Mary Rowe [00:00:25] Good morning everybody, it’s Mary Rowe. It’s good morning anyway in the West Coast, where some of our panelists are joining us from and as many of our attendants are as well. It’s mid-day here in the Eastern Time Zone and it’s a little earlier in the afternoon on the Atlantic side. We’re really, really pleased to have a second session on what’s becoming one of the most critical lessons and challenges coming out of COVID, which is can we move to anti-Black racism and activities that are going to actually correct historic and perpetuate perpetuated structural inequities in our cities? And we have, again, joined by our senior fellow Jay Pitter, who’s got the same group back. We’re really appreciative of Anthonia, Orlando, Will and Tamika for taking time out of their days again to be part of a really profoundly important conversation, which is having all sorts of ripple effects, as everyone knows, it’s on everyone’s hearts and minds now, how we’re going to move forward. And I just want to remind people we originate these broadcasts from Toronto, which is the traditional territory for Mississaugas of the Credit, Annishnabec, the Chippewa and the Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples. It’s also now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, Metis. Toronto was also covered under Treaty 13, which was signed, and the Williams Treaties, which were signed with multiple Annishnabec treaty nations. And this conversation, as we found, is about blackness, but it’s also about other kinds of ways in which we have structured urbanism to be exclusionary. And we have so much to learn and so much to try to see how we’re going to change. So I’m encouraging everyone to come on the chat and express your views and ask your questions there. And later in the session, we’ll have a chance to try to tackle some of them. Remember that the chat is is archived and posted, as is the video from this presentation. So we look forward to another candid conversation and we welcome Jay back to the CityTalk platform and her colleagues. Jay, thank you very much for joining us again.
Jay Pitter [00:02:19] Thanks for having me, Mary. I will begin today’s conversation by saying that since our first session, it’s been so heartening to see and witness the response urbanist across cities, various professions and racial backgrounds. And so I while still carrying a degree of grief, of course, the world continues to be upside down. We are still amid a civil uprising. We are also still amid a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting black people. But what I can say today, again, is that I feel a great sense of gratitude and I might even say hopefulness in that a number of urbanist from various backgrounds are helping to carry some of this weight. And so I’m moving into the conversation on a higher note of gratitude. We were speaking before we went live. It’s a little gray outside, but I feel pretty sunny inside. So let’s get rolling. Orlando Bailey is a community development professional and a place-based storyteller based out of Detroit. Welcome, friend and colleague.
Orlando Bailey [00:03:47] Thank you for having me. Nicole Butler is a lawyer and mobility equity expert located in Los Angeles. Welcome, friend.
Tamika Butler [00:03:57] Thanks for having me. Sorry I’m late. I’m CP time.
Jay Pitter [00:04:01] That’s alright. You’re all good. Anthonia Ogundele is a resilience pro and urban planner located in Vancouver. Welcome, friends.
Anthonia Ogundele [00:04:12] Thanks for having me.
Jay Pitter [00:04:14] And Will Prosper is a former RCMP officer who now advocates against police brutality while leading civil rights and neighborhood-based placemaking initiatives residing in Montreal. Salut mon ami.
Will Propser [00:04:31] Salut, ca va bein. Merci de m’avoir invite aujourd’hui. Thank you for having me. It’s really a pleasure to be part of this conversation.
Jay Pitter [00:04:38] Absolutely. So for today’s conversation, as you know from reading the registration, we will begin by just unpacking a couple of the recommendations from the A Call to Courage document, which CUI was so instrumental in disseminating quite widely. It’s recieved such an incredible response. I’m so, again, grateful for that. I’m just going to highlight a few of the recommendations that I made in that particular call. And then after that, we are going to spend a bulk of time, once again, really listening to our experts and our panelists. For the first conversation, as I underscored, we really began by laying the ground to not only spatialize anti-blackness, but to humanize anti-blackness in cities by providing space for our panelists, not just to show up as professionals, but to show up as people. And I think that Tamika underscored that. That is how we actually roll as black people. We don’t have those lines between the personal and the professional. We show up as our full selves. And so I’m really glad that we were able to do that in the first conversation in order to lay good ground in this conversation. We’re still obviously centering the brilliance and the humanity of our panelists, but we will be very hyperfocused today on case studies and tangible actions and steps that we can take. So I’m so glad that we’re moving from amplification, which is so important, into action. So with that, I will begin. So the recommendations that I made in a call to courage, I made about eight recommendations. And I’m just going to unpack three very quickly with you. The first recommendation was to really recognize that urban design is not neutral. It either perpetuates or reduces social equities within cities, inequities, excuse me, within cities. And that is very hard for people to wrap their minds around because urbanists are taught that they are good, that they make communities better, and that they are the bringers of solutions. But if we take just a step back, we need to recognize that anything related to land use is essentially tethered to colonization. So the very act of serving land, carving up land, defining uses, creating a hierarchy of different kinds of people who are, you know, get different quality of land is the beginning of this profession. It finds its roots in that violent and destabilizing act. And as we move forward with history, we need to recognize that that really, again, displaced indigenous peoples. It also had a huge impact on the natural environment, which it continues to have today. That cop, that sort of lack of neutrality also pertains to having cities that are not gender responsive. So we need to also recognize that gender inequity is embedded in the city’s foundation. Some of the earliest cities were designed and built by by men, by able-bodied people, by people who matched imagined public space used to be between a man and a woman and a neat little nuclear family. And so we also have homophobia and transphobia embedded in the built environment