (Razack 6). The space-makers illuminate the possibility of charting the simultaneous operation of multiple systems of domination. Amanda discussed how she never knows nor cares about the order of the multiple systems of domination but has an acute awareness of them.



There was a very weird feeling on the street as a young woman and I now know Rogers Park had an incredibly higher rate of street harassment than other neighborhoods and there were young girls organizing around that in fact, but I didn’t know at the time…There was a lot of times when people would say nasty stuff to you on the street… You just needed to be careful and walk in groups. I just remember walking home from the train super late at night from my second job and all my friends would be like call me while you walk… That was an unpleasant thing to have to think about, but I think we all know public space being the male terrain and they sort of dictate the street. It’s their domain first and we’re sort of visitors in it and that’s how it felt (Ferguson 2019). Gender determines who is an owner and who is a visitor. Through its presence as a body that occupies space but as one that consistently denied space through a series of violent harassment, gender confirms who can and cannot make claims to space. It is important to note how symbolic and material processes work together to produce these claims. When navigating a city, women have no choice but to move through public space, a right given to all citizens. Isis’ explorations of the production of gatekeepers of public space clarify that the production of space is also the production of excluded and included bodies. Rae reflects on the gendering of nightlife space and how centering women in this existing spatial hierarchy context functions as objectification. Centering women in nightlife spaces which does not happen much at all or does but in a more like objectifying way obviously. Centering women and prioritizing the needs of Black queer people bringing those things to the forefront also how I think as much of be as much of source in like the economy for Black queer folks, femmes, women you know all the folks we directly address in our

I think being then most industries where there are not a lot of women, there are not a lot of Black people so I think I’ve always couched it as well whatever I am going to do will be hard whichever way you slice it. So, does it matter if it’s sexist or racist or both? Like I want to do it so who cares if it’s not you know (Williams 2019).

just did a project about what all of us all teenagers. It’s not new knowledge (Lewis Johnson 2019).

The space-makers share how space determines how you view yourself. Like the idea of segregation or discrimination based on space didn’t really ever register with me until Harold Washington became mayor so he was the city’s first Black mayor. I was like 9 or 10 and for the first time ever the summer after he became mayor all the potholes on our block were fixed. I didn’t know I didn’t know somebody like for free should come and fix your potholes. it was like who are these trucks and like all these street and sanitation who is that? I just thought there was garbage people like who are these people. They’re fixing the road like what so I can remember like that was one of my earliest understandings of like we haven’t been getting something we’re supposed to be getting. Like disparities like it wasn’t like those areas like in my mind those people just took better care of their neighborhood than we did in ours. Like it was not like oh, so they cut everybody’s trees they trim trees for free like that’s a city thing (Williams 2019). Amanda discusses how power exerted over the physical environment impacts perception of self. Specifically, it impacts how we reconcile who we are and potentially who is deserving of protection and preservation through the maintenance of public space.


The space-makers value spaces that affirm and celebrate a diversity of cultures including those that are different from theirs and how it creates a sense of belonging. Three space-makers


Tonika reflects on how interviews about her Folded Map project reveal how the experience of Black people in Chicago is marked by a double consciousness. Her commentary builds upon what WEB DuBois describes in his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk, “it is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of the world that looks on in amused contempt and pity...” (DuBois 2007). The Black person wishes to merge the double consciousness, but “would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American...” (DuBois 2007). She later complicates this narrative by introducing the gender dimension of this experience and presents what I describe as triple consciousness which she explores in her forthcoming project called Belonging. The question I always get is how did you come up with the project because in the interviews people have asked me that and it’s so funny because it’s a testament to the duality that not all Black people have to learn in this country but especially in Chicago because it’s so segregated. It’s this dual life that you have if you’re from a community on the South Side and have a life where you’re accessing resources you’re going to have to interface with the white community as a young Black person in Chicago and so when people ask me that question I’m like this ain’t nothing new. I

I came from St. Louis and so it was the first time I’d ever lived in a neighborhood where so many signs were in Spanish and I remember really liking that (Ferguson 2019).

It’s just nice to hear different languages when you walk out the door. There’s a big Middle Eastern population and Asian so that’s the place, I feel most comfortable (Bird-Murphy 2019).

I would remember being in the car and riding down the street where all the signs were written in Spanish and I would be like what the heck I can’t read any of this, but I thought it was super cool. If I’m not mistaken, I think it was Cermak at the time it was either Carmack or North Ave where majority of the signs are written in Spanish. It was cool because it was different (Chardonnay 2019). Rae and Amanda both returned to the places that raised them — West side and South side of Chicago respectively — after several years living in larger, historically white towns and cities across the country, from the Bay area to Florida. Both artists now working in the same studio. The conditions of segregation in Chicago they described were made starker by their contrast with the places for which they left home. Rae reflected on the West side as returning to a place of love and she noted that she did not have an awareness of her neighborhood being segregated. On the other hand, Tonika left her neighborhood of Englewood in the South Side for a much briefer time to move to the North Side of Chicago. Even me commuting to school from Englewood going north that was also an eye opener for me because I was able to start

seeing how differently my community was cared for through city resources. I didn’t know in high school I didn’t think about it being city resources don’t nobody take care of these streets don’t nobody take care of flowers. It’s just ugly so I remember feeling that way because I had something to compare it to when I went to school every day. I was like oh my God they got boutiques and flowers on the street and all of the homes are lived in (Lewis Johnson 2019).

She described how she recognized the racial dynamics of underdevelopment within Englewood by their contrast with the North Side.

4.2 vision for creative practice In this section, the space-makers discuss the change that they want their work to create and how they envision their work. They reflect on the people, spaces and experiences that influence, inspire and shape their work. 4.2.1 RECOGNITION OF SPATIAL CAPACITY AND EVERYDAY GENIUS Tracie shared a desire to recognize everyday genius in the communities that she works in as part of her work at the Joyce Foundation. I’m interested in as well is how do we support folks who are doing the kind of work that recognizes everyday genius and everyday knowledge that supports people right where they are in that moment (Hall 2019). Amanda alluded to how she views her space-making as recognizing the spatial capacity of residents referring respecting the ability and power of the residents to make spaces.



discussed how much they enjoyed hearing Spanish in their neighborhood and the presence of other cultures.

I think I tend to think of the neighborhood as my audience or the kind of person that’s like not the bad guy or the good guy like the apathetic person the person that’s kind of jaded because they’re like well I’ve never seen it be different so it can’t be different. I think that is usually subconsciously like my target individual who’s like smart doesn’t think they have the understanding of a certain vocabulary or language of stuff like art or architecture but are actually experts in space and spatial awareness and spatial experiences and urban concepts but don’t know that they are expert (Williams 2019).

