Spatial Futures Initiative
We’re thrilled to announce the launch of the Spatial Futures Initiative with the release of our framing paper, Grounding Justice: Toward Reparative Spatial Futures in Land and Housing, and the launch of the inaugural class of Spatial Futures Fellows.
The Spatial Futures Initiative aims to be a potent catalyst and visionary policy hub for reparative spatial justice work in land and housing. Reparative Spatial justice reimagines spaces to enable historically marginalized communities to reclaim their connection to land and obtain restitution for the long-standing impacts of racist policies and practices. In this expansive movement, PolicyLink is dedicated to connecting and elevating these diverse efforts.
Framing Paper on Reparative Spatial Justice
Grounding Justice: Toward Reparative Spatial Futures in Land and Housing serves as an anchoring document for our work in reparative spatial justice. It is both a call to action and an open invitation for collaboration and discussion that embraces the conversations, tensions, and collective growth that this path demands.
In this inaugural publication, we highlight the critical need for a reparative spatial justice framework in land and housing policy. The paper uplifts key concepts, research findings, and perspectives from the field shedding light on the multifaceted nature of reparative spatial justice. Drawing from a comprehensive literature review compiled by the PolicyLink housing team and the empirical insights of qualitative research conducted by Social Insights, this paper also synthesizes conversations with advocates, practitioners, and thought leaders in the fields of spatial justice, reparations, housing justice, and land justice. The fusion of these insights frames a set of evidence-based recommendations, charting a course for researchers, policymakers, organizers, and advocates dedicated to this transformative work.
Meet the Spatial Futures Fellows
We are proud to introduce the inaugural cohort of the Spatial Futures Fellows. The Spatial Futures Fellowship aims to support leaders that are visioning these futures — where all Black, Brown, and Indigenous people have a secure place to call home, the opportunity to repair their relationship with the land and gain restitution for centuries of racist policies that have denied them the ability to thrive for generations. In 2024, the Spatial Futures Fellowship will bring together 11 leaders from across the country who are working to advance reparative spatial justice in their communities:
Adrian Madriz (he/him/él) was born in New Orleans to Nicaraguan and Venezuelan immigrants, and raised in South Florida, Adrian is a community organizer by trade, with transformative organizing and development experience. His past causes include both of Barack Obama's Presidential campaigns in Florida, student organizing at the Episcopal Chapel at the University of New Orleans, and Housing Organizing in Liberty City through the Miami Workers Center. In addition to organizing, Adrian has an accomplished administrative and development background, having won large federal grants for his organizations, like the $768,000 Affordable Care Act Patient Navigator Grant for the Epilepsy Foundation in 2013.
Through his housing organizing, he has become a local leader on the issues of gentrification, slumlords, climate change, queer advocacy, racial equity, and on the technical aspects of affordable housing development for extremely low-income residents in Miami.
Adrian is very active on local housing and resilience issues and has sat on the boards of the Urban Environment League, the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation, the Community Reinvestment Alliance of South Florida, the Steering Committee of the Miami Climate Alliance, the Housing Committee of the South Florida Community Development Coalition and he chairs the Housing Policy Sub-Committee of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee as well as the Transitional Housing Strategy Committee of the HOMY Youth Homelessness Collective. Adrian also participated in the Overtown Cohort of the Allegany Fellowship for the Common Good, and the Miami cohort of the Maven Leadership Collective for Queer and Trans People of Color working on community development projects. He is also an alumni of the University of Miami Community Scholars in Affordable Housing.
Adrian's life changed when he learned of the terrible conditions that Miamians face every day in buildings run by slumlords like Abraham Vaknin. He is inspired by the stories of brave tenants fighting for housing justice like Porgie Town, Sharice Taylor, Jemeena Grimes, Gaynisha Williams, and other black women who accomplish the daily feat of survival. After being taught about the Community Land Trust concept by veteran community leader Trenise Bryant, he became a vocal advocate of the model. He serves as Executive Director of SMASH at the pleasure of the majority-black and grassroots Board of Directors.
Adrian has a BA in Political Science and in Screen Arts from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He lives with his husband, Armando Carranza Ventura in Overtown, Miami, FL.
Andre Strongbearheart Gaines
Andre Strongbearheart Gaines, Jr. (he/him), a citizen of the Nipmuc people, serves as a cultural steward for his Tribe, is a father, public speaker, traditional dancer, Indigenous Activist for Indigenous rights, carpenter by trade, and educator. With 16 years in recovery, Andre is a recovery sponsor and integrated life coach for those in need. Andre's work focuses on bringing traditional knowledge back to Indigenous Peoples. Some of this consists of how to flesh and brain tan hides to make items such as drums/water drums, buckskin, and blankets. This work is focused on cultural revitalization and preservation by also building traditional homes (wetus) and burning out dugout canoes (mishoonash). Andre is a board member of Native Land Conservancy and actively works alongside various land trusts to create cultural inventory reports and fights to make the LandBack movement visible. Andre was the first resident artist for the Ohketeau Cultural Center based in Ashfield Massachusetts. He is also the Creative Director of No Loose Braids (@No_Loose_Braids). Andre's work is grounded in restoring a balance between everyday life and traditional values while navigating the colonial systems we live in. Cultural revitalization, family, and traditional values are the driving force that keeps Andre ever diligent on his daily journey. Learn more about Andre’s work here.