as well. We then move forward to see the ways in which a car centric infrastructure has been used and weaponized against racialized communities, black communities and also other communities. Oftentimes, our peers advocating for more active transportation, more pedestrian friendly environments fail to recognize that it’s not just this war against sort of cars. It’s not about cars and pedestrians. It’s far more complicated than that. Car centric infrastructure didn’t just perpetuate sort of a car centric urban landscape, it also perpetuated racial inequity and tremendous displacement. And today we continue to experience transit oriented displacement as well. This this lack of neutrality is also linked to speculative real estate developments. It’s linked to renters being firmly placed in a second class. Right. So this idea that owners are the ones. Owners. Think about that. Think about ownership of land not being separate from ownership of human beings. So owners are privileged in urbanism conversations and people who rent are often positioned as second class citizens. And so these are some clear examples about the ways in which design is not neutral. So coming into this conversation, we have to be clear that none of us have clean hands. We are not working in a pure profession. And what we need to do as we work more mindfully is to address and actively mitigate these gaps. So the second point that I had in the document was pertaining to researching the history and stories of every single site where we are located as professionals. As an author, storytelling is really in my DNA so, you know, I have this practice where obviously I lead the design and programing and policy of public spaces. But I also write a lot. And so I tend to integrate storytelling in my practice quite a bit. And what I will tell you is that every single site has a dominant narrative. So the narrative of people who have the most privilege and the most power, and then there are a number of subordinate narratives linked to every single site as well. It is our job when we show up in a city or a community to be curious and to find out what those subordinate narratives are. And more than likely, we will find out that those subordinate narratives will reveal the contributions, the invisible barriers and the great capacity of people from equity seeking groups. So not only black people, but all racialized people, disabled people, again, Indigenous folks, queer folks, children, older people, urbanism is even incredibly ageist. This is not something that we talk about a lot when we think about sort of urbanism programs in the future city. We tend to centre people who are 35 or younger. We’re very uninterested in oldies like myself or our elders. And within the context of black communities, elders are very important. We respect, we revere our elders and they carry a lot of our place-based histories. This is not just unique to black culture. This, you know, runs across many cultures. But it’s very important, particularly when working in black communities, to really engage our elders and to find out what those stories are and those untold place-based narratives. And so number three that I’ve just pick out is this idea about developing a learning agenda. That this idea, I think, is a challenging idea for urbanism professionals of all races. We are trained terribly. So everybody has an advanced degree. Everybody is told that they’re brilliant, really smart. Everybody is told that we’re going to come in with these sparkly ideas and these solutions. There is a lot of humility and curiosity within urbanism fields. And so one of the things that I do, just recognizing my privilege of getting to work in many, many different cities, is that I approach every city with three good questions. I don’t come into a city opening up my big mouth, starting to talk about solutions and ideas. I would never be able to build a practice if I used that approach. I’m always thinking that the true sign of professional and emotional intelligence is to be able to come up with great questions to ask and then sitting in a humble silence to listen and to receive how people answer. And also sometimes I ask questions. For instance, one of my practice principles right out the gate is who’s not here? So if somebody hires me, my first question to them is like, who’s not included right now? Like, who’s not here? That’s always my first question. And so, you know, it’s a big hit. Like I do keynotes and I say this question and everybody goes “yes!”. And then, you know, last year, someone said to me, I think you should edit your question to who’s not here and why. Excellent edit, lifelong learner. It is so important that all of us really think about that. And I want to tell you something that is really important in terms of the example that I just gave you. I could just very quietly edited that question like who’s not here and why? But it was very important for me to attribute that to the resident. Now, I don’t recall the resident’s name. I was in a space with tons of people. But it is important for me to tell you where I learned that. I learn so much from residents and people on the grassroots. And it’s so important for us to not extract ideas from each other as professionals or from people who work at a grassroots level or residents who show up who are constantly teaching us. And so I just wanted to put out the idea of the importance of asking big questions, being still and quiet and humble enough to receive the answers. And then, later on, as we’re building our practice and writing and improving our approaches, it’s so important to praise, to attribute, to recognize there is no equitable placemaking approach that is bounded in competition, that is founded in not making information open source, that is founded in a desire to be a single voice. I’m not just saying this to white people on the call this morning. I am also saying it to racialized people and even black people who are white aspiring, who are aspiring to white power, aspiring to white privilege. And so that’s why I talk about I’m not here for the diversity representation game. Some black folks in leadership positions are as problematic, if not more so, than people who happen to have lighter skin. So I hope you’re buckled in today because nobody is getting off the hook. We are going to have real talks up in here because as I’ve said before, I come from Scarbrough, so I’m not joking around. So with that, let’s get started. So my first question for my brilliant, amazing, beloved pannelists. When you tweet about them, kindly use those adjectives. So my question for my brilliant, beloved, incredible pannelists is, before we get to the sort of how and what I think it’s a really good thing to maybe take a moment to get rooted in the why. So why do you do this work? What brought you into the urbanism or a place-based sort of profession or practice?So I will start with Anthonia.
