Eglinton West, also known as “Little Jamaica”, is this week’s walk area. Eglinton and Oakwood is often a bustling neighborhood, punctuated by barbershops, restaurants, jerk chicken street BBQs, and cosmetics stores, but it wasn’t always this way. As a “Black Enclave”, the area gathered together the Caribbean/West Indian communities including Trinidadian, Barbadian, and Guyanese immigrants, and the black identities of the community work together to strengthen themselves through supporting local business and entrepreneurs. You could say that Cultural Enclaves, whether voluntary or prescribed, are the hipsters of the “Shop Local” movement.
The businesses along Eglinton Avenue West are frequented by many in the Greater Toronto Area‘s 177,000-plus Jamaican community.
Over the last decade, the area has gained a reputation for being riddled with crime; however, in the last three years the real estate development boom has looked upon Little Jamaica as an area ready for massive redevelopment and reconstruction. Another kind of development, transportation development, has also had a massive impact on the area; many businesses have been forced to shut down or relocate due to LRT development and concerns of increased rent. While the increased development will no doubt be evident today on our walk, I’m sure the changing face of Eglinton West will also be omnipresent; with little to no support for local residents and businesses in the area, the local community feels out of control of the future of a long-held stronghold of Caribbean and West African people.
Gentrification has been sweeping people out of their solidly working-class neighbourhoods for more than a decade, from Parkdale to Regent Park to Lawrence Heights. Without a strong sense of unity amongst the existing working class residents in these neighbourhoods, the roots of these communities will be as wiped out as they have been in Queen Street West and Liberty Village.
For a look at the neighborhood from a local’s perspective, check out Pretty Hype TO.