Opal Tometi has had quite a year. As one of three co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, TIME Magazine named her one of the most influential human rights leaders of the century in 2020 and, more recently, she became the first woman to receive the PeaceTech Lab's International Peace Honor. Given her leadership in bringing widespread attention to race, immigration, and gender inequities, Tometi now is expanding her reach into the A&D community.
Earlier this year, Tometi joined the Board of Directors for the International Living Future Institute, which operates the Living Building Challenge and other programs centered around improving the health of the planet through strategic design. “Social justice has long been at the core of our programs, so we are thrilled to have Opal joining our board,” says Anthony Guerrero, board chair of the Institute and chief real estate and sustainability officer at Natural Resources Defense Council. “It is obvious that a future filled with Living Buildings must rest on a foundation of equity and inclusion for people too often pushed to the margins today."
As the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Tometi continuously seeks out ways to uplift Black voices across the globe, and her role at the International Living Future Institute provides yet another opportunity for her to do so. “The Institute offers an important international vehicle to both advance social justice and grow the community of those committed to building a sustainable future,” Tometi offers. “I am happy to serve on this Board and help extend the organization’s reach and impact.”
Here, Tometi shares with Interior Design her plans to help create a more inclusive industry as Board member of the International Living Future Institute.
Interior Design: In what ways do you feel design reflects and amplifies culture?
Opal Tometi: In society, design is what epitomizes our values. From the substance, to how it’s assembled, to whose hands touched it, to where it ultimately lives—all of these are choices that demonstrate what our society values.
ID: What most interests you about the work being done by the International Living Future Institute?
OT: I appreciate the mission of ILFI because it speaks to the best in thinking about the future of design, development and how we live in harmony with the planet. I feel excited about the work of ILFI and know that if we can get more rigorous about applying a lens on racial and economic justice we can have the type of impact that all people and our planet deserve.
ID: From your perspective, what is the most pressing work in the design realm that needs to be done to advance equity and inclusion?
OT: There’s a lot of work to be done all across the board. It’s hard to say which should come first because it all feels rather pressing. Just like other facets of our society, racism continues to be a core hindrance to our collective progress. As a field, I believe we need a serious policy agenda and investment in order to make real advancements that don’t leave entire communities behind.
ID: What do you hope to accomplish as a Board member of the International Living Future Institute?
OT: I plan to help to bring my pre-BLM experience in the private sector coupled with my work in the nonprofit world of justice to make the necessary connections that I believe can shape a more just world. I hope to learn from my fellow board members and the entire ILFI community while also offering what I’ve seen both in the U.S., but also around the globe.
ID: What most excites you about taking on this role?
OT: I’m most excited about learning from the ILFI community, but also challenging the community to walk the talk. On a personal level, I used to be even more deeply involved in the sustainable design and commercial development space. Serving on the ILFI board feels like a full circle moment, where I get to merge different aspects of my life experience, and support alongside people I deeply respect.