Anthonia Ogundele [00:17:38] Hi, Jay. Thank you so much for having me, for inviting me here for the conversation. I’m calling from the unceeded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people. I got into urbanism because I’m relentlessly curious. And in looking at the urban environment, I think my mind was blown when I realized that there was intent around every single aspect of the city. So when someone told me that people get in a room and talk about how high a curb is or that a certain building is set back, it completely blew my mind and opened my world. And I thought to myself, wow, what is the influence of those people around the table shaping the world that I’m walking around in? And so I was deeply interested after that and really interested and curious on the intention around building design and as well as the cultural context in which certain design and planning decisions are made.
Jay Pitter [00:18:36] Thank you. Thanks for sharing. Will?
Will Propser [00:18:40] For myself, you know, it’s growing up in a neighborhood where you can see the differences from my neighborhood compared to the other one. It goes from the parks, it goes from the schools, it goes from the housing, it goes from everything. And when you see all these differences, you think to yourself, well, why am I living in such a poor condition or being in an impoverished neighborhood? So that raised many questions. And one time there was an incident of youth being killed by a police officer in Montreal. Friends of mine, we we’re back in 2008. And that’s where everything started as well. So he was shot in a hot summer day like we’re having today that makes my beard go all over the place because it’s so hot. But that being said, when he was shot just playing in a park, you have to understand that our neighborhood has the least parks in our burough, in our city, and which means they’re more likely to be controlled by the police. So everything is set up by design. Plus, we have a high density population. In a hot summer day you have to get out and when you’re a youth you go out and you go in the park and he was playing in a park. And then he ended up being shot by a police officer because of all of that design and also the reality of racial profiling and, you know, being policed by more than other neighborhoods. And two other kids were shot as well during that time. So that was the first instances that I’ve known of so many people being shot by a police officer without being harmed playing in a park. And that’s just in Canada. I don’t know any instances like that in all over the place, all over the world. So that’s how it all started with this stuff for us.
Jay Pitter [00:20:20] Thanks for sharing, Will. I remember having the great privilege of being able to visit your community and that park where that young man who was, again, very valued and treasured by his family. He was a teenager who was also doing some migrant work and helping to support his family. And his life was cut short by police brutality. Thank you for your work. Orlando?
Orlando Bailey [00:20:48] Hey, so thank you for having me, Jay. I would say everything sort of shifted and changed for me because of grandma’s house. Everybody in the black community has a family anchor and our family anchor was grandmas. And that physical place was grandma’s house on the east side of Detroit. And it’s rooted in my grandmother and our family giving up that house to make way for a shopping center that would eventually become the living room of that community, as well as an adjacent suburb just a couple of blocks away. Two things I learned just from that experience. Just how powerful my grandmother was in knowing what she owned and what she can get for it. The other thing that I learned was that power brokers that existed in my world at that moment were two white millionaire developers and a white CEO of the local nonprofit who was assembling land. And I watched my grandmother manouver. I watched my grandmother level power. And I watched her exude herself in a way that I’ve never seen her. She wasn’t granny. She was grandma, the business woman who knew she had and was going to get what she knew she deserved to get. So we gave up grandma’s house. It was very traumatic. I still grieve house, but we gave it up for the shopping center. We can talk more about it a little later. But for for me, that’s where it all started. Development and design and building things and assembling land started for me when I was 14 years old in the city of Detroit.
Jay Pitter [00:22:37] Thank you for sharing, Orlando. Tamika?