Tonika also uses her space-making events to improve access to space. She finds that residents do not know their ability to control space in their neighborhood, such as renting park space as she does for her SoFresh Saturday events, so she

I’m really just like forget reclaiming the narrative like we just gotta change the narrator like that’s just the solution. Going forward as a result of me accepting that is kind of uplifting and creating spaces that allow for there to be a different narrator and using myself as a conduit for that (Lewis


Tonika’s work is grounded in the belief that community members like herself who are experiencing the legacy of disinvestment know how to solve the problems facing their neighborhood. Her work speaks to the possibility that literally unfold when community engagement strategies are designed to create agency over charity which she often refers to the work of institutionalized spaces as. How did I come up with folded map? Yeah there’s a lot of young kid Black teenagers that are growing up creating a very unique perspective on this city that could solve a lot of this shit, but you all don’t communicate with them so in those spaces those institutionalized space (Lewis Johnson 2019). When I talk to youth about the work that I create, I simply tell them we are the detail like all the reports you can pull from your own life to justify stuff or propose a different way to look at it. You are the expert already (Lewis Johnson 2019).

ensures that they realize their potential to take up space. Tonika emphasizes that it is not enough to have a retelling of representations of space. Instead, she believes that the narrator must change. Her vision focuses on recognizing the ability of those who have the lived experience to tell their own stories as she has done by telling her story. So that is a huge space-making event that also serves the point of reclaiming the parks because a lot of people in the community due to what I was talking about before don’t really know how to access the public resource of using the park district like our taxes pay for that you can use it (Lewis Johnson 2019). Maya’s work is about not only recognizing spatial capacity but giving the participants the tools to change their environments using the knowledge that they already possess. The kids are analyzing their spaces and their own lives and designing something that makes it more positive or changes something in a way (Bird-Murphy 2019). Furthermore, she notes how the participants nominate the problem instead of having the instructor pre-determine problems or what is lacking. The participants exercise their agency and decide for themselves what’s most important. The whole point of the truck is so that we can do design build work. I mean like small scale stuff so let’s say I wish there was a bench at that bus stop and that’s what we identify as the problem that’s what the kids identify we’re hoping to have the kids design it have the kids actually build it (Bird-Murphy 2019).

Johnson 2019).



Jackie underscored a desire to make the invisible visible through her work. She remarks on negative experiences in which her peers who she went to graduate school with at the University of Chicago referenced to the South side as unsafe or needing to go downtown to eat. So, when I came back here for graduate school, that’s when I had to really start to negotiate the blurriness between these boundaries or whatever was going on, I had to navigate that. So that was the beginning of recognizing that I should come up with ways to connect my intellectual life with this kind of personal life that I had because it was just coming up all the time. Often in what felt like negative ways… Like my fellow students would talk about the South Side of Chicago so they were concerned about being unsafe and they would talk about how there was nowhere to go to eat. They had to go to the city which just crack me up like you’re in the city, but I understand what you mean like downtown (Stewart 2019). The racialization of place and power thus plays a profound role in spatial imaginary processes – communities considered disposable like those in the South side surrounding University of Chicago can be “disappeared” from the spatial imaginary of the students in advance of disappearing them in reality (Woods 2017). This is evidenced in how her peers do not see the South Side as the city of Chicago. It is these very spatial imaginaries that influence the planning processes of cities and key documents like maps. Jackie was motivated to make space and people of the South side visible in her work. Her work makes visible the humanity

of custodial staff and local residents in hegemonic knowledge regimes. Invisibility of custodial people who work at the university. I was just seeing Black and brown people everywhere, but I recognize yeah, they don’t see these people, or they only see them when they need something, or they perceive that someone is in their way. It was miraculous to me that the university could have this tremendous intellectual set of resources and activity going on and that there were so many people who also worked at the University not only the people who lived around it (Stewart 2019).

I’d love to figure out a way to provide access to the films more readily like an app for example so if people are whatever on some corner 63rd and Woodlawn or something that they could see what 63rd and Woodlawn looked like in 1963 or 1974 or whatever just like standing there. I guess in some ways it’s inspired by a lot of Ben Caldwell’s augmented reality stuff but thinking about ways to really bring the archive into the spaces that it represents and developing some understanding of the technology needed to do that. I would love to think about those things and connect the analog to the digital (Stewart 2019).

Jackie’s approach involves taking from the past and moving into the future. She notes how her work creates multiple narratives of place. She complicates a traditional and static remembrance of space. She is working to integrate technology into her work in a way that reflects her values.



Jackie views her film screenings as opportunities to inspire community members to imagine big enough to escape the gravity of these dominant spatial practices. People are seeing all these commonalities [in the films] but they never would have engaged with each other during that time [60s and 70s] because of the way that racial segregation in Chicago has worked. It just seemed that this was a body of material that could inspire dialogue like actual dialogue between different where they were almost imagining different trajectories of what their lives could have been if they had been able to communicate with each another during that time (Stewart 2019). Her work asks questions rooted in possibility instead of static and surface-level depictions of disinvestment. Similarly, Tonika sees her work as shifting how two disconnected sides of majority Black areas in the city relate to one another. There’s a huge divide between the South Side and the West Side not only geographically but culturally and everything but we wanted to show kind of remove that gap and create a bridge from the South and the West Side through imagery and photography. We are working toward not only doing the Englewood projection party but also doing it on the West Side and maybe even using photos from the West Side to show on the South Side you know just to kind of show that we are the same (Lewis Johnson 2019). Furthermore, Tonika describes the possibilities from changing representation as opening up your creativity and imagination.

Isis explains how socio-spatial dynamics and structural barriers have served as blockades to communities of color’s access to institutional resources for individual and collective transformation. She views her work as being able to shift the conditions of a place and ultimately shift how people view themselves. Her work directly responds to this structural violence by creating new possibilities. She is committed not only change external circumstance, but also to create moments to reflect an entire community’s sense of self and better understand themselves. How can our work shift the worldview of an individual or literally shift the conditions of a place… For policy reasons we’re here. Through our educational system we’re here. Or governmental reasons we’ve found ourselves in these sorts of situations. And how do we rectify a lot of that? Because for communities of color those conditions have always been detrimental. We’ve been in situations that are detrimental and we’re trying to find our way out. Art is a really good vehicle to show us ourselves and show us that there can be something different (Ferguson 2019). Amanda often describes her work as more generally making people see differently. She contextualizes her work by placing it within a larger theory of change. So I tend to skew toward the idea that to create change requires a critical mass and a way to and I’m probably on the spectrum at the moment that is about getting individual people to change their minds so that they can behave collectively. I imagine that the things that I do spark a desire to see something different or spark seeing something differently with the hope or





intent that the change manifest like you want to get involved or you see a way yourself based on seeing what I have done. I never really think of the things themselves as change sometimes it led to other people that are not the intended audience seeing that way and then being motivated (Williams 2019). The engagement tools of Tonika’s practice are critical to her vision. She describes these as her “folded map spaces� and underscores their transformative power to expand thinking to disrupt problematic spatial imaginaries. I was happy to be able to facilitate their mind and thinking expanding beyond where it currently is and that became for me my little folded map spaces (Lewis Johnson 2019). Empathy and realistic representation were core elements of how they wanted participants to see space differently.


findings & analysis

5.1 relationship between daily prac tice and creative practice 5.1.1 making spaces of possibility 5.1.2 making spaces of humanity 5.1.3 making spaces of belonging 5.2 spatial strategies 5.2.1 space as resistance 5.2.2 engaging the audience as a partner 5.2.3 space as people 5.2.4 space as process 5.2.5 staying grounded

Blk Girl Solider by Jamila Woods, 2016

5. findings & analysis


5.1 RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DAILY AND CREATIVE PRACtice This section analyzes my findings in section 4.1 on daily practice and 4.2 on creative practice by investigating the relationship between the two. It addresses my first research question of how do Black women space-makers’ negotiation with space in their daily practice relate to their creative process of space-making in their professional practice. It explores how their practice is informed by their negotiation and navigation within physical spaces despite the spatial dimensions of structural violence that oppress and marginalize them. While each of the space-makers cited direct or indirect experiences of structural violence, the relationship centers on re-creating feeling of home for others or seeing themselves represented in space and a deep commitment that everyone deserves to see themselves in space.

5.1.1 MAKING SPACES OF POSSIBILITY An example of making spaces of possibility is how Amanda Williams spoke about how her decision to choose Bridgeport as the location for her studio was explicitly informed by her experience of structural violence in Chicago. However, it is also an act of asserting agency and demonstrating the possibilities that that opens up for her and others. I purposefully chose Bridgeport because it was the only neighborhood we were not allowed to be in as children. There was a sense that the danger related to racism was

so ingrained that we shouldn’t even chance it. Don’t even drive through it. We’d rather drive around than to cut through Bridgeport. My parents didn’t say it as plainly as that they were just like no we don’t go there… So when I came back and I had a chance to get a studio there were a couple of options on the South side I’m finna be all up in Bridgeport. Things have already kind of transformed in a way but my mother even til the last few weeks that I had that studio she would like you’re not over there right now are you? It’s nighttime- are you over there at that studio? Call me as soon as you get home like just that muscle memory of like this isn’t a safe place (Williams 2019). She reflected on the stories about racial violence in Bridgeport that she heard growing up. From an early age, she recognized how spatial segregation was a particular spatial practice that excluded her family from the neighborhood. As an adult, she chose to respond to this form of oppression by selecting Bridgeport as the site for her studio. Ultimately, she is now able to assert creative agency as artist to choose the space for her creative practice. On the other hand, Amanda’s mother expresses what Dr. Mindy Fullilove calls “root shock.” Root shock is the traumatic stress reaction to the destruction of one’s emotional ecosystem, and Dr. Fullilove examines root shock through the story of urban renewal and its effect on the African American community. Amanda’s mother’s reaction exemplifies survivalist agency in which she urges Amanda to assert her agency by choosing another neighborhood.


White flight, the overrepresentation of racial-ethnic minorities among the poor and urban riots and the widely publicized high rates of auto theft and violent crime in national media throughout the 1980s and 1990s contributes to the routine depiction of Chicago as a dangerous city (Shabazz, 2015). Scholars who study cities like Chicago typically focus their investigations on failing inner city schools, unemployed Black men, or vacant properties. Tonika, however, encourages us to consider an alternative narrative. As I got older, I realized that my lived experience was actually a story that people didn’t know. As I interact with people and see the news, they’re trying to uplift this one type of lifestyle in Englewood (Lewis Johnson 2019). She experiences Chicago as a deep source of strength and safety. Englewood’s history of Black creatives is central to her positive affect toward the city. Acquiring personal knowledge about this legacy and the skills and confidence that she gained from being surrounded by those she identified with allows Tonika to feel a sense of belonging and to embrace the city as home. We felt in Englewood outside of doing a service for Chicago we were like you know we just reclaiming our narrative in the news, so we were able to interrupt the media space in which we felt we were being attacked (Lewis Johnson 2019).


An example of making spaces of humanity is how Tonika reflected on how the negative stories about Chicago that consumed national media in 2016 served as a catalyst for making a space that reflected their lived experience. But in 2016, with everything Trump said about Chicago we knew that code word for neighborhoods like Englewood oh you know Chiraq crime violence. We knew that they were talking about Englewood and neighborhoods like it. But the tripped out part was since it was during the presidential election it just took this national attention on Chicago. In Englewood in 2016 we felt like ok Chicago now you see how it feels when everyone in the country is saying this thing about Chicago and granted this is an issue but now that has become the narrative of Chicago like Chicago is just a big old Englewood. We felt like that was the time that we could really create some new allies with understanding the negative impact and damage of having a narrative like that not only be about a community but about a whole city (Lewis Johnson 2019). Tonika’s words boldly refute the dismal caricature commonly known as Chiraq that emerges in dominant urban planning discourse and popular media accounts about Chicago that focus squarely on Englewood’s violent crime and urban decay. National media attention on the city is typically confined to reports on high crime, persistent poverty and the dramas associated with gun violence. Her commentary reflects how these dominant media narratives are a form of structural violence that not only consume attention but also silence her community’s voice. Her work also builds new spaces as it breaks down boundaries. It breaks down silos between Englewood and Chicago; between the south and west sides; between artist and audience. Her practice began as responding to Trump but she

saw an opportunity to identify white allies who can empathize with having a narrative that erases their humanity evidenced in Trump’s rhetoric about Chicago. Myself and others who grew up like me just felt like our voice was silenced there’s just no representation of people who grew up in Englewood with lives like us like we don’t fear of getting shot. However our lives were constructed to make us not have that fear is just as necessary as the people who do. That narrative can’t be dominant because one that’s not truthful because it’s not a reflection of everybody (Lewis Johnson 2019).



An example of making spaces of belonging is how Rae and Nick spoke of those who had made space for themselves and a desire to continue that legacy and counter a lack of belonging that they experienced indirectly or directly. Remembering the houses of their childhood, Rae and Nick spoke of how their space-making was shaped by Black women who created a sense of belonging. I started to wonder for real where did people like me hang out? Like where did folks who wanted to have just a genuine good time on the dance floor hang out? And I started hanging out with older folks majority of my friends here are like I have a good amount of folks that are 10 15 years my senior and I started hanging out with them hanging with my art friends and I would dance and it felt good. Those people contributed my development as a space- maker yeah. They definitely did in a lot of ways. How they made space for me I think I learned a lot about how to make home how I feel like I could make anywhere feel like home when I need to. It’s hard sometimes but I feel like I could make anything feel super comfortable home sanctuary. There are just certain things that were given to me that I just feel like it definitely has informed how I give back to

other people and space-making (Chardonnay 2019).

So, I am not from Chicago I’m from New York originally. I am from a place in New York called Far Rockaway in Queens. I don’t know about New York or the geography of Queens but basically it’s like the further point that you could get from Manhattan that’s not in Long Island or like the suburbs so it’s a place that I feel like just geographically in New York kind of gets forgotten about. I think a lot of that has to do with like politics and the economy and stuff like that but in terms of my own upbringing I think that I kind of owe everything I know to the women that raised me (Alder 2019). Furthermore, Rae was inspired by others making space for her as an adult returning to Chicago. Making spaces that feel like home involves more than just being attentive to and providing care to individuals. It also requires building an enduring affective relationship to the experience of physical space. Similar to Nick, Maya’s work is grounded in deep empathy and seeks to create a home where no one feels forgotten. Maya also spoke about making spaces that she was searching for. I felt like I just traveling alone through this thing and a bunch of Black people dropped out there were more but they dropped out at the end and so watching them drop out was just so disheartening and I’m going through this experience in detail because this is why I have this non-profit. I mean like if I had gone to a school with support, I can’t say that I would have never come to this conclusion but like the need for the support the mentorship just having others around you (Bird-Murphy 2019). While Maya’s work addresses a lack of representations of minorities in the design field, it also connects to her desire to create a space of

findings & analysis

She elaborates on how her work directly disrupts the images and imaginaries of her neighborhood. She reclaims not only dominant representations of space through the media but how we understand a neighborhood that has perpetually been disinvested in and is measured by what it lacks.

belonging so that minorities feel empowered along the journey of becoming an architect.

