In celebration of Black History Month, the Department of Geography & Planning would like to recognize this year’s recipients of the Black Graduate Scholar Award in Geography & Planning and the Geography & Planning Award for Black Students. Their outstanding academic and professional achievements are certain to leave a legacy within the department and the fields of geography and planning.
Established in partnership with the University of Toronto Black Research Network, The Black Graduate Scholar Award in Geography & Planning supports Black graduate student scholars working broadly in the areas of geography, planning and social justice. The theme of justice is evident in Priscilla Ankomah-Hackman’s work on anti-Black racism and mental health services, Mobólúwajídìde Joseph’s examination of surveillance on Black Canadian communities in Toronto, and Nokuzola Songo’s focus on conflict-induced internal displacement and transitional justice using creative methods.
The Geography & Planning Award for Black students was established by the graduate department in 2020 to support outstanding research led by black students. The work of these award recipients reflects the diversity and interdisplinarity of geography and planning. Physical Geography student Brianna Lane studies changing snow and lake ice in the arctic, using in situ monitoring with digital camera imagery. Planning student Jane O’Brien Davis looks at counter-monuments and alternative commemorations of space and place within settler-colonial contexts, and Alexandra Lambropoulos explores the intersection of art and planning through her research, as well as urban planning initiatives across the African continent through her podcast. The work of these outstanding students also spans a range of locations and scales, including Lima, Peru, where Roxana Escobar Ñañez explores the places Afro-Peruvian women hold in the city’s sonic landscapes, and Lagos, Nigeria, where Bola Oshinusi investigates how urban food security and climate resilience are affected in response to rapid urbanization and solid waste generation. Toronto, too, serves as an important place of study, particularly in Olivia Bernard’s research on the experience of girls in the city’s education system, and Jandell-Jamela Nicholas’ engagement with the experiences of Indigenous and Black women survivors of domestic abuse within Toronto’s emergency shelters.
In addition to celebrating the outstanding achievements of Black geography and planning students, we would like to acknowledge the specific work done by Black students towards making visible and seeking to eliminate anti-Black racism within the university and the fields of geography and planning. This work addresses the need for systemic change within the department and other institutions, as well as long-term strategies to address anti-Black racism – efforts that cannot be confined to one moment in time, but rather must be ongoing.
See below to learn more about the award recipients!
Black Graduate Scholar Award in Geography and Planning
Priscilla’s research explores the experiences of Black planning students and professional planners in Canada with major emphasis of anti-Black racism and mental health services. She is passionate about creating conducive and liveable spaces for racialized groups to thrive while contributing to the socio-economic development of urban spaces. She worked with the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly and Effutu Municipal Assembly Physical Planning Department as a Researcher/Urban Planner. In Canada, she worked with Hearts and Stroke Foundation and Habitat for Humanity. She volunteers as the Programs Manager for a non-profit environmental think tank in Ghana, Institute of Nature and Environmental Conservation, INEC.
Mobólúwajídìde (Bo) D. Joseph is a first-year M.A geography candidate whose work is attentive to the practice and effects of surveillance on Black Canadian communities in Toronto. His work draws on scholarship around spatial phenomenology and visual representations of Blackness in Canada, as well as the subfields of legal geography, urban geography, and infrastructure studies. His thesis is concerned specifically with the terrain of Toronto’s public parks and the surveillance, regulation, and policing of Black people’s interactions with them. Bo is also a Junior Fellow at Massey College.
Nokuzola Songo is a political feminist geographer currently in her 1st year of a PhD programme at the University of Toronto, Department of Human Geography, focusing on conflict-induced internal displacement and transitional justice using creative methods. She also holds a MSc. in African Studies from the University of Oxford (UK), as well as a MA in Drama Therapy from Wits University (SA). She is a Mandela Washington Fellow with over ten years of experience in social development in South Africa, Europe and the US. Her professional experience ranges from facilitating youth development programs, forming HIV support groups to consulting in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion development programmes and initiatives. Her current goal is to make a documentary about her research to promote and increase access to academic engagement.
Geography & Planning Award for Black Students
Olivia’s research investigates the experiences of Black girls in the Toronto education system. Her project’s main aim is to explore the processes of marginalization that include racial stereotypes, streaming, de-streaming, disciplinary actions, class, anti-Black curriculum, and resistance culture. Existing literature demonstrates that the education system in Canada assisted in creating and maintaining policies and procedures that discriminate against Black students while reinforcing negative stereotypes against the group. The topic is important because there is an urgent need to understand the changing ways in which Black girls face discrimination in Toronto and its impact on their educational trajectories.
Maria Roxana Escobar Nanez
Roxana Escobar Ñañez is an Afro-Peruvian Ph.D. candidate in Human Geography. She also holds a B.A. in Philosophy and a M.A. in Political Science by the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, and M.Ed in Social Justice Education from OISE-UofT. Roxana’s research focuses on the places Afro-Peruvian women hold in Lima’s sonic landscapes. With her project, Roxana seeks to contribute to the geographic knowledge production about Black womanhood in Latin America.
Alexandra is passionate about the arts, the environment, urban planning, and the creative ways that they intersect to enhance our cities and support the resilience of our communities. She is pursuing her Master of Science in Planning at the University of Toronto. In her free time, Alexandra enjoys working on her podcast Urban Limitrophe, which explores initiatives transforming cities across the African continent (and diaspora).
Brianna’s research interests include lake ice climate interactions, cryosphere research, and climate change. Her Master’s research will focus on changing snow and lake ice using in situ monitoring with digital camera imagery in the Central Canadian High Arctic. Brianna aims to develop a feasible method for snow and ice data quantification using ground-based cameras. Her study will examine recent variability in snow and ice phenology and compare this variability to longer historical changes in the study region.
Jandell-Jamela Nicholas’ research engages the experiences of Indigenous and Black women survivors of domestic abuse within the spaces of emergency shelters in Toronto. Her work investigates how Indigenous and Black women who survive inter-partner violence and who temporarily reside in emergency shelters in Toronto can help to inform the planning and design of shelters as spaces for healing, self-determination and empowerment.
Jane O’Brien Davis
Jane is a MScPl student in the Department of Geography and Planning. Her interests lie in heritage planning, cultural planning, and public histories. Jane’s research looks at counter-monuments and alternative commemorations of space and place. She is interested in how grassroots organizing in Canadian cities engages with built heritage in a settler colonial context.
Bola’s research interests look at the political and socioeconomic feasibilities of using land use planning initiatives for implementing urban agriculture programs that utilize organic waste segregation in cities of the Global South. By engaging with policymakers, urban farmers and local homeowners in Lagos, Nigeria, the project will assess how urban food security and climate resilience of the communities are affected, particularly in regards to rapid urbanization, urban population growth and solid waste generation. Should such initiatives be deemed to be feasible according to the community participants, recommendations will be provided for further improvement and development in line with the state’s sustainability objectives.