Tamika Butler [00:22:41] First, I want to fix my seat, my son was playing with my chair and I feel like I’m up on high. So, you know, I think I’ve I think as a black person growing up in this world. And I say in this world, because my father was in the military and so we lived all over, you know, Japan, New Mexico, Las Vegas. Like, we we really lived all over the world. And everywhere we went, we were still black. And everywhere we went, we are taught from a very early age what we can do that is different than what our friends can do. And we are taught from a very early age how to behave in space. How you ain’t gonna act up like that out here from all of these folks, right? How how you how you comport yourself. And so I think I was always aware of space and how and how we can inhabit and take up space. And then as I grew and as I matured and I came into my own in my queerness and my, you know, gender non-binaryness being even more president of the space. And I think for me, what actually happened is I was a civil rights lawyer. I was, you know, working at non-profits and running non-profits focused on on public health and boys and men of color and education, things that I think traditionally folks think about when they think of, oh, you want to do social social justice work, go into these fields. And I was at an organization, like many organizations, where as a black woman I was being chewed up and spit out. I was being propped up externally and internally, being, you know, facing the micro aggressions, a term I hate because they’re not micro, they’re just aggressions, just facing all of that. And I took a job at the Bike Coalition because there was this part of me that’s like, yo, like this is just less heavy. Like if if at the end of the year, all I say is I gave out fewer bike lights than I thought I was going to like, it’s not going to have the same toll on me. And so, frankly, it was selfish. Right. And then as soon as I got in that job, it was like a curtain or like some sheets or like some hoods had been pulled back. And there were all these white folks planning our space, talking about it, changing zoning, deciding where they were gonna dump toxic materials, where trucks could drive and not drive, where oil could be pumped and could not be pumped, who had ownership of land that was actually stolen. All of these things. And for me, as a person who had been taught to always be conscious of how I acted and presented and did in space. It was like, why have white folks been keeping this secret? I had two parents who didn’t go to college who wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer, to have a profession so that I could have a better life than they had. And once that curtain was pulled back, that was like, hold up. There are all these people sitting in all these rooms deciding how I get to act in space. And it has been so internalized that my parents are now telling me how to act in this space because they know what can happen to me if I don’t. And that’s when I realized that this is the work. It’s our work in criminal justice and education and public health. All of those things are important. But if we don’t really take the space and own the space, then others will continue to define how we can be in space.
Jay Pitter [00:26:22] Thank you all so much for those incredibly insightful responses. And much like the same time the same first session. I’ll just very quickly answer only this question. And I shared this before. It is also in my first book. And the reason that I do this work is because I mentioned Scarbrough early, earlier, sort of like in a joking manner. I’m not sure that resonates to everyone who is listening. But I grew up in a low income community, government housing on the east side of the city. So I currently live downtown, but I grew up in the east end. And when I was about twelve years old, I witnessed an under-aged sex trade emerge in my community and started to slowly see a number of that. Are we having a technical difficulty? Do folks hear me?
Orlando Bailey [00:27:24] Yes. Yes.
Jay Pitter [00:27:25] Can you see me?
Orlando Bailey [00:27:27] Yes, we can.
Jay Pitter [00:27:28] Oh, interesting. OK, so I can’t see anyone. So if I can get some help from the CUI tech team, that would be awesome. But I will, of course, continue. So I grew up in that community witnessing underage sex trade emerge. And there was a young woman and again, still underage, who was a friend’s older sister who got entangled in that sex trade and very shortly after that went missing. And so the whole community knew that she was missing. And then shortly after that, she was found cut up in so many small pieces in a field that she was only identifiable through dental records. And I remember watching that on the news and being 12 years old and I had such a strong, visceral sense. This young girl was not black. She was, in fact, white. But I had such a strong, visceral sense that this was permitted to happen in my neighborhood because we were considered insignificant. So in Subdivided, I talk about her as being and positioned as an insignificant girl from an insignificant neighborhood. And so I come into this work understanding that centering equity is not just a nice thing to do or a good thing to do. It’s a matter of life and death. We’re seeing it during COVID. We have data that shows that it’s always been about life and death, not in the concentrated numbers that we’ve seen here, but black communities have been dying a slow death for five hundred years. And also individuals from different equity seeking groups have been dying a slow death because we haven’t centered equity. So I will continue to go forward with the actions that we need to take. We’ll move into that part of the conversation at this time. I know that particular anecdote is quite heavy, but I share it so that everyone understands the importance of taking action. It is not simply about professional competence, but it certainly is about that. It is about ensuring that we are doing everything that we can as urbanists and also as human beings to ensure that people not only thrive in cities, but to ensure that urban design isn’t killing people. So with that, I would like to move on to the case studies. Just very quickly, I’m still not seeing anybody. We’re still having a tech difficulty. And this is the last time I’ll say it if we have to continue this way, it’s OK. Just so folks know that I’m I I can’t see them. So my question to all of you pannelists is, could you please identify a recommendation from either like my Call to Courage or your own practice? Because I know that each of you have your own. Again, research and thinking and projects that you’ve successfully implemented. Could you just share a recommendation that you have, name a project and then tell us three distinct actions you took to ensure that equity was centered in the work. Let’s start with Tamika.
