Our Q&A with Farida Abu-Bakare Camara, Chair of the Black Architects and Interior Designers Association (BAIDA).
IDC: Why was BAIDA necessary and what motivated its creation as an association?
Farida Abu-Bakare Camara: BAIDA was critical because there were no organizations that existed to elevate the Black Architects and Interior Designers within Canada. After experiencing first-hand the support and sense of community of our sister organization, NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects), while living in the United States, I was motivated to recreate this same experience for future generations of Black students in architecture and interior design upon returning home to Canada.
IDC: What is the primary focus of the organization? What is BAIDA’s mandate?
A-BC: The primary focus of our organization is what we call the pipeline. We understand that without more Black youth being exposed to the design field, and representation in the form of seeing themselves within the design profession the possibility of cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion within our industry would be nearly impossible. Our mandate is to create opportunities to inspire, advance, and support Black students to either consider or continue to pursue architecture and interior design.
IDC: Given the racial disparities we see in the design industry, how is BAIDA raising awareness and supporting representation?
A-BC: Our team has first-hand experience of racial disparities in both their academic and professional experiences. Our mission is to proactively find ways to manage and minimize them within the industry. We are constantly raising awareness and supporting representation by amplifying our voices within the design industry by taking part in panels, speaking engagements, and maintaining a proactive social media presence. We also regularly collaborate with academic institutions, membership organizations, design firms, and product manufacturers who in turn support our initiatives towards representation. We are living the diversity we seek, normalizing our presence, and cultivating long term relationships within our architecture and design community.
IDC: What words of wisdom would you give Black students entering the fields of interior design and architecture today?
A-BC: I would advise the Black students in architecture and interior design to seek out mentors and find opportunities to meet other students and support one another. You are stronger as a community, rallying together rather than traversing the journey alone. Pursuing a career in architecture and/or interior design is not an easy career path, it is a competitive field with many obstacles and challenges along the way. It can also be an incredibly rewarding profession and having the right people by your side to guide and elevate you as you transition from academic to professional environments will provide you with a network to tap into when looking for job or project opportunities.
IDC: What makes BAIDA unique in supporting its membership?
A-BC: BAIDA is based on four pillars of mentorship, outreach, advocacy, and networking. We are constantly evolving our initiatives to the needs of our members. We were founded during an international culture shift and our goal is to stay nimble as our members’ needs change. Whether it be job opportunities, project opportunities, continuing education, and/or issues of pay parity, we are an agile organization and able to quickly respond and/or evolve to the concerns as they arise and find long-term or short-term solutions.
IDC: What does the future hold for BAIDA as it grows to serve the community, and what key impacts is BAIDA looking to have on the industry and its members?
A-BC: While inspiring the next generation of architects and interior designers through mentorship, the future of BAIDA is to revitalize our BIPOC communities. Increasingly studies show that well-designed environments have the opportunity to enhance social, cultural, and economic well-being, and provide inspiration to the public on how to build more sustainable, equitable, and engaging communities. These key impacts empower communities to pursue positive change and sustainable growth. We hope that our team can serve as catalysts in creating a culture of design excellence by enhancing support for quality architecture and public appreciation for well-designed environments.
Visit baida.ca for more information on upcoming events and opportunities.