Meeting the moment: The 2024 Equity Summit

We’re so thankful to have had nearly 300 people gather in Washington, DC at our first in-person Equity Summit. We spent two days unpacking how we can work together to advance equity in our transportation, housing, and land use decisions nationwide and are excited to carry all the insights that came from our speakers, panelists, and attendees into our work.

“If equity is not the default, it must be by design.” -Calvin Gladney, SGA CEO

You could feel the passionate, dedicated energy at Martin Luther King Memorial Library where advocates, practitioners, and thought leaders came to meet the moment and learn strategies to propel community-centered, equitable ideas and projects forward. On the first day of the Summit, attendees heard a keynote from April De Simone, Founder and Executive Director of The Practice of Democracy, who opened up her remarks by saying that we are at a moment in society that is tugging at our consciousness for what equity and liberty and freedom mean. April noted that she’s tired of the inequitable stain of racist infrastructure and planning practices but will continue to devote herself to fighting them. “Let’s keep equity real by revealing how inequity has shown up,” she said.

Following April was a mainstage panel discussion that focused even more on how to overcome systemic barriers. The panel was made up of five women—all with varying expertise in the transportation, housing, and the civic sectors— who shared their unique perspectives on how to uplift the communities they serve despite the challenges they’re up against. Wawa Gatheru, Founder and Executive Director of Black Girl Environmentalist, said that hearing from other women of color that have been able to maneuver these systems gives her a better outlook on the world and an optimism that reframes how she thinks about the future.

The day concluded with workshops from our partners at Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), Cityfi, and Center for Creative Land Recycling (CCLR), who led attendees through interactive exercises that challenged them to apply what they heard during the day’s conversations into realistic planning scenarios.


Day two featured a keynote speech from Charles T. Brown, Founder and Executive Director of Equitable Cities. He kicked off the day by delving into the importance of addressing the root causes of inequity rather than the symptoms, stating that “urban planning has been weaponized as a tool of oppression within society” and that that trend needs to change.

From there, attendees heard from a panel of grassroots and government advocates who all spoke about the value of knowledge-building as a tool for holding decision-makers accountable. Governor of Maryland Parris Glendening said that “as an advocate, you help others understand their part, both in the problem, and then solution.” Afterwards, a panel of cultural organizers shared their insights on the importance of arts and culture, inclusivity, and representation as a fundamental tool for community-driven planning and community-owned decisions at the local level.

It’s important to consider why you’re planning in the first place, and if you don’t know the answer to that question, you must go ask the community what kind of plan they want. -Willow Lung-Aman, Associate Professor, the University of Maryland

After lunch and some mingling, attendees were given the opportunity to hear from one more panel, either about harnessing data and lived experiences to create safer streets, a meditative and reflective session on collective care and well-being, or how to repair trust among communities in order to cultivate more inclusive infrastructure decisions.

To conclude the Summit, everyone had the option to hop on a bus or head to the metro to tour locations throughout the DMV to learn more about the historical, cultural, and political contexts that have led to the advancement of equitable development projects. It was one last opportunity for attendees to reflect on how they can take what they’ve learned and implement it in their communities.

Stay tuned for more photos and video from the event, as well as discussion guides to continue the conversation now that the event is over. We can’t wait to be back together in 2025!

Many thanks to our speakers who shared their time and energy with us and to our sponsors for their support that contributed to the Summit’s success!