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  • Writer's picturepascalesablan

Excited to Share | I am NOMA National President 2023-2024

I am excited to share that during the National Organization of Minority Architects annual conference in Nashville I officially received the presidential staff and purple pin as NOMA's 5th Woman President. Recognizing the power of the podium, I leveraged this opportunity to connect with the NOMA community to impressed upon them all that NOMA means to me, introduce them to who I am, pay tribute to those who came before me, my global aspirations for the future and to assure them that I am ready, because NOMA prepared me!

Photography credit: NOMA National & 4thFlr

It was a humbling experience accepting the Presidential staff and addressing the 1,250 conference attendees presented to me by two of my predecessors Kimberly Dowdell and Jason Pugh. I appreciate everyone who has expressed how much my speech impacted them and all those to pledged, love and support during my administration.

Videography credit: Fitgi Saint-Louis of the Staff Ceremony

Photography credit: NOMA National & 4thFlr

Here is my speech

Good Evening, NOMA Community.

Thank you. I am truly honored to be elected and serve as your next NOMA President and humbled by the support, encouragement and mentorship I’ve received over the years. I am moved to share a quote from my Haitian culture “Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.” Which translates as “Beyond every mountain, there's another mountain.”

Before we (collectively and as individuals) get ready to conquer our various mountains (goals and obstacles) I want to take a moment to stand in this accomplishment, stand and appreciate what we have done both as individuals and as the NOMA organization.

Full disclosure I will be asking you to stand a few times tonight.

Many of you know my architectural journey began while attaining my undergraduate degree, when I was asked to Stand.

During my first-day of Architecture History class, the professor began the lesson by asking two of us out of a class of 60 students to stand. As we stood, he announced that neither of us would become architects because we were black and women. I was shocked that a person, who didn’t know me, my name nor my capacity could make such a definitive proclamation, I was surprised that out of that full classroom only two of us were black women and I was stunned by the silence of my peers. It was the moment I realized I’m not just representing Pascale, when I step into a space, I’m representing my gender and my race, and I was immediately shackled with the burden/responsibility to show up and show out at every instance. My actions could not be the reason the next person is denied an opportunity. The goal, my purpose was to be the reason those opportunities were multiplied. That was also the moment of realization that I could not simply become an architect, I had to change the profession; we have to change the profession.

I stood in that moment with one person Molly Corville, but I did not have the NOMA community, in many ways and through the course of attaining a Bachelors of Architecture from Pratt Institute and Master’s of Science in Advanced Architectural Design, from Columbia University I stood alone. Therefore, to my NOMAS students! You must know in this moment you are not alone.

All my NOMAS students please stand. We have programs for you,

HBCU Professional Development Program, Barbara G. Laurie Student Design Competition, Project Pipeline Architectural Camp, NOMA Foundation Fellowship, to name a few.

Stay standing if you have experience being told you are inadequate because of your gender, race, cultural background or how you identify. Thank you for persevering! Thank you for being here. Please sit. Now, all of our professional members please stand.

You see NOMAS we are here, we stand with you, we are working to decimate and dismantle the unjust obstacles in your way so that you can excel.

Everyone please sit.

My NOMA journey began in 2009 at the memorial service for J. Max Bond Jr. He was an incredible architect with immense impact not only in NY but globally. Although I was quite familiar with his work and his firm Davis Brody Bond, it was upon his passing that I learned that he was black and learned about all that he had done for our profession. As I stood in the legacy of Max’s impact at the Center for Architecture. I was shocked to see hundreds of black and brown architects in one space. At Pratt I was one of 5 and at Columbia I was the only one. I shook hands and greeted as many people as I could and was invited by the NYCOBA NOMA board to join their coalition. From 2009-2014 I served as the corresponding Secretary and the Recording Secretary, 2015-2016 as the chapter President, 2016-2021 NOMA National Historian, 2017-2020 Regional Vice President of the Northeast, 2021-2022 President-Elect and today I stand before you humbled by the opportunity to serve as your 2023-2024 President, and I am ready! Because I’m NOMA prepared. Many have asked why join the NOMA board, yes it is a lot of work, but I acknowledge that I would not be where I am professionally today had it not been for my service to NOMA.

NOMA Professionals we get you ready with programs such as the 2030 Diversity Challenge, support with Black Spectacles, ARE Financial Support, work with collaterals with research in Baseline on Belonging, maintain the Directory of African American Architects, host NOMA Exhibition & Publication and Leveraged Legacy that partner young professionals with firm owners working on their succession plan. These are some of the ways NOMA is serving you.

NOMA was first to offer me an opportunity to lecture, at the 2014 NOMA National conference in Philadelphia. I stood at the podium for the first time, nervous but confident in what I was presenting, my audience, listened, posed questions, afterwards, gave me support and encouragement, and shared what I could do to improve. It was my first NOMA hug, and that embrace I have still feel today/ every day.

