University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content

john powell comes to UB to discuss equity, inclusion and the built environment

Visit hosted by School of Architecture and Planning through Clarkson Chair program

Published January 13, 2017

“john powell counsels all kinds of people and projects on the front lines of our current racial longings. He reminds us that race is relational. It’s as much about whiteness as about color. And it largely plays out, as we’re learning through new science, in our unconscious minds. john powell is steeped in this new learning and he offers it to us as a form of everyday power — to animate our connection to others that is already real. But we must claim it.”

-          Krista Tippett, host of the Peabody Award-winning social enterprise and radio program On Being, in introducing john powell in June 2015 (“On Opening the Question of Race to the Question of Belonging”)

Internationally noted racial justice scholar john powell

john powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley, is a legal scholar and internationally recognized thought leader on questions of race, equity and social justice. He will visit the University at Buffalo February 6-10, 2017, as the School of Architecture and Planning’s Will and Nan Clarkson Chair in Planning, bringing his ‘form of everyday power’ to unpack barriers to equity and inclusion in our built environment - racialized space, concentrated poverty, food injustice, lack of affordable housing and urban sprawl.

Among the events planned for his weeklong visit are a public lecture, a community workshop and opportunities for discussion across the disciplines of planning, architecture, law and policy.

According to Samina Raja, associate professor of urban planning for UB, who is organizing powell’s visit: “john powell is a bridge-builder who cuts across different stakeholder groups and talks about ways that all disenfranchised can work together, rather than creating a battle at the bottom.” Noting the shifting socio-economic dynamics across the United State, Raja says powell shifts the conversation away from race as a discrete ‘event’ that simply needs to be overcome: “john powell presents an opportunity to think about tensions and fissures and moving hierarchies rather than static understanding of these problems.”

Shannon Phillips, the school’s assistant dean of graduate education and director of its diversity plan, who studied under powell as a law student at the University of Minnesota, says powell “brings clarity through a particularly nuanced exploration of how interconnected systems and the built environment shape access to opportunity and the resulting impact on the human condition.”  

Enjoli Hall, a student in the master of urban planning program and a member of the school’s planning committee for powell’s visit, says powell helps us find power in the spaces between groups and ideas: “He provides an analytical framework that allows for intersection upon intersection of groups and issues, an open space for people to step outside of their own experience and consider intersections.”