For the month of February, Urban Strategies continued to honour Black History Month by spotlighting leading contemporary Black thinkers, leaders, organizations and resources that continue to support the flourishing of Black life in communities across North America. This post is a recap of the content we shared on our social media channels.
We were excited to kick off Black History Month by spotlighting some leading contemporary Black researchers, writers, historians, critics, thinkers, and documentarians who are working to document and understand Black History and lived experiences.
Robyn Maynard is an activist, feminist writer and author based in Montreal. Her book, Policing Black Lives, takes a look at the underreported history of racial injustice in Canada. It documents the country’s involvement with slavery and the criminalization of Indigenous and Black Canadians — and why all Canadians need to look at dismantling structures of racial domination and re-imagine a more just society. Read more.
Charles T. Brown is a Street Level Researcher, Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University and Founder and CEO of Equitable Cities. Mr. Brown previously served as a Sr. Researcher with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers where he authored several groundbreaking national and local studies that redefined how experts analyze the role of race and racism in transportation and mobility. His research and advocacy focuses on equity in transportation and the idea of arrested mobility. Read more.
Dr. Harriet Washington, PhD, is a science writer, editor and ethicist. She has also authored numerous books on environmental racism and the erosion of informed consent in medicine. Two of her recent works, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present and A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind have been pathbreaking works. They offer explanations for how the system continues to perpetuate systemic inequities, and a disparity of outcomes for African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. Read more.
Rosemary Sadlier, Canadian Black history advocate, was the President of the Ontario Black History Society from 1993 to 2015. She has researched and written prolifically about Black history, Black Canadian history and anti-racism. As a researcher, teacher and advocate, Rosemary’s pressure was central to the Canadian government’s 1995 decision to make the celebration of Black History Month a national annual event, and for recognition of August 1st as Emancipation Day, which was formally adopted in 2021. Read more.
Bashir Mohamed is an Edmonton-based historian and writer who focuses on the Black civil rights movement in Alberta’s history and how it relates to the present. Mohamed states “during Black History Month, it’s important to note that large parts of our history are forgotten. Black history in Canada is often meant to comfort white feelings rather than grappling with our tragic and inspiring civil rights record… If we are unable to do the work, the issues facing Black Canadians will continue to grow and future generations will be ignorant of this country’s history and legacy of anti-black racism.” Mohamed writes for CBC News and has contributed to research on Canadian Civil Rights Trailblazers for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Read more.
Crowdsourced among Strategists, these are some of the leading Black voices who are using social media platforms to report on issues, ask good questions, and build community.
Wayde Compton (@WaydeCompton), author, poet and anthologist, co-founder of the first Black-oriented press in Western Canada, co-founder of the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project that promotes the history of Vancouver’s Black community. Instructor & Chair of Creative Writing at Douglas College. During Black History Month, Mr. Compton is tweeting one fact each day about the history of people of African descent in the city of Vancouver.
Dr. Destiny Thomas (@DrDesThePlanner) is the founder and CEO of Thrivance Group (@thrivancegroup), which is a multi-regional, socially responsible, for-profit firm that works to make public spaces and public services more safe, more healthy and more accessible especially for Black, Indigenous, and transgender people, and those with disabilities. She is the creator of Dignity-Infused Planning Process (DICE) and Founder/CEO of UnUrbanist Assembly (@REALunurbanist). Her social media accounts provide important perspectives on issues related to spatial justice.
Karen Carter (@KCintoronto) is a cultural worker & consultant. She is the co-founder of Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue (BAND) (@blackartndialog), CaribArt (@caribart26). For over 25 years, Karen has worked in a range of arts, culture, and heritage settings, including with Heritage Toronto and Myseum Toronto. She leads the BIPOC Fellowship to help support the development of a more diverse cultural landscape in Canada.
Charles M. Blow (@charlesmblow) is an opinion columnist for the New York Times, and a news anchor with the Black News Channel. He covers politics, public opinion and social justice. While not limited to urbanist topics, his Twitter feed provides up to the minute coverage and analysis of current events through an African-American lens.
Afua Cooper (@afuacooper) is a celebrated speaker, scholar, historian, author, poet, performer, and social and cultural commentator for organizations worldwide committed to building diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. She has won multiple awards and honours for her work. She has won multiple awards and honours for her work. Dr. Cooper is a Professor at Dalhousie University and uses social media to amplify and advocate for equity and inclusion in Canada.
Here are some of the groups and programs that Urban Strategies has been honoured to learn from, building capacity together through partnerships, programming, support and discussions.
The Mentorship Initiative for Indigenous and Planners of Colour (MIIPOC) was born out of recognition that Black and People of Colour who are planners are notoriously under-represented in a profession that must act on behalf of their communities, communities which have been systematically under-served. MIIPOC focuses on professional mentorship, using an interdisciplinary network to promote and accommodate the professional growth of Indigenous and People of Colour in urban planning. Read more.
BlackSpace is a US-based collective that brings together planners, architects, artists, and designers as Black urbanists, people who are passionate about the work of public systems and urban infrastructures. Members use their collective skills and Manifesto-based neighbourhood strategy to engage and co-design projects that serve the needs and desires of Black communities. Read more.
Hogan’s Alley Society is a non-profit composed of civil rights activists, business professionals, community organizations, artists, writers and academics committed to daylighting the presence of Black history in Vancouver and throughout BC. HAS is developing partnerships with local government and business interests to acquire and develop land and operate assets as a community land trust. Read more.
Learning from and partnering with BIPOC-led organizations guides us in our aim to advance equity, inclusion and redress in all aspects of our practice. During Black History Month, we encourage you to support these organizations and help amplify their important work.
Here are some of the insightful resources that Strategists have been using to support their continued learning during Black History Month.
“Urban Planning in the African American Community In the Shadows” by June Manning Thomas and Marcia Ritzdorf provides clear links between public policy and urban planning in the US to demonstrate how these systems worked together to perpetuate racism, while also highlighting how Black communities refused to be passive actors & worked to fight against these systems. Through recounting this history, it shifts the narrative of victimization that often falls on Black communities to one of leadership and collective activism & reiterates the question we should be asking ourselves everyday in our practice: for whom are we planning/designing? Read more.
Brother by David Chariandy picks up on the question: for whom are we planning/designing? Brother tells the story of Michael and Francis, sons of immigrants from Trinidad who navigate life growing up in a tower community, The Park, located in Scarborough’s Rouge Valley. Exploring themes of race, identity, masculinity, community violence and grief, the novel demonstrates the importance of centering the history and lived experiences of Black and brown communities in Canadian planning and design. Read more.
Engaging Black People and Power by Jay Pitter in collaboration with leading Black urbanists across North America, students, scholars and policy experts. Strategist Michelle Rowland reflects: “Music is also an expression of identity and often tied to place. This primer reinforces that policy and change is not just read, but sung, celebrated, and danced to. The accompanying playlist demonstrates how music can speak to power and effect change.” Read more.
Making Space, by the City of Toronto in collaboration with the Wellesley Institute, Monumental, and And Also Too, is a resource developed to support equitable engagement practices for planning and development processes in communities across Toronto. As planners working in and with Black communities across the GTA, Making Space offers case studies, worksheet tools, and resources to shape approaches that foster transparency, accountability, co-creation, power sharing & influence shifting in planning, design and development. Read more.
Together, these resources explore the systemic roots of anti-Black racism in planning and policy-making, they centre the lived experiences of Black people and communities across North America, and they provide alternative methods for engagement, planning and design practices. We encourage you to take a look!