Urban Equity blogs

Breaking Free…and Bad

14 November 2019 by André Darmanin0

After a weekend of reflection post Future Cities Canada Summit and engaging with like-minded young professionals such as Cheyanne Ratnam and Ajeev Bhatia, it’s time to embrace the “shit disturber” that I have always been. Not in the Councillor Gord Perks kind of way, but more level headed like Josh Matlow and Kristyn Wong Tam.

At the conference, I attended sessions predominantly related to community building, accessibility and mobility, and strategic foresight. Little did I know, many of the sessions I already wrote about in recent blog posts and my guest entry on Spacing from the summer. Can you say coincidence?

A dream of mine infrequently emanated: The struggle of escaping from jail. Literally, these dreams have emulated in my life’s struggles. Never been able to fulfill the dream of the work I set to accomplish while being at the hands of others, and not just serving the people who resemble who I am.

The recent unfolding that emanated from Don Cherry’s rant of “those people” from Saturday night’s Coach’s Corner hit home. In the past, I wrote about spatial mismatch and reverse commuting in transit and new Canadian experiences navigating the housing system.

I built up the technical expertise and policy proficiency to recognize the inner workings of government administration and to know who the players are. Listening to NIMBYs express in public meetings or on social media their phobias of “those people” entering their communities because, mythically, their property values will decrease and crime will occur are as old as time.

We exit these conferences with a renewed energy and a fervor for a call to action, yet our political systems and siloed environments prevent us from doing as such. Collaboration among communities is severely lacking. I take Anjum Sultana’s Venn diagram on being a bridge builder as a perfect example of what collaboration should look like:

via Anjum Sultana

My take from the last two Future Cities Canada Summits was that community building is the missing piece. Listening to the stories from Carol Coletta and her war over park maintenance; Ana Teresa Portillo and the community land trust to save rooming houses in Parkdale; Rodney Small with his ONE North initiative in Halifax, and Vidyha Alakeson’s leadership with the Power to Change initiative in England. Those stories resonated with me.

For me, it has come full circle. Being that shit disturber while building bridges is that “get out of jail free” card. While I won’t be breaking bad in the sense of dealing meth, I wholeheartedly embrace the rule breaking. I positively concur with Cheyanne in that progress doesn’t happen without the rumbles.

Where are my fellow rumblers and shit disturbers, especially people of colour, at?

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