Remembering Law’s Favorite Color

A few (or 8) weeks back, Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, spoke in Cuyahoga Community College’s Ford Room at the Jerry Sue Thornton Center.  In this free talk, planned in partnership between a few organizations, (The Cleveland Humanities Collaborative, Voices from the Village, Tri-C’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and Case Western Reserve University’s Schubert Center for Child Studies) Rothstein shared knowledge he has and is currently exploring about major issues in communities nationwide.  His book reminds some of us that we are currently living in an aftermath legally orchestrated by certain previous governmental activities intended to deepen the divide of accessibility to space.  Cleveland is not exempt from a hurtful history of discrimination in its neighborhoods, and continues to struggle in efforts to remedy past behavior. While there are plenty well-intentioned projects happening all around led by individuals, neighbors, developers, artist, agencies, and others, I wonder who can succeed in the tasks at hand.  The task of dealing with the past, the task of changing, the task of care, the task of thinking forwardly, the task of strategy, the task of emotion, the task of creativity, the task of dedication, the task of timing, and much more, all at once. I am sure many of those who want to work and are working to break this all down were in the room with their listening ears on, but what does that ultimately mean and are those ears properly equipped to understand? Understanding, fully mentally grasping, comprehending at the greatest capacity, knowing, appropriately perceiving how future steps toward equity can be achieved.

How complex.  How intimidating.  How key. The test of understanding is successful action that embodies and follows what was translated.  The perceived earth shattering research that Rothstein is revealing, shows his ability to understand and also serve as an additional advocate and messenger to share to a wider audience.  If you’re of suppressed margins of society, this is not earth shattering. In fact, examples of consistently being treated un-righteously on purpose and intentionally happens daily, today, and is ever present in many people’s lives.  And even when it isn’t intentional, some may wonder if it is. I can appreciate that the discussion continues to expand though.

In The Color of Law, Rothstein demystifies the barriers we have placed around affordable housing conversations and presents logic that pushes beyond the surface to inspire accountability upon the readers, the notes and bibliography sections are nearly 70 pages alone.  A charge to act different and be an advocate for doing the work is a crucial takeaway. Some of the statistics shared about wealth advantages and disparities are heart wrenching. While the understanding that there are many many factors that contribute to our current un-wellbeing, this research highlights housing as one piece that has measurable disproportionate data proving many advantages to white people and strategic hurdles for black people and others wrongly judged on mere skin color.  This, layered with complacency of the United States, a nation that has celebrated a history of land theft as discover, free labor as economic development, abuse as control, rape as sport, tugs my heart muscles daily. In each of these cases (and many more), we “defer to the law”, that was / is lawless. The juxtaposition of having the option to be lawful and the choice to have no obligation on “our” part to do anything, right or just, clouds my mind with an endless list of things to do.

I struggle(d) with a similar offshoot of this (while) working in design, so much of design services relies on understanding the need and translating the knowledge into a spatial resolution.  There is much pressure in that. The effects of space have the power to affect people’s behaviors, and even influence feelings of self- worth. When you further reveal the theories and philosophies central to accessible and restricted space, you begin to see how segregation, redlining can be directly connected to issues affecting communities of color today.  Nevertheless, a re-occurring glimpse of hope repeatedly reveals remnants of motivation to push forward. Can the wrongs committed by policy be corrected by policy? Are the policy people trying to remedy the hand in which they have been dealt, or, are they continually perpetuating inherently racist procedure? Am I doing the same? I am hopeful I am not, but not certain, depends on the day.

Weekly, I attend many events, talks, conferences, happy hours, family dinners, dates, service projects, banquets, fairs and festivals where the signs of historic legal racism show up in the smallest and ugliest details.  The reaction of causes manifested throughout time continue to make identifying problems one of the most difficult actions of our time. The layers in which we must embody to produce solution is far more complex than ever, and inhumanely unjust.  A few questions developed in and through my time together with Mr. Rothstein and a bunch of others after. I purchased the book by Amazon Prime privilege during the talk and am hoping as I make my way through the piercing prose I will discover pathways to work differently and find my little way to contribute to the improvement of this world.  I encourage you to do the same.


