Robert Edwards publishes essay in New York Beacon

25 Oct 2020 1:00 AM | Christine R Henry

Member Robert Edwards published an essay on expanding architectural history titled "The New Narrative: Will black history finally get to sit in the front of the bus?" in the New York Beacon newspaper in August.  Below is an excerpt:

By Robert Louis Brandon Edwards 

Is it really a new narrative or are some folks just now realizing that a part of history has been excluded from lectures, textbooks, conversations at the dinner table, and at museums and historical sites all across America? I ask you— what do you about the history of slavery? What do you know about the history of segregation? Think about how and why you know what you know. I know it is incredibly annoying to some, to read an essay with questions but this is a time for reflection and to provoke thought— to maybe ruffle a few feathers even. So if you suffer from a bad case of fragility please turn the page, and the next, and maybe even the page after that because this may take a while.

As an architectural historian I am trained to see a structure and a space and think about when it was designed, its architectural features, who designed it, and for whom; as an architect, I am trained to imagine and reimagine structures and spaces and to develop innovative design concepts; but as a black man, I am trained to question if some of these structures, spaces, and even landscapes are designed for me and how. How does a black body experience the built environment or maneuver through different landscapes? There is a certain level of “spatial consciousness” that I encompass and for me, the relationship between race and space is not theoretical. It is ingrained in the history of this country and cannot be fully understood from an article, podcast, documentary, or historical plaque or marker. It cannot be fully understood from a series of webinars or from the news of yet another police shooting of an unarmed black person. This is something that can only be fully understood with years of exposure, something that is felt and seen on a regular basis. It is something that I experienced first hand growing up in New York City during the 1990s. Not only would I get stopped and frisked in certain neighborhoods by Giuliani’s police department, but I encountered the invisible lines of segregation, inequality, and racism that were strategically placed throughout the city. I lived in Harlem, which at the time was a predominantly black community in Manhattan, but I attended schools in predominantly white communities, so I learned to maneuver through these different environments with a certain cultural dexterity.

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