Accessing the Commons: To whom do public spaces belong?
Our University of the Streets Café public conversations are much like any you’d have with friends or family around a dinner table, except with more people, more points of view, and slightly more structure. Conversations are hosted by a volunteer moderator who is there to welcome everyone and keep things on track. To get things started, there’s a guest, or sometimes two, who get the ball rolling by sharing their ideas, experiences and questions. After that, it's all up to the participants.
To what extent does social and cultural privilege dictate who gets to access and enjoy public spaces cities? While urban development initiatives such as public art displays and community markets provide new ways to engage with our cities, these initiatives are often also closed to individuals with access to less cultural capital, such as homeless and transient populations. This public conversation considers what the urban commons represent as contested spaces and who gets left out of a gentrification narrative. How can cities belong to all of us?
Marlon Sanches is a graduate student in education at Concordia University. His research interests include citizenship education, participatory democracy, and critical pedagogy. As an educator, he has taught in different settings in Brazil and Montreal such as corporations, private and public schools, and local communities. He has also participated in literacy programs in urban neglected areas in Brazil known as favelas.
Varainja Stock is a community organizer, artist, and academic. She recently completed her PhD in education at Lakehead University on the role of community and collective arts spaces in social transformation. Through discussions with artists and participation in various collective and community arts projects, the roots of a transformative pedagogy were uncovered. These roots are: humility, trust, authenticity, relationships based on love, and critical reflection.
A Concordia University alumni Luke Martin has been employed by Maison de l’amitié since 1993 first as program director of Refugee community programs and then as Director since 2000. His background training is in recreation, psychology and practical gheology. Before joining Maison de l’amitié he worked in the area of camps and with homeless individuals and ex-inmates. He was born in Montreal and has lived there for over 45 years. He has a strong interest in community and peace building very much inspired by the values of his Anabaptist/Mennonite upbringing.
Myriam Zaidi has been involved in social justice work in Montreal for over 10 years. She considers herself to be an organizer more than anything else-from social movements to the workplace, she is always looking for ways to make spaces (big or small) more liberating. She is also a researcher in the field of social movement learning, intersectional feminist pedagogies, and popular education. She currently works as a human rights educator.
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