The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered our world, everything from how we socialist, to how we shop, and to what and how we negotiated our most basic movements - is now sifted through the mesh of the pandemic protocols. We are, to put it bluntly, inundated by news, both local and global of the pandemic, including information about Covid testing and various government income and employment supports available to individuals and their families. Keeping up with the latest developments has become a daily ritual.
For culturally diverse residents of Regent Park, many of whom are newcomers with basic English skills, this information can be overwhelming to digest and respond to. In an effort to help residents navigate the various supports that may be available to them, the Regent Park community organized a virtual town hall through the on-line platform of Zoom. The townhall was held in the evening of May 28, 2002.
The aim of the Regent Park Virutual Town Hall was to present information that would be helpful in supporting residents during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Regent Park Virtual Town Hall was hosted by the Regent Park Safety Network (RPSN) - a committee comprised of local agencies and residents committed to community safety. The event was moderated by Nayeon Kim, a Regent Park resident and Co-Chair of RPSN. It was also live-streamed and archived by the Focus Media Arts Centre for broadcast on the Regent Park TV-Youtube and RPTV Channel on Rogers 991.
Attendees of the Town Hall heard from elected representatives of each level of government (municipal, provincial and federal) about various financial supports that was available to them. They also heard from the educators, the school trustee and from community organizations about a variety of initiatives that have been implemented to support children and families.
Staying safe was the predominate theme of the Town Hall and speaker after speaker reinforced the many things that each person can do to protect themselves as well as others around them including staying home, self-isolating, social distancing, avoiding public gatherings and regularly washing of hands, all of which have become the necessary mantras of the pandemic. One of the more moving presentations of the event was from a resident who shared her personal experience of contracting the coronavirus and her hospitalization.
In addition to the mantras of social distancing and avoidance of public gatherings, the pandemic has also ushered in new modes of communication. Subsequently speakers spoke about how the new ways their agencies and institutions were carrying out their activities and seeking to connect to residents. Virtual encounters and the world of remote communication, a kind of fringe activity before the onset of the pandemic, have now gained new credence –forcing individuals, households, communities and institutions to adapt and embrace technologies that were once unfamiliar and beyond their capacity to engage with. Providing residents with the information to connect on-line with agencies and community representatives was essential.
The Regent Park Virtual Townhall is an example of how a community can lead the way in responding to the needs and crises of their neighbourhoods. Bringing together elected representatives, educators, school officials, agencies and community groups in the service of keeping residents informed, is an important social responsibility that the Regent Park community takes seriously. They know that providing sound information is a communal and civic duty. The Regent Park Virtual Town Hall Meeting can be viewed here.
At RPTV News, playing a role in providing critical information to the Regent Community is in essence what community media is all about. As COVID-19’s disruptions continue, the need for accurate and up-to-date information is essential to the well being and safety of everyone.
by Dimitrije Martinovic with contribution from Adonis Huggins
Dimitrije and Adonis are staff members at FOCUS MEDIA ARTS CENTRE.