The Black in Design Conference, organized by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design African American Student Union, recognizes the contributions of the African diaspora to the design fields and promotes discourse around the agency of the design profession to address and dismantle the institutional barriers faced by our communities. The creators aim to produce a venue in which all people, from scholars to high school students, feel comfortable discussing the past and current racial inequalities seen in political and social cultures in America. Speakers at the Conference include numerous well-known professionals from diverse disciplines. Many are there to discuss what we as designers and activists can do to address the barriers that continue to exist for people of color.
The conference is a brilliant example of the power of students as change-makers. In 2015, a group of students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) began to envision a space where contributions and experiences of people of color were discussed and celebrated- a space they felt hadn’t previously existed. With help from the African American Student Union and countless other students, faculty, and professionals, the first Black in Design Conference was held in October of 2015, followed by conferences in 2017 and 2019. In 2019, the conference was co-chaired by Jaline McPherson and Daisha Martin.
The Black in Design Conference has inspired numerous programs, ranging from BlackSpace – a network of African-American planning and policy professionals- to the African American Design Nexus – Harvard’s attempt at creating a canon of important contributions of African American designers. The Conference has received recognition as an empowering movement of students discovering ways that design can promote equality.
The fourth biannual conference, Black Matter, took place virtually from October 8 to 10, 2021 and was co-chaired by Caleb Negash and Tomi Laja.