#FutureArchitectFriday: Jennifer Lamy
Hi readers! It’s #FutureArchitectFriday. A day to celebrate those pushing themselves to becoming licensed architects.
Name: Jennifer Lamy
Hometown: Port-au-Prince, Haiti (1st Home) & Miami, Fl (Current Home)
Educational Status: 3rd year Grad Student pursuing a Master of Architecture at the University of Miami
How would you describe your experience as a Black Architecture student?
I lived in Haiti for 13 years and I’ve now lived in the US for 10. Starting architecture school in undergrad was the first time I experienced being the only black student in a classroom. At first it didn’t think much of it but that has had a much bigger impact than anticipated.
Never have I questioned my ability to be successful as much as I have since starting architecture school and never have I worked so hard to prove to myself and others that I am just as capable as, if not more than, others around me. But I enjoy proving people wrong, whether it be myself or others. Being a black, female architecture student is a challenge, but it’s one worth taking on because it has also been incredibly rewarding.
Why do you want to get your licensed?
“Hey miss Jen, I just wanted to say thank you sooo much for coming in the last two weeks of the program. You really are proof that no matter what size you are, you can do anything; and I don’t mean that as a joke, I’m serious. Your determination and drive are traits that really inspired me. So honestly, thank you so much.”
Notes like these are why I want to get my license. I’m still just a student learning just as she is and only about 5 years older than she is. If I had an impact in just 2 weeks of being there, I can only imagine how much more of an influence I can have with a license.
It’s easy to dwell in the struggles of being a Black Woman in architecture; but moments like that remind me that it’s also incredibly powerful to be a Black Woman in architecture. It’s a privilege to be able to say that I moved to a different country to continue my education; that I went out of state for undergrad and that I started graduate school right after graduating. I have to use that privilege to empower others like me. Getting my license goes far beyond getting the right to call myself an architect.
My biggest influence/inspiration is my mom. My dad passed away in 2007, leaving her to raise my 2 brothers and myself. In 2010, Haiti was devastated by an earthquake which only added to this challenge; but here I am now in my 3rd year of graduate school doing an interview about my experience as black architecture student. I have watched her go through so much these last 13 years, but more importantly I’ve also watched her overcome every obstacle she’s been faced with. She’s been my biggest supporter and the biggest reminder that I can do anything.
How important is representation?
Representation will always be a key component to increasing the number of black architects out there. There is nothing like having a conversation and knowing that the person you are speaking to actually understands you and can relate.
A few things led me to decide to continue with architecture school after undergrad but I can guarantee that at that point it was just about getting a professional degree so I could hopefully get a job in the field since so much money had already been spent on my education. The thought of designing beautiful, meaningful, impactful/empowering spaces for the minority and low income communities was practically out of the question because I had not been exposed to anyone who looked like me, doing any of that work.
That changed after I met the only black professor at the school of architecture at the time, Germane Barnes. I will never forget having a conversation with him and thinking “ I’m not crazy! That is happening! You think about that too!?…So I can actually do that!!” That little bit of validation turned things around for me.
However, I did not get that until after starting graduate school. Lack of representation, along with a few other factors, is why we lose so many. I don’t think there is a lack of interest in the field. There is a lack of support and part of that support system includes representation.
One of my favorite quotes is: “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means, keep moving.” -MLK