How MPC staff are thinking differently about their work right now - Metropolitan Planning Council

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How MPC staff are thinking differently about their work right now

Instagram user @clay.banks

Crowd marches at the George Floyd protests on June 2, 2020

The past few months have been unprecedented. Within the short span of our lived experience, we haven't seen days like these. A pandemic has rattled the very foundation of our way of life, and public demonstration has coalesced against the racism that underpins our society. 

Like much of America, our team members have been stepping back to reflect. We are talking, reading, listening, and asking questions about movement building, civic unrest, and racism in our country. Here are a few ways our colleagues are approaching their work with fresh eyes:

"Less than a week after the murder of George Floyd, and more than two months into widespread COVID-19 lockdown, a viral image demanded an answer to a question I’d been asking myself for a long time: what are streets for? Yes, they’re conduits for transportation. But are they not also places of recreation? Of demonstration? Streets are both centers of commerce and community. Streets are for people. And I thought I knew what the people needed. This article by Dr. Destiny Thomas is one of many by BIPOC planners and advocates that has challenged me to reconsider. What does mobility justice looks like? It’s not about bike lanes or pedestrian plazas (as much as I love those things)—it’s about white planners like me ceding power."

Jeremy Glover, Transportation Associate 

"The ongoing pandemic not only put a pause on the daily activities that perhaps were taken for granted, it set our community engagement work back a couple decades. My work as a planner has changed drastically in the sense that there must be more of an effort to be creative and strategic with our engagement tools to ensure that we're hearing from communities whose voices have been historically and systematically silenced. With the growing use and creation of online platforms to facilitate community meetings, the digital divide, as with many other inequalities, became exacerbated. Senior citizens, people with disabilities, low-income folks, those who speak English as a second language, and the many others already excluded from our digital society must have a seat at the table more than ever."

Juan Martin Luna Nunez, Research Assistant

"The revolution will be... Tweeted? We’ve seen recently social media used as a political tool for Gen-Z and Millennials to uplift their voices. I’ve reflected on my own use of social media to access information, and how that may vary between generations. Is the information fed to younger populations through the internet fueling our support to political movements? Younger populations are turning on Twitter to access grassroots journalism now more than ever to educate themselves, instead of turning in to the 6 oclock news with their parents. This isn’t the first time in our current history the masses have used social media to organizewe saw it in the Arab Springs pro-democracy movement with young protestors. This also corresponds with national protest crowd demographics for the Black Lives Matter movement, as 52 percent of all adults who have protested are between the ages of 18 and 29 (New York Times). Are we creating the new generation of political activists through our iPhone?"                                                                                                                                                   

Sasha Marroquin, Executive Assistant 

"This was a piece of inspiration for me this morning from Bey, Colin and Lin-Manuel. I have the most patriotic birthday, July 4. As I reflect on what it means to be a patriot I believe is doing my part to shed a light on the what racism costs us all, and sharing our views sometimes comes at a personal cost but so worth it. Celebrity patriots to celebrate this Fourth of July."

Amber Webb, Vice President of Philanthropy 

"Making time to read more than just the numbing daily headlines helps me re-charge for the tough, transformative work ahead. One of the longer-form pieces that inspired me was Bryan Smith’s “Evanston’s Road to Reparations” in The Chicago Reader. I was swept up in the story of what it was like for 5th Ward Ald. Robin Rue Simmons—as a third-grader—to visit her classmate’s home in northwest Evanston and observe all the differences, disparities she later connected with the federal government’s 1940 map that redlined Evanston into white and Black zones. These structural barriers must come down if we are to build generational wealth. Inspired in part by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2016 Atlantic article on “The Case for Reparations,” Ald. Simmons went to work, and now Evanston is the first municipality to legislate and fund reparations to African Americans for the wrongs of history. It deserves our attention and support so it can be replicated."

MarySue Barrett, President

At MPC, we partner with organizations committed to addressing our community's most entrenched structural inequities. We know that pipes and roads are really about access to opportunity, about ensuring that every person can thrive.

We'd love to hear from you. If you have reading recommendations for our staff, please send them to Liz Granger at


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