Photo by RODNAE Productions

Architecture is as much political as it is ornamental or chiefly for aesthetics. Multiple architectures have noticed the lack of black spaces within communities, yet another adversity they must overcome.

The conversation surrounding racism has carried on. Despite fewer evident and apparent instances, society still demands awareness about this concept. Whether to refresh people’s minds or remind them what racism entails, these discussions are still prevalent in society. The question of why this occurrence is still present in modern times deserves another exhaustive discussion. But for today, let’s focus on another concern related to race and discrimination: the lack of spaces they, especially the minorities, can call theirs alone.

Recently, the killings, whether directed toward individuals or masses with malicious associations with races, shifted the spotlight back to institutionalized racism. While these events have been reduced to rare occasions, it doesn’t mean they’ve entirely stopped. It persists, lying dormant within society, and only waits for one push to put it back into action.

Societal Instances of Toned-Down Racism

From the media’s harmful stereotyping of these minorities to the conscious or unconscious isolation of these individuals, racism is still alive. Beyond these societal facets, there’s one area that not many have looked into, despite how much it’s also affected by racism. Architecture might look like it had nothing to do with racial injustices and civil rights. But looking at it through a lens of social isolation and cultural preservation, the fight to save historic places laced with these minorities’ backgrounds is political.

After all, one of the primary grounds why these establishments exist is for the education of future generations. These spaces reflect black history, including the diversities and victories these minorities have experienced. Hence, the act of damaging or neglecting these buildings may as well be considered an act of erasing this group’s history.

Historically, when it comes to preservation movements, the government has primarily focused on maintaining white spaces. These spaces are only significant for the white population, such as presidents’ homes and the white house. Little has been done to protect black spaces or establishments that are meaningful to this population. While this movement doesn’t directly hurt individuals, it’s still an evident example of structural racism – neglecting spaces important for minorities.

What Are Black Spaces?

Only a few people know about black spaces and the meaning this term carries. This alone says a lot about society and how it’s been educated regarding racism. While there’s progress seen toward how society addresses issues like discrimination, this doesn’t mean minorities won’t need spaces for themselves. These are what black spaces serve to be.

These spaces are where black people or anyone from these minorities can enjoy each other’s company without interference from others outside their culture. One might think this can be counterproductive to what people are fighting against: communities without racism. But for these minorities to better heal from their experiences, they must have their own space. Hence, the establishments and the fight for the preservation of black spaces.

Black spaces stemmed from the minorities’ collective interest and desire to have their identity, shaping their environment and cultural perception. While modern society has aimed for inclusivity, people who’ve suffered from aggression and oppression might feel a little left out. There will still be a lack of cultural representation in these spaces, throwing them into ambivalence.

Why It’s Important to Preserve Black Spaces

Ronald Lee Harden had worked on multiple architectural projects which helped create homes and cultural events for the African-American communities in Tampa. His book Untold Architectural Black History of Tampa Florida, contains an exhaustive look into these projects. What he has done for this community is an excellent example of preserving and improving black spaces. He and other architectures have created better lives for these communities, allowing them to have safe spaces deeply rooted in their cultural expressions.

Public spaces help shape people’s sense of belonging and security. However, at a time of intense discrimination, these spaces can put people at risk and exposed to possible exclusion. Despite society frowning upon racist behaviors, this doesn’t stop people from acting on their prejudices. Depending on who has access to them, these public spaces can be unsafe for these minorities.

These public spaces can prompt structural racism, affecting how people experience these spaces. They can intentionally or unintentionally reflect how society disproportionately prioritizes the experiences of white Americans. Given these circumstances, there’s an evident need for black spaces to reaffirm these minorities’ identities and their collective understanding of their blackness.

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