Neighborhood Allies’ Social Impact Design Team engages McKees Rocks Youth in Equity-Centered Design Workshops

May 24, 2023

Neighborhood Allies partnered with the BlackTeaBrownSuga Network (BTBSN) and the McKees Rocks CDC to hold a two-week educational workshop for youth in the neighborhood about equity-centered design, site analysis and planning, and more.

The BlackTeaBrownSuga Network (BTBSN) is a Multimedia production network and community organization that focuses on connecting music, media, and mental health in Black and Brown communities by sharing creative content and emphasizing collective growth and learning for the good of the community. Their mission is to educate, inspire, and equip the community with the knowledge and skills needed to achieve success. Their focus on music, media, and mental health reaches creatives of all ages!

McKees Rocks youth involved with BTBSN gathered for four sessions in May to learn about the design process and provide input on the future site of BTBSN’s new space. Each lesson built upon the previous — from learning the foundations of architecture and design equity principles; discussing the history of McKees Rocks and analyzing existing site conditions to conveying design concepts and understanding zoning and budgeting; and, finally, understanding the building process.

The youth heard from our own Social Impact Design team as well as two minority designers from the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). Here’s what Angella Kea, guest speaker at Session 1, had to say about the workshops:

“I was fortunate enough to take part in one of the four sessions Neighborhood Allies put together in collaboration with the BlackTeaBrownSuga Network in McKees Rocks. These sessions were designed for high school students to learn about the practice of architecture, urban design, and community engagement. During the first session, we were discussing the importance of equitable design in the community. I was able to share how I became interested in architecture and some of the hardships I have already faced as a young, Black, and female designer. My goal was to encourage the students to pursue their dreams despite hardships they may face because it will be worth it in the end and to emphasize the importance of minority designers within the profession. I always love sharing my story and I hope they were able to take something important from it!”

The workshops

Check out some of students’ design inspiration for the new space by clicking on the images below!

We’d like to thank McKees Rocks CDC for funding this partnership and allowing the youth we engaged to join their cohort of Community Outreach Ambassadors! We are grateful to have engaged with this group of students, as well as with our partners at the BlackTeaBrownSuga Network. And we can’t wait to see where this project goes next!

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA