#MentorMonday: Gordon Linton
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 Jamaica; lives in Stockbridge, Georgia
What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?
I gained my interest in urban planning during my second year in grad school when one of my professors passed away and they were throwing back his books. While they were throwing away his books, one of the professors asked us if we wanted his books. So I was able to get some of his books and stumbled upon a book that discussed local government and had a chapter on Planning. It was right there that I knew I wanted to do urban planning and did an internship in Carrollton in my second year for fall 2016 and spring of 2017 when I graduated. In addition, I wrote my thesis on the overall impact of gentrification in the United States as part of my requirements in the program.
What does it mean to be a black architect/ designer to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?
Being a black planner means everything to me. I represent those who paved the way for me for me to be into this position, from Benjamin Banneker who many people consider to be the first black urban planner in the United States to Samuel Cullers who was the first African-American planner hired in the United States. It’s important that I acknowledge them.
I do have more responsibility as a black planner because it’s so important to educate the communities about urban planning. This field is just as important as lawyers, doctors, CEOs, dentists, etc.
What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/ designer?
It’s a lot of information to process in this field. You have to make sure that you provide the proper information to the applicant or citizens about the zoning of this parcel and inform whether or not their proposed use is allowed. In addition, interacting with customers was tough at first for me since I’m very shy but as time flew by I grew out of my shell. I was able to gain more confidence in myself.
Should we ignore race in this profession?
We should definitely not ignore race in this profession. In a 2018 survey that was conducted by the American Planning Association at least 4% of planners that are in urban planning are African-Americans. It is important to spread the importance of urban planning to the black communities so that we can increase that percentage. That is one of my legacies that I want to leave behind.
If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture school right now, what would it be?
I remember a quote from one of my favorite books by Mark Batterson: Chase The Lion is “Faith is the willingness to look foolish.” In other words, you are going to look foolish pursuing your goals but you’re going to look even more foolish if you don’t pursue it. You are going to look foolish pursuing a career that is dominated by whites but don’t let that stop you from pursuing it. I look foolish pursuing a career that a lot of people don’t know anything about. Some people confuse urban planning with event planning which is funny to me. While I was looking for a planning job, people recommended me to switch my passion to another career but I refused to. Pursue that passion that you really love despite what others say.
Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?
It was difficult finding a job in my field at first after graduating with my MPA program. A lot of jobs that I applied to required at least 2 years of experience which I didn’t have. The only experience I had was my internship and my first planning job which didn’t last long. It took a while for me to get into my field until last year when I got an internship from where I currently work.
How important is representation?
Representation is very important. I definitely want to see more black planners recruited and hired. Seeing other black planners in this field definitely inspires me to keep my planning journey going. I also want to inspire other people to join this field and provide them guidance as well. What is the point of being successful in a field that you love without helping others along the way too?