Celebrating Research Working For Black Lives in Vancouver: Stephanie Allen, MURB

June 13, 2019

Urban Studies students set the pace for research at the interface of urban practice and action for change. Graduating this week is one particularly notable example of this, Master of Urban Studies graduand, Stephanie Allen.

Stephanie’s studies at SFU Urban Studies together with her community organizing work generated her project, Fight the Power: Redressing Displacement and Building a Just City for Black Lives in Vancouver. The project—a first for an Urban Studies student—is an autoethnography based on her work negotiating redress in Vancouver. Stephanie’s project daylights Canada’s history of displacing Black communities, making the case for redress in Vancouver as the City plans to remove the very viaducts that were the final step in displacement policies enacted by federal and municipal governments between the 1950s and 1970s. But this project is not all that Stephanie’s work generated. Her research about the former community, nicknamed Hogan’s Alley, was built around her simultaneous efforts to mobilize the community as a founding board member of the Hogan’s Alley Society. The society’s work focuses on tracing the legacy of displacement and erasure of the Hogan’s Alley and to build a more just and inclusive future for people of African descent in the region.

Stephanie’s work joins with others in the Black community whose memory, art, and resistance regarding Hogan’s Alley has mapped it more ways than one. There is research to the action, and action to the research. The current round of the City’s urban revitalization efforts in the neighbourhood focus on the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, but Stephanie’s work revealed the importance of self-determination in community planning, particularly for marginalized populations if there is any hope for justice. Without the work of the Hogan’s Alley Society, Stephanie demonstrated, the city was on a direct route to erase Hogan’s Alley and people of African descent , all over again. With her professional background in affordable housing supporting on the technical side, the concept of a community land trust emerged as one of the key initiatives for the start-up non-profit.  

Stephanie Allen is not taking any chances that the lessons she has learned might be muffled by the general noise. She has offered presentations across a spectrum of public and private organizations and associations including Kennesaw University in Atlanta and at the UBC President's Round Table on affordable housing. This year, she accepted a new position as Associate Vice President, Strategic Business Operations and Performance at BC Housing – a job title with “changemaker” written all over it. She has joined the steering committee for the Federation of Black Canadians, and last week attended meetings at United Nations Headquarters in New York as well as the Canadian Mission to the UN to celebrate the UN Decade for People of African Descent (2015-24). She continues to serve as a board member for the Hogan’s Alley Society.

Stephanie’s research supervisor Prof. Karen Ferguson reflects: “It's been so gratifying to have a student who took what she learned in the classroom and was able to use it so directly to further her own justice-based urban agenda.  I'm so proud of her and happy that our program served her so well on her path. SFU is lucky to count her among our alumni!”

Not drawn to the limelight for its own sake, Stephanie sees the power of revealing and recognizing the injustices, as well as the efforts and accomplishments, that lie hidden in plain sight in our city. About being named last year to Vancouver Magazine’s Power 50, Stephanie says: “I've seen how much things like being featured on Vancouver Magazine's Power 50 has opened doors and brought the Black community's circumstances into the discourse in a way that is helping to support the transformative change we seek.”