Toronto placemaker combats erasure of Little Jamaica through mapping


Years of Eglinton LRT construction and economic hardship may have nearly erased it, but there’s a plan underfoot to reassert Little Jamaica‘s place on Toronto’s map — by mapping its history. In the spring of 2021, the city announced plans to turn Little Jamaica into an official cultural district and hired Jay Pitter Placemaking to lead the process.“The city asked us to answer the question, ‘why are we designating Little Jamaica as a cultural district,’” said Jay Pitter, a placemaker and adjunct professor of urban planning. “And so to answer that question, we really needed to map the Black cultural heritage within this area.”Generally, Pitter says, cultural districts should have a heritage that spans at least half a century. Story continues below advertisement “And so my team worked very closely with community members to see if Little Jamaica passed that test,” said Pitter.It did. And then some. 2:26 Toronto building plan to officially recognize Little Jamaica as cultural district Working with community historian Kathy Grant, going through old community newspapers, doing on-the-ground interviews with longtime residents, archival mapping and research, they found the district dated back almost twice the necessary period. Trending Now “We (not) only have a half-century presence in Little Jamaica,” said Pitter. “Black people’s presence in Little Jamaica is almost a century long.”Little Jamaica was home to almost a hundred years of Black presence in retail, advocacy, community care and youth programming, Pitter says. Story continues below advertisement “So we were able to map all of these aspects of our history,” said Pitter.Though it was a resounding success, it wasn’t easy, Pitter says. Because, unlike other histories, Black histories aren’t typically documented — at least not in conventional, official ways.“Our histories tend to be erased or negated because the histories that are represented on the map tend to focus on the colonizer, the victor of war and the property owner,” said Pitter.For Pitter, mapping Black Caribbean history in Toronto was deeply important in order to empower the community.“A highlight of this project was watching Black community members approach the Black cultural heritage map and become extraordinarily excited, sometimes profoundly sentimental and choked up, seeing all those pinpoints on the map,” said Pitter.“It validated that they mattered. It validated that they were here and that they are here and that they will be here as the community evolves,” said Pitter.As for what happens next, Pitter says the mapping will be used to inform the design and policies of the cultural district of Little Jamaica, including the designs of streets, provision of parks and community spaces. Story continues below advertisement “We are now approaching the final phase of authoring this plan and we’re so excited to represent Black cultural heritage along with all of the rich cultural heritage that has come to define this neighbourhood,” said Pitter. 3:42 Film documents changes to Little Jamaica &copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Share post:




More like this

Spain govt faces no-confidence vote by far-right Vox

Spanish lawmakers on Tuesday began debating a no-confidence motion...

Google widens rollout of Bard, its AI chatbot

Google announced Tuesday it’s allowing more people to interact...