Webinar Insights on Urbanism’s Next Chapter
Discover the 6 key insights from our webinar “Past, Present, Future: Who gets to write urbanism’s next chapter?”. This webinar is part of our series 7 Questions: The Future of Parks and Public Spaces.
Our October 5, our webinar titled “Past, Present, Future: Who gets to write urbanism’s next chapter?” inspired the six key insights below, which we hope will help shape identified conventional policies and practices that need to be addressed and offer a vision for the future of urbanism.
The webinar is part of our series 7 Questions: The Future of Parks and Public Spaces. The webinar panellists were Tamika L. Butler, Principal + Founder of Tamika L. Butler Consulting, Chúk Odenigbo, Director of Ancestral Services for Future Ancestors, Guillermo (Gil) Penalosa, Founder and Chair of 880 Cities. The webinar was moderated by the Chair of Park People’s Board, Zahra Ebrahim. This webinar was inspired by urbanist and placemaker Jay Pitter.
Nostalgia for the past - for some
Panellists highlighted the pitfalls of romanticizing the past. We often hear nostalgia for a “return to simpler times” - unfortunately, the reality is that outdoor play, parks and public spaces have often been accessible to affluent white communities, and places of racial tension and violence for Black communities, Indigenous peoples and People of Colour.
Panellists cited that there has never been a better time in history for BIPOC voices. Wishing for a return to the past centers the experiences of those who have benefited and historically held power and diminishes and excludes the history of oppression and discrimination that have defined parks and public spaces for BIPOC communities.
“The idea of safety, the idea of inclusion and the idea of belonging, have all been completely exclusive to those who have historically held power.” - Tamika L. Butler.
Who owns these lands?
Historically, park systems have been leveraged as a systemic approach to dispossession and oppression in the US and Canada. In the past, white colonial settlers have leveraged the concepts of land ownership, park boundaries, conservation and the creation of a parks system to take land from Indigenous peoples in the name of parks.
Panellists issued a call to action for urbanists and the everyday park user to explore, reflect and understand the history of land ownership and the parks system in their country.
“So so often parks have been used to take land from people” - Tamika L. Butler.
Prioritizing an intersectional approach
Panellists identified the need for parks experts to approach the design, programming and experience of parks and public spaces through an intersectional lens - urging urbanists to think beyond simple labels (such as homeless, Black, Indigenous) and, instead, explore the multiple complexities of identity and experience of those who work, visit, live and play in public spaces.
This could look like working in collaboration with and centring the voices of the community, leveraging intersectional social justice training opportunities and incorporating an intersectional lens in the design and programs offered in a space.
Rest, for whom?
Panellists highlighted the disparities in accessing rest and respite in parks and public spaces. During COVID, parks and public spaces have been touted as places of mental and physical benefit.
Panellists challenged this assumption as narrow-minded and highlighted that, historically and throughout COVID, parks and public spaces have not been the restful oasis they have been for affluent white communities and, instead, have been places of protest, violence and murder for Black and Indigenous communities.
“I hear from so many Black colleagues that their bosses are saying: "take 10 minutes just go for a walk". And these leaders don't understand that going for a walk isn't always a break, especially in this moment when it doesn't always feel safe for a variety of reasons. It's not a break, even if there's a park across the street. It's not always respite for these folks, and hearing how other folks could so easily access the respite exacerbates that pain. Public space isn't safe for everyone, and it's exasperating to hear, 'just take 10 minutes, go'.” - Zahra Ebrahim.
The time to act is now
Panellists highlighted that the disparities in equitable access to quality parks and public spaces will only continue to grow unless action is taken. As urban populations rise and density increases, access to quality green spaces (and the mental and physical benefits that accompany them) will continue to diminish for marginalized communities, further widening the disparities in access to parks and public spaces and the accompanying public health implications.
“In Toronto, the tree canopy in wealthy areas is three times more than in poor areas. So we have these big issues. I wish we were changing but I don't think we are, or at least not fast enough.” - Guillermo (Gil) Penalosa.
Take Action (and be willing to risk it)
Panellists spoke about how there are currently more people talking about race than ever before. There is a range of activism opportunities in the current political climate - ranging from protesting to the organizational shifts and “working the boardroom”. Panellists agreed - activism can happen in a variety of forms and methods. What matters most is action and a willingness for change.
“If we are truly going to get past where we are, and if things are truly going to be different, [...] there has to be action. [..] All of us speaking up, being our authentic selves, we're willing to risk jobs, we're willing to risk interviews, we're willing to risk money and, and all of these things. And so what we actually need are folks who are willing to risk something who are willing to speak up [...] it's going to have to be a struggle, and it's not going to be polite.” - Tamika L. Butler.
Watch Tamika L. Butler on taking action
“If you're a yeller in the streets do that, if you're quiet in the boardroom, do that. But be committed to making change every day, and having a personal stake in it, and having some urgency [...] I think we all just have to play our role and whatever way that shows up for us.” - Tamika L. Butler.
Watch the full webinar
Thank you to our generous supporters