Veronica Lalli and Theodore Oyama are graduate students from the McGill School of Architecture that have recently completed a short film concerning space as a means of displaying and propagating culture in Little Burgundy, specifically focusing on the Negro Communty Center.
The research was completed in the context of their class « A New Architecture of Spatial Justice » taught by professor Ipek Tureli. It discusses the injustices surrounding the disappearance of this building and the effect this will have on the community it once served.
Abstract of the film:
« Burgundy Restored
The NCC as a manifestation of the disappearance of Black culture
The Negro Community Center (NCC) was once the heart of Little Burgundy, catering to the predominantly Black community as well as the lower class immigrants. It offered a variety of programs, including a daycare, a theatre, a gym, a lunchroom and a music school. Its visitors reflected the changing demographics and its programs propelled the culture of Little Burgundy to grow. In 1993, the NCC had to give up use of its building on rue Coursol due to embezzlement charges and the consequential cutting of Centraid funding. While community organizations providing similar functions exist today in Little Burgundy, such as Youth in Motion and D.J. Sports Club, the leaders of these organizations are powerless to the disappearance of the history of the neighbourhood.
In April 2014, after being abandoned for twenty years, an exterior wall of the NCC collapsed, leaving the building structurally unstable with an entire side exposed. Consequently, and despite the mobilization of the community of Little Burgundy, the NCC went bankrupt and the city of Montreal expropriated their land and sold it to a private developer.
The situation of the NCC is significant in that it exemplifies a larger issue in Little Burgundy. Specifically, it speaks of the citizens’ rights to spaces which display the cultural heritage that has contributed to the attractiveness of the neighbourhood. The commercialization of Notre-Dame Street, in part by international corporations, contrasts the disappearing non-profitable historical spaces.
The video will primarily consist of interviews with residents, organization administrators and business owners. Through the collection of their opinions regarding the neighbourhood and the collapse of the NCC, the digital story will demonstrate the disregard for the people that have shaped Little Burgundy into the cultural hub it is today. Specifically, it will contrast the desires and power of citizens from the area, sensitive small businesses, and large chain corporations. It will frame the collapse of the NCC as a physical manifestation of the steady disappearance of the Black community and its contribution to Little Burgundy. »