Mayors Imagining the Just City

Color images of seven headshots of the Mayors who will be participating in this event.


The GSD's Spring 2021 Public Programs are all virtual and require registration.

Scroll down to find complete registration instructions and additional information about accessing the GSD's programs.

Event Description

Following the inaugural MICD Just City Mayoral Fellowship–a collaboration between the Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) and Harvard GSD's Just City Lab–the seven inaugural MICD Just City Mayoral Fellows discuss how to tackle racial injustices in each of their cities through planning and design interventions.

This event is supported by the Carl M. Sapers Ethics in Practice Fund.

Schedule:

1:00PM – 1:20PM OPENING REMARKS by Sarah M. Whiting, Ra Joy, and Trinity Simons

1:20PM – 3:00PM PANEL 1: Memory, Place Narratives and the Just City
Featuring:
Mayor Benjamin, Mayor Simmons, Mayor Spicer, and Mayor Williams
Moderator: Toni L. Griffin
Respondent: Brent Leggs

3:00PM – 3:15PM BREAK

3:15PM – 4:45PM PANEL 2: Restorative Justice through a Dignity Economy
Featuring:
Mayor Lumumba, Mayor Patterson-Howard, and Mayor Woodfin
Moderator: Toni L. Griffin
Respondent: Michael Murphy

4:45PM – 5:00PM CLOSING REMARKS by Bryan C. Lee, Jr. 

Screenshot from a virtual event. Ra Joy appears in a large rectangle. He wears a white shirt and blue blazer. A green border surrounds the rectangle.

Screenshot from a virtual event. Six separate rectangles show six speakers. They are all surrounded by a green background.

Screenshot from a virtual event. Five separate rectangles show five speakers. They are all surrounded by a green background.

Screenshot from a virtual event. Bryan C. Lee Jr. appears in a small square to the right. He wears a blue shirt and grey suit. A larger rectangle shows a PowerPoint presentation that shows a timeline with images and text. A green background surrounds Bryan and the PowerPoint.

Speakers

Headshot of Mayor Benjamin, who wears a suit and striped tie.MAYOR STEPHEN K. BENJAMIN
COLUMBIA, SC 

Since being elected mayor in a record turnout election in April 2010, Mayor Steve Benjamin has made it his mission to create in Columbia the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in America.  

In addition to serving as Mayor of Columbia, Mayor Benjamin served as 2018-2019 President of the United States Conference of Mayors, Chairman for Municipal Bonds for America, Member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, Member of the Accelerator for America Advisory Council and Co-Chair of the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy campaign. 

 

Headshot of Mayor Lumumba, who wears a blue suit and tie and stands with his arms crossed.MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA
JACKSON, MS 

Chokwe Antar Lumumba is the 53rd mayor of the City of Jackson, Mississippi, the youngest elected mayor in Jackson’s history. He is an attorney, a husband, a father, and the son of two life-long community activists—the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and Nubia Lumumba.  

Mayor Lumumba and his Administration have advanced a number of important initiatives in the City of Jackson including the establishment of a strategic plan toward building a Dignity Economy in the City; strengthening oversight of the police; preventing the state takeover of Jackson Public Schools (JPS) through an innovative partnership with the state, JPS, the City, funding, and community partners.

 

Headshot of Mayor Patterson-Howard, who wears a red jacket and shirt and has shoulder-length light brown hair.MAYOR SHAWYN PATTERSON-HOWARD
MOUNT VERNON, NY 

Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard made history as the first woman elected mayor in the City of Mount Vernon, and first Black woman chosen for the office in Westchester County. Since assuming office on January 1, 2020, she has worked tirelessly to strengthen the local community and engage with all levels of government to bolster her beloved Mount Vernon and restore trust in the city’s leadership.  

Her first-term goals include growing the local economy through strong economic development policies, strengthening youth services and education, supporting seniors and empowering them to age in place, and bolstering the quality of life for all residents through innovative, equity centered solutions fostered by public, private and community partnerships. 

