The creation of Black Lives Matter and their fight for justice.

Black Lives Matter movement was created by Alicia Garcia, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors in 2014 after the trial of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was a resident of a Florida neighbourhood who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager.

Although the movement was created after the police killing of Trayvon, it was also created “as a response to the anti-black racism that permeated out society (Black Lives Matter, 2016).”  The creators describe the movement as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

The movement has participated in a number of protests and organizing since the creation of the group. Some of these events include the organizing and protest of unarmed black men and women such as FergusonWalter ScottFreddie Gray and Sandra Bland.

There has also been organizing and protesting in Canada by Black Lives Matter Toronto and Vancouver, and in Montreal by the Black Coalition of Quebec. In Toronto, Black Lives Matter have held a number of events and rallies around police brutality, racism, and fatal encounters the police have with people of colour and the mentally disabled. Some of these events include the protest around the shooting of Jermaine Carby by Peel Police, protest around carding and street checks by police departments across the GTA, and most recently protesting and organizing around the death of Abdirahman Abdi.

One question I keep asking myself and others is, what separates Black Lives Matter with other movements and organizations in the past that fought against anti-blackness, police brutality, and civil rights? Movements like the civil rights, black power and black feminist, black liberation, and anti-apartheid movements all come to mind. Groups like the National Council of Jamaicans and the Black Action Defense Committee also come to mind.

Reviewing the Civil Rights movements, it is clear that there are two stories associated with the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, there is a dominant story that places the movement starting in the 1950s. There is also an alternative story that places the movement beginning in the 1940s. The movement in the 1940s was sparked by a number of events, the great depression, and international events; the persecution of Jews by Nazi’s (Hall, 2005, p. 1245). Hall describes the Black Popular Front and the organizing done by Martha Biondi as the first phase of the civil rights movement (p. 1245). Hall also argues that the persecution of Jews by Nazis brought striking similarities between racism and anti-Semitism (1247.) Other events include anti-colonialism movements in Africa and Asia, intersectional feminism, and the inclusion of African-Americans into American society.

The dominant story of the civil rights movement begins towards the end of the 1950s “it involved blacks and whites, southerners and northerners, local people and federal officials, secularists and men and women of faith (p. 1251).” The goal of the movement was

dismantling  Jim Crow, a system built as much on economic exploitation as on de jure and de facto spatial separation. In the mind of the movement activist, integration was never about ‘racial mingling’ or ‘merely sitting next to whites in school.’ as it is sometimes caricatured now. Nor did it imply assimilation into status white-defined institutions, however much whites assumed that it did. True integration was an is an expansive and radical goal, not an ending or abolition of something that once was – the legal separation of bodies by race – but a process of transforming institutions and building on equitable, democratic, multiracial, and multiethnic society (p. 1251-1252).

Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King Jr. and his contributions to the movement and the March on Washington in 1963 are all part of the dominant story of the movement. As mentioned earlier, the goal of the movement was to dismantle Jim Crow laws, that allowed for legal racial segregation, and to ensure that everyone had equal rights.

Hall raises two important points about the movement that are often overlooked, the involvement of black women in organizing and the role of urban planning.

It was Claudia James and the Congress of American Women that brought up the concept of triple oppression of black women, their race, class, and gender (p. 1247). It was these women that were at the March on Washington “demanding jobs for all, decent housing, fair pay, and equal rights…thus asserting both their racial solidarity and their identities as activists and workers and thereby the equals of men (p. 1252)”.

This solidifies the importance of black women in organizing and fighting against oppression both during the civil rights movements in the past and the current Black Lives Matter movements of today.

Urban planning had a huge impact on black lives and racial inequality in the United States, I will touch on some of these planning decisions in a later post. However, some of these decisions included highway building choices, zoning by-laws, denying mortgages to African-Americans, and federal lending policies that mandated racial homogeneity (p. 1241).

The Black Power Movement was a movement documented from beginning in the 1950’s and ending in 1975 (Joseph, 2001, p. 2) The movement began around the same time as the Cold War and the political repression the war had on Americans. It was heavily influenced by the political atmosphere in the Unites States and “global events including anti-colonial uprisings in Ghana, Cuba, and the African Congo (Joseph, p. 3).” The difference between the two movements was that the Civil Rights Movement emphasized on getting their message across through non-violence, whereas the Black Power Movement was fine with being militant. The Black Power movement left two lasting impressions on the Unites States.

These two movements provide historical context of black radicalism, organizing and fighting for change. It shows that the fight for civil rights and fair treatment was not just an “American thing”, this was truly a global movement and continues to be a global movement to this day. Some of the arguments in Canada and in the Canadian media when discussing Black Lives Matter is that they often say “its an American issue” or that “black Canadians are not facing the same oppression as black-Americans”. That is simply not true, Canadians continue to face discrimination by police departments, the justice system, and issues with the Children’s Aid Society.

