Lynda Haith - the first Black woman to graduate from Lawrence Technological University and the first Black woman to be licensed an Architect in Michigan - received the 2021 Gold Medal by the Grand Rapids chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The Gold Medal is the highest honor AIA bestows, recognizing those who've had a lasting influence on the profession.
When we (Saundra Little, FAIA and Karen A.D. Burton) were dreaming of becoming Architects and planning our education and careers, we never imaged that there were so few African American women who'd traveled similar paths.
Nathan Johnson has rockstar status with us. Saundra and I started our Noir Design Parti project in 2016 to research the history and chronicle the work of Black Architects in Detroit. Mr. Johnson was the last living of our then list of nine Trailblazers – the first generation of Black Architects licensed to practice in Michigan.
His love for modern architecture came from his internal fight against colonial architecture's history of oppression of Black Americans in the South. He designed over 30 churches in the mid-century modern style across metro Detroit.
Never in our wildest dreams did we think we'd end up here. We both love architecture and enjoy the camaraderie with architects and designers. "I don't know any Black architects," we'd hear people say. Making the invisible visible became our mission.