In 2018, Sasaki associate and landscape designer, Philip Dugdale, thought to ask, why not hang the Pride flag in the lobby in honor of Pride month? Dugdale’s idea then snowballed into a collaborative week-long celebration of Pride involving movie screenings, an emotional Pecha Kucha about navigating one’s LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.) identity in the professional realm, and rainbow flags dotting all the desks in the office.
In 2019, Sasaki decided to go bigger.
In our second-annual celebration of Pride week, Dugdale wanted to “take the love and acceptance that we have in our own community at Sasaki and spread it out further,” gathering a passionate team of Pride planners around him early to start planning a rich, multifaceted celebration.
"At Sasaki, our diversity is perhaps our greatest asset,” says Sasaki CEO, James Miner when reflecting on how the celebration of Pride week brought the office together. “Our inclusive culture is designed to give everyone a voice at the table.”
He continues, “celebrating Pride week is one example of how we continually seek to understand each other and appreciate the value that each of us brings to the office each and every day. We do this because we believe it's not only important what we do in the world of design, but how we do it, together."
In addition to celebrating Pride with week-long programming in the office, Sasaki invited the greater Boston design community to march alongside Sasaki in the 49th Annual Pride Parade, and to join us in fundraising for the Santa Fe Dreamer’s Project, an organization that provides legal aid to trans women seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Sasaki chose to support this organization because they are joining forces with local partners to host women in the coming year, and our funding helps ensure those placements move forward.
As a global design firm, Sasaki chose to extend Pride week beyond an in-house celebration because our investment, both financial and emotional, in a global, humanistic practice starts with advocating for greater empathy at our domestic borders. This project is about making a commitment to diverse communities beyond our own studio walls.
Andy Sell, landscape designer, introducing a short film the Santa Fe Dreamers Project produced about Luz, a woman telling her story of how she escaped violence.
Sasaki raised over $2,000 in individual donations for the Santa Fe Dreamers Project. The firm then matched the donations, amounting in a final donation of $4,600. If you’d like to contribute to the Santa Fe Dreamers Project’s mission, donate here.
Learning as a Community
Throughout the world, people celebrate June as Pride month to honor and recognize the wide-ranging members of the LGBTQ+ community. Sasaki saw Pride week as an opportunity to spark dialogue at the office about the many facets of the LGBTQ+ community. In daily newsletters sent out to the firm we tackled questions like what is gender? Why ask for someone’s pronouns?
In answering these questions throughout the week, we compiled a multi-media library of resources for Sasakians to refer back to if they have questions about proper terminology, want to hear more personal narratives, are curious about LGBTQ+ folks’ influence on popular culture, or just want to learn more about how to be an ally.
“I personally appreciated the ‘how-to's’ on complex cultural questions included in the newsletter this year,” says Caroline Braga, Sasaki principal and Chair of Firm Culture. “It's my hope that events like Pride help us develop the communication skills to more gracefully share and receive ideas across cultural boundaries —which is a must when engaging with each other and with our clients in design work.”
Offline, Sasaki hosted a screening of the documentary Paris is Burning, which explores race, class, gender, and sexuality during the peak of ball culture in New York City in the 1980's. We also created an exhibit dedicated to Queer Icons RuPaul, Laverne Cox, Audre Lorde, Bayard Rustin, and more LGBTQ+ folx who made a significant impact on our society.
Sasakians donned colors representing their disciplines, painting a vivid picture of our diverse and cheerful practice.
Coming Together to Celebrate
After Sasaki posed for an office-wide group photo, we came to together for an in-house celebration. We kicked off the celebration with a presentation from Melissa Isidor about two projects she’s working on, A Voice at the Table and the Frederick Douglass Memorial Landscape, both of which employ an intersectional framework to design work.
Intersectionality, Isidor said, is “understanding that there are interconnected degrees of oppression that exist based on people’s identities. As myself, as a queer black woman, I experience that on varying levels on a daily basis, and I’m constantly walking around in environments that I don’t see myself in.” Isidor went on to explain that feeling isolated from certain environments is not unique to her experience, and that it’s crucial to consider marginalized people’s experiences when approaching design work. The two projects Isidor discussed use intersectionality to understand how women and LGBTQ+ folx of color experience community spaces, and she encouraged designers to bring new perspectives to the table in their work going forward.
Breeze Outlow shared that Sasaki was shortlisted for onePulse's call to design the National Pulse Memorial & Museum, which will be a sanctuary of hope and healing that honors the 49 lives that were lost, their families, the 68 injured victims, all affected survivors, and the first responders and healthcare professionals who provided care.
Melissa Isidor, marketing coordinator, speaking about intersectionality in two projects she’s involved in.
Breeze Outlaw, landscape designer, sharing more about the onePulse Memorial project.
Several Sasakians also spoke about why they chose to march in Pride this year; as people shared stories about loved ones and acceptance, many in the audience were moved to tears. Philip Dugdale shared that, “while Pride is amazing and colorful and joyful, we must remember where Pride began, 50 years ago, at the Stonewall riots. Even today there are many places in the world where I could be imprisoned or put to death just because of who I love and who I am, so to see this acceptance from this amazing group of people is very heartwarming.”
Sasakians get hands-on with parade prop assembly.
As the celebration came to a close, several people got down on the floor to assemble large, colorful rings called pirouettes, our eco-friendly parade props. After creating a custom design for the pirouettes in-house, our partner, AbbotAction, printed, scored, and cut 200 sheets of cardboard for us to wear and wave around in the parade—donating all labor and material. These decorative and recyclable origami rings are a sustainable alternative to making a large float that would have to be thrown out following the event.
Courtney Goode, landscape designer and designer of the pirouettes, distributes the colorful props to parade marchers.
Our celebration of Pride week culminated with over 50 people showing up to march in Boston’s 49th Annual Pride Parade. People brought their partners, children, good friends, and a dog, to march through Back Bay with our pirouettes.
See below for more of #SasakiPride this year!
Biu Biu [at right], landscape designer Rong Cong’s dog, getting into the Pride spirit.
Before the Parade, Sasaki held a tie-dying party to create custom branded shirts to wear at the parade.
Jason Ng, civil engineer in training, with pirouette.
Gearing up for the parade with bubbles.
Gwendolyn Sands, planner, [center with green pirouette] and other Sasakians sewed a 40 foot rainbow flag to fly during the parade.
The enormous and vibrant flag was a hit!
Sasaki finished the parade at City Hall Plaza. Stay tuned for more updates on the City Hall Plaza Renovation Project!