Counternarratives of Community-Based Advocacy as Sources of Knowledge for Urban Planning

Informed by the deliberate work of advocates to address the positioning of community voices as subaltern, the last three decades have seen a growing push for alternative approaches to urban planning. In order to foster the culturally competent use and development of public space in the United States, urban planning education must include a focus on the centrality and persistence of racist ideologies and the current fueling of anti-immigrant sentiments that challenge the idea of who “belongs” in communities. Even planners informed by critical theories of participatory practice face challenges working within systems based on positivist and Western-dominant epistemologies. In this article, the authors present three examples of how typically invisibilized voices in communities can be centered in urban planning and design processes, with the goal of informing and expanding preparatory curricula in more culturally sustaining ways. Specifically, the authors employ the concept of counternarratives from critical race theory to present perspectives that challenge dominant practices and understandings. The counterstories presented here document ways that activists of color have involved community members in documenting their experiences in public spaces and used these insights to promote change. The authors apply an asset-oriented perspective that aims to incorporate overlooked sources of knowledge and expertise in communities in order to imagine new possibilities and futures in shared urban spaces by changing planning processes.

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Monique López, Pueblo Planning; Adonia Lugo, Urban Sustainability, Antioch University Los Angeles; Omar Vargas, Public Matters; Allison Mattheis, Division of Applied and Advanced Studies in Education, California State University Los Angeles.

Monique Lopez