Photo Credit: Andy Moon, 2015 ELP Co-Chair
Our September session for 2015 AIA Emerging Leaders Program was held at The Nasher Sculpture Center in downtown Dallas.
Before our scheduled panelists began, Diego Barrera, AIA gave us a quick overview of the ACE Mentor Program and how we could get involved as mentors. The mission of the program is to enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction.
After Mr. Barrera’s presentation, we began to discuss September's topic, Community Activism, and we had two great community forces on hand for discussion. Our distinguished panelists were Patrick Kennedy, CNU AICP, urban planner and partner at Space Between Design Studio and prominent founder of the Coalition for a New Dallas, a political action committee, and Daron Babcock, founder of Bonton Farms, where the collective efforts of the last two ELP classes have been focused on designing the infrastructure of the working urban farm in South Dallas. Not only did we have these two inspirational leaders right in front of us, Daron brought Patrick Wright, a fellow resident of the Bonton Community. All three gentlemen inspired us by describing how their forces for change within the community began, and how the grassroots nature of their efforts eventually won over widespread support for their initiatives.
Mr. Kennedy's efforts focused on his work with the Coalition for A New Dallas, a local PAC whose charge is to better inform community leaders and members of the prospects of implementing sound transportation and urban design principles in a broader regional framework. Chiefly, the group's mission was to redirect TxDOT's efforts towards the rebuilding of the I-345 elevated viaduct that bifurcates Downtown Dallas and the Deep Ellum/East Dallas area towards a more sustainable and progressive model that replaces the aging viaduct with an at-grade boulevard and opens up land for development between Downtown and Deep Ellum, as well as, more importantly, removing the psychological barrier that the elevated freeway present to groups vying to bridge the disparate areas into a more cohesive Dallas. Currently, the PAC's initiative is to engage political and civic leaders in moving the alternative vision for I-345 forward.
Mr. Babcock and Mr. Wright offered up their stories behind Bonton Farms in South Dallas, and how their lives were transformed from ones with [admittedly] little meaning to ones championing the great cause of offering up solutions for the "food desert" problems that plague low-income neighborhoods like Bonton, and addressing the broader problems of reducing crime, recidivism and drugs that plague these areas and refocusing on these with efforts that encourage and reward hard work and instilling community pride and cohesion and a path out of hopelessness.
Beyond sharing their stories, a fruitful discussion was had after their initial introduction. Much appreciation goes out to these gentlemen for sharing some of their time and wisdom with us.