5.2 SPATIAL STRATEGIES This section outlines their spatial strategies by providing project examples. It addresses my second research question of how do the spacemakers operationalize their spatial knowledge in their space-making. These strategies are how their vision for their creative practice is operationalized and executed. Their strategies reaffirm how they want the world to be as oppose to how it is currently is.


The term “space-taking” used by Tonika exemplifies this strategy and how it works to change how communities are viewed by those outside their communities. Tonika Lewis Johnson talked often about spatial politics and how Trump’s rhetoric around Chicago during his campaign exposed how segregation impacts all residents in the city and not just South side neighborhoods. Tonika shared how they use a language to reflect their claims to space and used the word, “space-taking.” Prior to [Folded Map] and kind of how I met Tracie Hall was another initiative that R.A.G.E and the community helped launch which kind of catapulted my photography to the larger public which was this virtual space that we created or space-taking as we called it called the Englewood Rising Billboard Project. That project was basically Englewood’s clap back response to everything that was said about Chicago in the presidential election year in 2016 so we were already fed up as a community about our neighborhood being talked about and bullying in the media (Lewis Johnson 2019). She pushes for an occupation of space that holds the values of her community. The term, “space-taking” calls for the occupation of more and more space in the name of the values that we proclaim and hold that space. Space-taking is not a protest meaning the temporary holding of space to declare a conversation but when it ends that space


This strategy is about resisting structural violence to affirm how communities view themselves and to change how communities are viewed by those outside their communities. Party Noire’s mission to center Black joy exemplifies this strategy and how it works to affirm how communities view themselves. Rae and Nick expressed how their concern for challenges facing Black and queer communities informs how they see their work as a resistance movement. They passionately shared their commitment to creating space that focuses on the purpose and function of joy, of creativity in everyday life, especially in the lives of Black and queer people, one that seeks to explore and celebrate the connection between the capacity to engage in critical resistance and ability to experience joy and beauty (hooks 2008). They imbue the segregated physical and social infrastructure of the city with meaning and instigate counter-hegemonic forms of space. They actively create geographies of resistance by mobilizing communities like those identifying as

Black queer millennials to mitigate the interlocking effects of Black heteropatriarchy and white economic hegemony. Our mission statement is a space that centers Black joy and we view that as a tool of resistance in the face of adversities for Black femmes Black women Black queer folk so trying to create spaces that allow us to experience joy keeping in mind some of the oppression and marginalized I guess identities that are placed on us (Alder, 2019).


This strategy is about creating partnerships and dismantling the hierarchy between the spacemaker and the audience. Many of the women expressed a desire to create work that shares with an audience and is intentionally created in partnership with an audience. It was clear that they seek to address the hierarchy between themselves as a creator and the audience. They stressed the importance of engaging the audience as a means of the empowerment and part of their commitment to creating responsive programming and creative work. We engage people that come to our parties really, I think we engage our immediate community the most (Chardonnay 2019). The other partners are the community viewers are moved by this and now want to get involved and my last group is other space-makers who come into the space and

are inspired by the space (Hall 2019). Isis’ use of the term “custodians of space” reflects a vested interest in the care, maintenance and flexibility of the space that differs from the traditional more transactional nature of institutions’ relationship with space like space owners or leasers. Someone who attends an event can become a person who produces an event... Sometimes we’re co-presenters we’re thought partners sometimes we’re financiers sometimes we’re a just a space we’re custodians of a space and people are using the space. It’s very situational (Ferguson 2019). Maya characterizes her program’s objective as “with” the participants rather lecturing at them or providing lessons for them. I mean that’s the whole point of my workshop is to like to analyze with the kids (Bird-Murphy 2019). She is intentional about her approach to engaging the participants so that she is empowering them.

5.2.3 SPACE AS PEOPLE This strategy is about making space to build community and affirm identity. Decisions about infrastructure shape more than just the physical city; those decisions profoundly shape how communities experience our city. Neighborhood space function as the physical and social scaffolding of identity. It is not that it enables us to identify a stable or even dominant set of social and cultural characteristics by which a particular neighborhood or group of Black women creative practitioners might be identified. Rather, community focuses interest on the processes that create a sense of stability from a contested city in which versions of place and notions of identity are supported by different

findings & analysis


becomes available again. This strategy asserts that if we reclaim spaces and build new space that hold the values that we proclaim then we can move toward the next step and build the next step toward systemic change and address the structural violence of erasure of their humanity in the media. Tonika repurposed resources to assert a new spatial imaginary by representing her neighborhood using photos that depicted the humanity and life of Englewood- the love, joy and happiness rather than the death of Englewood projected in the media. She also applies space-taking to experience of physical space. Her commentary is concerned with how we remember physical space. She introduces a notion of time into her practice in her discussion of having the Englewood Projection Party at the former site of a historic building to educate the community on the history of the building.

groups and individuals with varying powers to articulate their positions ranging from University of Chicago faculty to friend circles. They highlight the means by which senses of belonging develop from differing engagements with past and present, from neighborhood, city and national economy, from allwomen collectives and Black culture. Geographic boundaries become secondary to social boundaries. Their community is about creating a sense of space, rooted in the worldliness of locality and its everyday life. The part of the interview where a sense of community was most deeply explored is response to the question of where in the city do you feel most included and centered. The stories shared in response to these question center on explicitly spatial metaphors which link space with people, present with past. The stories build bridges between locality and community. Feelings of inclusion come from sharing space with a group. Tonika, Rae and Nick shared that their spaces of inclusion and centered are people.

I feel most centered in Party Noire. Am I lying? I mean besides with my folks I feel centered and safe when I’m with them and other people that are dear to me (Chardonnay 2019).

[I feel included and centered] here. Home. With my family. My art friends. They’re all the same. They’ve been my rock for all this time I ain’t changed. I have new spaces that I’m in as a result of my work being recognized but those aren’t spaces, I feel comfortable in… Because Chicago’s art scene. It’s a reflection of the city. It’s so segregated. Now as an adult. It’s primarily my art friends. And now mostly my art friends who are Black. Stuff changes when you get older like people don’t integrate as much you know. You have to do it with intention. You have to be very intentional which is hard to do in Chicago because there are so many barriers to accessing different spaces and so a lot of the spaces I end up feeling comfortable and healing in are spaces what Tracie [Hall] creates or my other friends but it’s still very socially siloed you’re going to see a lot of the same people… eventually they become your family (Lewis Johnson 2019).

Feelings of inclusion are from the presence of people and so these spaces of belonging are constructed out of their particular social relations. The space-makers who did not grow up in Chicago mentioned not knowing where to move to in the city when they first arrived and then having their communities help them navigate the city. Spaces of belonging can then be viewed as particular unique moments in networks of social relations and spatial understandings. Friendships are incredibly important especially in the city. I think now there are places that are a little bit hybrid like home like in someone’s domestic space but it’s also a public space like Tracie’s Rootwork Gallery is one of those. The Silver Room. And then in general truly going into people’s homes and it may be the doldrums of winter, but people literally have dinner parties to create community with each other and to stay connected and to stay tied. Those places bring me the most meaning (Ferguson 2019).

The places I feel safest in the city. Wherever you find Black people and people of color I think for me I really love the South side as well. Wherever there are Black people, people of color (Alder 2019). Tracie shared a similar sentiment that her feelings of inclusion and being centered are located in the city wherever there are Black people. I find my home in spaces that are owned by run by or lived in by people of color. Some of those are very transitory and I also find my homes in places where there are programs that reflect that thinking and that genius (Hall 2019).


5.2.4 SPACE AS PROCESS This strategy is about having the process be as important as the outcome in their work. They described how their process of space-making reflects their vision for the outcome of their work and so the process is a significant part of how they understand space. Amanda presents a new meaning for the term, “community development” that operates at the micro-scale and directly engages a diversity of people in her space-making process.

Like you saw tonight with the floor painting. The planning commissioner and the mayor’s wife and then our preschool babysitter so the range of the people like I value all those

people that were there tonight they all have some connection to me and play some role and one is not better than the other… It’s always participatory and it’s always a cross-section of people. It’s always this knitting circle where these people make these connections and that becomes just as successful toward change or as is other stuff not intentionally it’s just like now I know I have that capacity now if I don’t do that it’s almost a waste of an opportunity like I could have painted that floor in two hours by myself and the lines would have been exquisite. Now like lines are hot mess. They’re different. That guy went off in a direction that I told him not to that’s community development like that’s how it works it’s a great microcosm of like everybody sees the same thing totally different (Williams 2019). Isis offers a critique of traditional community development and discusses how her approach empowers the community members who she works with. [At Arts and Public Life] we’re not interested in community development that is around town hall style. ‘Like we’re going to have this meeting and tell you these things.’ But more small intimate intentional gatherings that in essence achieve the same things like information is shared people are updated people know each other more but we just choose different tools to do that… Townhall meetings in general. No one likes them. The people putting them on don’t like it and the attendees don’t like it. [Townhalls] set up adversarial relationships that like aren’t. it’s very like- it becomes accusatory like ‘we’re doing this’ ‘why didn’t we know about it before’ ‘like we’re talking about art’ ‘why aren’t you talking about jobs’ like it’s just a bad container. We do it in a different way where we can have an impact and people feel that this

findings & analysis


Maya also extends her description of space to include the people who she is associating with. I think those are the types of things that bring me comfort so location but also who I am associating myself with, I guess. (Bird- Murphy 2019) When discussing finding home, they experience spatial conditions and at times most isolating effects of urban planning and development differentially and unequally. This indicated a clear need for an explicit application of informed strategic spatial practice derived from an analysis of spatial configuration, concepts and ideologies of home when it has different meanings for different communities. This research serves as one example of such an analysis of spatiality that anchors on making space feel like home which ultimately can make cities feel like communities. The interviews reveal not only how they found these spaces but how they felt compelled to make it for others when they found these spaces.

Tracie urges the art world to re-engage with process of artmaking. Even the way that you treat people how you go in and talk to people. The ways in which

you have this expectation of how people engage with each other or engage with ideas (Hall 2019). The art world and culture making stewardship and administration has nothing to do- I think that a lot of the stewardship of arts administration, arts and culture and scholarship has nothing to do with the making of it and actually puts it down… Some of my peers are like how can you have Rootwork and still work full time and I’m like are you kidding me? How can I have an artistic practice and be an arts administrator. Why are those two things disconnected? (Hall 2019). For Tracie, it is not enough to present representations of space. People must understand these spaces as a process that demands intentionality and responsiveness to a community.


Staying grounded is about having their work be responsive to the needs of their target audience and relevant to their lived experience. Tracie is interested in programming that is of the people. While they do not discount the role of 17th century art and its success, she focuses on creating new imaginaries that center folk art- to be of the people and meeting people where they are. For Maya, the making movement such as digital fabrication is more than a hobby but also a pathway to a career. She distinguishes between making as a luxury and as capacity building. I understand that as a grant-maker we sometimes give money to organizations that are created to tell someone what they should like. You know the reason you should come see this ballet is because it’s from the


place has like a personality that people remember we have individual values. Like we try to have a mix of big and small [programs] so that people can build (Ferguson 2019). Her approach is centered on not only meeting people where they are but meeting people at the level of values. It is from this point of departure that she is able to give people the tools that they need to build with. Information sharing is about building capacity instead of directing. She recognizes that the process by which information is shared is just as important as the information. The intimate setting allows people to see the humanity of the institution that she is representing as much as they are able to see the humanity of the community members. They offer a diversity of programming that reflects the diversity of the interests and lived experiences of the community members because it impacts how people listen to and communicate ideas. She finds that the messaging of the problem is an opportunity to make a community feel like they can be a part of the solution. Jackie’s practice subverts dominant representations of space across a time horizon. Her work asks how do we remember the past as a means of understandings of the possibility of the future. Jackie’s archival practices—especially in how it transcends the strictures of traditional archival practice, as well as narrow, linear understandings and cataloguing of time and space—comprise an important element of spatial agency that is foundational to her practice. Hopefully get people to feel a different sense of agency… to build our capacity to hear other people’s points of view about something and to listen to each other seems hugely valuable… We have to learn how to good listener and also have to be able to hear ourselves (Stewart 2019).

the kinds of voices that exist in Englewood haven’t had equal share (Lewis Johnson 2019). This strategy calls for an inclusiveness that does not sacrifice particularity. It is the recognition that universal freedom is an ideal best represented not by those who have privilege within racial, gender and class hierarchies but instead by those who lives are most defined by conditions of injustice and by ongoing struggles to extricate themselves from those conditions (Cullors 2018). This recognition and an intentional responsiveness to the communities that they work with are at the core of this strategy. The rigorous, syncretic and dialogic strategies of Black feminist space-making have much to offer. They possess creative possibilities for remapping time and space, for renegotiating the links between the past and present as well as locality and the community. Their strategies distinguish between people and property, independence and interdependence, and selfidentification and social processes of identification. It presents a more complex understanding of time, a more accurate delineation of the relationship linking past and present. The healing and liberating aspects of their strategies in particular result from a deep commitment to more dignified, democratic and decent social relations. It encourages us to see how “things are” is at least in part a consequence of how they came to be but also indeterminate. What I have tried to demonstrate in these data and analysis chapters is that Black women are often different but not because of their skin color. I believe that we know little about people from their race and gender. The existence of Black feminist space-making does not tell us anything about what any or all Black women think believe or perceive. But because the space they have been forced to inhabit produces a distinctive spatial knowledge and sensibility because people of different backgrounds inhabit different places. Black feminist spacemaking contains important evidence about how we are actually governed in cities and we experience the plans of cities’ departments of planning. I focus

findings & analysis


17th century or this story but it doesn’t have any kind of every day relevance to anybody anymore nobody is from the 17th century… we’re told we should like and of course there are some people who once they master it or have seen it. It evokes something in them but it was a folk art that is no longer folk art because it’s no longer of the people and folk is of the people and now it has kind of gone on. We are told it was important and so people love it and I think ballet is wonderful but the other thing that I’m interested in as well is how do we support folks who are doing the kind of work that recognizes everyday genius and everyday knowledge that supports people right where they are in that moment (Hall 2019). My definition of making is stuff that you can use or stuff that can get you somewhere like if you’re doing a course in the truck you’re going to come away with a skill or an object that you can actually use that is helpful for your life (Bird-Murphy 2019). Tonika defines inclusive space as celebrating diversity of people and the specificities of particular group. The practice that I want to continue to evolve to be inclusive to make sure spaces are created where people get to interact with different lived experiences but then also create spaces for a specific lived experience. All of those things are options and possibilities for me (Lewis Johnson 2019). She elaborates on the importance of recognizing the diversity within groups who have a shared lived experience. It is not enough to have Englewood at the table when community members have differing experiences and access to resources. Home influences my work and I just feel like my community still needs a voice and I know the rest of the city is tired of hearing of Englewood, but I don’t care because all of

here less on what has been done to Black women by others, or on how they have suffered as a result. Instead, these findings and analysis reveal what is possible to learn from this space-making practice that has been forged out of struggles with racialized and gendered spaces. The ideas and artistry in the creative practice of these space-makers emerge from and speak to collective struggles about spatial production and embedded power. The work of Black women space-makers can be read as part of the diagnosis and the solutions for the pathologies of white spatial imaginaries and structural violence imposed by urban planning. My next chapter on my discussion and next steps details these lessons learned and next steps for applying these aforementioned strategies.


