Mayors Imagining the Just City


Friday, March 12, 2021, 1:00pm to 5:00pm


Virtual via registration

The GSD's Spring 2021 Public Programs are all virtual and require registration.


Scroll down to find complete registration instructions and additional information about accessing the GSD's programs.


Event Description

Following the inaugural MICD Just City Mayoral Fellowship–a collaboration between the Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) and Harvard GSD's Just City Lab–the seven inaugural MICD Just City Mayoral Fellows discuss how to tackle racial injustices in each of their cities through planning and design interventions.

This event is supported by the Carl M. Sapers Ethics in Practice Fund.


1:00PM – 1:20PM



1:20PM – 3:00PM


Memory, Place Narratives and the Just City


3:00PM – 3:15PM



3:15PM – 4:45PM


Restorative Justice through a Dignity Economy


4:45PM – 5:00PM




Headshot of Mayor Benjamin, who wears a suit and striped tie.MAYOR STEPHEN K. BENJAMIN

Since being elected mayor in a record turnout election in April 2010, Mayor Steve Benjamin has made it his mission to create in Columbia the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in America.  

In addition to serving as Mayor of Columbia, Mayor Benjamin served as 2018-2019 President of the United States Conference of Mayors, Chairman for Municipal Bonds for America, Member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, Member of the Accelerator for America Advisory Council and Co-Chair of the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy campaign. 


Headshot of Mayor Lumumba, who wears a blue suit and tie and stands with his arms crossed.MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA

Chokwe Antar Lumumba is the 53rd mayor of the City of Jackson, Mississippi, the youngest elected mayor in Jackson’s history. He is an attorney, a husband, a father, and the son of two life-long community activists—the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and Nubia Lumumba.  

Mayor Lumumba and his Administration have advanced a number of important initiatives in the City of Jackson including the establishment of a strategic plan toward building a Dignity Economy in the City; strengthening oversight of the police; preventing the state takeover of Jackson Public Schools (JPS) through an innovative partnership with the state, JPS, the City, funding, and community partners to improve 


Headshot of Mayor Patterson-Howard, who wears a red jacket and shirt and has shoulder-length light brown hair.MAYOR SHAWYN PATTERSON-HOWARD

Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard made history as the first woman elected mayor in the City of Mount Vernon, and first Black woman chosen for the office in Westchester County. Since assuming office on January 1, 2020, she has worked tirelessly to strengthen the local community and engage with all levels of government to bolster her beloved Mount Vernon and restore trust in the city’s leadership.  

Her first-term goals include growing the local economy through strong economic development policies, strengthening youth services and education, supporting seniors and empowering them to age in place, and bolstering the quality of life for all residents through innovative, equity centered solutions fostered by public, private and community partnerships. 


Headshot of Mayor Simmons, who wears a blue suit, white shirt, and striped tie.MAYOR ERRICK D. SIMMONS

Errick D. Simmons is the first black male mayor of the City of Greenville. Mayor Simmons began his career in municipal government as a city councilman in 2007, as the youngest to serve in the position at that time.  

In the name of social justice, racial equity, and inclusion for all, the very first order of business for Mayor Simmons as Mayor of Greenville was the removal of the Mississippi State flag containing the confederate emblem from all municipal buildings. Simmons later announced the City’s first ever re-entry program entitled, Greenville Re-Entry and Training Program (GREAT), a program aimed to hire and train returning 


Headshot of Mayor Spicer, who wears black glasses, a gray checkered coat, a black shirt, and a pearl necklace.MAYOR YVONNE M. SPICER

Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer is the first Mayor of the City of Framingham. She was sworn into office on January 1, 2018, the same day Framingham officially became a city.  