There have also been organizations in the past in Canada that have also fought against police brutality and racism in Canada with organizations like the National Council of Jamaicans and the Black Action Defence Committee. Both organizations have worked individually and together in the past to fight against discriminatory policies and police brutality. The National Council of Jamaicans was able to change discriminatory immigration policies and help add passages to the Fair Employment Act and the Fair Accommodation Practices Act (Powell, 2015). In 1988, the Black Action Defence Committee was created due to a number of shootings of black men (Jackson, 1994, p. 219).  The goal of the BADC was the “elimination of racism particularly as it impacts the Black community by advocating policies and practices that are geared toward this end (Black Action Defence Committee, 2016). The work done by the BADC in the early 1990s is responsible for the creation of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in Ontario (Black Action Defence Committee, 2016). The role of the SIU is to investigate “circumstances involving police and civilians that result in death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault (Powell, 2015).”

The National Council of Jamaicans, Black Action Defence Committee, and Black Lives Matter Toronto all have similar themes and are fighting for the same goal; removing all forms of anti-black racism. I believe Black Lives Matter Toronto is just continuing the work that BADC did in the past. The sole difference from Black Lives Matter Toronto and the organizations that came before them is the use of technology. Even though the time has changed there is still a need to fight for racial equality.

There have been a number of accomplishments from the work Black Lives Matter have done both in the United States and Canada. In the United States, they have successfully raised awareness around police violence against women and the trans community, forced schools to look into their racial history, and brought attention to racial bias in the criminal justice system (Workneh, 2015). In Canada, the organization has garnered attention from their protest which had led to coroner’s inquest, a discussion around carding and street checks, which eventually led to the suspension of this policy (Battersby, 2016). Black Lives Matter and organizations similar to it will continue to remain relevant until anti-blackness and discriminatory policies are removed from every facet of everyday life.

Battersby, S. J. (2016, April 16). From Jermaine Carby to Andrew Loki: a timeline of Black Lives Matter in Toronto. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from

Black Action Defense Committee. (2016). About Us. Retrieved from

Black Lives Matter. (2016). A HerStory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. Retrieved from

Hall, J. D. (2005). The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past. The Journal of American History, 91(4), 1233-1263.

Joseph, P. (2001). Black Liberation Without Apology: Reconceptualizing the Black Power Movement. The Black Scholar, 31(3-4), 2-19

Powell, B. (2014). Settling in Canada: Jamaicans have a story to tell. Retrieved from           

Workneh, L. (2015, December 22). 11 Big Accomplishments Black Activists Achieved in 2015. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Recommened Reading:

From Black Action Defense to Black Lives Matter TO: decades apart but demands are the same

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation 





Urban Planning and Hip-Hop

I would like to share with you all a great article that interviews Mike Ford. Ford is an architect and discusses the relationship between hip-hop and urban planning.He mentions that hip-hop came to be through structural racism, poor urban planning, and architect. Near the end of his interview, he emphasizes the importance of representation in urban planning and architecture, not only as professionals. But as community leaders, authors and researchers. Ford recognize that:

As long as people from the outside are telling the story, that narrative will continue. We need to continue to get people of color involved in architecture, as urban planners, as professors, as authors. It’s important for minorities to enter architecture because, throughout the United States, our communities have been designed, uprooted, and pretty much destroyed by architects and urban planners who do not look like us and unfortunately have little to desire to communicate with us during the planning of those events.

So what can happen if we get more minorities involved in architecture and architecture fields such as urban planning? You’re gonna have people at the table who are sensitive to the fabrics of [their] communities and understand what it means to not uproot them. Having a voice at that table to be an advocate for those underrepresented communities is essential. Architecture can destroy and inhibit people from becoming their best, but it also has the power to uplift and empower them. If we’re going to achieve the latter, it’s got to be a collaborative effort.

This excerpt resonated with me, both scholarly articles and testimonials from community members are pointing towards advocacy  and equity planning for communities for a number of reasons. One of them being, people of colour involved in architecture and planning can better represent the community and understand the needs of community members.

There are a number of hip-hop songs that discuss everyday life and poor planning, artist like Public Enemy, Snoop Dogg, NWA, A Trible Called Quest, Kendrick Lamar and Grandmaster Flash all come to mind. Here’s Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five rapping about the conditions in New York in the early 1980s:

There are a number of hip-hop songs that discuss everyday life and poor planning, artists like Public Enemy, Snoop Dogg, NWA, A Trible Called Quest, Kendrick Lamar and Grandmaster Flash all come to mind. Here’s Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five rapping about the conditions in New York in the early 1980s:

How Bad Urban Planning Led to The Birth of a Billion-Dollar Genre

Hip-Hop Architecture



In Response to 3 Common Myths of Gentrification


Professor Sutton provides some strong arguments to combat gentrification within the cities through;

  • Policies that implement rent control
  • Restricting predatory investment schemes
  • Speculatory investment funds

All of these are very possible, however, cities are viewed as corporations, meaning that there main interest is to make money. This is one of the main reasons why you don’t see that much pushback from new developments and the gentrification of certain neighbourhoods. There needs to be a progressive government in place to create these progressive policies. If not, gentrification will likely continue. We also need to look into community land trusts and new development that support rent-geared-to-income housing. These actors won’t stop gentrification, but will reduce the impact it has on a community.

