Councillor Josh Matlow

Little Jamaica Community Conversation: Meeting Highlights & Next Steps

Memory Sharing Segment:

Guiding Questions:

  • How regular do you frequent Little Jamaica? What would make you visit Little Jamaica more?
  • Is there anything about Little Jamaica that you miss that should be part of its future?
  • Do you think Little Jamaica is effectively serving the community in its current state? If not, why?

Highlights:

  • Community misses the vibrancy, culture and “feel” of Eglinton Ave. W.
  • Little Jamaica was a way for African, Caribbean and Black residents to stay connected to their culture and roots
  • LRT has done a disservice to Eglinton- threatened/displaced businesses, removed parking, created accessibility and walkability challenges and destroyed the streetscape
  • Community wants the Kiddie Carnival brought back to Eglinton Ave. W.
  • Community wants to see Little Jamaica thrive, while conserving and promoting the different cultural groups and their contributions to the community both historical and contemporary
  • More cultural public spaces and activities that openly engage the local residents, businesses and visitors
  • Community would like more activities that strengthen the unity, belonging and growth of Eglinton West.

Future of Little Jamaica Segment:

Arts, Culture & Identity Guiding Questions

  • What cultural programs and services can be integrated into the Cultural District Plan to celebrate the African-Caribbean diaspora?
  • What types of activities and visual representation of the African-Caribbean diaspora in the Cultural District would you like to see that would create a sense of place, strengthen local traditions, community pride and increased sense of ethnic identity? (ex: Museums, events, recreational activities etc.)
  • How should new development relate to the Cultural District surroundings?

Highlights:

  • Calls on government to look outside the box
  • All three levels of government need to step up to transform the neighbourhood
  • Engage and encourage younger generations to be a part of the conversation
  • Explore innovating ways to retain and fill commercial space in Little Jamaica
  • Initiative must go beyond heritage preservation to protect the culture and identity of the African-Caribbean Diaspora
  • Developers along Eglinton Ave. W. need to make solid investments in and embrace the arts and culture of Little Jamaica
  • Create a community space that incorporates health and wellness services that are accessible and barrier-free
  • Improve walkability so festivals (specifically afro-centric events) can be brought back to Little Jamaica
  • Community would like to see more support for local artists and find more ways to integrate their talents and crafts in development projects for the community
  • Review vending permit facilitation and entrepreneurship supports for locals who have entrepreneurial pursuits that can strengthen the local economic and cultural development of the community
  • Create a permanent cultural centre (similar to Wychwood Barns) to recognize and preserve the historical texture and vibrancy of the area
  • A focus must be placed on the inter-generational time frame and the people who made not only local contributions – but also national and international contributions
  • Create a museum that showcases the African-Caribbean Diaspora and the history of migration of Black peoples to Toronto and Little Jamaica

Economic Development Guiding Questions:

  • What are the short and long term needs and challenges for Black-owned and operated businesses?
  • How can this initiative support Black-owned and operated businesses?
  • What cultural tourism programs would you like to see in the neighbourhood to create economic impact for the business community?
  • How can this initiative create, sustain and promote Black ownership of small businesses and address affordability issues?

Highlights:

  • Governance structure to establish protocols to manage Little Jamaica cultural resources with responsibility to protect the people
  • Emphasis on infrastructure for the economic social development of the people affected by government policies
  • Infrastructure that directly advances the economic development of the People of Afrikan Descent: farming, construction, engineering, manufacturing, technology innovation and health etc.
  • Small businesses on Eglinton are staples of our community and many are struggling to stay open
  • Developers need to invest in community by understanding the challenges and needs of local residents and businesses
  • A tourism card and tourism centre needs to be created for Little Jamaica
  • Tools and mechanisms need to be leveraged so that black businesses can own, instead of rent, their spaces
  • Encourage developers to build smaller commercial units so that they are more sustainable to purchase
  • Review current business practices to encourage local pop-ups in empty storefronts
  • Improve social media platforms to support local small business
  • City of Toronto Façade Program should be expanded within area to assist with beautifying the streetscape
  • Community wants to explore how to support small businesses with sustainable grants/tax credits that recognize their role in community development, and champion programs that dissolve the barriers of systemic racism

Quality of Life Guiding Questions:

  • What social issues are families facing in the community and what would be beneficial to them in the short, medium and long term?

Highlights:

  • Grant distinct measures recognizing People of Afrikan Descent as the original people of the land according to archeological evidence on the Continent of America
  • Create a healthcare hub that is accessible for local residents in the community, but particularly to Black women
  • Access to clean food and improving food security in the community
  • Lack of services in walking distance for seniors and those with mobility challenges in the community
  • Lack of accessibility in the community
  • Looking at mental health through a culture and arts lens
  • Improving access to mental health and addictions services that proportionally represents the community would help reduce and remove the stigma of seeking help
  • Invest in new approaches to policing
  • Develop a one-stop shop/hub for families to access a range of services and programs

Engagement Strategies Segment:

Guiding Questions

  • Where have you been engaging in this conversation on Little Jamaica?
  • What are ways that you want to be engaged?

Highlights:

  • Social media
    • BIAs instagrams, BlackurbanismTO’s Instagram, Black Business and Professional Association Instagram
    • Free, Prior and Informed Consent, ILO C-169

Open Community Forum Highlights:

  • There’s been a long history of Black displacement and gentrification in North America that disproportionately affects people of African, Black and Caribbean descent
  • This negative trend has drawn international attention with the UN declaring 2015 – 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent
  • Importance of community working with all 3 levels of government
  • Increase financial literacy in Black community
  • Stakeholders need to be held to account
  • Creating linear wealth and obtaining information through intergenerational outlets, which will strengthen community’s position to all levels of government
  • Community really appreciated hearing from a diverse group of voices committed to a healthy future for Eglinton West on principles of unity, diversity and justice
  • Representative from Oldowan- Canada’s First Black Skateboarding Collective spoke on importance of recreational activities, such as skaeboarding, financial barriers and developing skillsets through recreation programs for Black youth
  • Representative from UrbanArts spoke on using the arts to support mental health, art programs currently available for youth and bringing these programs to Little Jamaica
  • Interest in filming a documentary of Little Jamaica to capture the stories and essence of the local residents that know it’s history
  • Involving 13 Division in these conversations and inviting them to the table

Next Steps:

Councillor Matlow’s Next Steps:

  • Develop a Little Jamaica Accountability Table that is made up of key stakeholders, City Staff, local organizations, etc., to co-create and hold the City of Toronto to account on their recent initiative
  • More details on this to come and will be posted on joshmatlow.ca/little-jamaica

City of Toronto’s Little Jamaica Interdivisional Team Next Steps:

  1. The Interdivisional Team is working with their Procurement team to bring on a consultant to lead the Little Jamaica Cultural District Plan. They are in the process of developing the terms of reference, scope of work and deliverables.  They are hoping to have them on board before the end of July.
  2. They are currently conducting a jurisdictional review of cultural districts around the world and Planning Framework including heritage work.  This work will take time to plan and analyze over the next number of months as it involves robust engagement with the community as well as key stakeholders.
  3. They are also working on the Retail Strategy in collaboration with Revenue Services on supports for small businesses.

To stay updated, the City’s team asks that you subscribe to their newsletter on the website, which my assistant will note in the chat: https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/planning-development/planning-studies-initiatives/eglinton-west-corridor-little-jamaica-study/

2021-06-16T20:22:54+00:00
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