top of page

Recording Now Available - The Struggle for Equality: Overcoming a Segregated Past 1/21/22

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

In his famous, I Have a Dream speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice." However, nearly sixty years after King's vital words, American cities remain segregated by race and income largely due to long-standing discriminatory land-use, housing, and transportation policy. In the wake of a nationwide reckoning around race, political leaders and urban planners are starting to recognize the negative impact the maintenance of such policies has on the social and economic well-being of cities. Planners are now thinking critically about how best to use urban planning as a tool to advance social equity.

Using the Metropolitan Planning Council's (MPC) Cost of Segregation as a basis, this 1/21/22 session aimed to celebrate Martin Luther King's legacy by unpacking Chicago's unique history of racial segregation and discussing ways to implement change that ensures a more equitable future for all Chicagoans.

The panel includes Chicago Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara, WBEZ Senior Editor Alden Loury, and Shermann Thomas, AKA "Dilla the Urban Historian," with moderation from ESRI's Yolanda Richards.

This webinar is brought to you by the APA-IL Professional Development Committee and hosted by the APA Chapter Webcast Series.

Links to reports and resources discussed during the webinar:


Alden Loury is senior editor of the race, class and communities desk at WBEZ, Chicago’s National Public Radio member station. Loury leads a team of three journalists providing enterprise reporting on matters of race, class and inequality, as well as housing, immigration, employment and demographics.

Previously, Alden has served as the director of research and evaluation for the Metropolitan Planning Council; an investigator and policy analyst for the Better Government Association; and a reporter, senior editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter.

Documenting racial segregation and inequality in housing, education, employment, the criminal justice system, economic development and politics has been a focus of Alden’s work for more than 20 years.

Commissioner Marisa Novara was appointed Commissioner of the Department of Housing (DOH) by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot in June 2019.

As DOH commissioner, Novara directs the City's efforts to keep Chicago affordable for all income levels through projects and policies that address the needs of tenants, landlords, developers, homeowners and other community stakeholders. DOH programs, under her direction, support affordable housing construction and rehabilitation projects, provide purchase assistance for first-time homebuyers, enable accessible repairs for seniors, provide grants for home improvement projects, and offer development incentives for the redevelopment of vacant and abandoned buildings. DOH also administers the City's affordability requirements for multi-family construction projects and monitors compliance for all City-assisted affordable housing projects and policies.

Shermann Thomas “Dilla the Urban Historian” is a fascinating blend of modern historian, cultural worker, and public employee. A life-long resident of the South Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, Thomas attended Calumet high but graduated from Olive-Harvey Middle College an alternative high school located in a branch of the city colleges. An employee of Chicago area power utility ComEd since 2011, Thomas began making Tic-Tok videos in an effort to bond with one of his 7 children. Although Dilla’s focus is aimed squarely at underexposed aspects of Black Chicago, his work continually reveals the rich tapestry of Chicago history. Anchored in the background as son of a policemen.

Yolanda Richards currently serves as an Account Manager for Local Government at ESRI. In her role, she works closely with the City of Chicago and sister agencies to support their efforts in solving critical issues using geospatial technology. Yolanda also supports ESRI’s racial equity initiative to inform and provide resources available or agencies that tackle systemic racism and racial Justice. Furthermore, Yolanda works with several programs and initiatives through NorthStar, a community organization connecting persons of African descent in the GIS and locational intelligence industry.

Although her roots stem from Southern California, Yolanda has called the Chicagoland area her home since 2011 where she lives with her family. In her free time, she enjoys strengthening her skills in photography, playing instruments, building community with others, deepening her faith, and laughing as much as she possibly can.


The APA-IL is a member of the of the Planning Webcast Consortium which consists of APA Chapters and Divisions that produce educational webinars for the urban planning community. Members of the Consortium may view any of the webcasts for FREE! Planners that need to maintain their professional certification (AICP) may also receive 1.5 professional development credits (CM | 1.5) when viewing the webinars live.

If you would like to have YOUR webinar hosted by the Planners Webcast Consortium and gain national exposure, just email and we'll help get you setup! Webcast dates in 2022 and beyond are now open!


* As of January 1, 2022, the AICP mandatory CM requirements now include Equity and Sustainability in addition to Law and Ethics. For more information on mandatory CM credits, please visit


bottom of page