 

Headshot of Mayor Simmons, who wears a blue suit, white shirt, and striped tie.MAYOR ERRICK D. SIMMONS
GREENVILLE, MS 

Errick D. Simmons is the first black male mayor of the City of Greenville. Mayor Simmons began his career in municipal government as a city councilman in 2007, as the youngest to serve in the position at that time.  

In the name of social justice, racial equity, and inclusion for all, the very first order of business for Mayor Simmons as Mayor of Greenville was the removal of the Mississippi State flag containing the confederate emblem from all municipal buildings. Simmons later announced the City’s first ever re-entry program entitled, Greenville Re-Entry and Training Program (GREAT).

 

Headshot of Mayor Spicer, who wears black glasses, a gray checkered coat, a black shirt, and a pearl necklace.MAYOR YVONNE M. SPICER
FRAMINGHAM, MA 

Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer is the first Mayor of the City of Framingham. She was sworn into office on January 1, 2018, the same day Framingham officially became a city.  

Committed to sustainable economic growth, the Mayor served on the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the Massachusetts Office of the Treasurer Economic Empowerment Trust Fund, was a Town Meeting Member, and served on the Standing Committee on Ways and Means. She is the 2017 President-Elect to the International Technology Engineering Education Association (ITEEA) an international organization designed to build capacity for technology and engineering education globally. 

Headshot of Mayor Williams, who wears a black suit, white shirt, and red tie.MAYOR VINCE R. WILLIAMS
UNION CITY, GA 

Mayor Vince R. Williams is Union City’s twentieth mayor. His leadership and commitment to advancing the Council’s shared vision for Union City helped to transform a dilapidated mall and revitalize it into a thriving multi-million dollar film studio, reverse a multi-year financial deficit to an 81% increase during his first term as Mayor—all while ushering in the greatest increase of job creation in the City’s history.  

Since his first day in office, Mayor Williams has strived to increase consensus, cooperation, and partnership between South Fulton, Metro Atlanta, and Georgia’s many governments, its business and civic communities and its residents. 

 

Headshot of Mayor Woodfin, who wears a gray suit, white shirt, and red and blue striped tie. He also wears glasses.MAYOR RANDALL L. WOODFIN
BIRMINGHAM, AL 

Randall L. Woodfin is the 30th mayor of Birmingham. The mayor is focused on revitalizing the city’s 99 neighborhoods, enhancing education and career opportunities for students, and creating an innovative economic climate to grow, attract and retain talent, startups and small businesses. 

His vision to create new education and career opportunities for students led to the Birmingham Promise, a public-private partnership that provides tuition assistance to cover college costs for Birmingham high school graduates.  

Under the Mayor’s leadership, the city launched the Office of Social Justice and Racial Equity which seeks to employ social justice as a core principle in City of Birmingham policies.

Moderators and Respondents

Toni L. Griffin, LF '98, is founder of urbanAC LLC, based in New York, a planning and design management practice that works with public, private and nonprofit partnerships to reimage, reshape and rebuild just cities and communities.  The practice designs, leads and manages complex, and transformative social and spatial urban revitalization frameworks, rooted in addressing historic and current disparities involving race, class and generation.  Over the past ten years, we have successfully collaborated with several major U.S. cities on the cusp of just economic recovery.  Recent clients include the cities of Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Memphis and Detroit.

Ms. Griffin is also a Professor in Practice of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she teaches design studios and seminars also rooted in issues of social and spatial justice.  She is Founder and Director of the Just City Lab, an applied research platform that investigates the ways design can have a positive impact on addressing the conditions of injustice in cities.

Bryan C. Lee, Jr is an Architect, educator, writer, and Design Justice Advocate. He is the founder/Design Director of Colloqate Design, a nonprofit multidisciplinary design practice in New Orleans, Louisiana dedicated to expanding community access to design and creating spaces of racial, social, and cultural equity. He has led two award-winning youth design programs nationwide and is the founding co-organizer of the DAP (Design As Protest) Collective. He was most recently noted as one of the 2018 Fast Company Most Creative People in Business, a USC Annenberg MacArthur Civic Media Fellow, and the youngest design firm to win the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award in 2019.

