If your work or interests fall anywhere near the intersection of social justice and transportation policy, you’ll want to keep a close eye on (and possibly snag a ticket to) an unprecedented “anti-conference” coming up November 13th, in Atlanta: The Untokening. The gathering will follow neatly on the heels of the Facing Race conference, also in Atlanta, and will see more than 100 national and local transportation leaders – people of color, primarily – come together for a very full day of facilitated conversation on four larger themes:
- Street safety
- Community engagement
- Gentrification, displacement, and affordability
This is not just about bikes, or about walkability, or about any one mode of transportation. This is about something much bigger. It’s about starting a national conversation founded on the experiences of leaders of color and advocates whose voices have been marginalized in transportation policy-making. It’s about co-creating value statements on mobility and transportation, and beginning to draw up a blueprint for a new kind of mobility advocacy.
“What’s most exciting,” says organizer Naomi Doerner, “is that we’re bringing all these folks together to share what their thoughts and experiences are doing this work on the ground, and we are really focusing on making it a people of color-centered space. And that has not been the norm within the transportation planning, advocacy, and even place-making spaces.”
Doerner and her five fellow co-organizers hail from all over the country, from L.A. to New Orleans to the Twin Cities; collectively, they have a lot of experience in mobility advocacy and transportation justice. To say that mobility advocacy is their beat is putting it mildly. “Each one of us has worked at a national capacity, or has a national reach,” explains Doerner, “so we’ve been able to tap those networks. But then we also have those deep regional contacts and connections in each of the areas we’re from.” They’re three-quarters of the way to their goal of reaching 100-120 participants, and have raised more than $5,500 towards their funding goal of $7,000. Their ioby campaign ends October 28th, so if you would like to contribute, there’s no time like the present.
So what’s an anti-conference?
It’s not a bunch of “experts” lecturing to everyone else, that’s for sure. Everyone who attends The Untokening will have first-hand experience as a person of color or an ally living with current U.S. transportation policies, which is to say that everyone will be an expert on the topics at hand, even without their resume on the table. Breakout discussions on each of the four themes will take place in very small groups, to facilitate honest and open conversation.
“The end goal – we don’t know what it’ll look like,” says Doerner, “but we do know that we will have arrived at some shared values around gentrification, affordability and displacement, street safety, culture – how a public space feels for us, and whether it’s inclusive or not – and also community engagement. We see this as the beginning of a national justice mobility agenda. I think the collective voice will really help frame future not only local but also national transportation strategies. We want a collective voice to emerge.”
If you plan to attend, check out The Untokening’s website for details on some fun pre-Untokening events, including a Saturday bike ride, and a talk with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.
Naomi Doerner is currently on the board of directors with ioby, and has participated in four other ioby projects: Bikesplorations: Teens Taking the Lane, Bikes for Kids!, Youth Bicycle “Spokesperson” Mentorship, and Soundview Park Bikesplorations.
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Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Ever thought you might want to help turn a vacant lot in your neighborhood into a community space? An ioby leader who’s been there and done that, and knows the ropes, shares her best tips on how to make it happen.