Ending White Supremacy Culture: A Resource for Cultivating Abundance Mindset

Living Cities has learned that to do racial equity work with authenticity, we have to embrace a new way of working. It has to start with us, at the level of individual staff and project teams. As we set about creating a new network to advance anti-racist practices in local government, we are seeking to intentionally defy the norms set by white supremacy culture through our process. We wrote about this process here. Through this post and a series of related resources, we are sharing the ways we are practicing antidotes to white supremacy culture so that we can continue to learn as we support your capacity to also design work in defiance of white supremacy culture.

The inequitable systems that we live under were designed by people, so it must be through the day-to-day choices and behaviors of people within the systems to change them. For us at Living Cities, this means practicing our anti-racist values. One of these values is working with an abundance mindset and an openness to possibilities. In the first co-design session we hosted with partners who are contributing to the design of the Closing the Gaps Network, we went through a collective process of imagining how resources could be redistributed in the future, and what work we would have to do to be equipped to influence the redistribution strategies. We hope this resource will allow readers to adapt our agenda to enhance your own ability to imagine abundant possibilities, particularly as you design new work or evolve existing work that seeks to close racial gaps in income and wealth.

AGENDA:

Purpose: The purpose of this exercise is to support an abundance mindset for thinking about our work by starting with the future we desire and building the roadmap to get there.

Grounding the Conversation: Prior to this imagination workshop, it is important to ground your meeting with a check-in that prepares the group to reflect on their personal and collective histories. We recommend you do this as an exercise for all such conversations. Check out this resource with the check-in we used to ground this exercise.

Start by breaking people into groups of 3-5.

Start with the Future: Invite the participants to imagine that it is 2030. The philanthropic community has decided to pool their $1 trillion of resources to give reparations to Black people in America. Your organization has been invited to join a Reparations Council that will decide how to disburse reparations.

Each group is being asked to write a pitch as part of the process to join the Reparations Council. In your pitch, tell the story of what you’ve done over the past 10 years (2020-2030) to make you eligible to create a reparations plan, as well as the story of what you want to do going forward.
[15 min] Groups develop their pitch
[3 min each] Groups make their pitch to each other about what they have done between 2020-2030 to make them eligible to join a Reparations Council.

What Had Happened Was…: Once pitches have been made, participants come together as a larger group, assuming they are the people who make up the Reparations Council.
[~20 min] Group discussion: Now we’re a council responsible for co-designing a reparations plan. Tell the story of how we learn to leverage our individual and collective power to make the following visions a reality by 2040:

  • A reparations plan is implemented
  • Our council is considered legendary
  • Our council has led to the normalization of deep partnership between communities of color and public sector
  • Our council has created leadership opportunities for community members to be active in government decision-making roles
  • Our council has sparked regional collaborations that are beginning to disburse reparations locally

Some questions to consider in the creation of this plan include:

  • How should we create norms in this council to prepare us for the next 10 years?
  • What activities should we do to prepare us for the next 10 years?
  • In 2040 once our plan is executed, how will America feel? What will we do with our powers then?

Dreams Become Reality: After you go through this activity together, give people space to process how it applies to their work today. If you knew a Reparations Council would exist in 2030 and you were preparing yourself for having the power to radically redistribute resources, would you change the way you’re working today? How might this exercise inform the ways you can make those changes and lean into the possibilities?

This resource is a template that you can adapt to your organizational needs. We hope that it helps you build your practice of defying white supremacy culture. If it does, or if you want to learn more about anything we’re sharing, let us know by emailing racialequity@livingcities.org.

Image by Favianna Rodriguez, from Just Seeds

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Fighting Coronavirus With a Very Canadian Resource: Ice Rinks

For now, Canada has far fewer coronavirus cases than most major countries, most notably its neighbor to the south. But that hasn’t stopped experts in building design, manufacturing and construction from working on a Plan B just in case, and it’s a very Canadian solution: Replace freezing indoor temperatures, ice skates and hockey sticks with hospital beds, vinyl flooring and sanitizing stations.

Kenny Smith, managing principal of engineering firm Integral Group, assembled a group of industry experts to create a plan to repurpose existing medium-sized ice arenas for health-care needs.  Across Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, there are about 97 municipally owned indoor rinks, according to the cities’ website listings. Based on the design, each rink would have the capacity to accommodate about 90 to 100 beds and could be converted in phases within one to two weeks if and when health-care response teams require them.

The move would follow similarly creative repurposing in countries that have faced on onslaught of Covid-19 patients. France, for example, converted a high-speed train into a mobile hospital. Some U.S. states have set up dozens of modular treatment units in parking lots and turned recreational vehicles into temporary housing. Singapore and Dubai have taken a more lavish approach and are keeping quarantine patients in 5-star hotels.

So far in Canada, hospitals across the country have already freed up beds by postponing non-emergency surgeries. As a result, some provinces have more open beds than they did pre-pandemic. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, had more than 1,900 critical care beds available as of April 29, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health. The average hospital occupancy rate was 75% in Ontario, compared with 96.2% before Covid-19 measures. That’s because a predicted surge didn’t materialize after Canada imposed a nationwide lockdown. As of May 3, Canada had 59,474 confirmed cases and 3,682 deaths. Positive cases rose 27% from the previous week, compared with 35% the week before.

A Zamboni entrance becomes an ambulance drop off in the plan to repurpose Canada’s ice rinks. (Courtesy of Kenny Smith)

After settling into the “new normal” of working from home, Integral’s Smith started thinking about how his industry could make a difference to fight the virus. He said he received an overwhelmingly positive response after posting a message on LinkedIn asking for proactive ways to ease the strains on Canada’s health-care system by repurposing existing buildings.

