During the Occupy movement, one of the most important questions asked was who owns our public spaces and what is the role of these spaces and who is allowed (or deterred) from speaking? Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space is a new book that asks: Where can the public congregate and how can city planning, design, and policies support First Amendment rights to public assembly and free speech? The book features essays written by experts in social science, planning, design, civil liberties, urban affairs, and the arts that address the importance of our public spaces as forums for expression with an historic and contemporary lens.
I’m proud to say that many professors, current students and alumni of my alma mater Pratt Institute contributed to this thoughtful and important book. You can read more about the book (and it’s larger initiatives, current exhibitions, lectures and news) through Beyond Zuccotti Park’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
Health professionals Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia were looking critically at the idea of “cultural competency” and felt that these types of examples were reflective of a choice of an individual and not necessarily the choices of a larger group. They determined that it is not only important to understand that cultural norms exist but it is also important not to believe we could ever achieve “competency” in the understanding of a particular group of people because every individual is more than just a list of traits.
They also advocate for all professionals who work with community to be humble by never being afraid to ask questions because each one of us is a complicated, multi-dimensional human being. Asking questions does not take away from your intelligence, is a sign of respect and only benefits our understanding. And relationships of mutual respect will always be the most reciprocal.
It is my view that the role of an urban planner is to help facilitate the needs and wishes of a community (the experts of the area in which they live), and although the tenants of Cultural Humility were designed to influence more respectful and informed decision-making within the medical profession, I believe Cultural Humility is essential in achieving this goal.
You can watch a 30-minute documentary about Cultural Humility “Cultural Humility: People, Principles and Practices” by San Francisco State Professor Vivian Chávez here.