Tamika Butler [00:31:36] Sure. You know, I think when you kicked this off, what you said is that we have to, you know, we have to listen to stories and we have to understand the stories. And I think you also talked about just understanding that this is not neutral. And and for me, I think that’s an important lesson that we all have to take, because we like to sometimes think of urbanism or planning or, you know, transportation, engineering, wherever we sit in this land use built environment profession, we like to think that it’s neutral and it’s not because we can just continue to perpetuate wrongs. And so the project that I was thinking about was a product I’m working on right now with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, where the project, you know, in the abstract is about scooters. And so we were brought on board to talk about scooters and how scooters can connect people and kind of look at the first year of scooters in Los Angeles to figure out what needs to be different. What can we do that’s a little a little better. And what I appreciate about this project is we went to communities and said, let’s talk about scooters and people came back and said, I don’t want to talk about scooters. And I think too often we like to say, but this is what my scope of work is. This is what my timeline is. This is this is how much money I have. Right. And so when when I think of three things we all have to remember, it’s it’s first acknowledging that the work you’re doing is not guided by you, like. Right. Like it might be guided by the client. You think it might be guided by the funding. But if you’re going to say we’re going to talk to community, then you have to be willing to listen to community. And you have to be with be willing to listen with curiosity, because if you approach situations with curiosity, it is much harder to get defensive. So you can’t go into these situations if you like, but let me tell you all about scooters. You have to be able to say, well, why why don’t you want to talk about scooters? Tell me what else is going on. And so I think this ability, to one, like listen with curiosity and be willing to let those those folks guide the conversation. To two, you have to be willing to put in the work. So you have to be willing to show up and realize that you might go to a lot of meetings before you ever talk about that thing that you want to talk about. Right. So that’s number two. You have to go to people and build trust and build community more than just when you want something, because what you want is centering, you know, yourself or your agency or your client. It’s not actually centering the community who we say we’re there to help. And then three, I think this is for decision makers. Like what I appreciate about this client is the pushback wasn’t what this is about scooters. You’re not doing your job. We were able to pivot and say, well, then what? What are we hearing? What are we talking about? How how does that tie in to what we originally said? But I think there has to be a willingness to know that you’re going down one path and you might switch directions. You might completely just switch. And that doesn’t mean you still can’t write your reports and deliver on what you’re supposed to do. It doesn’t mean we don’t have valuable things to say about scooters, but it was this acknowledgement that we might be going somewhere differently. And I think for those who are listening in decision making power like our clients at L.A.D.O.T., you have to be open to that. You can’t just hire us to check a box and then when we tell you people aren’t really talking about this, use that against us and say, well I’ll never hire you again you didn’t get what I wanted. Right. We got what you needed. And so you have to know the difference between what you want and what you actually might need.
Jay Pitter [00:35:24] Thank you for that. Anthonia?
Anthonia Ogundele [00:35:32] Thank you again, Jay. I’m going to talk about a project that happened out here in Vancouver that I initiated, but has now taken on a different form, but as an extension. And that was around initiating the development of the Hogan’s Alley Trust, which has now transitioned into the Hogan’s Alley Society. Inspired by, again, interrogating kind of the cultural context in which these different things happening happen and coming in with that big question, J, around why. When I came to Vancouver as a planner, what was lauded to me was this is the most livable city. The viaducts were built and it was around there aren’t any highways in Vancouver and I asked myself why and why was there that portion there? And that led me to the history of Hogan’s Alley and to looking into the development of land trusts as a means of resistance and looking for systematic change, particularly with engaging the black community. And so, again, the first land trust came out of Albany, Georgia, inspired by those histories and and in a letter signed in 2016 to the city around requesting a land trust. It was important in terms of this practice that it was black-led. Looking at members of community that have these different professional practices to be able to come around the table. So really moving beyond that ladder of engagement that we talk about in planning from just like straight up awareness and engagement reforms to looking at advocacy and allowing for that space for for empowerment as well as what does land ownership mean in terms of, you know, either mitigating displacement? And what does that also mean within the context of unseated territory? So what I what was really important, again, is centering of the histories in which these lands were actually on, as well, as we thought about if there was sort of some sort of action towards addressing this with the City of Vancouver, that we know that just basic private land ownership causes displacement. What might the land trust model offer and being able to create equity, equitable or more just development? And furthermore, what the land trust model offered was the ability for the community to enter in at the ground floor, right at the beginning of development. So not when everything has been rezoned, not when everything has. You’re doing your engagement process right from the get go, from the development principles to understanding municipal financing. And so and what is interesting now, and I’ll wrap it up here, is that, again, the letter was signed in 2016. And in order for it to move forward, we saw people occupying the viaducts during this time. So I think that that is something that people should really consider when we talk about what resistance looks like, what systematic change looks like and listening to these communities that if I are trying to address injustices in these these different ways.
Jay Pitter [00:38:33] Thank you, Anthonia. Orlando?
