#MentorMonday: Ujijji Davis

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: Ujijji Davis

Hometown: Brooklyn (Do or die)

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

When I was a little girl, I used to build doll houses out of cereal boxes and other oddities around the house. Creating a world to play in allowed me to be construction, and I became fascinated with building things – which led down a long indirect road of choosing design as a career.

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

To be a black landscape architect requires me to think sensitively about the politicization of land, and how the value of land has created divisions in society. In many parts of the country, there is a big push to reconcile those types of landscapes (eliminating division highways, building greenways to connect neighborhoods etc). Being a black landscape architect allows me to lead conversation in what those types of reconciliations look like, and how they will have an equitable, and beautiful, impact on marginalized peoples and the neighborhoods they live in.

 

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

In any profession where black people are underrepresented, there is a pressure to work twice as hard to qualify for a fraction of the opportunities presented. Working in architecture and planning is seemingly no different. I have had to work twice as hard to exert myself as builder of community instead of just a voice or representative of community.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

In short, no. Ignoring race is part of the problem when it comes to representation. Embracing race and difference is the key to establishing an inclusive profession and practice.

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

Ask questions now, even the dumb ones. The field is too fast paced and it will be rare for someone to look behind to see if you’re catching up. Ask questions, even if its to verify what you already know. It shows are eager to keep learning, you can speak up for yourself, and you won’t shrink even if you really don’t know what you’re doing.

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

 Find a mentor or an advocate. Sometimes a job is just a job, but a mentor can change your whole outlook on how you invest in your work, and how you require your work to invest in you. Every opportunity is a learning opportunity and will be important later down the line. A mentor will help you see that.

How important is representation?

You can’t be what you can’t see, so I believe representation is very important. The more people of color that are aware of architecture and design will find an interest in it, and we will soon see a wave of design, new buildings and landscapes, that truly reflect the experience of groups of people who were once alienated from the profession.

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