Quincy Brown, the co-founder of We All Rise, discusses communities and how they should be involved in all efforts regarding transportation electrification. Born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, We All Rise focuses on public engagement and ensuring that local communities are involved in decision-making for more equitable outcomes.
Tell us about We All Rise and how electric transportation plays into the company?
Maris Yurdana (We All Rise co-founder) and I started learning about the Healthy Business Permitting Program by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and noticed that there were a lot of glaring holes in the public engagement and equity side of things, so we took on the public engagement work. We work in micromobility to understand how to create a robust system that could solve our C02 emissions and other concerns regarding transportation.
"The dominant field has been exclusionary, historically and recently..."
Is We all Rise focused on local, national or international work?
Our mission is integrity and development and we realize that the dominant field has been exclusionary, historically and recently, so our goal is to support local approaches within Portland, Oregon and to advise cities as they also try to bring integrity and development and include minority communities.
Nationally and internationally, we’ve worked closely with New Urban Mobility Alliance (NUMO), a subsidiary of the World Resource Institute. They’re helping cities understand the new mobility challenges that come with micromobility, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Our approach helps put community members in front of the design. We also seed other firms, organizations or activities in different countries.
"Without having adequate relationships with community members, a lot of these programs can feel very exclusionary or problematic."
You mention being engaged in these communities, how can the greatest impact be made?
Without having adequate relationships with community members, a lot of these programs can feel very exclusionary or problematic. [It’s important to] be in the communities and build friendships so that folks feel comfortable coming to We All Rise.
A lot of people in government don’t realize how bad the government has been to people. We as public servants and professionals in the field need to take a look inside and see how we’ve been part of that oppression and then get on the ground in the community and learn what is needed to slowly get to a collaborative response to the problem. There’s a perception that when we’re bringing up these concerns of inequity, that we’re complaining. Instead, to uplift these communities to be at the forefront of design, treating people as equals regardless of race, income or where we come from is really important moving forward. It can’t be reactionary, we have to be very respectful of the larger healing aspects of these types of topics.
"When we require people to come to a community meeting and don’t compensate them for their time, we’re extracting knowledge from them to build our million-dollar projects that maybe have an impact on them but not a direct impact financially."
How should organizations be more involved with communities?
Communities of color and underserved communities, historically, haven’t had good relationships with bureaucratic processes, with non-profits, with organizations as a whole. When we require people to come to a community meeting and don’t compensate them for their time, we’re extracting knowledge from them to build our million-dollar projects that maybe have an impact on them but not a direct impact financially. When we’re thinking about community members, we need to meet them where they’re at and treat them like micro-consultants and compensate them for their time. They can also provide feedback, which removes power dynamics. We have to think about when we have people in the room that are diverse, that come from different backgrounds, how do we make the room feel equitable in a way that allows for everyone to feel invited.
"There is a perception that we have to uplift single occupancy vehicle planning for people of color and underserved community members that live further away from the city."
What’s an issue an organization like Forth should be thinking about?
There is a perception that we have to uplift single occupancy vehicle planning for people of color and underserved community members that live further away from the city. I want to get away from that because I think we should focus more on other means of transportation such as trains, bikes and scooters, and not just rely on cars.
"We don’t realize that people on fixed incomes, particularly older residents of color, don’t have the availability to continue to pay the property tax increases..."
What are other equity elements to consider in regard to transportation?
We need to realize that planning, particularly transportation infrastructure planning, has created public health issues. The CDC recently updated their social determinants of health, and the mapping is very similar to the red-lining that has happened historically. It’s being called Greenlining where there are these awesome transportation, electrification, or recreational programs that are being put into communities that have been disinvested in. We are paying for these through our property taxes, but we don’t realize that people on fixed incomes, particularly older residents of color, don’t have the availability to continue to pay the property tax increases, which then pushes them out of their family homes and into areas that are less desirable which tend to be more toxic, creating more public health concerns. We should be looking at these problems from a legal perspective and try to understand how to address them, often there’s been a decision already made and we’re just reaching out to the communities because we have to.
To learn more about We All Rise, visit their website or consider donating to their efforts here.
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