That conference changed my life, NOMA changed my life. I was also prompted with another "stand moment" which was quite different from my previous experience. During one of the keynote sessions, the organizers asked for anyone who received their license that year to stand. In a room of about 475 conference attendees, two of us rose from our seats, Jason Pugh and me. This time when I was asked to Stand, the soundtrack wasn’t deafening silence of my peers, but thunderous applause from my family. I wasn’t alone, I stood with Jason Pugh and we both received our black NOMA pin which we wear with pride and as of today we both have our purple pins.

Now I ask all my licensed Architects or Planners in the room to please stand.

We are proud of you, we have an understanding of what it took for you to become registered, we thank you for your commitment and perseverance to the profession.

Everyone please sit.

Jason Earl Pugh. Hear me when I say thank you. Feel the gratitude and love in my voice. You have been an extraordinary friend and an incredible President. Jason, you taught all of us, what it means to lead with compassion, how to connect and stay connected, and shivered when you used your booming voice to demand justice for NOMA at every instance. I literally have big shoes to fill.

Everyone from your seat, please extend one arm towards Jason, as he shifts into the next chapter of his NOMA journey, we are here to protect you, and as you transition into your new role as Principal and Global Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion of Gensler, we collectively unwaver in supporting you. We cannot wait to bear witness to your next steps of leadership.

Videography credit: Ellen Abraham who captured the second half of my speech.

It is only fitting that I introduce who I am, after I explained what NOMA means to me, because NOMA formed the person that stands before you. I am Pascale Sablan, Senior Associate at Adjaye Associates, the 315th living African-American, woman registered architect in the U.S., activist architect who works to advance architecture for the betterment of society and bring visibility and voice to the issues concerning women and BIPOC designers. I founded the Beyond the Built Environment organization positioned to uniquely address the inequitable disparities in architecture. In 2021 was awarded the AIA Whitney M. Young. Jr Award for my advocacy efforts and ascended to the AIA College of Fellows, the youngest African American to reach that honor in the organizations 167-year legacy. I am now the 5th woman to hold this position of NOMA President and most importantly I am the mother of Xavier Jeffrey Sablan, an incredible 6-year-old who says he wants to be a Palaeontologists and NOMA Architect when he grows up.

I have officially stepped down as Executive Director of the organization I founded. Although the programs like SAY IT LOUD will continue, it will be through the efforts of my team. I also cycled off of every and all board both local and national positions so that NOMA is my singular focus during my presidency, to remove all ambiguity about where I stand.

With the NOMA Staff in hand, I am profoundly grateful to my parents, my family, my friends, my support system. Thank you, NOMA for trusting me with this incredible responsibility.

In this moment of transition, as we face the industry mountains together, I would like to pledge to you today that I will not be starting any new initiatives nor programs, there will be no acronyms to memorize. We have great programs that serve this organization like, the Presidents Circle, NOMA National Conference, NOMA Connect, NOMA jobs board, NOMA Vimeo page and NOMA University.

Under my administration, we will continue to refine, and track the metrics of all of these programs, ensure that you are all intimately knowledgeable about all the resources NOMA has to offer. We will share templates through our communications platform, NOMA Connect and we will support the diverse needs of our local chapters.

During my Presidency, NOMA is going global. As evident in the proposed bylaws amendments, we are collectively taking this step into the new frontier together. It is critical that we lead and gain a deeper understanding through global discussions about justice and equity. It will give us access to financial justice and be considered for international design project opportunities. Leveraging the expanded network we can be more effective and efficient in dismantling racism, sexism and all forms of oppression from the Built Environment and the profession.

NOMA Stand up! As your president I will focus on you, and I need you to focus on your local community and your local chapter, build community. We will show the world who we are, what we do, those we serve and what we stand for!

Thank you.

One of the biggest responsibilities of a leader is preparing your successor. Very proud of NOMA for electing our 36th NOMA President, Bryan C. Lee Jr. Will work together to ensure we are in lockstep to ensure an sustained momentum and continued power for NOMA and its members.

Photography credit: Pascale Sablan

It is an extraordinary honor to serve NOMA for the next two years as your president.

Photography credit: Various sources including, NOMA National & 4thFlr

If you are wondering why I chose to send you this email, please know your support means everything to me. You are a part of my community and someone I aspire to make proud.

1,467 views2 comments


Nicole Denis
Nicole Denis
Nov 19, 2022

Your journey began way before 2009! Say it proud! You started in 2002 at AARRIS ARCHITECTS now AARIS DESIGN Architects. We are so proud of you and your generation! Let's not do to each other what has been erroneously taught for decades! Glad to have provided a nurturing environment for you to start your journey to architecture and advocacy. I look forward to seeing all of the lives you continue to lift up! Continued blessings, Nicole Hollant-Denis


Ronald Bertrand
Ronald Bertrand
Nov 10, 2022

I will clear my calendar to show up at the next conference. I can't wait to see your presidency in action.

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