#MentorMonday: Jennifer Pruitt-Pitts
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. The opinions and views expressed do not reflect those of America’s Hidden Gem(TM). They are exclusively opinions of those by whom they’re shared.
Born in Long Beach, California, raised in National City, California
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?
My father (Fred Pruitt) was an electrician, and I was fortunate to be able to go to job sites with him as a kid. That sparked my interest in Architecture and built environments! He knew from an early age that I had what it took to make a difference!!!
I also had a series of conversations in the 1980’s with the legendary Norma Merrick Sklarek FAIA. At that time in my life I was so literally hungry to succeed, I hunted her down and would call her often. Those conversations changed my life, she literally encouraged me to strive for more! Norma Merrick Sklarek was the first African American woman to pass her license exam to officially become an architect in both New York and California. She earned the nickname “The Rosa Parks of Architecture” from Author Anna M Lewis for her major accomplishments as a black woman in a male dominated field and continued to be a voice for all women who were likely to face discrimination in certain careers.
What does it mean to be a black architect/ designer to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?
To be a black Architect/Planner is a sense of pride for me. I think back to the times (of my grandmothers) that black girls and boys could not even dream of having the type of job and impact that has been bestowed upon me. It makes me humbled to know that I have a sense of obligation to get this right. I do not have the luxury to mess this up for the future brilliant Architects/Planners that will take our county to another level! I am obligated to give my all and not give up!!
What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/ designer?
Impatience is a huge obstacle; this profession is not learned in a year! Over a successful career, you will literally work on a thousand projects. Pace yourself, this is a marathon not a sprint. Lack of communication can be an obstacle; we must acknowledge that it is ok not to agree, but a lack of listening can create misunderstanding and chaos.
Should we ignore race in this profession?
We can’t ignore race, it is who we are and I think when we ignore the obvious, that does not help with starting the tough conversations that are so dearly needed today!
If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture school right now, what would it be?
Be prepared and be patient!! This work is not easy and it is not for the weak at heart. My brothers and sistas out there in the industry have a saying “turtle shell” You have to have a tough shell.
Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?
I just knew that at that time, I could not give up. My grandmothers era, would literally give anything to be in the position for licensure. They worked too hard, I worked too hard. I had decided that I would take the exam as many times as it took to pass. A pass is a pass, even by a small margin.
How important is representation?
Representation is so key, we have done the work. If we are not invited to the table; we will design, build and bring our own!!!