The IYE Project: 2014

With a new direction, I'm continuing the journey of Inspire Your Environment (IYE).

With a new direction, I’m continuing the journey of Inspire Your Environment (IYE).

Twitter: @IYEProject
Facebook: The IYE Project

IYE 2014 Statement of Purpose

When I started Inspire Your Environment (IYE), I was living in Tampa, Florida – a completely different environment than the Midwestern upbringing that I was used to. Despite many obstacles I faced there, I had a desire to fulfill a need I observed: I did not find any local initiatives that focused on the education of youth of African descent in the areas of environmentalism and civic engagement. Thus, the need was for sustainable outreach to take place in a community that was overlooked.

IYE’s beginnings

Back in December of 2011, IYE was an idea that sprouted in Tampa, Florida. It took provenance as an environmentally-conscious community engagement blog and project, based on the concept of storytelling and the practice of youth outreach. Now that I am back in my hometown of Minneapolis, MN, IYE has a related but more specific focus: sustainable solutions for the urban environment.

Why I am continuing IYE

The IYE Project will serve as a research platform that will inform the urban community as well as an inventory for personal direction into a specific area of focus for graduate school. Based on my affinity for writing, facilitation, and bridging people to solid information, resources and solutions, urban policy is in the lead. Due to many factors that shape cities, I believe that revising policies for urban planning is essential, especially when they are in cohesion with (and sensitive to) the biosphere.

Because my writing and research under IYE will be solution-focused, each article will incorporate high-tech, low-tech and no-tech sustainable solutions for urban problems within its message. My writings will be accessible for readers without a background knowledge of urban planning or policy, to understand and consider using these solutions as urban denizens.

The IYE approach

My desire is for IYE to pinpoint and examine solutions that encourage an ecologically sustainable built environment that continually produces a high quality of life, and that adapts to become more livable and more economically thriving, through innovation and creativity. Conducting interviews, writing book reviews, and engaging the IYE audience via social media with questions and answers, will help me examine these solutions.

Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” It is the task of IYE to reimagine that quote by staying with solutions longer. What guides IYE are two initial questions asked when identifying a problem: 1) What is the solution? 2) Is it sustainable? Identifying problems in the urban environment is necessary. Staying with solutions longer will help investigate the problems on a deeper level. This approach stems from observing how negative stories can often hamper an individual’s spirit of determination and hope. The IYE project will function as an encouraging voice that continually searches for sustainable answers even when the odds seem insurmountable. That’s the message of IYE.

Using IYE as a platform for African-diasporic contributors

Though the work on IYE will be mainly my own, I will endeavor to feature work, especially from professionals of the African diaspora, on the IYE website. I believe that as planners, architects, designers/artists and policy-makers, our insight is invaluable when it comes to environmentally-based urban solutions. At the heart of IYE is the desire and praxis to include underrepresented perspectives in the conversations of climate change, sustainability and ecological problem solving for our cities.

The basics of IYE

IYE is a small-scale, solution-based journalism project. It utilizes both a local Twin Cities and broad African-diasporic lens to provide a platform for storytelling and partnerships rooted in urban planning, with sustainability as its undercurrent.

Through IYE and from a mainly (but not limited to) African-diasporic perspective, I and select contributors will aim to provide physical documentation such as articles, pictures and videos from the disciplines of urban planning, policy, design/art and architecture, to convey urban solutions based in sustainability. IYE can be used to serve as a guide and resource for any individual considering pursuing the disciplines of urban planning, policy, design and/or architecture.

IYE tenets and beliefs

  1. Every urban problem has an environmental solution.
  2. Every individual, including urban denizens from African-diasporic backgrounds, have insight to offer when it comes to urban solutions. These ideas should be shared, they should be valued and even tested for future implementation.
  3. As African-diasporic problem solvers, the real way to make our contributions relevant, is to write our own narratives.
  4. To focus on the solution and sharing that message is one of the most powerful ways that an individual can inspire their environment.
  5. There is a connectedness experienced by engaged and independent learning. Independent learning is a personal choice that is not taught, but is rather experienced.
  6. Considering the living conditions of oneself and one’s community is the first step towards producing a better quality of life for all.
  7. Recognition of the value of coupling two educations – academic and experiential – for personal and communal development.
  8. Spurred on by the first education (academic), the second (experiential) education is manifested when individuals use their skills, expertise, resources and engagement to create an ecologically sustainable urban environment.
  9. Recognition of the premise that an economically thriving and livable urban setting, and upward social mobility, reflects deeply invested community involvement.

My work in sustainability

My understanding of the built environment has been shaped by my experiences of working in outreach in an energy conservation project with my previous place of employment, working with small businesses and entrepreneurs in neighborhoods with multiple barriers, working with youth in public art, heading a neighborhood walk with Jane Jacobs Walk in Salt Lake City, Utah, and creating a forum around sustainability with community leaders. These experiences also helped me think critically about formulating solutions that provide a better quality of life for all urban inhabitants. My ultimate goal is to continue this work and harness the discoveries I find through IYE, for future projects, and professional and educational opportunities related to ecologically-sound urban planning and policy.

I can’t wait to continue learning.


I have been reading.

I have been reading. I have been reading so I haven’t been writing. And because I’ve been reading, I know that the writing will be better. And I’ve been talking to Takawi. She has the gift of verbally “framing” words, down to an art form. So I’m learning from her, learning how to speak. I may already possess the gift of listening, but that can also improve. Fall is when I was born, it’s where I will be renewed, and it is where I will thrive. I’m looking forward to the change of seasons and measuring my growth, because I have been reading.

The Fall Line

Simple illustration of a fall line. Via Encyclopedia Britannica.

Historically in urban planning, major cities were planned at the head of the Fall Line, where the Piedmont (hard rock) meets the coastal plain (soft/sand) on the East Coast. Consideration of the physical environment, which includes water, was crucial in early planning. This related to water-based power and transport.

From Rural South to Urban North: The Work of Jacob Lawrence

The Migration Series, Panel No. 1. During World War I, there was a great migration North by Southern African Americans.

During my intro to Urban Studies class as an undergrad, I posed a question to my instructor: where were the African Americans living in Northern urban areas during the post-industrial, Garden City and City Beautiful movements? I asked this because as we digested images of city streets, tenement housing and crowded urban centers, I was hard pressed to see us reflected in those photographs. The history of the Great Migration was not a critical aspect of my formal education of urban studies. But it should have been.

Overtime I’ve grown to consider the premise that the history of African Americans in Northern Cities is overwhelmingly relegated to our persistence of providing our perspectives and personal stories. That’s quite alright with me, as long as the story is told. Today I learned by way of the Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) on  Twitter, of the work of Jacob Lawrence. The Harlem-based artist details the epoch of the Great Migration (1910-1970) through his ‘Great Migration Series’ (1940-1941).

Painted in a style reflective of French Cubism, Lawrence stunningly depicts the journey taken by Southern African Americans that would transform North American urban development and relationships between Southern and Northern Black people, trigger ‘white flight’, leading to the Civil Rights movement, and redefine Black people’s connection to that good ‘ol red dirt, the land on which we stand.

My people came from the South to the North, searching for a new way and a better life. This is the kind of art I can wrap my head around. Images and colors and shapes that mark a certain movement in our human history, our cultural evolution: Jacob Lawrence’s ‘Migration Series.’

Experience all of Jacob Lawrence’s 59 panels of the Great Migration at

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