Orlando Bailey [00:38:37] Yes. So when I was at Eastside Community Network, I was tapped to lead a planning study called the Lower Eastside Action Plan, which encompasses a fifteen square mile district on the lower eastside of Detroit. And our primary stakeholders, of course, were residents, planners and community development organizations and grassroots boards. The thing the three things that I put into practice and actually one of the recommendations from your Call to Courage letter really spoke to me when I thought about this case study. And your recommendation, Jay, was identify, actively work to reduce power imbalances when engaging communities, especially those with histories of exclusion and or marginalization. At the time, the lower eastside was had the largest aggregate of vacant land in the City of Detroit. It suffered from years and years of economic violence. When I say economic violence, I mean environmental violence of people on the eastside are disproportionately have higher rates of asthma because of an incinerator. When I talk about economic violence, I’m talking about predatory inclusion by banks. When the economy went belly up, so did the housing market in the City of Detroit, and particularly on eastside, which became a symptom of vacancy, blight and then demolition. And then we have a tax foreclosure crisis happening in the City of Detroit to this day where folks are not able to afford their property taxes because the city was over assessing them. We had to convene these residents and talk about how we plan for land use and future development because of the abundance of vacant land we needed to put a land use plan into place. And so what we had to do was level power by using three tenets that we call that I call and named education, translation and facilitation. All of these are fluid. Education. Yes, I am a professional and I have the ability to educate, but I also have the ability to shut my mouth and be educated. Right. We need it to make sure that we train the planners that we’re on staff with us, as well as the officials and the steering committees that we’re retaining with us to make sure that we honored and respected the power and the expertize that the resident brought to the table. Coupled with your academic prowess and your practicum advice. The other thing we did really strongly is facilitation. So we facilitated meetings. This was supposed to be a three month planning process. It turned into two years. Trust was a huge thing that we had to continue to build as we went along. So, no, we weren’t going to be done in three months. Sorry, funder, we’re not going to be finished. We need more time. And so we facilitated it in a way that acknowledges the power of the resident and honored it as well as made room for conflict. We have to stop being so scared as practitioners of being cussed out and having high energy conflicts and tension in these meetings. Let it happen. Let it happen. All the things that I just made were systemic forces that that traumatize residents in the City of Detroit. That trauma has to show up some way. We need to make room for it. And the last thing that I’ll say is translation. I am not going to speak in jargon. I’m not going to speak in in academic terms. We need neutral language so that we are not disrespecting each other with our language. Residents need to educate us and we need to educate residents. And what we wanted to do is flip that traditional community engagement model where you have to check a box for community engagement and start with the people. And start with the expertize and the history and the storytelling, as everybody is so eloquently putting it, at the center. And together, we created phase three of the Lower East Side Action Plan. Right. Was that two minutes? I tried to keep in there.
Jay Pitter [00:42:49] This is fantastic. I’m just going to throw in very quickly, Orlando, having done work in Detroit. And also taught in teaching the equity-based planning and placemaking course at UDM. One of the things that we talked about was this idea of creating space for conflict. So a lot of urbanists so in wanting to gain buy in and that’s completely the wrong approach, because if the community was at the table, at the front end, like all of you have highlighted, there wouldn’t be any need to sell anybody anything or request for them to buy into it. But the second thing there is that, you know, in this sort of buy in mode and pushing things through the process mode, what we lose is like space for tension and conflict and having the ability to move people through that space in a productive and healing manner. And I’ll just very quickly say what I said during the course, you know, a lot of people are witnessing. I didn’t say this during the course. I talk about black public rage or anger. And a lot of people are witnessing it right now during COVID and protests. One of the things that people really need to keep in mind as they’re watching the ways that black folks protest and push back and resist and work for change is that anger is in fact a secondary emotion. And so if you go to a community meeting or in a moment like this, when you see the expression of anger. Your job is to figure out what the underlying core emotion actually is and to speak into that. And psychology teaches us that beneath the expression of anger is oftentimes the feeling of being unheard, unappreciated or not valued. But having a lack of power, like that’s what is underlying that kind of anger, and I think that practitioners working in black communities, facing the trauma of displacement or street-based violence needs to be able to look past the anger into the trauma and the humanity of those communities and respond to that. Will?
