In late spring of last year, the murder of George Floyd ignited one of the largest protest movements in U.S. history. Amid the national reckoning with racial injustice that followed, we began to ask:
How are we holding space internally for constructive dialogue around systemic racism? How can we do more together to cultivate an environment that is safe and supportive for our Black and minority colleagues? And how can we increase our impact in fostering the pipeline of Black designers of tomorrow?
In pursuit of insights that would inform new commitments and actionable steps toward a more equitable future, we first paused to listen. ZGF leadership and staff spent last summer in conversation with one another and in consultation with outside experts. With guidance from our firmwide Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Task Force and input from our employee-led Diversity and Inclusion Advocacy Group (DIAG), we set a series of initiatives in motion to achieve two primary goals: to positively impact and evolve the practices and culture within ZGF, and to drive lasting positive change in the world beyond our doors.
To that end, last Juneteenth our leadership gave ZGF staff the opportunity to help establish a new Emerging Black Architects Scholarship.
“The partnership decided to offer Juneteenth as a paid holiday to our staff,” said ZGF partner Braulio Baptista. “Employees could take the day to observe Juneteenth in their own way or choose to work and donate their day’s salary to the fund.”
On Juneteenth 2020, through the generosity of our staff, we raised $160,000. We invested the funds with the Oregon Community Foundation and immediately launched the new ZGF Emerging Black Architects Scholarship. Starting this year, and every year moving forward, two students who identify as Black or African American and are in an accredited architecture or design program will be selected to receive $5,000 each toward university tuition and fees. Scholarship recipients will also be offered a paid internship with ZGF.
Said Baptista, “it’s about supporting an individual who could not only increase social representation in the architectural and allied professions, but could also potentially impact the practice of architecture and the form of the built environment in a way that promotes more equity and justice for all.”
ZGF principal Steven Lewis hopes this scholarship will benefit underrepresented architects, empowering them to take up more space at the table and see more of themselves and their culture reflected in design. “Diversity of race and ethnicity tends to equate to a diversity of lived experience,” said Lewis. “When you start to bring those lived experiences into the design process, it tends to enrich the thought process and what comes out of it.”
We invite you to follow along as we introduce the inaugural recipients of the ZGF staff-funded Emerging Black Architects Scholarship over the next few weeks.