I would argue with Professor Sutton that revitalization and re-development of communities are also forms of gentrification. We spoke about terminology and the importance of it in my environmental design course last term and we grouped terms like renewal, revitalization, and re-development under gentrification. There’s the example of Little Havana in Miami, where the community began a revitalization project that lead to the gentrification of the community. If you have the chance, I would recommend reading Back to Little Havana by Feldman and Jovilet.

Gentrification has impacted the working class and those with low incomes, but in the US it is slightly different since these low-income communities are for the  most part comprised of blacks. There are some scholars in the US that believe gentrification is a form of colonialism. I’ll discuss the topic of colonialism and gentrification in a later post. Lastly, the spotlight has been on gentrification in the media for the past few years. However, gentrification is not a new phenomena, it has been ongoing for the past 50+ years affecting communities across the globe.

You can read the original article on gentrification here: 3 Common Myths of Gentrification.

Politics Uncategorized Urban

What’s driving condo development?

With a surge of articles both in the United Kingdom and Canadian Press, one has to ask what is driving condo development in cities? Is the demand being created by home-owners who need housing and would like to live in mid to high-density development? Or is it by foreign investors that are using condominium development as a form of investment? I believe it is a very fine line between the two group, with the amount of people immigrating into Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area we must create housing for them to live and with current planning constraints condos are able easily justifiable. However, most condominiums lack the size for today’s modern Canadian family.

According to French and Hopkins (2012) “There is definitely a foreign investment component to the new condo industry – it makes up the vast majority of sales right now.” All the articles on this topic echo the same sentiment that there is nothing wrong with foreign investment since it is beneficial for trade. However, this is a correlation between foreign investment and the demand for housing and inflation of prices. Meaning, as long as there is development and higher house prices it is good for the economy.

With condos increasing the housing stock, there is data showing not all of the units are being sold out. With this in mind and the current lack of affordable housing in the GTA there should be some type of policy allowing that these units being able to house those that need access to housing. But, maybe this is too much of utopian thinking..  Marotte (2014) points out “the units end up staying empty or only briefly occupied…One study last year said that nearly one-quarter of condos in some Vancouver areas were empty or occupied by non-residents.”

I think it will be difficult to attempt to solve this question in a short blog post, yet one factor of condo development is foreign investments. If the rise in condo development continues municipalities should start thinking of by-laws that will allow for a certain percentage of condo units being allocated for affordable housing. With a policy like this, it would continue to allow for development and at the same time house those that lack the access to housing.

Here are some more articles that discuss the rise of condo development and foreign investment:

Londoners miss out as homes built as ‘safe deposit boxes’ for foreign buyers

CMHC releases data on foreign ownership of Canadian condos

Foreign investment cuts both ways in Toronto condo market

Percentage of Toronto condos owned by foreign investors is very low, CMHC says

Japanese real estate investment in Canadian cities and regions, 1985–1993

Photo By: Chris Baker


Healthy Urban Planning

“In promoting equity, central to healthy urban planning in a need to implement policies aimed at improving the living standards of disadvantaged and vulnerable populations and to bear in mind the diversity of city users in terms of age, gender, physical ability, ethnic origin, and economic circumstances. Putting the principles of equity at heart of urban planning practices reduces the imbalance in the urban fabric and problems associated with access to transport, air, and noise pollution and increase the quality of public spaces, social cohesion, healthy lifestyles and employment opportunities” (p. 23).


Barton, H & Tsourou, C. (2000). Healthy Urban Planning. New York, New York: World Health Organization.

Photo  by: Ian Muttoo

Knocking the Corners off the Square Mile

The Chief Planner of London, Peter Wynne Rees discusses some of the methods use in planning the City of London and the difficulties of planning a historic city. During his presentation he mentions vertical development and comments:

“Building tall is a last resort, it is not a first resort. Only build tall if you run out of land and you still need to accommodate people because you are an amazingly successful. Don’t build tall because you think it will make your more successful than you were before.”

This comment echoes the current condo boom taking place in Toronto, were a majority of these condos are built mainly for economic reasons, than actually solving the problem of sprawl and or housing inequality.


Read more: An urban planner warns: Beware of the too-cheap Toronto condo

Read more: Condominium development and gentrification: the relationship between policies, building activities and socio-economic development in Toronto.

Photo by: Kirill Strax