Will Propser [00:45:09] It was great listening to all of you so I may have common points that I’m going to touch on. And first of all, you know, our project is mainly Hookstock. It’s marketization. That is a grassroots social innovation incubator. So I’m just gonna give a few details of what we’re doing. So I think it’s going to help us with this conversation. And first and foremost, you know, for us and our community, you have to identify all these systemic issues that is producing failure, first and foremost, before we start this conversation. And that’s why we have the new committee that is tackling these issues. And when we talk with them as an example, quite often we do that. And that’s a huge mistake. We believe is that, you know, parents tell their children, that, you know, if they’re failing, it’s their fault. It’s because of that. It’s because, you know, you have all access to this education, these realities and you should be able to make it. So it puts a huge weight on the youths, telling them that, well, if I’m not making it at school or in my neighborhood, well, I’m a failure. That’s my fault. And we’re trying to switch that to make understand that, you know, this all system of all system that is actually producing these different blueprints for failures. And if we I like that, that we let them know, well, this is the reason why our neighborhood is not getting funded properly. This is the reason why you are adding more people in your school that is having issues because you have the private school system, because of the food that you’re getting in this school, because of your neighborhood. Making them understand what’s the reality of their neighborhood. Then they’re saying, OK, then it’s not really my fault. There’s a system that is actually fucking me. And what can I do to combat that? And that’s the first thing that we’re trying to do to make them understand that whole system. And then it puts or it takes away a weight that they up on their shoulder. And that’s the weight that I used to have on my shoulder. I used to blame myself without understanding all these different factors. And after that, you know, we have to make sure also that how do we validate the experience that we have in our neighbourhoods. We often talk about street knowledge and it’s something that we are really proud of. But we often, as an organization, look for people that has that that diplomas. And how do we validate this experience that we have in the street? Because this is very important, especially for our communities, black communities. We need to understand that. And there’s not a system that’s recognize that. So we need to recognize this work that we have in our community. For example, we have a person that was victim of racial profiling. And that person is not going to write or rant like other people will do, is not be able, he’s not going to have the same kind of conversation in a meeting that lots of people from our organization are expecting. But that person is a connector in our community because you understand all of the underlying problematics of the community perhaps is not going to say the words that we’re looking for in academia. But he’s going to have the right conversation for that and he’s going to help us find the right solution, because he understands the issues more than anybody else that can come from these different worlds. So what we’re trying to do is how can we have a version where we care about people that are not normally validated, but are people that might have some expertize. And we put them together and we’re trying to find solutions for different projects. As an example. And also, you know, you have to work with lived experience, which is not something easy. I’m going to give you another example and then I’m going to be done with that. There is a young lady that was kicked out of her home for whatever the reason, and she was about 16, 17 years old, and she had to go to another youth shelter about 40 minutes away from her community. And the reality over there wasn’t the same one of our neighborhood. But she had to go all the way down there. And when she came back, she’s like, I want to have a shelter for our community because there’s none right now in our burough, I need shelter. And she is producing this idea, she’s going to see some organization. And what NGOs and different organizations normally does is that they’ll take their knowledge, extract it and build that thing for that person, not for that person, but away from that person and benefits all of these knowledge that people will acquire. So what we’re trying to do is. OK. You have this idea. We will accompany you, we will facilitate that process, understanding that there’s also trauma. It’s not going to be easy. And it might be harder to build that project, but that person is gonna be the best spokesperson for this live experience. And while we’re doing that, you still see organization demonstration trying to fight the fact that she doesn’t have the same diploma as other people. So it’s always this common fight that we’re having. So it’s really hard to have this conversation. So other organization needs to understand also stay away from this and make sure that you help, if you want to do something, help that person bring that project forward. And the last thing that I’m going to come up with is that work. That’s the last one. It’s an alternative justice system for black communities, that’s where all that we’re working on in Montreal. Like this is the first project that we have. We often talk about racial profiling. We talk about the overrepresentation of black folks in their jail system. And what we’re trying to do is build an alternative justice system so we can extract people from being incarcerated. And this is one of the first initiated that we have like that in Canada. So it’s a huge process that we’re doing so that’s it.
Jay Pitter [00:50:36] Thank you. I’m going to do my best to do a sum up of what I heard. I think that I heard that in terms of pure actions that we can take as urbanists and for folks who are joining us today, clearly committed to doing this work in an equitable manner. First and foremost is we need to ensure that the community is meaningfully engaged at the front end of processes. I also heard that we need to have some flexibility in this work so that if the scope of work or the questions we are asking is not aligned with the priorities of the community in question, we have to be humble and flexible and to amend our work plans. I’m hearing that. I’m also hearing that we need to do slower work and deeper work. I heard that as well. I also heard from what was said about the importance of translation. I think that is very important. So how do we translate anecdotally, anecdotal or a story-based data into the built environment or, you know, the design of a public space? I think that is a very important thing because that’s where the disconnect happens. When you meaningfully engage people, if you don’t have the capacity on your team to take that data, translate it into design and also report back to the community in a way that is clear, the process will fall down at that point. I’m also hearing that we need to be able to respect different kinds of intelligence. So there is academic intelligence, there’s emotional intelligence, and there’s like place-based intelligence in so many different communication styles as well. We in building this more equitable future city, that work is not for anyone who is afraid of conflict. It is also not for anyone who agitates conflict either. It is a very delicate balance to have conversations that are bold and clear while being compassionate and protecting and safeguarding the dignity of everyone who is in that conversation. So that’s also very important in terms of a clear action. I would add just a couple of things around reciprocity. So if you are leading any type of place-based or urbanism project, you should be able to name three things that you are giving to the community, that you are extending to the community. It cannot be a one sided type of proposition. There needs to be a strong social contract in place where you are very clear about what you’re asking the community for and then also be very clear about what you can offer and having that offer validated by the community and seeing if it truly has value and if it doesn’t, amending the offer as well. But it needs to flow both ways. There must be reciprocity in the work. Also, building the community’s understanding of space and systems is very important in this work. I think a lot of communities have a lot of intuitive knowledge about where they live and deep place-based knowledge about their own communities. But they may not have all of the language for framing it or spacializing it in a very particular way. So sharing these histories, sharing what the options are with communities is very important as well. And I think that those are some really. Oh, another thing I just want to say as well. The model that I use when I go into communities is that the reason that I have a tiny, tiny little boutique firm is because I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to bring a team from Toronto into Detroit or Lexington or New York. I train and hire people on the ground. It is so important not to set up the community to be your little foot soldiers or to bring you information about the community without compensating them respectfully or appropriately and free labor, especially when you’re talking about black communities, people who have been, you know, forced to labor for centuries, expecting black people to work for free is in fact one of the most greatest forms of what Orlando said, which is economic violence. That cannot happen. It also should not happen with women, disabled people, youth, even urban planning students. I think we need to make sure that there’s reciprocity and that we are compensating people for their expertize. Much you know similar to how we expect to be compensated in our work life. We need a budget line for that kind of deep work. It is 12:27. I will not break into sort of in to spirit, as my grandmother would say. And I’m not going to start rapping or anything like that. I think that I will just turn it over to. Not that I do either of those things, I’m so wacky right.
