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Experts discuss how Chicago can build for queer, black, and brown communities

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A conversation series brings together urban planners, city leaders and policy experts


Several years ago, the Metropolitan Planning Council took on a new approach to addressing the segregation and inequality in Chicago. And now, MPC will host a series of events and discussions to educate residents about innovative affordable housing, accessible parks, and inclusive policy.

Inequality, race, and neighborhood disinvestment was a major issue in the mayoral election and is now a focus of Lightfoot’s administration. “The new leadership has caused another wave of conversations and discussions around solutions,” said MarySue Barrett, MPC’s President.

A few years ago organization led a groundbreaking report about the economic cost of segregation and then followed up with two dozen policy ideas for reform. Some of those are now getting implemented, like limiting aldermanic privilege. Now, MPC’s vice president is heading up the city’s Housing Department, which hasn’t been active in a decade.

After the report, MPC began working with cultural institutions and artists to address issues of housing, transportation, and investment. For example, film screenings about the history of transportation or an artist talk with photographer Tonika Johnson about her Folded Map project.

This summer the council will launch Equity in Action: A Conversation Series about affordable housing innovations, income inequality, and how to build for queer communities.

“We want different people to meet each other and have truly authentic conversations,” said Barrett. “It’s not about intent, it’s about what happens.”

So far there are six events planned and MPC plans to add more to the schedule.

  • June 4: MPC will talk about how gentrification impacts queer spaces and why urban planners and policy makers can build for a queer Chicago.
  • June 8: Urban planner and artist Vitaliy Vladimirov will lead a walking tour in Boystown that will cover the intersection of urban planning and LGBTQ+ politics.
  • June 12: Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, Related Midwest, and Skender will discuss innovative affordable housing solutions like modular construction and library co-housing.
  • June 19: Former alderman Ameya Pawar and the mayor of Stockton, California will talk about how Chicago can learn from other cities about how to tackle poverty, violence, and racial disparity.
  • July 25: Photographer Tonika Johnson, Friends of the Parks’ Juanita Irizarry, and environmental studies professor Brian McCammack will discuss how parks and green spaces are often as segregated as our cities.
  • October 3: Alex Kotlowitz will discuss his latest book, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago