Atianna is a native of New Orleans, and passionate about using art and design to advance social and environmental justice. She founded WATER BLOCK in 2018 to reduce flooding in neighbourhood blocks; spur community driven development; and educate youth about the natural and built environment. Her company was awarded the grand prize at the 2018 Propeller Water Challenge Pitch Competition as part of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, and has garnered fellowship recognition by IdeasCity. Atianna has been recognised with awards for excellence in architecture, served on Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Transition Committee, served as a 2018 4pt0 Schools Fellow, and was selected as a Young Cultural Innovator Fellow at the Salzburg Global Forum in Austria. Atianna received her M.Sc in Disaster Resilience Leadership from Tulane University, Bachelor of Architecture from Louisiana State University, and Certificate in Community Development Finance from the University of New Orleans. Atianna is dedicated to creating holistic development practices that promote social, cultural and economic well-being.
As advancements in career equity and demands for climate action increase, it is important that people, disproportionately impacted by environmental challenges (i.e. black, indigenous, youth, women), be centred in these conversations. WATER BLOCK believes it is equally vital that youth (specifically, those with intersectional identities related to race, gender and class) be engaged in these topics, as it directly impacts their future. WATER BLOCK Kids is a project of WATER BLOCK, LLC, and aims to educate black and brown girls about the natural and built environment by providing learning tools that promote critical thinking, responsible citizenship, cultural literacy, and positive self identity. By focusing on this group, WATER BLOCK Kids seeks to support the growth of young environmental and design leaders.
Only 0.4% of black women are licensed architects in the US, and there's similar discrepancies in urban planning, landscape architecture and other professions that impact our natural and built environment. This homogeneity in leadership does not reflect the diversity in our country, and excludes vast amounts of talent and brain power that can be used to collectively tackle our world’s most challenging issues. Recognition of these injustices led me to create WATER BLOCK, and in turn, WATER BLOCK Kids. There is great need for projects and policies that support the growth and representation of environmental leaders from underrepresented groups.
MOTIVATION FOR AND COMMITMENT TO CREATING A BETTER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE PLANET
"My personal and professional experiences, as a young black woman from New Orleans, have defined the “why” behind my work and shaped my career trajectory. After Hurricane Katrina, I remember the fear that many people had about returning home to recover. In the years following, exclusionary recovery practices disregarded the city’s most vulnerable populations, and perpetuated social inequalities and factors of displacement. This experience introduced me to environmental justice, and continues to inspire me to create opportunities that provide greater access for communities of colour and low income people to engage and lead in environmental conversations."