The art and science of design runs in my family. My father was an engineer, my immediate brother is an architect, and my mother is a retired teacher. As a youth, I wanted to be an urban designer, yet, I could not seem to overlook the systemic and institutional barriers placed in my way. Therefore, I greeted those struggles and others, with a relentless effort to challenge and change negative outcomes caused by these barriers.
Years ago, I was going door to door in a housing complex to recruit people in a statewide push to raise Maryland’s minimum wage. Of course, this action came after members from the neighborhood voted to engage and organize around this issue. Most of the residents I engaged were theoretically in support of raising the minimum wage and from our conversations, a number of residents decided to actively involve themselves in helping to make it happen. Yet, there was one conversation I vividly remember, due to a gentleman being completely irate in making his case. His voice echoed through the court as he expressed his disapproval of fighting to raise the minimum wage without leveraging an equal amount of energy to organize for more jobs. He explained his frustration of completing one job application after another and eventually being called in for an interview, only to experience the same result, which was nothing.
While doing civic design, we must be thoughtful, we must be committed, and most of all, we must be consistently informed. In my sixteen years of community organizing in areas such as New York City, Chicago, rural North Carolina, Honolulu, and beyond, these unique set of experiences have led me to be more thoughtful and precise in all processes of planning and implementation. Gratefully, most, if not all the grassroots campaigns I have been a part of, have been successful, which is mostly defined by the passing of new policies and the people involved. Those victories have been deep and transformative in the areas of education, criminal justice, voting rights, housing, and more. All of my education, research, advocacy, and professional experience has gone into defining this great organization and while all victories are not quantifiable, a change in practice and one’s perception to recognize their power is immeasurable.
For these reasons and others, I do this work with great integrity. Organizing, strategic design, community development, and business can all be done through an equitable lens with a smart, informed, and valued approach. Architects of Justice is here to uphold those standards, through civic design, training, and advocacy. We look forward to working with you.
John P. Comer, MPA