Meet Vanessa Morrison and Gina Sofola of Black Space Oklahoma, 2018 Adult PowHer Microgrant Project Winner

Meet our Adult PowHer Microgrant project recipients: Vanessa Morrison and Gina Sofola. These two ladies have launched a great initiative called Black Space Oklahoma that addresses four of the Sustainable Development Goals. Those goals include: good health and well-being, industry, innovation,  and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, and sustainable cities and communities.

Historically, communities of color have been left out of spaces of influence when it comes to how communities are physically design and planned for. The consequences due to the lack of diversity in these decision-making spaces have been contributing factors to how poverty, access to resources, inequalities, health disparities, violence, and the overall erasure of culture heavily impacts our most vulnerable communities. At Black Space Oklahoma, they envision communities in which social and spatial change is encouraged, hope is fostered, and the pipeline for Black professionals to the formal fields of city planning, architecture, and design is broadened. Through their founding principles they plan to both strategically and tangibly extend the world of planning, architecture, design, and community organizing work to Black communities in OKC to contribute solution-focused strategies and positive change. Their objectives include:

1. Developing a multidisciplinary support network for Black community professionals and their allies;
2. Creating access to quality education centric to city planning, architecture, and design through mentoring programs, community discussions, and more;
3. Providing tangible and holistic resources to consult, support, and create opportunities for Black voices and informed action to be taken in local OKC neighborhoods, and;
4. Starting a repository for the collective celebration and preservation of the historic, present, and future community/design contributions of Black Oklahomans.

Without more diversity in these decision-making positions that are in control of the design of their communities, local residents will continue to suffer from both the intended and unintended consequences of not having Black voices at the table. They are committed to being an actionable, solution-focused collective to change the design trajectories of Oklahoma communities through creating and celebrating Black Space in Oklahoma.

Meet the women behind the project

Vanessa Morrison

Vanessa Morrison is a Certified Domestic Sexual Violence Response Professional (CDSVRP) and social planner who is dedicated to empowering and supporting communities. After receiving her master’s degree in Regional City Planning from the University of Oklahoma’s College of Architecture, Vanessa’s professional and academic opportunities have allowed her to facilitate and design crisis intervention approaches to address violence in communities, coordinate engagement opportunities for marginalized groups, domestically and internationally consult projects, collaborate on community planning initiatives, and activate both spatial and social environments. She’s experienced in developing and implementing strategies that reach into multi-faceted groups – including victims of interpersonal violence, advocacy initiatives, state and local governments, and religious sectors. Her robust and diverse experience in community engagement and crisis intervention, along with her advocacy and crisis intervention experience, give her unique insights into how the built environment impacts vulnerable, micro-communities.

Gina Sofola

Ms. Sofola is the President and Principal Consultant for Sofola and Associates, Inc., a project management and planning consulting firm started in 1999. She has managed projects around the country and worked as a Project Engineer for Fortune 500 Companies in NYC; with the City of Kansas City Missouri on multiple municipal projects including the rehabilitation of the historic Robert J. Mohart Building, the renovation of Historic Bartle Hall Convention Center and new State of the Art Fire Station 35; City and County of Denver where her company currently provides project management and planning support to Denver International Airport’s Airport Infrastructure Management Group; and she is currently developer’s agent/project manager for the Page Woodson Restoration Project a multi-phase, mixed income, mixed use development that will consist of Affordable and Market Rate Housing along with dynamic public spaces. In addition to Page Woodson she has recently collaborated on the Women of Northeast Oklahoma City which won the 2017 Oklahoma APA Award for Outstanding Public Outreach.

Her training gives her an eye towards how humans interact with the built and work
environments. She is interested in environmental, transportation, and international
planning issues and has a great passion for urban design that seeks to optimize the human experience for under served communities.

Thank you ladies for your dedication to making your community brighter and we look forward to updates about your project to share with our members.

Come and meet Vanessa and Gina at our International Women’s Day Program scheduled for March 10, 2018 from 2-4 p.m. at the Raindrop Turkish House Oklahoma City. You can find tickets here.


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