“Everyone wanted to help,” said Smith, whose wife is a nurse. “A lot of people were simply looking for an applicable platform that they could lend their help to. These were individual responses that represented companies. That’s a very important distinction. This was not a response by a set of companies.”

The group decided ice rinks was the best option — not only from a Canadian-identity perspective, but also as a cost-effective and locally abundant building prototype. They also wanted to give governments and health-care providers flexible options based on their needs, instead of larger facilities with thousands of beds like the ones built in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated.

Smith says his group’s proposal is also flexible enough for other countries to replicate and apply to other types of buildings. Health Infrastructure in New South Wales, Australia, is examining the plan, he said.

A possible design for hospital beds on top of an ice rink. (Courtesy of Kenny Smith)

For Canada, ice rinks make the most sense given how the arenas are typically structured, Smith said. Most rinks have five consistent doorways: the main entrance, Zamboni entrance, mechanical room entrance and two fire exits. These would be used to create safe circulation for patients, health-care professionals and supplies. The main ice rink area would be used as the patient treatment facility, after the floor is covered with a rolled vinyl material and welded seams overlaid with plywood substrate. This protects the floors from puncturing the cooling coils on the rink surface and also ensures cleaning and infection control procedures can be observed. A rink would hold 90 to 100 beds within pre-fabricated modular pods. Each pod will have three hard partitions, a ceiling and a curtained entryway.

The design also includes specific areas to address Covid-19 requirements — hand-washing and sanitizing stations, phone and video booths for clinical staff use, visiting areas from behind a glass and multiple nursing stations.

The group is continuing to talk with the Canadian government and emergency response units at some Canadian hospitals, but Smith is hoping for the best-case scenario: never having to put the plan into action.

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Ending White Supremacy Culture: A Resource for Reckoning with History

Living Cities has learned that to do racial equity work with authenticity, we have to embrace a new way of working. It has to start with us, at the level of individual staff and project teams. As we set about creating a new network to advance anti-racist practices in local government, we are seeking to intentionally defy the norms set by white supremacy culture through our process. We wrote about this process here. Through this post and a series of resources that will follow, we will share the ways we are practicing antidotes to white supremacy culture so that we can continue to learn as we support our readers’ capacity to also design their work in defiance of white supremacy culture.

The inequitable systems that we live under were designed by people, so it must be through the day-to-day choices and behaviors of people within the systems to change them. For us at Living Cities, this means practicing our anti-racist values. Two of these values are reckoning with history and honoring the labor that got us here. In the first co-design session we hosted with partners who are contributing to the design of the Closing the Gaps Network, we went through a collective process of reckoning with our individual and organizational histories in the context of how racial wealth gaps came to be, and how people have been fighting for justice since day one. We hope this resource will allow readers to adapt our tools and agenda to reckon with your own histories in the journey toward racial equity.

And, we are grateful to the Global Action Project, who led us through a training on movement history timelines, which sparked a lot of the ideas we had in engaging people in history and supporting people to see themselves in history.

TOOLS:

RACIAL WEALTH GAP TIMELINE

ORGANIZING FOR RACIAL JUSTICE TIMELINE

Prior to our session, we printed both of these timelines as 9’ posters. For a virtual meeting, you can simply send the links above to everybody in your group.

AGENDA:

Start with a check-in that grounds people in art, culture, and creativity. We used the art and question below, but our check-in resource has more options for you to consider. (You can also come up with your own!)

[5 min] Look at Julie Mehretu’s artwork, Stadia II, and Conjured Parts (eye)
Read through how Julie describes her work:
“In her highly worked canvases, Mehretu creates new narratives using abstracted images of cities, histories, wars and geographies with a frenetic mark making that for the artist becomes a way of signifying social agency as well suggesting an unravelling of a personal biography. Mehretu’s points of departure are architecture and the city, particularly the accelerated, compressed and densely populated urban environments of the 21st Century. Her canvases overlay different architectural features such as columns, façades and porticoes with geographical schema such as charts, building plans and city maps and architectural renderings, seen from multiple perspectives, at once aerial, cross-section and isometric. Her paintings present a tornado of visual incident where gridded cities become fluid and flattened, like many layers of urban graffiti. Mehretu has described her rich canvases as ‘story maps of no location,’ seeing them as pictures into an imagined, rather than actual reality. Through its cacophony of marks, her work seems to represent the speed of the modern city depicted, conversely, with the time-aged materials of pencil and paint.”

[5 min] Thinking about her term “story maps of no location,” draw your own story map.

[10 min] Participants share their story maps with each other

Then transition participants to looking at the timelines. Ideally you are in person so people can stand, move, and engage.

[20 min] Explore the historical timelines. Using post-its, add to the timelines with:

  • Historical events that you think were important to the creation of the racial wealth gap and/or efforts to organize for racial justice
  • Your personal and ancestral histories (e.g. when/ how did your ancestors come to the US, what were the policies and events that caused them to gain or lose wealth, etc)
  • Your organizational histories (e.g. when/ why was your organization founded, what has it done to contribute to the widening or closing of racial gaps, etc)

[10 min] Participants share reflections on this experience.

After you go through this activity together, be sure to give people space to grieve and process. The history of race in this country is heavy. Many participants will need a break after this. Also consider taking a few collective breaths, stretching together, or encouraging people to step outside for a breath of fresh air.



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This resource is a template that you can adapt to your organizational needs. We hope that it helps you build your practice of defying white supremacy culture. If it does, or if you want to learn more about anything we’re sharing, let us know by emailing racialequity@livingcities.org.

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