July 20, 2021

Tamika Butler

The next time you go out for a ride, take a look around you and think about the way your city's infrastructure was made. Where are bike lanes, and when and how do they end? Do the bus stops nearby have benches and shade? Are there many green spaces around you?

When it comes to urban planning, many of us think of city infrastructure as things that just... happen. That the bike lane that disappears from the middle of the street or the bus stop that's built without any shade are just how it is and how our cities were built. But Tamika Butler (she/her/they/them) wants to challenge that way of thinking.

Tamika Butler

A national expert, speaker, and consultant on issues pertaining to our built environment and anti-racism, Tamika wants to build better cities by increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in urban planning. With a background in law, community organizing, and non-profit leadership, Tamika is now pursuing a PhD in Urban Planning at UCLA to bring her vision of more diverse, more equitable cities to life.

Learn more about Tamika and how she sees the future of urban planning below.

Tamika Butler

Thousand: What do you see as the intersection of urban planning and diversity, equity, and inclusion? What is the relationship between these two issues? 

Tamika Butler: When we allow ourselves and urban planning leaders to do this work without consideration of intersectional issues like the killing of Black people, urban planning work lacks impact. People of Color know that racism and racial bias in policing and infrastructure planning is a major factor in our safety and in our ability to succeed as we move about our communities. Any conversation about urban planning that fails to explicitly and affirmatively acknowledge this disparity is one that lacks true vision, honesty, and effectiveness. This has been true in the past, continues today, and will be true tomorrow—unless we change it.

T: What would you like to see more of in LA neighborhoods to increase equity and access to public spaces?

TB: I would like to see the diversity of the city better reflected in our decision-makers and communities listened to more so they have an ability to self-determine what they want to see in their neighborhoods.

Tamika Butler

T: What unique perspective do you bring to the future of urban planning? 

TB: As a genderqueer Black woman, I'm happy to bring my life experiences to this space. It's exciting to me that there were giants whose shoulders I stand on and more people like me making our way into this field. In some ways, my perspective is only unique because urban planning has been so dominated by straight, cisgendered, able bodied white men with access to education and resources.

T: If you could give our community one call to action, what would it be? 

TB: Stop seeking out conversations and spaces that feel safe when it comes to tackling issues like inequity, racism, or white supremacy, instead be brave.

Tamika Butler

Are you ready to join Tamika in building better cities? 

Here are her tips on how to get involved and make impactful change in your own city:

1. Educate yourself: Often we expect to just get out at this stuff by focusing on what outcomes we want to see. But you wouldn’t expect the outcome of winning a race or competition without preparation. What are you reading or listening to? Where do you get your news? Are you mainly just learning from and talking to people that are just like you? You have the power to change that.

Tamika Butler

2. Explore local resources: Most communities have a local bicycle coalition, transit advocacy, or walking advocacy group. Figure out where your nearest one is and become a member. Join their mailing list and learn about what issues are happening in your community.  

3. Get engaged: Stop thinking of urban planning and our built environment as things that just happen. Start thinking about the fact that space and place impact every aspect of our lives and if you are not part of thinking about these things, someone else is making decisions about how you can inhabit places and spaces.

Read more from Tamika at and Medium.

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