Anietie Ekanem (he/him), with over 25 years of experience, amplifies the impact of mission-driven companies and organizations. Working with foundations, governments, and the private sector Anietie has helped drive community transformation. He is also a founding member of State of Equity Foundation, a 501c3 focused on cultivating policy and education to promote equity. Learn more about Anietie’s work here.
Most recently Anietie founded Amplify Impact to promote economic empowerment through policy, deal-making, and cultivating unique community connections that maximize local impact.
Austen Smith (they/them), a spirit-led, multi-hyphenate visionary artist and social researcher, founded Our Lunar Intelligence, an Afrocentric consultancy focusing on housing justice, program evaluation, and arts and culture. Ancestral reverence practices and the African consciousness of space-time continuity shape their worldview, and their work is to apply this wisdom by restoring the imaginations of systemically disempowered peoples of the global majority.
Cleo Davis (he/him) is a passionate and dedicated Social Construct Artist based in Portland, Oregon, where he collaborates closely with the Albina Vision Trust. As a founding partner of Black Aesthetics Studio (BAS), Cleo's journey is deeply rooted in community-focused art and a resolute commitment to driving meaningful social change. His unique perspective adds a distinctive touch to development and engagement across all levels. Through his artistic vision, Cleo endeavors to seamlessly bridge the past, present, and future of the Albina neighborhood, injecting creativity and culture into ongoing revitalization efforts. His work serves as both a reflection of the community's rich history and a catalyst for constructive dialogue and transformation, enriching the vibrant tapestry of Albina Vision's Community Investment Plan.
During his tenure as Artist in Residence at the City of Portland Archives from 2018 to 2023, Davis undertook and successfully completed the relocation of a historic house: the pivotal step in establishing a Black/Afro-American epicenter of creative brilliance, fostering art, research, and imagination. Importantly, this endeavor not only celebrates cultural heritage but also plays an instrumental role in advocating for and catalyzing essential racial policy reform within the Black community.
Cleo's collaborative spirit shines through in projects like the Historic Black Williams Art Project and the Alberta St Black Heritage markers. His artistic practice is a fusion of diverse disciplines, encompassing cultural and creative arts, visual design, architectural design, historic preservation, economic development, and city policy. Cleo Davis's work is characterized by a discerning examination of social, political, and cultural issues. He reimagines familiar visual elements, arranging them into innovative and conceptually layered pieces that challenge conventions and inspire change.
Jessie Lee Keel (they/them/(s)he)
A Youth Advocate. A Womanist. An Afro-Indigenous Futurist. A Wellness Consultant. Jessie is a community organizer and Philadelphia native with aspirations to “Heal the Future” by sowing seeds of restorative healing within our youth and young adults who are all too often stigmatized and ignored in their journey toward sustainable independence. She has learned that research is imperative to structure the data, resources, and storylines necessary to advocate on behalf of those unable to do so for themselves.
She is a Youth Mentor with WeLovePhilly and AMPLIFY. Jessie’s commitment to advocacy and community organizing initiatives led to them becoming a co-founding member of Youth HEALers Stand Up — a youth-led team supporting the community of marginalized and underrepresented youth in navigating housing insecurities and system involvement. They supported building empowered youth leaders to drive policy changes by prioritizing collective power to drive solutions — all stemmed from lived experiences of housing insecurity and system involvement.
An Afrofuturist committed to breaking barriers in the way of upholding Black Liberatory Reparation, they enjoy curating restorative spaces that foster confident interdependence and communal growth.
Jessie adores all animals and loves to prioritize radical self-care, allowing them to bring their full being to the forefront of humanitarian work.
Jocelyn Poe (she/her)
Jocelyn Poe, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor and Provost Faculty Fellow at Cornell University, while also practicing as a certified planner with the American Planning Association. Her research engages mixed and remixed qualitative methodologies to explore how place, planning, and well-being intersect to spatialize injustice and inequity. Using her experiences as a practitioner in Jackson, Mississippi, she builds theory on communal trauma and trauma imaginaries to describe and understand a psycho-socio-cultural phenomenon happening in place and impacting planning processes. This trauma work informs a reparative praxis approach to practice that can help planners achieve social justice and equity outcomes in historically underserved communities.