discussion & next steps

6.1 discussion 6.1.1 embodied space 6.1.2 spatial agency 6.1.3 making the poetics legitimate and legible 6.2 next steps for planners 6.2.1 planning experience spaces for transformation 6.2.2 planning perception spaces for transformation 6.2.3 planning imagination spaces for transformation 6.2.4 call to action

Chicago Mobile Makers by Maya Bird-Murphy, 2019


6. discussion & next steps 6.1 discussion The story of these seven Black women space-makers is a story of resistance, adaptation, innovation and agency — the creation of alternative spatial imaginaries and practices to mitigate the harms of dominant spatial practices. As a strategy, space-making is itself is an old tradition in Black communities, which have scarcely been able to rely on urban planning institutions to protect their interests (Woods 2017). The systemic structural violence facing Black women — especially in the surveillance and control of urban spaces— are emblematic of that lack of protection. The necessity of turning inward — for leadership development, mutual reliability and community care, produced a legacy of space-making which these women are borne out of and building upon. They transformed spaces often abandoned by urban planning entities to create new possibilities and to change how people view themselves through design with the intention of resisting and celebrating Black women and those of other similarly situated communities in Chicago. Further, Black women space-makers deserve greater attention not only because of circumstances which informed their creative practice but also because they comprise an institutional practice which is certainly not new, but nonetheless offers a valuable and value laden perspective on the alternative possibilities of urban planning practices and the various spatial knowledges that can produce them. I began this project to understand how Black feminist space-making is imagined, built and maintained specifically how Black women creative practitioners’ work is informed by daily practice. My findings in Chicago nuance the dialectic between structure and agency and explore what they imagine despite structural violence rather in direct response to. Sometimes, their spatial knowledge is inherited from daily practices of women before their time but share elements of their mothers’ and grandmothers’ struggle and strength. Instead I

find, in accordance with extant literature on critical geography and Black feminism, that Black women create new geographies that reflect themselves thus create new possibilities for everyone to engage. They’re interested in creating human experiences as oppose to typical planners who are striving to meet the goals that are based in logic, objectivity, rationality and other elements that define dominant spatial understandings. Their practice is rigorous, responsive and intentional in how they accommodate and manage conflict between multiple audiences thus multiple truths. As they often discussed, the audience must see differently to see their work and consequently to see these women as a legitimate space-makers. The particular histories of Black women creative practitioners in Chicago and their positioning within persistent but unfixed social hierarchies make focused analyses on specific groups an important research practice. While such a focus narrows the scope of my findings to a particular regional demographic of selecting a major Midwestern city, I argue that a nuanced analysis of how those who beyond expressing survivalist agency express creative agency in Chicago creates a more solid foundation for deeper comparative analysis of Black women space-makers and other spatial imaginaries across various cities. While learning about the spatial practices and processes of these women to counter structural violence, I was so struck by the fullness and depth of their work. I found that within dominant form of the rhetoric of planning there wasn’t a language to fully engage in the complexity of their work. This exposed just how far the field of urban planning is from centering and valuing these women and their work and rendering them as the complex creatives that they are. As a result, I had to ask more questions of the reader and the planning discipline to develop my discussion section and critically engage in these space-makers’ work. This section addresses my third research question of how can this spatial knowledge and creative practice inform and generate new spatial imaginaries and practices that challenge dominant approaches to planning and development.

6.1.1 embodied space I begin this section by asking what would your city be like if you felt that your city as a space, as a community, included and centered Black women?

6.1.2 spatial agency

I begin this section by asking what if when we dwell in the imaginative space, our space gave us all the resources we need to manifest our collective vision? Urban planning scholarship often details the multiple overlapping structural violence facing racialized neighborhoods like the South and West sides of Chicago such as lack of public safety prompting frequent inquiries that victimize and pathologize Black women (Taylor 2014). Beyond the complex racialized dynamics of Black spatial mobility and its limitations by white segregation regardless of class (Lipsitz 2011; Massey & Denton 1993), such inquiries often interpret Black women as “welfare queens” or “victims of gun violence” or “displaced from impending development.” This language depicts Black women as passive actors without agency to exercise and assert specifically within their built environment (Mills 2014). Such presumptions also ignore the functioning of creative agency that allow Black women to imagine, problem solve, design and intervene as a necessity of creating. The erasure of the rich histories of Black women space-makers and of the processes by which Black women make space, even as they resist the compression of space, reinforces the implication not only that the practice is not worth examining but also that their burdens like spatial disparities are of their own making. The reality is that cities like Chicago, which date back as far as the post-industrial era, remain


The space-makers who I interviewed began to question space at an early age. When asked where do they feel the most included and centered, most struggled to answer. If you can’t feel centered while navigating a city that is not planned for you and where a legacy of structural violence is embedded in the built environment, how and where do you exist? How do you survive? Where does your life have meaning? Their negotiation of space is often articulated affectively through discourses of care, belonging, affect, and relationality rather than through elements of dominant spatial understandings. This research reveals how Black women critically read contemporary space, including the built text of a city like Chicago, and how it affects their sociocultural practices and identities, thus, revealing the critical knowledge bases that they use to navigate the social networks and spatial politics in their lives. Feelings of inclusion are constructed out of their particular social relations. Spaces of inclusion were then viewed as particular moments in social networks. I bring attention to how Black women’s sense of inclusion transpire in ways that transgress and transcend the abstractions and assumptions of dominant spatial understandings. Black feminist space-making then can be conceived not primarily in terms of structural domination but in terms of the area between structure and agency. Given that Black feminist space-making is informed by where Black women feel included and centered, this research suggests that Black feminist space-making cannot be located and framed in terms of one specific place but instead exists in myriad places and times, constantly crossing the disciplinary boundaries, that I describe as embodied space.

Embodied space is about more than the social relations of space. It’s about creating space for our entire selves to show up in. This means that all parts of your identity are welcomed, affirmed, celebrated and embraced. It’s the space you can’t just describe but instead feel it. All that the space asks of you is to be present. It feels like home. It’s a space of limitless possibility but boundaries so that everyone feels safe.

