Chocolate City: The History of DC's Urban Design

Wednesday / September 23 / 6:00 PM


DC was the nation’s first major city with an African American majority. Today, African Americans make up less than half of the city’s population and a growing proportion of the population in the region’s suburbs, which have also experienced recent rises in poverty rates and immigration. In 2019, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition ranked Washington, DC as “the most intensely gentrified” city in the country. Long-term residents and small businesses are facing an affordability crisis and struggling to remain in place and retain the culture that once defined “the Chocolate City.” This process didn’t happen purely organically — and these struggles are not new.

In this talk, Dr. Willow Lung-Amam will put current trends within the context of a longer history of racialized urban design and explore the role that designers have played in creating an unequal region. She will end by offering suggestions for designers to be part of undoing those systems through policy, practice, and advocacy. Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about how to make change in our region.


Date & Time

Wednesday, September 23

6:00 PM - 7:00 PM




Willow Lung-Amam, Ph.D.

Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park in the Urban Studies and Planning Program and Director of Community Development at the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education

She | Her | Hers

Dr. Willow Lung-Amam is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park in the Urban Studies and Planning Program and the Director of Community Development at the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education. Her scholarship focuses on how urban and suburban policies and plans contribute to and can address social inequality, particularly in neighborhoods undergoing rapid racial and economic change. Dr. Lung-Amam has written extensively on suburban poverty, racial segregation, immigration, gentrification, redevelopment politics, and neighborhood opportunity, including her book Trespassers? Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia (2017). She is currently working on a book on equitable development politics in the Washington, DC, suburbs. Her research has appeared in various journals, several books, and popular media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, National Public Radio, and Bloomberg’s CityLab.


Platform and Prerequisites

This event will be streamed via Zoom. In order to participate fully, attendees should plan to join on the Zoom app via their computer, tablet, or mobile device with enough bandwidth to support viewing video. In order to ensure only those who have registered for the event are able to attend — and to create space for intimate conversations — only those whose display name fully matches the name on our registration list will be admitted from the waiting room. You can find more about joining our virtual events, including how to connect, directions to troubleshoot, and information about our refund policy in our FAQ.

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You can learn more about how we’re making DC Design Week an accessible experience by visiting our page on accessibility.

Code of Conduct

All AIGA DC events adhere to our Code of Conduct .

More Information

Built by 100% volunteer power, DC Design Week is an annual celebration of this community, hosted by AIGA DC. AIGA Member On-Sale begins 9/5 at 10:00am and the General Public On-Sale begins 9/10 at 10:00am. 100% of the proceeds from DCDW events go toward future AIGA DC programming and the Design Continuum Fund (DCF) scholarship fund. We believe in fostering the next generation of designers through helping local design-minded and underrepresented students as they pursue their education.

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