Puna Kalipi (she/her)
He kama kēia o nā ʻāina aloha o Molokai. Mai nā kumu kūpuna o Hālawa a i ka wela o ka lā i Kaluakoʻi. I am who I am because of my ʻāina, kūpuna (ancestors), mākua (parents, aunties, uncles), hānauna (generation), and our collective kuleana to our moʻopuna (future generations). Generationally, we know the importance of the pilina (relationship) between ʻāina (land) and kānaka (people) and how the two remain inseparable. It is with this knowledge that our community on Molokai aims to buy back Molokai Ranch so that we may restore this pilina. As the Land Back Manager for Sustʻāinable Molokai, I am entrusted with supporting this community initiative that has culminated in the establishment of the Molokai Heritage Trust. This community-owned entity is dedicated to acquiring, governing, and stewarding this land back effort.
Sheena Cabal (she/her), Land Use and Health Program Associate at PSR-LA, supports the implementation of the TIERRA Project and the People, Parks, and Power initiative; including policy research and advocacy for incompatible land use remediation; and community stakeholder engagement and capacity building around land use issues that affect public health.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sheena lived within walking distance of her neighborhood park and minutes away from Griffith Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the country. Growing up with convenient access to green spaces was fundamental to her understanding of the impact urban greenery has on communities’ mental and physical health and her desire to advocate for more equitable distribution of green space throughout Los Angeles. She also observed the effects of gentrification and displacement in her primarily Filipino/Latino neighborhood due to the lack of community participation in her neighborhood's redevelopment process. Sheena looks to bridge the gap between community needs and policy solutions to harmful land use issues through her role at PSR-LA.
Sheena holds a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UCLA. Before joining PSR-LA, Sheena worked as a Climate Corps Fellow at Los Angeles Community College District, working on sustainability and energy/water-efficiency initiatives at Los Angeles Harbor College, located in Wilmington. Working directly with Wilmington community members sparked her interest in environmental justice issues and uplifting the voices of overburdened communities. In her free time, she can often be found hiking, surfing, or playing board games with friends.
Vickii Howell (she/her) is a journalist, writer, PR strategist, and socially conscious community builder. She has spent many years as an advocate for social justice and economic inclusion in Birmingham and Mobile, using her writing and communication skills to inform, engage, empower, and build alliances that transform community.
Her passion for community started as an award-winning journalist at The Birmingham News, Alabama’s largest newspaper at the time. After a distinguished 13-year career, Vickii left The News in 2003 to create Birmingham View, a multi-media initiative to highlight more positive news about Birmingham’s African American community. She also wrote for the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail, which is now part of the National Park Service’s Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. Upon returning home to Mobile in 2013, Vickii joined the Mobile NAACP, becoming its executive director, and earning a community service award from the Port City chapter of Blacks in Government. She continues her NAACP work as chair of the Economic Empowerment, working with several groups for entrepreneurial business inclusion and workforce development.
She is currently the founder and president of M.O.V.E. (Making Opportunities Viable for Everyone) Gulf Coast Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization to build collaborative partnerships with businesses, governments, and other nonprofits to create a supportive economic development ecosystem that grows the businesses and socioeconomic capacity of entrepreneurs, workers, and families in historically underserved communities.
M.O.V.E. commissioned studiorotan to develop The Africatown International Design Idea Competition, as a means to leverage the Clotilda discovery to create a community-controlled economic ecosystem based on cultural heritage tourism. The desired outcome, The Africatown Blueprint Initiative, will use the designs to help community leaders cast a common vision for Africatown’s future, using its history to form its economic base. Vickii hopes to create a sustainable community regeneration model in Africatown that other historic Black neighborhoods and communities can follow for their own revitalization efforts.
Zyahna Bryant (she/her) is an activist, writer, and social impact strategist. She is a current graduate student and a recent graduate of University of Virginia, where she studied African American studies, with a focus on Black feminism and its intersection with religion and broader gender politics. In 2016, at the age of 15, Zyahna successfully petitioned for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue and the renaming of Lee Park in downtown Charlottesville, sparking a movement around the removal of Confederate monuments across the state of Virginia and beyond. Zyahna leads Black Girls (EM) Power at the Youth Mentoring Action Network where she is the architect behind a fellowship that funds and supports Black girl changemakers in the US and the UK. Zyahna is a Southern Black woman with a personal North Star of centering and elevating the voices of the most marginalized at all times and in all spaces.
Meet the Spatial Futures Fellowship Advisors
The Spatial Futures Fellowship Advisory Committee serves as a critical intellectual and strategic cornerstone for the fellowship program. Their expertise and guidance will not only help to steer the focus of our fellows but will also enrich the broader narrative and strategic direction of spatial and reparative justice efforts nationwide.
- Dr. Andrea Roberts, Founder, The Texas Freedom Colonies Project and Associate Professor, University of Virginia
- Angela Mooney D’Arcy, Founder and Executive Director, Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples
- Aria Florant, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Liberation Ventures
- Lauren A. Hood, Founder, Institute of AfroUrbanism
- Noni Session, Co-Founder and Executive Director, East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative
- Dr. Rashad Williams, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh