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February 01, 2023

Calling for Allies in Combating Anti-Black Racism

Calling for Allies in Combating Anti-Black Racism

Throughout my adult life, I have been on a journey of (re)education on the racial injustice that plagues Canadian society. Once your eyes are open to it, you begin to see it everywhere. In comparison to our neighbours to the south, we have branded ourselves as ‘good’ or at least ‘better than.’ These positive monikers have allowed Canadians to stifle our own betterment and evolution towards becoming a more inclusive and just society, especially when it comes to racially marginalized peoples and communities.

In the summer of 2020, Canadians were faced with an outcry from Black community members and allies. In response to having yet another Black life needlessly taken by police force, Black Lives Matters took to the streets demanding social change, reallocation of police funding, and recognition that Black voices are impacted by many decisions of which they are not even consulted or considered. Like many other non-profits, private businesses, and governments, the Ontario Professional Planners Institute issued a statement in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. In our case, the statement was responded to by a group of prominent Black Planners demanding action through an open letter to OPPI.

This letter was shared with OPPI Council who approved the creation of the Anti-Black Racism in Planning Task Force in late 2020. Task Force members came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, including many with the lived experience of being Black Planning Professionals. After nearly a year of meetings, the Task Force presented OPPI Council with a final report and a series of 14 recommendations to develop a strategy and action plan to remove systemic barriers in planning practice that perpetuate anti-Black racism against Black communities and disproportionately limit employment opportunities for, and representation of, Black planners in the planning profession. It was recognized early on that a new OPPI staff position would be needed to carry out this work, which led, in part, to the creation of my role as the Director of Reconciliation and Social Justice.

Since I joined the OPPI staff in November, I have been working to build relationships and allies in the Black community. I have connected with many of the Task Force members to understand more about their personal connections to anti-Black racism work. I have begun to connect with others in the OPPI network, including the planning schools, private planning firms, and municipalities, that will help us address the Task Force recommendations. I have met with the Black Planners & Urbanist Association and am working with them to promote Black History Month to our members. For me, the role of leading anti-Black racism work requires allyship and collaborative approaches to systemic change.

This month, in recognition of Black History Month, you will begin to see the outcomes of that relationship building. Together with the Canadian Institute of Planners and the other Provincial and Territorial Institutes and Associations, OPPI issued a statement recognizing the contributions of Black Planners to the profession. As a staff member of OPPI, I encourage you to begin and continue your own anti-Black racism work by finding ways to honour and celebrate the Black contributions in your neighbourhood and community. If you want to build your own knowledge and are looking for allyship tools, check out the resource list we have created as part of our issued statement. Also, stay tuned for details on the virtual event we are hosting in partnership with CIP on February 17.

In the weeks and months to come, you will see OPPI continue to amplify the work of Black planning professionals in Ontario through articles, profiles, and learning opportunities. Through these communications channels, we will also be sharing information about what other allies are doing to promote Black inclusion and combat racism in their own organizations. Most importantly, you will begin to hear more about the tangible steps we are taking to implement the recommendations of the Anti-Black Racism in Planning Task Force. I encourage you to find your own way to recognize and involve Black voices in your work and contribute in meaningful ways to the efforts OPPI is making.  

Together, we can create a more just planning profession and society. 

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Miranda Jimmy

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