Tamika Butler [00:56:07] Wait, can I say one more thing?
Jay Pitter [00:56:11] Yes. I’m going to be turn it over. I still can’t see any of you. But I’m going to turn it over to each of you to have a final word. So starting with, is that you Tamika?.
Tamika Butler [00:56:22] Yeah, but I don’t have to go first, sorry.
Jay Pitter [00:56:24] No, no. You go friend. You go ahead.
Tamika Butler [00:56:26] I was just going to say, I think the piece about anger and conflict, like, I don’t want to lose that. Right. Because I think when we’re in communities and we have white community members who stand up for themselves, we talk about, oh, they’re educated, like they have resources, they have means that, of course, this is gonna be a tough meeting. But when we have folks of color or Indigenous folks or folks with disabilities are queer folks who really speak up. We talk about how angry they are and how unsafe it can make you feel. And we talk about this this idea. And so I. I agree. And my black woman therapist has been pushing on me about realizing that anger is a secondary emotion and getting to the root of it. But I also want to say anger is a valid emotion. It is valid because we are angry and and, you know, being in jobs where multiple people call you angry or in the community where people call you angry. And then when you stick up for yourself, you are told you are being defensive. And I think we have been taught to say, I’m not angry. I’m not defensive. No, I’m fucking angry. And I am defensive because..
Jay Pitter [00:57:32] I wasn’t trying to minimize anger.
Tamika Butler [00:57:35] I’m not saying you. I know you’re not trying. I’m saying for folks who put that on us. Right. Like we know what is under that anger. I’m just saying, for white folks who don’t want to take the time to get beneath that anger. You also don’t get to judge us for the anger because that anger is valid. That defensiveness is valid. And we we all know that whether or not we’re taking a knee, whether or not we’re peaceful, Martin Luther King, like you’re still going to villainize us. And so it doesn’t matter how we act. You have to deal with that conflict. You have to just feel that anger sometimes. And so we can all understand that there’s something under it. But for those who simply don’t want to take the time, you have to deal with the fact that it is valid.
Jay Pitter [00:58:21] So we’re at time right now. Thank you, Tamika, for adding on to my initial comments about that particular topic. I’m sorry we’re out of time. We don’t. I can’t go to everyone, and I’m so sorry that I can’t see you again. As the first conversation I’m just, again, so honored to have been your moderator and your colleague and your friend. And thank you to everyone who took the time to join today. And certainly we will summarize these actions for folks who’ve tuned in and for folks who haven’t had the opportunity to do so. And so I will just end by saying that amplification is great. Action is a non-negotiable. Thank you.
Mary Rowe [00:59:18] Thanks, Jay. We’ve listened with great interest again, we’ve had several hundred, almost a thousand, people on today listening and they’ve raised all sorts of important questions in the chat. Again, we will post the chat. Lots of good resources that have been posted in the chat, too, as well. The conversation continues. Thank you very much to all three to five for coming on again. On Thursday, we have Mayor Don Iveson than the mayor of Edmonton, who’s the head of the big city mayors caucus in Canada. And Carole Saab, the new CEO of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to talk about the desperate challenges that municipal governments are under financially. And then on Friday, we have Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans, is coming on to talk about the challenges in New Orleans that they’ve experienced over decades and how they are currently navigating the things ahead of them in that extraordinary city. So, again, thank you, Jay, Tamika, Athonia, Orlando and Will, really great to have you back. And we look forward to whatever the next set of conversations are. Thanks, everyone.