#MentorMonday: Ras Tafari Cannady II, AICP

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: Ras Tafari Cannady II, AICP

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and Planning and when?

My father initially sparked my interest in Urban Planning from a young age. My father, a double alumnus of Howard University worked as City Planner for the Los Angeles Department of City Planning and frequently took me to work with him. While there, I was able to converse with City Planners from different specializations, creating my affinity to become an Urban Planner. This was further bolstered during my tenure at Hampton University when one of my professors taught a series of classes on the intersections between land use and transportation.

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

To be a black planner means that you have to be extremely cognizant of the disparities in neighborhoods around the country. Black planners have to be more in tune with the structural implications of policies/ordinances and laws that protect us in order to effectively plan for communities of color. In a field where we’re disproportionately underrepresented, it is a black planner’s responsibility to mentor and usher in the future black planners in any way we can.


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

Lack of representation and lack of commonality have been ongoing occurrences that I’ve dealt with as a black planner. While it can initially be an obstacle to networking and building relationships, I’ve been able to overcome it by being rising above it and not let it sway me from my long term goals.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

Absolutely not. Unfortunately, to topple structural racism, we have to identify and address the elephant in the room, which is the topic of race. Through research, outreach, and equitable planning policies, planners have the ability to create inclusive communities for all.

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

Don’t quit – everything works out in the end. Do what you have to do while you’re young (Internships, lower-paying jobs, etc) to be able to do what you want to do long term. While it may seem fruitless at times, the decisions you make now will impact the opportunities you’re afforded in the long term.

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

 Starting the certification study was definitely my lowest. For the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) test, there was a WEALTH of information that I needed to process. After looking at the AICP Certification Exam Pass Rates from 2004-2014, I chose to not be discouraged but to effectively set my mind on passing the certification. I started off by asking my job to pay for the study material as well as gathering additional study materials from colleagues in my office. After this, I devised a study plan – this included creating flashcards, creating a study guide based on information within the Planetizen Course, and set aside four hours a day during the week, and eight hours a day during the weekend. In addition to this, I took a practice test every two days. After four months of strictly doing this (I got engaged a month before I took the test), I took the test and passed! The feeling of success was unparalleled.

How important is representation?

Representation is extremely important. Whether it be in a corporate setting or an educational setting, the lack of commonality can create isolation as well as roadblocks to success. Representation in a company is key in order to have a diverse skill set that can be used to tackle complex issues at any given time.

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