Planners as Warriors

A few weeks prior to the election I was asked to facilitate the first Plan for All Safe Space. Plan for All is a sub-committee of the student governing body of the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP); its mission is to increase inclusivity, equity, diversity, and social justice within DCRP and the broader planning profession. The concept of a “Safe Space” emerged out of the women’s movement in the early 20th century, and was practiced primarily in activist, pedagogical, and LGBTQ communities. These were spaces in which marginalized groups could feel safe from harassment and violence; where they could feel free to act and speak openly, to ask questions, to foster strength in community and to form collective resistance.

Safe Spaces have become increasingly popular on university campuses, as a judgement-free and confidential spaces for students to gather and process. Students in DCRP requested that we create our own Safe Space to reflect on current events and topics that affect our lives as planners.

Serendipitously, the first Safe Space was planned for November 9th, a date I realized only just before would fall on the day after the election. I assumed we’d be celebrating, and had planned playful community building activities and interactive dialogue platforms.

But I, like so many of you, woke up the morning after the election feeling raw, with deep grief in my heart. I dreaded getting out of bed and facing a world that now seemed unworthy of my trust. As I laid in bed, I remembered that I would be facilitating the Safe Space in a few hours. In that moment I chose to find strength in being able to support the collective healing of my department and decided to share a piece of writing that sits in front of my desk always to remind me of the grounding values that guide my work as a Social Justice educator, planner, and human.

This piece is called “A Path for Warriors”, written by Margaret Wheatley. Margaret Wheatley is a systems thinker, who has most recently written about sustaining the human spirit of those who dedicate their life to service. “A Path for Warriors” is a list of pathways intended to help us preserve our spirits during times that feel like our energies are going to waste, that the world is against humanity. For many of us, the election of Trump is one of those times, and looking through the reading, the pathways seemed more relevant than ever.

A Path for Warriors_Margaret Wheatley (1).png
A Path for Warriors by Margaret Wheatley.

During the Safe Space, I asked everyone to choose a pathway that resonated with them on this challenging day, and that they would try to practice in the coming days and weeks. The path I’ll be working on is:

We welcome every opportunity to practice our skills of compassion and insight, even very challenging ones.

I welcome you all, planners and non-planners alike, to read through these pathways and find one that resonates with you. May it be a source of strength and healing as we grieve, process and prepare for this new moment.

About the Author: Hilary Pollan is a first year DCRP student specializing in Economic Development and pursuing a dual degree MPH in Health Behavior. She is interested in participatory planning, community economic development and building healthy communities. She believes that self-care is a radical act and strives to be a planner for social justice.

  1. Safe space: Towards a reconceptualization (2014) Antipode, 46(5), pp. 1346–1365. doi: 10.1111/anti.12089.

  2. Feature Image: Creative Commons.