#MentorMonday: Ebehi Ijewere
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.
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?
My interest in architecture began in elementary school. I remember car rides where I’d think of ways to help the community and the less privilege. I was interested in giving back and improving the community through architecture / design.
What does it mean to be a black architect/ urban designer to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?
To me, being a black designer and soon to be architect feels like a privilege. I see so much opportunity in the field of design and architecture as a black female designer to grow, learn, and most importantly give my unique insight to problem solving and space creating. I do feel that I have more responsibility because although our profession is more diverse, there is still a lot of work to be done in the areas of inclusivity. I feel the responsibility to stand tall, work hard to make a name for myself and to break barriers in the field for myself and people that look just like me. I feel a sense of responsibility to be a role model to the younger generation and let future black designers/architects, especially females that we can do anything we set our minds to and because of our unique perspectives in life, we bring that extra sauce to the table.
What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/ urban designer?
Though I’ve been blessed with a strong support system, some challenges I’ve faced are being seen as intimidating to my colleagues and being used as the token black designer when it comes to certain projects. Overall, I try my best to use most obstacles to propel me in my career.
Should we ignore race in this profession?
Race should be ignored when it is used as a barrier for growth in the profession but should not be ignored in its entirety because we have a duty to uplift our communities. Many black communities are overlooked when it comes to aesthetically pleasing, well designed spaces. If race is ignored, we will be hindering the development of these communities and creating less of an inclusive space for ourselves as designers/architects. Moreover, we have such a rich culture that is yet to be explored and boundaries yet to be pushed.
If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture /Urban Planning school right now, what would it be?
Do not give up. You may be the only black person in your class, you may be the only reference to black culture, you may feel like you do not deserve to be in a design space because there are few or no one else that looks like you in those spaces but do not stop attending networking events, do not let your ideas get watered down. Work hard and dream as big as you can.
Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?
Currently studying for my licensing exams, I’d say my lowest point was back in 2016/ 2017 when I had just graduated. Between not passing exams and not having as much access to the information I needed, I felt like I did not belong in the field of architecture. I was able to overcome this by prayer, a strong support system and lots of hard work.
How important is representation?
For me, representation is very important. It allows us to identify with role models that look just like us and have similar stories to ours. Representation gives us the confidence to keep going.