Conversations around reparations are usually stilted by the minutia of details around dollar amounts and to whom payments would be made – direct descendants of slaves, up to what generation, how would they be paid, and on and on, all seemingly effective distractions intended to confuse and diffuse.
Emerging to combat the maze of confusion, a group of Black architects, designers, artists, and scholars formed the nonprofit organization, Black Reconstruction Collective (BRC), to “amplify knowledge, production, and spatial practices by individuals and organizations…”
The scant website describes their areas of focus as funding, design, and intellectual support to the ongoing and incomplete project of emancipation for the African Diaspora. And the website need not be laden with paragraph after paragraph of fancy descriptors, because the work speaks for itself.
In a March 2021 article for Art in America, in his review of the MoMA exhibit Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, writer Julian Lucas poses the question, “How might the end of white supremacy transform American cities?” The MoMA exhibit is the debut for the BRC and consists of commissioned multimedia installations that analyze race and space in ten different cities from Watts to Syracuse. Each site is marked alongside the locations of freedmen's colonies on a map of the United States. In the catalogue that accompanies the exhibit, American historian Robin D.G. Kelley, writes that this kind of speculative scaffolding is a platform to reflect, “...on what it means for people determined to be free, to build for freedom, to retrofit a hostile and deadly built environment for reproduction of Black Life.”
What is the Architecture of Reparations? is the first in a triptych of lectures given by members of the Black Reconstruction Collective to graduate architecture classes at major US universities. Visit the BRC website to learn more about their vision for attaining a reparative environment.