1998 – Boston Beginnings

It all began with Boston. I was nervous about even going to this conference for the American Planning Association because with it being my first year in school, I wasn’t going to know anyone except for my girls. I met ‘Ms M’ at some crazy cult party in a pool hall off campus. We stepped out of there together before we were forced into drinking the Kool Aid…’Ms A’ came up to me at a meeting and let me know that she made it a point to speak to all the new Black students that she saw. She point-blank asked me my name and where I was from. It works for her because ‘Ms. A’ has some serious connections (She even went to school with one of my in-laws). Anyway, that’s was all she wrote as far as she and I were concerned. We’ve been friends ever since. The girls had attended before, so for them the APA conference was a matter of them reconnecting with old friends. I wasn’t outgoing at all, so I fully expected to be quivering in a corner somewhere waiting for the whole thing to be over. The first day, things went as expected as I awkwardly made my way into my first Planning and the Black Community Meeting. I say “awkwardly” because I was late. Really late. As a result of my lateness, I was doing the “Deacon Walk” – you know the walk where you bow down, stick that one finger in the air and tip toe to your destination as if invisible – to the only seat left in the small room. And it was in the front. I wanted to die right then. And then I saw him. The man on the dias. The man who was speaking. The man who I would someday marry…

I didn’t even think I would see Kevin again. I don’t even know why I thought that because between the job that I took earning extra money by holding up signs to signal people who bus to ride to the mobile workshop, hanging out in the lounge section of the hotel meeting more Alabama A and M folks than I could shake a stick at (Tell me, do you A and M folks still attend these conferences en masse?), and somehow landing a position as a student delegate for my region, I met a lot of folks that I still talk to today. I think I officially met Kevin the day after my first sighting and he and I went on a walking tour of Boston together. Ok slow your roll because we were not alone. Several others accompanied us on that particular tour, including my girls. I am not going to pretend that people have the patience to read all of the details of this conference so I will simply suggest that if you ever visit Boston, keep note of the following: The Hard Rock has great music. Don’t walk on cobblestones if you have recently been in a car accident. Stay away from inebriated people who may or may not be able to give you an internship unless you have a night and shining armor waiting in the wings to rescue you. Sure, swing by Harvard University Campus and take in the “ah-ki-tecture” (Yes, I can definitely pronounce it like that now since we’re talking about Boston!). Do visit Beacon Hill as it was the home to prominent Black figures in history. Single ladies, there was a particularly yummy park ranger that some of our group members thought deserved a second look. There may be a picture of him circulating somewhere…

I plan to return to Boston at some point. ‘Ms A’ just emailed the conference schedule and that conference will come around again in 2021. I would pretty much like to attend, but I’m hoping to get back to Boston before then, like when we go to Providence to visit my mother’s family. I want to do my walking tour again and would like to add the Old North Church to that list. What other places should I visit? So Boston started it all and since Boston, I have been hooked on conferences. Little did I know that once I ceased being a student, I would have to find creative ways to attend and now that I no longer practice, I have to follow the events via Twitter. Good thing that’s an option now, but it’s not the same thing as being there and connecting with old friends. Until next time. Check out what I have to say about Seattle.

Professional Conferences can be Life Changing

Planning PhotoThis week, Urban and Regional Planners from all over the country will be traveling to Chicago to attend the American Planning Association Conference. My good friend, ‘Ms A.’ from our friendship circle will be the only one of us in attendance this year. I have fond memories of these conferences because for me, they are where some life changing moments have occurred. If you have read my novel and know me personally, then you know that the main character, Lauren Malone has some similarities to Yours Truly. The biggest coincidence is our planning background. In commemorating the release of “The Promise of Palmettos,” I thought that it might be fun to blog this week about my own conference experiences, while the conference is in session. I have always enjoyed the APA conferences. For me it was an excellent way to make connections. It is where I have met friends. It’s where I found my first planning position, which was in Anderson County, South Carolina (Yes, I actually lived in the Up Country for a while!). I even met my would-be husband at a conference. Most importantly, I became engaged during an APA Conference.

I find it amazing how far everything has come since my first conference. Before, when you couldn’t make the event, you would have to catch up with friends who attended in order to get the low down, and it was usually pretty eventful. These days you can get a minute-by-minute update via Twitter! How amazing is that? You can find the American Planning Association Twitter Updates on #APA13. I’ll also be recalling memories from the Planning and the Black Community Division, of which I was once a member. Follow them on Twitter #PBCD13.

So if you are a Land Use Planner and you are tuning into my blog, I am inviting you to post your own planning memories in the comment section.