Spark 216: Engaging the Future of Desgin





SPARK 216:  Engaging the Future of Design #TheRecap

May 25, 2018

Michele Crawford

Cleveland, Ohio

Activating the next generation of creative youth by providing opportunities where they can experience and grow their creativity alongside other creative professionals is an important need.  I would speak persuasively that it is key to have role models and mentors to coach and support youth that are curious and contemplating gaining skills in creative careers. I often jump at the chance to support any initiative that focuses on these things and attempts to make an impact.  The inaugural Spark 216 event was just that. Brainchild of designers Jacinda Walker, Jamal Collins, Jermel Wilkerson Sr. and Robert Gatewood,  Spark 216 is an event for youth, ages 11-15, who are curious about design and design-related careers. The inaugural event was held on March 10.  Attendees had the opportunity to expand their creativity by participating in thirty-minute sessions of design learning activities led by local design professionals. The activities exposed the next generation of youth to graphic design, web design, architecture, photography, illustration, and design thinking.  Each session included local design volunteer leaders working to choreograph introductory activities for youth participants

As an Architecture Information Station volunteer, I was fortune to be teamed up with Mandisa Gosa, Interior Designer at local firm ThenDesign (Bialosky at the time) and David Jurca, Associate Director at Kent State’s CUDC.  We were able to work one on one with the youth attendees in rotating slots. Students explored a basic understanding of architecture and interior design careers through practicing communicating design by determining scale, building models and drawing their model in plan, elevation, section and perspective views.  Students were encouraged to make their model with Disney character clients in mind.

Though the Spark 216 event was not specifically targeted for future designers of color, the audience in attendance was.  Though it was a cold March day in Cleveland, the temperature inside the host venue, Full Spectrum GamerHaven,  felt like summer bliss, vibrant with fresh new talent exploring the opportunity to be a designer for a day and helping hands and minds cultivating leaders by sharing a wealth of information.  There was even a special session for parents that gave an overview of how to support emerging creatives. Even though no official vote was collected and tallied, I believe our table was the crowd favorite, I may be biased though!

Someone once told me that the english language often does not have the appropriate words to describe our experiences, and after participating in Spark 216…  I can confirm that I agree. Stay tuned for more events like this coming soon.

Check out the event video here-


Habitat for Humanity Alumni Build

This June I am planning to participate in an AmeriCorps Alumni house build!  2015 will be the 5 year anniversary of the first Alumni build.  As an AmeriCorps Alumni of the Habitat for Humanity Charlotte Affiliate, I am eager to join in the fun and get back on site!  My time of service changed my life and set a precedent for me to strive and continue to help those in need.  As an AmeriCorps Member I participated in over 10 new construction and home repair builds in Charlotte, NC, Dallas, TX and Seattle, WA.  I broke a finger with my hammer (because I’m so strong), led a KaBoom playground build (because I’m so caring and love the kids),  and met a ton a amazing people along the way (and the list goes on).  The vision for this build is to say “thank you” to Habitat Charlotte for the opportunity to serve, and to continue to show our ongoing commitment to service, and to our communities.   HFH_Seattle

In addition to my hammering hands and painter’s touch, the team is raising funds to cover the cost of construction for not only the house we will build in a week June 13-21, but also enough to sponsor a Critical Home Repair project AND sponsor a house at the Habitat Charlotte sister affiliate in El Salvador.  The art of teamwork is crucial to the success of this mission.  Please consider making a donation to support me, my fellow alumni and the continuing efforts Habitat for Humanity makes to ensure affordable shelter to deserving families. AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon 2013

Our fundraising goal is $100,000 and we are 1/3 of the way there!  All donations made for the remainder of the month will be matched in $100 increments by a generous donor.  You can make donations and track our fundraising progress here:

I’ll prepare a special gift for all those who donate, something artsy probably!  If you have any questions or need more information please contact me! Feel free to forward along and thanks for your support! HFH_Talladega

Please note, if you want to donate $500 or more, it is best to write a check and mail it directly to Habitat.  If you are interested in doing this, please make it payable to the following:

Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte

3815 Latrobe Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28211

“AmeriCorps Alumni Build” needs to be in the memo line of the check in order for the money to go to the right campaign.


In Service,


​”You will be remembered by what you have built,

not what you have bought.

By what you gave,

not what you got.​”

AA architects: 2014 Licenses

The disparity seems so distant until you read something like this.

