iRep Arts!

While preparing for our presentation on Traffic Oriented Development (I’ll elaborate later) we agreed that being a human geographer changes you forever! lol. The problem is once you know something, you can’t “unknow ” it! We all shared the similar experience of how we now view the social world and places we live so differently after taking human geography courses and then the resultant verbal diarrhea that follows as we explain to people around why the street is poorly planned or what era that style of housing came from and what it means to our economy today! The worst is not being able to watch movies without analysing the landscapes presented in the movies! Guilty as charged! I am officially the worst person to watch a movie with! The night before field school started , I was being a responsible student and stayed up watching a movie with my friend – who is also taking field school.  It was a stupid movie called Green Mile and I felt even more stupid for staying up ’till 4 watching it because of the ‘noble savage’ figure that the Michael Clarke Duncan played (a huge black man in 19th century USA who has magical healing powers, but he can’t speak , he is kind of a child, very passive , illiterate etc etc…).

Geo nerds affirmed!Days 3 & 4 of field school also made me reflect on an experience I had in Harare in January of this year. Before I get to that though, a brief about days 3 and 4…

Day 3 took me to the Westmount area, to the site where the new train (LRT) heading west shall be. After a tour of the neighbourhood and seeing the amazing diversity of housing from the 1800′s right up to modern day period, the streetscape and the commercial areas of this neighbourhood (along Stony Plain rd and 104 st) , our project (to complete in +/- 24 hours), was to conduct an assessment of the neighbourhood (so an inventory of land use) and then suggest changes to the neighbrouhood by applying principles of Transit Oriented Development to the neighbourhood so as to maximise the presence of the LRT in a few months time. Transit (and why it works in some places and not in others) made so much sense after learning of these principles:

  1. Major DESTINATIONS and centres are lined up in  reasonably direct corridors making them easy to serve  efficiently by frequent transit;
  2. Walking DISTANCE to frequent transit is minimized by creating a fine-grained urban structure of well-connected streets around which to focus:
  3. People-friendly urban DESIGN including safe, comfortable, and direct pedestrian and cycling routes;
  4. Higher levels of residential and employment DENSITY;
  5. A rich DIVERSITY of land uses and housing types;
  6. DEMAND management measures that discourage unnecessary auto trips.

So, I won’t go on too much about this because I want to talk about something else, but pretty much, at a simple level, an assessment of a human scale (aka people friendly, which is the aim of T.O.D as opposed to car friendly)  could look something like these images we used for our presentation (an awesome group by the way!) :

 

 

Reflection on Harare following soon (I’m tired and want to watch a movie!) …

Hello peoples :)

What do you think should be done for/with residents of a low income neighbourhood if the neighbourhood is revitalized, cleaned up and property values increase such that the local residents can no longer afford to live there anymore and are pushed out? 

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So Day 1 (of Field School) took us to Alberta Avenue (118th street)  - right by Coliseum station where some interesting neighbourhood revitalisation has been taking place for the last 4 or so years. This is one of Edmonton’s oldest neighbourhoods and has gone through it’s cycle from wealth to absolute poverty (and all of poverty’s friends). So it has had its fair share of social problems – prostitution, drugs etc etc. That has also come along with a stigma that is hard to shake off…but, there are some really interesting changes going on there now and tonnes of potential for investment (especially if you are just starting out and have no responsibilities such as kids and such).

The revitalisation process has seen Alberta Avenue (aka The Avenue of Champions) being redesigned. The new zoning for the avenue has allowed for the road to be narrowed and pedestrian space to be increased which makes walking down that avenue such a pleasure! Increased lighting makes it safer to walk at night ; they got youth in the community to do artsy graffiti on garbage cans and wall murals. It’s more than just putting nice looking things in the neighbourhood..they are also focusing on the business perspective which I like. Especially in the arts, they have a number of international ice sculptures that live in the neighbourhood now and take part in ice festivals.

The Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts also opened up on this avenue and provides a place for artists to live and do their work at the same time.

There was also a pretty sweet Portuguese coffee shop:

Most of our time was spent in the Community Coffee shop known as the Carrot. It’s completely volunteer run and hosts live music..I think I could try and setup a mbira gig of my own in there (check out my musicif you ever want to come! a little marketing never hurt!)

This neighbourhood has low property values at the moment and they are looking hard for people to invest in the community. I have been looking for a place to start a mbira club (I think I may have just found it). Will I consider buying a house there ? I think so, if I have the money in the next few years..the property value is poised to increase so after a number of years , I could just sell it and make a profit.

On a real tip though..the mbira club going to happen this summer.

At the end of the second day, after learning about the neighbourhood, we were divided into small groups. Our task was to identify areas along Alberta Avenue that still need to be revitalised or developed. My group chose a “brownfield” (a formerly industrial or commercial plot of land that has been cleared and decontaminated).

(the brownfield at 92st and Alberta Ave)

We had a myriad of ideas that we presented to the rest of the course participants today. The general idea was to have a multi-use building with a consignment store, a breakfast bar and co-operative penthouse apartments at the top (my contribution to the building). Why co-operative? It allows for affordable housing that’s pegged at local neighbourhood income levels with the aid of Govt subsidies, it operates at cost (therefor is not for profit, allowing for affordability over a long period of time), it allows for local residents to own property that they can afford therefore retaining members of the community who would otherwise have been pushed out by gentrification and allows them to contribute to the revival of the neighbourhood. There are actually a number of co-operative housing projects in Edmonton: 

I came up with a little sketch of what the penthouses could look like.The main points I emphasized were the balcony with a glass wall (maybe at chest-height)  that allows for resident to look out onto the street. This concept of looking onto the street (aka eyes on the street)  has been cited as having some value in reducing crime rates as potential criminals feel like they are being watched. The neighbourhood also hosts a number of rooftop festivals in the summer time so this will be a welcome addition to that rooftop culture!  A rooftop luxury lobby would be pretty rad during the summer time!

