Caitlin CAHILL, Pratt Institute, United States
In 1969 the Young Lords staged their famous “garbage offensive” in East Harlem, New York City. Armed with brooms and a revolutionary spirit of community care, young people from the famous Puerto Rican activist organization cleaned up their neighborhood, shaming the city into picking up trash on a regular basis. Our participatory design, documentary, and action research design project ”Reclaiming the Commons through Play,” is situated in the same neighborhood over 50 years later, and also focuses on community wellbeing and public health. Although much has shifted in East Harlem over the years, the public spaces remain fraught, and particularly within the context of NYC public housing developments whose residents have been disproportionately impacted by the intersecting pandemics of Covid and structural racism, and a dramatic increase in violence, gentrification, and the looming threat of privatization.
In this collaborative intergenerational speculative design project, the perspectives of young people are at the center of re-envisioning the public spaces of NYC public housing as potential sites for healing, communal gathering, and play. Resonant with the long overdue US reckoning with white supremacy, our project raises critical questions about how we might replace the criminalization of Black and Brown communities with care and investment in public space. How might we, “acknowledge the violence while undoing its persistent frame?” (McKittrick, 2014). Shifting away from punishment, policing, and surveillance, we consider the “right to play” as racial equity. Foregrounding the intimate and deep knowledge of youth residents, our collaboration explores the possibilities of trauma-informed design and culturally-relevant participatory praxis to open up new sightlines for “a place where you can be yourself and be free.”
Mots clés : Play|Public Housing|Public Space|Racial Equity|Disinvestment