White people should not hold the fate of Little Jamaica in their hands.

Matlow: White people should not hold the fate of Little Jamaica in their hands.

Josh Matlow

Councillor Josh Matlow brought two proposals to Toronto City Hall on behalf of #Little-Jamaica.

Last September Matlow introduced the Little Jamaica initiative, a motion that looked at a number of priorities to support the future of little Jamaica. Earlier this year he moved a motion asking for a Heritage conservation study of the area which was followed by a public meeting. The meeting added little substance to the proposal.  

So, #Matlow said, he called a meeting that was co-hosted by #BlackUrbanismTO and the elder Kojo Rakanwu Geb. The discussion ranged from issues of identity to finding ways of supporting  black owned businesses.

Anyika Mark

“I’m looking at ways for more black ownership of the building themselves” said Matlow. “We looked at supporting tourism. A lot of people remembered how the community was devastated when the kiddies Carnival moved to Malvern.”

“We’re working with Lori Baeza to bring an Afro Caribbean Farmers Market to little Jamaica starting on July 4th at the Green P at Oakwood and Eglinton. Someone else wanted to start a Caribbean Food Festival others suggested health related services, both physical and mental. They envisage a community hub providing a variety of services with the infrastructure to support people from children to seniors.”

“While recognizing that things do change, as Little Jamaica did over the years,

Dane Williams

community elders agree that the rejuvenated Little Jamaica will not be static. It will change but they want to retain the places that are important like the barber shops, the patty shops, places that, if they disappear, Little Jamaica will no longer be Little Jamaica.”

Matlow added that the participants came to it from an anti-black racism lens because there’s a history of black communities being displaced by large infrastructure projects and gentrification. Today little Jamaica is facing both these challenges. So by supporting little Jamaica you are also ensuring a black, vibrant community.

The city councilor said he want it arranged so that people, whether as individuals, businesses or organizations are invited to the table to decide

Ruth Belay

where to take this community initiative. Of course, he added, “the city can’t do this alone we need the help of the province and the federal government.”

Matlow said the idea is for community members to be in the driver’s seat, which he sees as instrumental in paving the way for more black ownership and more black voices at the leadership table.

When asked how will more black ownership of businesses come about, Matlow said: “my motion gets the ball rolling. We present to the city the problem that needs to be solved and we say that we need to focus on that as a priority. During the course of this year, by the time they finished their final report we expect that there will be advice and recommendations to support that goal so that is the exercise which they are going through right now…what we made

Kojo Rakanwu Geb

very clear is that the fate of little Jamaica should be in the hands of primarily white people who own those buildings.”