Katherine Williams

At the end of 2014, there were approximately 1955 architects in the Directory of African American Architects.** For the year, 23 African American architects reported as newly licensed.


The number continues the downward trend that has been characteristic of the last five years. The organization that creates the architect registration exam (ARE), NCARB, has also seen an up-and-down rate, since 2009, of people completing ARE sections.

I asked some of my colleagues for their thoughts to get some other perspectives on the trend. There is optimism and celebration, and also some self-actualization.

I have mixed feelings about the low numbers. We as a community can and should do more in supporting candidates of color. The fact that I have mentored three of the newly licensed…

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Dishwasher Discoveries

This morning my first activity involved “doing” the dishes, well… if loading the dishwasher counts as doing. As I began to load the silverware I decided to use a feature that I never used before and it changed my life. In the silverware compartment there is an option to snap back the top so that you could “place in” the utensil. I couldn’t believe it! Ladies and gentleman my “Aha” moment for the day came so early, I started to get back in the bed and check off the day with a mission accomplished stamp. I didn’t do that. But began to realize that up until this moment I did not have access to something that was readily available to me everyday. A few days earlier I saw my sister use this feature that she knew about and I didn’t. (Thanks Sis!)

Just like 1... 2... 3...
Just like 1… 2… 3…

While lifting the flap and “placing in” in oppose to “sliding in” (see pics) may not have taken 10 seconds off of the amount of time it took me to load the dishwasher, it inherently made me feel as if it was a “must do” to ALL my future dishwasher loading encounters. The whole experience was a sweet refresh of simple awareness that I had clearly been taking for granted. At the same time, I was equally upset that for the past 8 months I had ignorantly avoided this utensil-loading phenomenon in countless kitchen cleanups. More holistically, I realized that I had been denying myself design because of my lack of knowledge and investigation to explore my options. I knew better!  This experience re-opened my eyes to #1 the importance of design happiness #2 the imperativeness of being an explorer and #3 the inclination of awareness of my current human being experiences in a world where everything that I use is designed.

I don’t think this design element lessened my dish load time or efficiency, however it made me think it did. In fact, the next time I did the dishes I didn’t even use the feature. Ha! However the mere fact that I had knowledge of its existence, made me feel empowered, like a super dishwashing dame, ready to take over the world one dirty fork at a time!

From here I proceeded to give credit to the designer who actually listened to their market research and that one annoyed customer who recommend more flexibility in the utensil placing department, because their is always that one whose life will be changed by something that is so minute (my-nute) in the grand scheme of things. My mind is being blown, as I continue to load the plates I start trying to move other pieces to see if I could find some other “tricks”, sadly I didn’t… but gladly I was exploring. I was actually trying to move immoveable knobs and pieces of plastic… just because I wanted to be deign happy again. I had already missed out on one jazzy feature I couldn’t live with the thought that I was missing out on 2!

Little things should have the potential to change your life, I am happy that I give little things the power to change mine… As an emerging design professional working in architecture the weight of design is the world that my life revolves around. I should never forget the impact that design or lack thereof has on me and my ability or “allowability” to have access to it or not. Sadly some of us will never take a moment to analyze this, and I never want to be that person again. Design is the ultimate tool, or weapon in some hands, that is used for and against us… How wonderful! Design is a beautiful thing, and my access to it even more glorious…

My goal for the next few weeks is to notice these very things and appreciate the elements that make my life worth while through touch, feel (the emotional kind) and sight, because some designer made and are making a bunch of choices for me… like they knew and know me… Time to challenge if they really did and do… You should to!

Where are the stakes?!

“There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that that have nothing to lose. People, who have stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

This was today’s quote from my MLK Daily Quote App. I found it extremely important as a designer and specifically for me as I am developing an interest in community development. It raises the question of how to develop space for people and make them feel that the space is for them. Is it through a genuine understanding of the people and there experiences? Is it through targeting the needs that are not being met and making them meet? Is it by participatory design tactics that bring the people together to talk about these things? Yes! I think it is all of these things… and plenty other factors too. What I do not know is where the balance is in the weight that each factor is considered. I believe that knowing where this balance lies is what makes any designer great and able to produce great designs that are respected and preserved by the very people the designers were for.Image

Image courtesy of