Karen L. Black

Rochester, NY
Williams College (BA)
University of California, Los Angeles (JD)
What brought you to Urban Studies?: 

After practicing civil rights law for 11 years, I realized there must be a better way than litigation to effect positive change.  I entered the world of policy through a fellowship with Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School and became fascinated by government's role in shaping our growth patterns and creating regional inequity. For the past decade, I have worked with wonderful partners across the country and internationally to bring innovative, collaborative, high-impact change to cities and regions. I truly enjoy teaching Penn's amazing Urban Studies students and sharing what we have learned about the reinvention and rebirth of cities.

Areas of interest: 

I am the ultimate generalist.  I am excited by any opportunity that presents itself to address key challenges that impact our great cities, whether it be leading a coalition to create a land bank to unlock the value of vacant land; improving laws, policies and systems to reform a city's zoning code, or creating new tools to provide better access to healthy foods in low income neighborhoods.  Information on many of my projects are listed at www.may8consulting.com.

Career/Career Ambitions: 

I spent eleven years practicing civil rights law in Los Angeles and locally in Philadelphia at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.  I primarily represented clients impacted by police abuse and housing discrimination.  I left the law in 1998 to complete a a two year fellowship with Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was tapped to run the Metropolitan Philadelphia Policy Center in 2000.  In 2002 I founded May 8 Consulting, Inc. with the goal of finding creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems facing cities.

URBS 253 (Cities, Suburbs, and Their Regions)
URBS 453 (Metropolitan Growth and Urban Poverty)


Philadelphia Bar Association Good Deed Award, Real Property Section (November 7, 2013) to Philly Land Bank Alliance; Award of Excellence Winner for Special Purpose Brochures, Manuals and Reports, “Taking Care of Business” (2012); Philadelphia Bar Association Good Deed Award, Real Property Section (November 29, 2007); PepperPot Award for Issues Management from the Public Relations Association of America, Philadelphia Chapter for long-term program to address public policy (December, 2002);     American Society of Landscape Architects Award for Communications (October, 2002); Grand Award Winner for Publication Excellence for a Special Publication by APEX (June, 2002); Governmental Research Associations 2002 Award for “Most Effective Education” (August 2002); Outstanding Service Award from Delaware Valley Fair Housing Partnership for Contribution to Furthering Fair Housing in the Region (1998); Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Outstanding Community Service by Fair Housing Council of Montgomery County (1998) 

EB White said “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”