6.1.3 making the poetics legible and legitimate

I begin this section by asking if these women are credible planners, how can their work be amplified, and can they be incorporated into the dominant planning culture as equal and valued practitioners and contributors to the planning field? This research at its core is a legibility and legitimacy project in urban planning within a broader socio-political and historical context. It is

to write the history of Black feminist space-makers into the history of urban planning and theory. It is to make the practice of Black feminist spacemaking legible using the rhetoric of planning while introducing the poetics of planning. It is to make these space-makers legitimate practitioners in the field of urban planning while challenging the dominant planning practice. All knowledge that emerges and circulates within institutions like a university, planning departments or museum is contingent on and produced within histories that seem to rest outside its walls. This has too often resulted in the lack of recognition of the cultures and contributions outsides its walls. Furthermore, these particular institutions are the central structures through which meanings are produced as a perpetual, unequal encounter between dominant and subjugated spatial histories, knowledges, languages, subjectivities and agencies. This is where signification is frequently expressed as an enunciation of dominant terms and values. Within this field in which power is embedded in the built environment, there is no single strategy, text or position that can ever fully transcend the implications of these histories of spatial domination. These women’s stories illuminate how to recognize and support the people actively creating culture and contributing planning now. They raise questions of and engagements with who is speaking, who is referenced and who is listening. It is critical to frame these cultures and communities as legible and legitimate contributors and practitioners not only when contextualized within multiple hierarchies and social relations in which they are embedded but as legible and legitimate in of themselves (Peake and Rieker 2013). Many of them shared how their desire for recognition among the dominant society at some points in their career meant compromising themselves or making their truth insignificant. This section outlines how their work can be advanced without dulling their passion and authenticity to inform how institutions can empower the cultures and communities that exist outside their walls. The following is their responses when I asked them what can take their work to the next level.

discussion & next steps


entrenched within persistent power relations with dominant urban planning structures, manifested primarily through enforced spatial control and surveillance. However, the existence of Black women space-making is also a manifestation of the dreams of Black liberation, agency, and creative production — these women create spaces where, like themselves who beyond expressing survivalist agency express creative agency, people could do more than simply survive but instead create new possibilities, represent their truth and dream of other worlds. Thus, the legacy of Black feminist space-making in Chicago and other cities is just as much about preserving agency, history, and culture, and protecting the quality of life for the future as it is about building a new Chicago that is rooted in what I describe as spatial agency. I define spatial agency as enabling the spatial expertise, knowledge and confidence of people to act on behalf of their own interests. Spatial agency educates as much as it helps build capacity for latent genius to thrive in their own neighborhood. This type of agency would even abandon the formulation “subject” for “agency.” Black feminist space-making asserts spatial agency as it crosses disciplinary boundaries, journeys across time, migrates as people migrate and thus re-claims as it re-asserts. Spatial agency is about the belief that there is genius in the communities that you work with and when this genius meets opportunity, there are limitless possibilities for the future.

them and appointing them to legitimacy and at the same time not of those spaces and very few people actually believe that genius is created in those places (Hall 2019).” This research asks a question informed by the words of Tracie, “People aren’t interested in culture when it’s actually being produced (Hall 2019).” This question is how are you meaningful engaged with your work when it’s actually being produced? And how does this inform who is deemed a legible and legitimate contributor, practitioner and expert?

6.2 next steps for planners Planners can learn from these practices to create experiential spaces, representations of spaces and representational spaces that are embodied, build spatial agency and make the poetics legitimate and legible. Since Black feminist space-making exists outside and within planning, each section is divided into two parts: allyship and poetic tools. The first part on allyship outlines the work that planners are not positioned to do themselves unless they’ve done internal work to understand how they’ve been complicit in the violent implications of the dominant spatial logics and ideologies that Black feminist space-making work seeks to challenge and counter and how they personally can change. This work can be done as an ally of Black feminist space-makers and the communities that they work with. Allyship refers to the process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with them. Recognition of the unique and distinct capabilities of institutions and communities is critical to applying lessons learned from Black feminist space-making. This is not to place limitations on the work of planners and communities but instead to expand our understanding of who is deemed an expert in the planning and development. Planning tools have the potential to reinforce a hierarchy of knowledge in which they bring technical expertise to communities


Jackie shared that there is an opportunity to create a mobile app to supplement her work that would have be able to travel time and cross the city to produce new possibilities and tell new stories that start and end with the assets of a community and their humanity. Tonika shared that there is an opportunity to feature her work in the media and in gallery exhibition. She believes that doing the work and speaking about how your work connects to what you’re doing and using your own lived experience to create work will allow people to do work that is relevant and authentic and ultimately not appropriate. Maya shared that there is an opportunity to fund a truck that knows no boundaries along racial, class and gendered lines and a makers hub space where she could run multiple workshops at a time. She believes that support of all forms ultimately will always sustain her non-profit. Rae and Nick shared that there is an opportunity to fund a permanent venue space in the West side and continue making their events as accessible spatially and financially as possible. Amanda shared that there is an opportunity to provide continued support and trust in her risktaking so that she can have the courage to try new things. Isis shared that there is an opportunity to create strategic planning and relationship-building that is not project-based as well as identify their allies and other players in their field. She wants to see a focus on establishing front line staff who are focused on frontline work so that senior staff can focus on thought leadership and establish missing connections to the communities that they work in. Tracie shared there is an opportunity to fund a gallery manager and create a board to exchange show ideas with. In general, she expressed having galleries feature work that is in touch with every day people meaning everyday genius because actual and real culture is made in the people and of the people. She finds that gallery space has become academic and removed from the people. She shares how arts administrators who are voicing cultures and communities outside of its walls “to the world in a world that is circumscribing

6.2.1 PLANNING EXPERIENCE SPACE FOR TRANSFORMATION Allyship. Black feminist space-making asserts that we all have the right to flourish in physical spaces within our own neighborhoods. But what does that feel like? It means reclaiming physical space by creating a sense of ownership in that space. Examples of being an ally include working with communities like Party Noire to develop a financing plan that is more flexible so that they could own a permanent physical space for their programming which they do best. The city can spotlight

temporary spaces like events hosted by R.A.G.E., Party Noire and Rootwork in which the organizers write the narrative so that they not only change the narrative but also change the narrator. Poetic Tools. Planners can transform their communication tool of townhall meetings so that the gatherings reflect the best versions of the communities that they’re working with. They can create embodied spaces by making them intentional, intimidate and responsive to the lived experience of community members. They can start the planning process by keeping in mind the question that the space-makers’ work reflected: what could people have created by now if they had had a space to connect, build, thrive and see the best versions of themselves represented. The answer is that people would create new ways of knowing and become teachers; new ways of dreaming and become artists; new ways of healing and become doctors; new ways of building and become business owners; new ways of liberating and become advocates; new ways of planning and become urban planners or create a career at the intersections of these disciplines. These people make up of the fabric of the city and with this fabric, planners can stitch together a city that works for everyone through planning and design. Planners have the power to plan and design these types of physical spaces which are rooted in the learnings of the space-makers at the block level, neighborhood level and city level. It begins by believing that these communities already have the knowledge and capacity to create and that they are deserving of a space that provides them with resources that they need to thrive. 6.2.2 PLANNING PERCEPTION SPACE FOR TRANSFORMATION

Allyship. Black feminist space-making proclaims that representations of space can inspire as much as they educate. They reveal how maps and other representations of space that planners create have the power to perpetuate fear-based and deficitbased narratives. Fear-based narratives can refer

discussion & next steps


without respecting local expertise. This section on being an ally aims to provide a framework for planners to respect local knowledge and spatial capacity of communities. The second part on poetic tools outlines how planners can transform their existing tools and introduce new tools using the lessons learned from Black feminist space-making practice. Having a theory and practice of change that addresses structural change is critical to applying the lessons learned from Black feminist space-making. This is about interrogating the theory of change of planning efforts and questioning the positionality of planners. In many instances, the work of the space-makers highlighted gaps in institutional support and investment. Filling these gaps requires not only public investment but a shift in the power structure that created the legacy of disinvestment or what Jackie Stewart calls “decolonizing the practice.” This involves increasing power or getting a seat at the table for the actors who historically and currently are not at the table when planning decisions are being made; changing the interest and motives or preferences of those who have a seat at the table to use their seat differently; and changing the make-up of actors in planning process to generate structural change. The following outlines how planners can apply learnings from this practice to create spaces for transformation.

