After nearly a year of living through the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, the jury on Wednesday announced guilty verdicts on all three counts of the trial. The march for civil rights moved forward today, but we still have a long way to go.
This emotional journey —on top of all of the stresses that 2020 dealt— gives us another reason to think about how our districts act as the stages from which many within our communities choose to speak and make change. As the caretakers of these public spaces, are we providing that safe space for people of all races, colors and creeds to express their rights to free speech? And beyond that, are we doing everything within our capacities to provide neighborhoods that everyone can feel comfortable calling home?
My family and I have always been civil rights activists. Our kids, all four of them raised in an interracial family, know that we are always protest/vigil ready. My partner, Lisa, and I taught each of them to not stand idly by and watch racism, homophobia, sexism or any other ways individuals are marginalized go unaccounted for. The march for civil rights always moves forward, though sadly not at the pace each one of us longs for.
For those of us whose kids grew up in the industry with us – they know that throwing their gum on the ground or placing a sticker in a public space is subject to inexplicable wrath. They understand the burdens of public space management, including the plagues of mental health, addiction and poverty. They get that the processes to make our downtowns diverse and equitable are complicated and challenging and they require a shared determination and a willingness to communicate and collaborate with one another to make change.
The youth in our communities are not hindered by these obstacles, they are driven to find remedies. They celebrate our public spaces, the people within them and attend and engage in our celebrations, milestones, and protests.
I say all this because today I have hope. The march for civil rights moved forward today, and it is the energy of the youth of this movement that will propel us into a more just and enlightened world. Let’s work together with our states, provinces, cities, public safety organizations, property owners and residents to provide them with the stage they need to make that happen.
“The time is always right to do what is right.” — Dr. Martin Luther King
On April 29, 2021 IDA and the California Downtown Association will host the first in a series of DEI Summits in 2021. Learn more about how to participate here.