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February 01, 2024

Anti-racist Planning Practices in Brazil and Canada: Experiences, Learning and Exchanges

Anti-racist Planning Practices in Brazil and Canada: Experiences, Learning and Exchanges

The International Decade for People of African Descent acknowledges the global history of racism against people of African descent, one that cuts across geographic boundaries and sets out a framework for action. Proclaimed in 2014 by the United Nations General Assembly, followed by Brazil ever since, and, after years of advocacy, Canada began to officially recognize it in 2018. There is an urgent need to address the impact of racism on Black communities apparent in housing displacement, inadequate service provision and environmental racism.
Yet, in Canada, it was not until in 2020, that the urban planning profession was challenged to confront its own institutionalized anti-Black racism that render cities unlivable for Black lives and in response, OPPI established an Anti-Black Racism Task Force with a mandate to “develop a strategy and action plan to remove systemic barriers in the 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”.  OPPI Council approved fourteen recommendations resulting from this task force in 2021. To enact the recommendations, an implementation plan is being developed by OPPI. Yet, planners are questioning and debating - what our role might be and what this means for - how we engage differently in planning Black and marginalized communities, from the setting of policy to the review of development applications to the provision of housing and services.
Brazil is internationally renowned for having recognized in its Federal Constitution (1988) the original rights over the lands of indigenous peoples and the remnants of quilombola communities - African people who resisted and escaped slavery to establish their own free communities in some cases with Indigenous peoples. It is also celebrated for its City Statute (2001), which defined the right to the city, the socio-environmental function of property and democratic management as objectives and principles that should guide urban and planning policies. However, these legal advances have not been enough to prevent racialized people from suffering urban and territorial injustices.
It is estimated that in Black cities like Salvador, the proportion of residents in insecure and unsafe living conditions would reach 41.8% of households.  The vast majority of Black families (69.6%) face precarious housing these situations, many of them women (59.1%). This state of urban, racial and gender injustice has been constantly challenged by the persistence of black, indigenous and dissident lives in their struggles and inventive ways of living. These communities are co-creators of cities and territories.
The construction of anti-racist perspectives in planning is of global urgency, as the practice of planning has often operated on racial, gender, class, ableist, and other classificatory logics. The impacts of planning actions need to be evaluated in order to repair historical and contemporary asymmetries and injustices - in participation in decision making, in the distribution of infrastructure and services, and in access to housing, territory and land and rights.
In this context, as planners are grappling with how to move forward, Black communities - many of the same people directly harmed by planning decisions, particularly through displacement - are leading the advocacy for change and setting a vision for keeping and planning Black spaces. As planners, we can learn a lot from their efforts to help shape how we can fight anti-Black racism and racial discrimination and become more responsive to community needs.

The webinar will provide an opportunity to hear from community leaders in Brazil and Canada from the following organizations: Associação de Amigos e Moradores do Centro Histórico de Salvador (AMACH), Articulação dos Movimentos e Comunidades do Centro Antigo de Salvador (Articulação) and Beechville Community Development Association (BCDA). AMACH was created in 2002 and is led and formed by black women who resisted the expulsions of the Salvador Historic Centre Recuperation Program. Articulação was created in 2014 and has sought to affirm the right to the city of the communities involved, through mobilization and social communication, technical-political training, political advocacy with civil society and bodies such as the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Public Defender's Office, the Judiciary, among others. BCDA, a network of community members in a 300-year-old historical African Nova Scotia community, will talk about how they engaged with city planners to address development pressures in their community that led to significant loss of land. Following each presentation, a panel of policy-makers, scholars and community leaders will reflect on common experiences and unique challenges and opportunities faced by each organization. The session will close with an opportunity for questions from participants. Simultaneous Portuguese-English translation will be provided. Please see the below background resources and case study panels that Gloria Cecilia dos Santos Figueiredo and her students put together.
Background Resources  
Case study panels of Popular Audit in the Historic Centre of Salvador
Panel 1 introduces and contextualizes Popular Audit in the Historic Centre of Salvador, providing information on its origins, objectives, period of implementation, actors and organizations involved. It also provides an overview of the methodological tools created during this experience.
 Panel 2 presents the main lessons learned and knowledge about the Historic Centre of Salvador that was developed as part of the Popular Audit. This panel also includes an assessment made by residents organized by AMACH about their living conditions impacted by the terms of the implementation guidelines of the Salvador Historic Centre Recuperation Program by the Bahia State Government.
Panel 3 looks at the expanded Popular Audit, the most recent phase of this experience, in which we activated a broader and more heterogeneous network of learning and practice, connecting AMACH with the Articulação dos Movimentos e Comunidades do Centro Antigo de Salvador. This last panel presents the main lessons learned and knowledge developed in this last phase and a broader assessment of the whole experience, its outcomes, continuities and related new initiatives.
  • Blog written by Abigail Moriah and Glória Cecília dos Santos Figueiredo
  • Editors: Glória Cecília dos Santos Figueiredo & Flora Menezes Tavares.
  • Text review: Victoria Freeman & Carolina Amadeo.
  • Graphic art: Flora Menezes Tavares.

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 Abigail Moriah

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