Racism is a parks and public space issue

June 9, 2020

Park People

Systemic racism and white supremacy are prevalent and visible in our parks and public spaces where Black, Indigenous and racialized people experience suspicion, surveillance, harassment, violence and death.

Park People cannot achieve its mission to “activate the power of parks to improve quality of life in cities” without acknowledging that systemic racism, oppression, and injustice are part of the daily lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, and racialized people in parks and public spaces.

Park People’s work champions equity and inclusion. It is one of our core values, expressed as “parks are for everyone.” 

However, we must do more to address the fact that racist systems of gatekeeping in public spaces mean that, in practice, parks are not for everyone. It is our job to actively work with communities across Canada to disrupt and dismantle the implicit and explicit structures of power, privilege and racism in parks and public spaces. 

With humility, we admit that we are at the beginning of this process. This statement is a declaration of our intention to begin dismantling systemic racism as an organization including assessing our strategic plan, theory of change, programs and hiring, training and management practices. Coming out of this process we will establish a concrete organizational strategy to address systemic racism as Park People.   

We support and stand with Black, Indigenous and racialized people and we are committed to listening and learning from their voices to shape our actions as we move forward.

Here are some useful readings we’re reviewing to better educate ourselves. We hope you’ll join us.

Anti-racism readings

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are a few readings that have resonated with us in confronting the pervasiveness of racism, and specifically anti-Black and Indigenous racism, in the planning, design, and management of parks and public spaces both in the U.S. and Canada. 

Racism in Canada is Ever-Present, But We Have a Long History of Denial, Maija Kappler, May 2020

Subdivided, Ed. Jay Pitter and John Lorinc. 2016.

Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present, Robyn Maynard, 2017.

Urban Density: Confronting the Distance between Desire and Disparity, Jay Pitter, April 2020

Why Race Matters in Planning Public Parks, Brentin Mock, March 2016

Public Space, Park Space, and Racialized Space, KangJae Lee, January 2020

Diversity? Inclusion? Let’s talk about racism first, Brentin Mock, April 2014  

Placemaking When Black Lives Matter, Annette Koh, April 2017

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