Pent-house on Alberta Ave

If you have read up to here: you are  a champ! The question again:

What do you think should be done for/with residents of a low income neighbourhood if the neighbourhood is revitalised, cleaned up and property values increase such that the local residents can no longer afford to live there anymore and are pushed out? 

So, I’m taking a Human Geography field course on the Urban Environment (in general). What does this mean?  It means 11 days of visiting various cites in the city, learning about urban concerns such as neighbourhood revitalisation; gentrification (changes that occur when wealthier people (gentry) acquire property in lower income neighbourhoods) ; transit oriented development; retail economics etc etc.  I’m going to be blogging everyday because it’s a fun thing to do (okay..it’s kind of required,lol) but I thought it would be nice to share the information I learn anyway!

So this is a short blog…but as it’s Black History Month, I thought I would share. I have been thinking about this topic for quite some time and it keeps coming up in my head…

I won’t go on about the topic, but rather let it be a question to you all and hopefully get some answers. 

Does the conceptualization of Africa as feminine: “Mama Africa/ the Motherland” and the paradox of words used in popular culture that alongside it: “bountiful, big,beautiful,fruitful…raped,dark,scorned” reflect on a view of African women (and Africa) in a romantic way: beautiful,peaceful and child bearing and yet at the same time (to use a word a good friend used) undervalued, passive and unable to protect themselves? Is this really how African women and Africa are?

My quick and concise answer- yes and no. Yes because I feel popular culture does produce this image, we reproduce it in our language and talk, but no, because I know the reality on the ground. That’s all I will say for now. 

Thoughts and comments?

So it’s black history month. At this point it’s important to think about what it means to have a “black history” month. It’s a way to reclaim the history of people who consider themselves black. The colonial project claimed to, aimed to and in many ways succeeded in shaping people of African descent, their cultures and ways of life as “primitive,”  “backward” etc etc. For example, the British, upon stumbling upon Great Zimbabwe kingdom for years denied that such an impressive structure could have been established by anyone of African descent. Instead they wrote that it was perhaps the Inca, or the Portuguese and some even suggested that it was aliens. In order for the colonial project to work, the work of the African had to be discredited, and it was easy to do so.  We all know now, that the Great Zimbabwe kingdom (shona name: Dzimbahwe/Dzimbadzemabwe) was the economic hub in Southern Africa for centuries. People traded gold for cloth with the Portuguese, there is evidence for the contact with the Chinese etc etc

Black history month is a way of saying, listen, black people do have a history, traditions, high musical history, complex social structures, a history of complex governance systems, a history of wealth, boom and bust economical cycles, as much as a there is a history of warfare, trade networks, disease, migration, drought, cheap labor (Great Zimbabwe could not have been built without the exploitation of labor) and inequalities.

This is to say, black history month should not also be a romanticisation of the history of people of African origin. To do that is to fall into the trap that these people were as naive and passive as they were primitive. The history of people of African descent has, in many ways, presented as people who are in touch with nature and their spirits. This again, is a romanticisation. As much as there was religion and spirituality, there was warfare and class struggles as there would be in any other society.

To a certain extent black history month does perpetuate the idea that people of African descent are inferior to the dominant culture and thus their history and cultures and artifacts need to be displayed, packaged and sold. I would love to see the day when we no longer need a black history month because it has become part of the curricula in schools (many Albertans I meet, know absolutely nothing at all about Africa, bar the  oh so wonderful World Vision ads).  I would love to see the day when black people no longer need ethnocentric and multicultural types of groups for employment and assistance. I look forward to the day when interaction with the African history is just as standard as incorporation with European history. Utopian? I don’t know.

What of slavery, colonialism etc? People, these things happened and are an a part of the history and culture now. Accepting that is the only way one can deal with it.

As I was preparing to come to Canada for the first time, a cousin of mine, who had studied here said to me, “play the poor African needing help card all the time and they will throw money at you and you will get far.” I mulled over that for some time and then rejected the idea, for to accept it is to accept inferiority, being placed in a box you can’t get out of and continue to perpetuate the stereotype.

I’m sure there is a way to better articulate what  I just said but  if it made sense – I hope one day we will no longer need a black history month.

Hey everyone!

In my music 484 class we took a look at the different roles music has to play in the urban environment and how it informs the way we build and conceptualize the spaces in which we live. We decided to, as a group, look at how music is experienced when people are taking public transit. In this public space, where public music players are not allowed, many people turn to their ipods and other personal music playing devices. Is this democracy at work? Is this a testament to the discourse of privatisation in the western world?

Our idea is to find out what music people listen to on their ipods, using camera’s and the technology available to us, we would then present these results in the form of a video in which we zoom into someone listening to their ipod and then get their p.o.v perspective while the song they are listening to plays. So, here’s an example of what our results could look like if we carried this idea through. Potentially, we could also produces a mixtape of music Edmontonians listen to on transit- how cool? If you want to check out the entire project including the prezi- click the links below, but for now here is our video..enjoy!

 

Music, Mobility and Public Space – Group 12.

via Music, Mobility and Public Space – Group 12.

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