Jermaine Ruffin, a native of Canton, Ohio, currently lives in Detroit where he works as “an unrelenting advocate for urban planning, championing for the greater presence of Black, Indigenous, and communities of color in its practice,” according to his bio.
That’s the goal behind Ruffin’s podcast, The Streets Are Planning. “My podcast is specifically dedicated to raising awareness of planning issues and challenges, best practices, and successes in Black and Brown neighborhoods in cities across the world,” Ruffin said.
We are proud to sponsor a three-episode series for Ruffin’s podcast. The series, for which Ruffin will interview three people of color working on transportation planning and equity issues, is designed to center the concerns, challenges, and opportunities for Black and Brown communities specifically on the questions of community engagement, transportation planning, and micromobility in communities of color.
In the first episode of this three-part series, Ruffin speaks with Lakeshia Wright, Senior Manager, Equity & Streets at Spin. The two discuss the importance of having Black voices at the table from the start when making planning decisions or discussing new programs.
“In a perfect world, I’d love to see neighborhoods engage with Spin to understand how they could positively influence or be impacted by the tools Spin has to offer,” Wright said in her interview.
Ruffin noted that “less than one-and-a-half percent of the overall field of urban planning is Black people. That is unacceptable. Our voices matter in every neighborhood, community, and city and we need to be a part of these conversations no matter what.”
He said, “When policies are being implemented or designed that impact communities of color and we’re not at the table, our voices are ignored and the likelihood of negative impacts increases dramatically.”
Through his podcast, he hopes to raise those voices and raise awareness about the discipline of urban planning and the importance of bringing those voices to the table.
For the next episode in this series, Ruffin interviewed Sherelle Streeter, an assistant transportation planner with WSP USA and a mobility strategist with the City of Detroit Office of Mobility Innovation. Ruffin and Streeter will be discussing micromobility's role in creating equitable transportation outcomes for all people in projects such as the Joe Lewis Greenway, a 27.5 mile bike and walking trail that is meant to unify Detroit's neighborhoods." Streeter serves as a consultant to the City of Detroit on the project.
As part of the effort to empower people to speak up and use their voice, Ruffin held two workshops that focused on giving people the skills to use podcasting as a community engagement tool, with his podcast as the model. He hopes these workshops will help people learn how to elevate their voices and expand the audience for their advocacy in a tech savvy and modern way.
Supporting Ruffin’s efforts to elevate the voices of communities of color in planning issues builds on our ongoing efforts to strengthen our approach to equity. Earlier this month, we announced our partnership with Courtney Williams, founder of The Brown Bike Girl, on our “Safety for All by Spin x The Brown Bike Girl,” designed to address the most common riding concerns among Black and Brown riders.
As a company, it is important to engage in dialogue and listen to people who are seeking to elevate their voices. It is our responsibility to listen to the people that we serve and put them at the forefront of the conversation. We are proud to support Ruffin in his mission to do just that.