#MentorMonday: Jerel McCants, RA

Welcome to #MentorMonday! Mondays are dedicated to celebrating Black LICENSED Architects, Designers, and individuals in the profession of Architecture!

The questions asked to these individuals are to allow us into their lives and to be used as an inspiration. I hope you all enjoy this series.

Name: Jerel McCants

Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

From birth, I always knew I wanted to design structures and create interesting spaces

What does it mean to be a black architect to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?

Being an Architect is an honor regardless of cultural/ racial background. Having a legacy that you can trace back through your family is more interesting to me but knowing that the world’s greatest architects created the pyramids in Egypt and Nubia is also special to me personally.

What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/designer?

The typical obstacles that are experienced by other black architects when meeting with those that have not encountered a black architect. Usually after they understand that I have a firm knowledge and experience base then there is not a problem. A bigger challenge is getting on Municipalities Vendor list because city/ county staff don’t want to take the risk of having minority firms provide professional services due to maintaining their job security.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

I don’t think it’s a good idea to ignore race in any field or venture. Race makes a difference, for better or sometimes worse. There is a reason why people are not homogenous or containing the same physical appearance and culture. Race matters.

If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture school right now, what would it be?

Understand that you are competing within a global economy with persons that are trying to be the best they can so they can position themselves in a higher form of living. I encourage black architecture students to compare themselves to the best of their peers and strive to be better because in the game of life most people are starting on the field, while most often black people are still in the looker room. Meaning that you are starting behind most people and you need to excel just to get to catch up.

Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?

My lowest point in my career was not passing my ARE exams on the first or second attempt. It was discouraging and I lost confidence in thinking that I could master this profession and obtain my license but I never quit. I reassessed my situation and removed distractions and dedicated myself to learn, think and discern like an A+ student. After I aggressively improved my study and retention habits, I began a streak of passing my exams – one by one until I achieved my goal.

How important is representation?

The last time I checked the statistics on licensed black architects, it was around 2% nationwide (February 2017, NOMA). That is nowhere where it should be and it is obvious that the predominant architectural organizations are doing little to increase this number. The focus is always off of the black architect and on other sectors of the population that are underrepresented like women.

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