Brent Leggs is the executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Envisioned as a social movement for justice, equity, and reconciliation, the Action Fund is promoting the role of cultural preservation in telling the nation’s full history, while also empowering activists, entrepreneurs, artists, and civic leaders to advocate on behalf of African American historic places.

A Harvard University Loeb Fellow and author of Preserving African American Historic Places, which is considered the “seminal publication on preserving African American historic sites” by the Smithsonian Institution, Brent is a national leader in the U.S. preservation movement and the 2018 recipient of the Robert G. Stanton National Preservation Award. His passion for elevating the significance of black culture in American history is visible through his work, which elevates the remarkable stories and places that evoke centuries of black activism, achievement, and community.

Michael Murphy is the Founding Principal and Executive Director of MASS Design Group, an interdisciplinary architecture and design collective. As a designer, writer, and teacher, his work investigates the social and political consequences of the built world. MASS’s work has been published in numerous publications from the New York Times, Domus, the Washington Post, to Log. MASS was awarded the 2018 Arts and Letters Award, the 2020 Wall Street Journal’s Innovator of the year award and AIA's 2021 Collaborative Achievement Award. Michael has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, The University of Michigan,Columbia University, MIT, and Cornell. Michael is from Poughkeepsie, NY, and holds a Master of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago.

Trinity Simons has served as the executive director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) since 2012. In this role, she works with mayors across the country on the nation’s most pressing urban planning and design challenges. She speaks about the intersection of design and politics at universities, events, and symposia across the country.

During MICD sessions and throughout the year, Trinity adds to her deep understanding of mayors’ challenges and needs, forming long-standing relationships with local leaders around the country. She elevates the profile of the Institute and maintains a deep bench of design professionals eager to serve as Resource Team members, connecting mayors to critical issues of urban development. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she led the Institute’s transition to serving mayors in a virtual environment, including the creation of new program offerings, such as Mayors’ Virtual Seminars, MICD Alumni Technical Assistance, and the MICD Just City Mayoral Fellowship (in partnership with the Just City Lab at the Harvard GSD). Under her leadership, in 2021, MICD was awarded the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Founders’ Award, its highest honor for organizations.

Trinity has a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Arkansas and a Master of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Partners 

MAYORS’ INSTITUTE ON CITY DESIGN 

The Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors. Since 1986, the Mayors’ Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities. 

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS 

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the independent federal agency, established by Congress in 1965, whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. 

THE UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF MAYORS 

The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. USCM promotes effective national urban/suburban policy, strengthens federal/city relationships, ensures that federal policy meets urban needs, provides mayors with leadership and management tools, and creates a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information. 

 THE JUST CITY LAB 

At the Just City Lab, we ask: Would we design better places if we put the values of equality, inclusion or equity first? If a community articulated what it stood for, what it believed in, what it aspired to be — as a city, as a neighborhood — would it have a better chance of creating and sustaining more healthy, vibrant place with positive, economic, health, civic, cultural and environmental conditions? Imagine that the issues of race, income, education and unemployment inequality, and the resulting segregation, isolation and fear, could be addressed by planning and designing for greater access, agency, ownership, beauty, diversity or empowerment. Now imagine the Just City: the cities, neighborhoods and public spaces that thrive using a value-based approach to urban stabilization, revitalization and transformation. Imagine a set of values that would define a community’s aspiration for the Just City. Imagine we can assign metrics to measure design’s impact on justice. Imagine we can use these findings to deploy interventions that minimize conditions of injustice. 

How to Join

Register to attend the symposium here. Once you have registered, you will be provided with a link to join the lecture via Zoom. This link will also be emailed to you.

The event will also be live streamed to the GSD's YouTube page. Only viewers who are attending the lecture via Zoom will be able to submit questions for the Q+A. If you would like to submit questions for the speakers in advance of the event, please click here.

Live captioning will be provided during this event. A transcript will be available roughly two weeks after the event, upon request.

 

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the events office at (617) 496-2414 or events@gsd.harvard.edu.

#GSDEVENTS