Empowering Black Communities: The Little Jamaica Community Land Trust Initiative

Among many of the multicultural neighbourhoods in Toronto lies a vibrant enclave known as Little Jamaica. It is a hub where many Jamaican and Caribbean immigrants laid their roots; and has become a place pulsating with history and community.

But over the years, the neighbourhood has been battered by endless construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. It has been 13 years since the shovels hit the ground, and with the project still without a completion date, residents and local businesses continue to be affected. 

Black Urbanism TO was founded in 2018 in response to the challenges posed by rapid construction and gentrification in Little Jamaica. They seek to promote more participation of Black people in the community.

"We really need to be the folks that are taking the time to organize with one another, really get on the same page, and start to own things so that we can start providing the services that we need for ourselves," says Anyika Mark, a communications director at Black Urbanism TO.

Mark is one of several from the group leading the Little Jamaica Community Land Trust, an initiative to preserve the neighbourhood’s rich heritage while empowering its residents economically and culturally.

"We envision the Little Jamaica Community Land Trust to be an anchor for Black businesses, for residents, and for the cultural heritage of Little Jamaica," Mark says.

Recognizing the need to preserve the neighbourhood's identity and empower its Black residents, the program seeks to establish the first Black-led, Black-serving, and Black-focused land trust in the city.

At the heart of their endeavour lies a commitment to community ownership and empowerment. Mark calls on all Black communities to reclaim agency and shape their destinies. 

"We need to be the change we want to see." 

She emphasizes the need for community leaders to find tangible solutions to combat displacement and cultural erasure, advocating for inclusive development models that prioritize community input and ownership. 

Plans for the Little Jamaica Community Land Trust will be revealed on Saturday, April 27th. It will represent a pivotal moment in the neighbourhood's history in the development of economic sustainability and cultural preservation.

"History intertwines with our present and our future. Little Jamaica's legacy still resonates today, embodying resilience and vibrancy." 

Mark says protecting enclaves like Little Jamaica is important, as it is one of the many representations of the cultural essence of Toronto.

"For those who've never been to Little Jamaica, it is one of the most interesting and vibrant places you are gonna go in the city."  

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