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The Commons: Land, property, information, and landscape agency

Updated: Oct 8


Kofi Boone, FASLA is a Joseph D. Moore Distinguished Professor and University Faculty Scholar in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at NC State University. Kofi is a Detroit native and a graduate of the University of Michigan (BSNR 1992, MLA 1995). His work is in the overlap between landscape architecture and environmental justice with specializations in democratic design, digital media, and interpreting cultural landscapes. Kofi’s teaching and professional work have earned awards including student and professional ASLA awards. He serves on the Board of Directors of The Corps Network The Black Land Loss Prevention Project, as well as the Landscape Architecture Foundation where he is President-Elect. Kofi serves on the advisory board of The Black Landscape Architects Network. He has published work broadly in peer-reviewed as well as popular media.


Dr. Kofi Boone's presentation on The Commons focused on the deep connection between equity and public space. What do we consider the commons and who has access to them?


Dr. Boone led us through the history of commoning in the urban space, a distinctly Black organization strategy of mutual aid. Coming from the context of the summer of 2020 and BLM protests across the nation, we can understand commons as a way of taking care of our community in the urban space, allowing for upward mobilization of class, health, and welfare.


Historically marginalized Black communities in urban areas have utilized the commons as an essential opportunity to establish wealth. Dr. Boone provided the example of Emancipation Park in Houston, as well as Mississippis Freedom Farms as ways to prevent engagement in sharecropping and simultaneously promote the ability to thrive and self-organize out of necessity.


Close to home, Dr. Boone also discussed the Dudley Street Neighbourhood Initiative as an example of community power, enabling residents to negotiate halting development so they could invest in the community on their own terms. This exemplary example of community commons resisted foreclosure during the housing crisis of the early and mid-2000s and continues to provide affordable housing and land access to members of the Dudley Street neighborhood.


Another example lies in the Rondo Neighborhood of St. Paul, MN. Where what used to be a thriving Black community in the Twin Cities, urban renewal and highway construction of I-94 destroyed this community. Through a cooperatively owned history


-telling project, the truth of the Rondo Neighborhood lives on and community members are able to tell the story of what was lost due to I-94's implementation.


Dr. Boone closed by explaining that today, over 40 Black and Black-serving community land trusts exist today, allowing for community-based reparations, promotion of Black ability to thrive, and local resilience.


Commons and urban commoning efforts fundamentally challenge capitalism, existing. as pockets of space claimed for things in common. This can allow food production, story-telling, mobility, education, and healthcare through commoning.


Watch Dr. Boone's talk on our Youtube channel, as well as through our partner Shareable's podcast wherever you get your podcasts.