Poetics Tools. Planners can use existing tools like planning documents and maps to reflect the values of institutions like the city’s museums and art institutions while also reflecting the history that produced the cultural assets we see today in racialized communities. City-wide cultural plans in particular can serve as a microscope for all residents to see the world up close as well as serve as a mirror to reflect and amplify local histories. Planners can challenge many fear-based narratives about racialized neighborhoods and showcase the many cultures that exist inside and outside these neighborhoods through coordinated exhibits and events. Planners shouldn’t only create maps that depict concentrated poverty or crime because they influence the way that people grow to understand their own identity. These neighborhoods can be depicted as spaces of genius, creativity, vitality and history.

6.2.3 PLANNING IMAGINATION SPACE for transformation Allyship. Black feminist space-making can inform not only experiential space and how we represent it but also the stories we tell about a space’s past and its future. Imaging the future shouldn’t solely showcase homogenous imaginary of advanced technology like autonomous vehicles (AVs) and artificial intelligence. Planners can elevate and build upon the culture that is being produced and practiced every day. For example, planners can show Tonika’s Everyday Rituals as part of the future scenarios planning for Englewood because these are the traditions of community that have persisted and will continue to sustain these communities throughout time. The Afrofuturism that Jamila Woods depicts in her music video “Giovanni” contributes to the planning of the future by showing how racialized communities are technology, innovative and the future as much as AVs and the audience that the AV manufacturers market to. Planners can be an ally of these women by showing their imagery as what it looks like to build a Chicago of the future.

GIOVANNI by Jamila Woods, 2018.

Poetic Tools. Planners can use existing tools like future scenario planning to think about who and what normally is at the margins in this conversation and center them. For example, the future is often synonymous with more advanced technology.


to 1) those who are living in fear like fear of gentrification, police or an economic recession and 2) those who cause fear like gang members or criminals. Fear-based story telling reinforces the idea that fear is the axis of how everyone in racialized communities lives every moment of their lives. Every day planning departments tell stories about neighborhoods through their work. Planners have an opportunity to facilitate the production of stories that captures how people in racialized communities live on an axis of joy as oppose to an axis of fear. It is not about further dividing an already segregated city nor about ignoring fear and its root cause. It is about having a deep and critical understanding of experience, history and culture of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. Planners can be allies of Tonika and Maya by having them host youth-driven planning workshops. Tonika’s Folded Map project allows participants to develop representations of space and so planners can learn about alternative forms of maps from the youth of Chicago. Maya’s Chicago Mobile Makers guides youth to design and build solutions to challenge in their neighborhood and so planners can learn solutions from the participants.


Black feminist space-making means being called to be your best self through space. This work is not just for Black women or Black communities. This work is about and for humanity. If we limit ourselves to seeing Black feminist space-making only as for Black women, then we miss a major understanding of the very specific critique of supremacies that many of these space-makers are offering. Today’s cities reflect a systemic refusal to recognize the genius and creativity of communities that have historically experienced disinvestment. Their work reveals to us the power of negotiating our identity in new ways. Spaces can be shrines of possibilities. In cities built on exclusion, new blueprints can be envisioned, and Black feminist space-making, in conjunction with those with the lived experience of their neighborhood, can interrupt the continuum of a relentless white spatial imaginary that builds its cities by undermining the lives of those who lack privilege in dominant spatial production theories. Embracing and respecting the contributions of Black feminist space-making

can point us toward the spatializing of agency and restructuring the places that we live. The role that these women currently occupy in thinking through the contemporary as well as redefining and reshaping imaginaries for different futures, makes gender and race a strategic site of engagement through which to engage in antihegemonic geographical imaginaries of the urban. I suggest that a racialized and gendered interrogation of cities can provide an important re-engagement with the planning and development of cities along new parameters (Peake and Rieker 2013). If we root our understanding of resistance in Black women’s space-making in cities, then our understanding of spatial politics becomes much more complex. Observing the ways that the space-makers can challenge these environments offers a more nuanced reading of space that the space-makers navigate and re-create in their work. Questions of power and space, language and authority and locationality are also addressed. The questions that their stories raise lead to rejecting some of the urban planning category maintenance which generic constraints demand. It means challenging social conditions and processes and giving value to existences that are often rendered silent or invisible in current patterns of social ordering. Black feminist space-making moves to redefine our geography, to re-create and remove the linens of impossibility in which we exist. In the process, one must recognize power and dominance and the ways in which sometimes urban planning work can assume colonizing postures and invasiveness in relation to the materials with which one works. In re-examining the planning landscape, it is necessary to foreground whether one’s work is consciously or unconsciously seeking or perpetuating reconnection, invasion, exploitation or appropriation. While my research talks about a particular city and its particular history, my work has opened up the possibilities for all cities by moving these women from the margin to the center. If we begin here, stories of residents of cities can speak to us differently – allowing us to cautiously reexamine the importance of social positions within

discussion & next steps

Spatial technology is not something that technology entrepreneurs bring into community to make “smart cities” because genius already exists within communities. The belief that there is genius in racialized communities motivates Maya to enter communities and facilitate workshop for students to build something they’ve never seen before. Another example is centering minority youth in this conversation of the future. It is this belief in the genius of minority youth that can lead to very different way of thinking about investment. It builds on what’s already in communities. It’s a different way of appreciating assets and who has a stake in the future. It’s important that planners see existing community members as having the answers. This becomes clear when there is a belief that these racialized communities are going to be there in the future and that they will inherit the city of Chicago.


dominant spatial production – as effective praxis that can help to advance whatever struggle you are committed to. In the many roles we often occupy at once – as activists and academics in the design and planning of cities, as residents of a particular place, or as professionals of a particular field – negotiating the space between structure and agency is never actually a choice. We are all always already implicated by the structures that inform our relational positions. This work can inform an emancipatory planning process that uses generative thinking, art and creative tools to ask Chicago to imagine a city that loves everyone through how it demonstrates love of Black women. This practice rejects the sterile walls of the gallery, the blank page of a planning document or tabula rasa of new imaginaries to ground the work in a different spatial imaginary in analytic and poetic ways. Black feminist space-making speaks to the past, present and into the future that can be translated into using layering techniques of image and audio. Planners can use this creativity and planning work to move forward collective thinking that brings us into a conversation about the spatialization of agency. Black feminist space-making is a love letter to cities about keeping the vision of a world that we all deserve and boldly asserting the hope to get us there.

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