What is the role of the planner in the revolution for Black liberation? Do regional and city planners even have a role? Community building will be necessary to life post revolution. Cities that are centered around love and meeting the needs of the people are vital. Community building must go further than just meeting the people’s material needs and caring for one another. To truly create vibrant communities that meet the needs of the people, cities must be planned through a Marxist and Abolitionist lens.
To be an abolitionist means you are committed to eliminating policing, prisons, surveillance, and harm. To be a Marxist means you are committed to the people owning the means of production. To truly plan safe, loving, accountable communities, planners need to have a Marxist and Abolitionist politic. But What would a Marxist city look like? To be completely honest, I am not always sure. Capitalism is a system that has been built and maintained over hundreds of years, and it’s greatly limited our imaginations. It’s relied on the exploitation of the working class, Black people, LGBTQ+ peoples, Indigenous people, and other marginalized populations. Thus, the current system cannot take care of the people because their suffering is necessary for capitalist functioning. It is important to plan cities that take care of the people pending revolution. I believe that city planners can create structures that will serve the people before and after the eventual revolution necessary to rid the world of capitalism and achieve Black liberation. For a revolution to be possible, the support of the people is necessary; to gain the people’s support, it is necessary to show them what life can be like after the revolution.
In the fight toward abolition, city planning will need to play the role of community building. I would even go as far to say that community building should be the goal and motivation behind city planning. With the community as the focus, priorities shift. When community is the focal point of everything we do, love and eliminating harm become some of our most important operating principles. Communities centered around love are abolitionist in themselves by being inherently dedicated to harm reduction. Cities and communities will always be unsafe as long as prisons and policing exist, and until we have achieved liberation. But the scope of prisons and policing goes beyond the prison itself. Policing has extended so far past the prison, that it is in every aspect of our lives, even design and architecture. When we see cities that spend resources putting spikes under bridges to prevent the houseless from sleeping, instead of simply providing them with free housing, we must ask ourselves in what ways do we police and punish one another? In what ways do the effect of prisons and policing extend to our daily life?
Abolition can happen and abolition will happen because that is what is necessary for safer communities. The people will collectively demand abolition and once that point comes the structures must be in place to foster that new reimagined world, and that’s where the work of planners can and should come in.
By job description, planners are supposed to be dedicated to planning safe communities that meet the people’s needs. The planning profession has not done this, instead, planning has been dedicated to serving the needs of capital and white supremacist institutions. Regional and city planners need to actually get in the field with the people, speak to them, ask them what their needs are and actually meet them. Abolition and Marxism put us on a path toward being more loving, more accountable, and better caregivers to one another.