Published in FLARE Magazine
By Jay Pitter
Writer and placemaker Jay Pitter profiles six city builders from across Canada who are creating inspired public spaces and doing exceptional work.
Today, I’m sitting at more tables with women and people from racialized backgrounds. A small, but growing number of these professionals actually look like me. And like me, they bring with them a deep respect for the ways our elders have created place within cities, as well as the insights they have shared for how to cultivate resilience and joy in the margins. However, we want to play a greater role in shaping our lives and the broader city around us. This isn’t a specific thing that is exclusive to Black women urbanists, rather it signals part of a larger movement of co-creating cities where everyone thrives.
From co-leading major architectural design projects to involving the wider community in shaping public spaces, here are six examples of Black women city-builders doing exceptional work.
Habon Ali is an urban planner based in Toronto
My siblings and I grew up spending our long summer days in a tiny backyard in Toronto’s west end. Despite its size, we found a way to carve up the space into unique zones. One summer we set up a make-shift ant hospital in the north end of the yard, an open-air school house for dolls in the south and a high-speed transportation corridor (a rope swing) along the east!
I now realize that this ability to re-imagine space was the precursor to my career in urban planning. In 2009, I was selected to participate in a DiverseCity Fellowship organized by Civic Action. The program brings together 25 city builders and rising leaders from a range of sectors, and provides participants with opportunities to work on personal leadership goals while building a network of civic-minded peers.
During the fellowship I was introduced to a few individuals working in urban planning and development fields who also came from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Like most, I knew very little about urban planning as a profession, but was intrigued by some of the unique challenges these planners faced in their careers. Engaging communities that reflected their own ethnic backgrounds in formal planning processes seemed to be an ongoing issue. Ensuring that their work could also recognize and accommodate the unique cultural differences within these communities, while supporting broader city-building values, was also of great importance, but complex in application. As a Black, visible Muslim I was eager to learn more about their work.
See the full article here.