Committed to sustainable economic growth, the Mayor served on the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the Massachusetts Office of the Treasurer Economic Empowerment Trust Fund, was a Town Meeting Member, and served on the Standing Committee on Ways and Means. She is the 2017 President-Elect to the International Technology Engineering Education Association (ITEEA) an international organization designed to build capacity for technology and engineering education globally working with Kindergarten through 12th graders, higher education 


Headshot of Mayor Williams, who wears a black suit, white shirt, and red tie.MAYOR VINCE R. WILLIAMS

Mayor Vince R. Williams is Union City’s twentieth mayor. His leadership and commitment to advancing the Council’s shared vision for Union City helped to transform a dilapidated mall and revitalize it into a thriving multi-million dollar film studio, reverse a multi-year financial deficit to an 81% increase during his first term as Mayor—all while ushering in the greatest increase of job creation in the City’s history.  

Since his first day in office, Mayor Williams has strived to increase consensus, cooperation, and partnership between South Fulton, Metro Atlanta, and Georgia’s many governments, its business and civic communities and its residents. 


Headshot of Mayor Woodfin, who wears a gray suit, white shirt, and red and blue striped tie. He also wears glasses.MAYOR RANDALL L. WOODFIN

Randall L. Woodfin is the 30th mayor of Birmingham. The mayor is focused on revitalizing the city’s 99 neighborhoods, enhancing education and career opportunities for students, and creating an innovative economic climate to grow, attract and retain talent, startups and small businesses. 

His vision to create new education and career opportunities for students led to the Birmingham Promise, a public-private partnership that provides tuition assistance to cover college costs for Birmingham high school graduates.  

Under the Mayor’s leadership, the city launched the Office of Social Justice and Racial Equity which seeks to employ social justice as a core principle in City of Birmingham policies, operations 



Toni L. Griffin is founder of urbanAC LLC, based in New York, a planning and design management practice that works with public, private and nonprofit partnerships to reimage, reshape and rebuild just cities and communities.  The practice designs, leads and manages complex, and transformative social and spatial urban revitalization frameworks, rooted in addressing historic and current disparities involving race, class and generation.  Over the past ten years, we have successfully collaborated with several major U.S. cities on the cusp of just economic recovery.  Recent clients include the cities of Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Memphis and Detroit.

Ms. Griffin is also a Professor in Practice of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she teaches design studios and seminars also rooted in issues of social and spatial justice.  She is Founder and Director of the Just City Lab, an applied research platform that investigates the ways design can have a positive impact on addressing the conditions of injustice in cities.



The Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors. Since 1986, the Mayors’ Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities. 


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the independent federal agency, established by Congress in 1965, whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. 


The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. USCM promotes effective national urban/suburban policy, strengthens federal/city relationships, ensures that federal policy meets urban needs, provides mayors with leadership and management tools, and creates a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information. 


At the Just City Lab, we ask: Would we design better places if we put the values of equality, inclusion or equity first? If a community articulated what it stood for, what it believed in, what it aspired to be — as a city, as a neighborhood — would it have a better chance of creating and sustaining more healthy, vibrant place with positive, economic, health, civic, cultural and environmental conditions? Imagine that the issues of race, income, education and unemployment inequality, and the resulting segregation, isolation and fear, could be addressed by planning and designing for greater access, agency, ownership, beauty, diversity or empowerment. Now imagine the Just City: the cities, neighborhoods and public spaces that thrive using a value-based approach to urban stabilization, revitalization and transformation. Imagine a set of values that would define a community’s aspiration for the Just City. Imagine we can assign metrics to measure design’s impact on justice. Imagine we can use these findings to deploy interventions that minimize conditions of injustice. 

How to Join

Register to attend the symposium here. Once you have registered, you will be provided with a link to join the lecture via Zoom. This link will also be emailed to you.

The event will also be live streamed to the GSD's YouTube page. Only viewers who are attending the lecture via Zoom will be able to submit questions for the Q+A. If you would like to submit questions for the speakers in advance of the event, please click here.


Live captioning will be provided during this event. A transcript will be available roughly two weeks after the event, upon request.


Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the events office at (617) 496-2414 or