Thursday, August 25, 2022

Regent Park FEMME Collective!

Femme is a collective of two young women reaching out to other you women to join their community group called “Femme”. They meet up and discuss important events and issues, while doing workshops and cool activities. The goal of the project is to allow culturally diverse young women to create new and memorable experiences, make new friends, gain sisterhood, and build leadership.

Located in Regent Park, in the Daniel Spectrum Arts Center. Meetings take place in the third floor community meeting room, every Wednesday from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. The program started in July 2022 and will be completed in April 2023.

The experiences gained during the project could have life-long benefits. Offering young people in the community an opportunity to create a youth oriented magazine. Participants would be engaged with photography, print journalism, and magazine design. An honorarium of $300.00 is provided to each participant.

Some of the members have claimed the project is both fun and entertaining, activities included are picnics, scavenger hunts, and workshops. Additionally, a weekly snack is provided as a way of furthering social bonding and building group cohesion.

All the activities created by the group will be documented and later formatted into the FEMME online magazine. This is a great opportunity for project participants to feel empowered and to embrace their skills and creativity while having fun.



By: Siyana Balasundaram

What is The Organization Community Resilience to Extreme Weather (CREW)?

Formed outside of an emergency meeting held in January 2014 to address extreme weather events such as the July 2013 floods and the December 2013 ice storm. Community Resilience to Extreme Weather (CREW) is a local climate change initiative that was formed by Rita Bijons, an environmental activist, Dave MacLeod, a senior environmental officer, and twenty one community based groups. CREW’s work has proven to be important as they serve low-income individuals in underserved neighbourhoods such as St. Jamestown. 

A big part of CREW’s mission is to promote community resilience by fostering communication. In 2016, CREW developed a Neighbours Helping Neighbours program which was composed of twenty two low income seniors of various ethnic backgrounds. These seniors which are known as Extreme Weather Volunteers gathered a toolkit of materials to reach out to their community. In their outreach work, they focused on building supportive social networks and training their neighbours on how to prepare for extreme weather emergencies. In addition to working with seniors, CREW has also worked with highschool and university students, environmental advocates, neighbourhood associations, etc. While working with different groups and individuals, CREW has contributed to many academic research and municipal initiatives.

In 2022, CREW continues to be active in St. JamesTown and Toronto’s Downtown East community, specifically the St. JamesTown area. Toronto and many parts of the world have been facing extreme heat waves. Volunteers with CREW, specifically Lidia Ferreira and her team, are tasked with checking door-to-door to ensure that those who are isolated and susceptible to the effects of the heat wave are doing well. As extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and produce more severe side effects; CREW’s work is becoming more crucial.



By: Jamelia Parnell

Friday, June 10, 2022

City of Toronto Announces the Recipients of Redefining Regent Park: Youth Leadership Grant

City of Toronto is pleased to announce the recipients of Redefining Regent Park: Youth Leadership Grant. The Redefining Regent Park: Youth Leadership Grant was developed through a private donation by Chris Brillinger, to fund programs in Regent Park. Chriss Brillinger was a former employee of the City of Toronto.

City of Toronto Community Funding Unit received 12 applications totalling to $869,986 (Eight hundred-sixty-nine thousand, nine hundred eighty six dollars), in requested investments. The Youth Application Review Committee with the support of City of Toronto staff recommended four projects with funding totalling $250,000. (two hundred fifty thousand dollars).

Here is information about each of the projects:

1. Mental Health Matters in partnership with Youth Empowering Parents receives $70,000. Mental Health Matters aims to educate and enhance the mental health and wellbeing of Regent Park youth between the ages of 15-25 by (1) providing a safe space for dialogue, (2) increasing Mental Health awareness (3) providing support and capacity building opportunities.


2. Dear Future Me in partnership with The Neighbourhood Group receives $70,000 for The Resilience Program. This project focuses on building confidence, leadership and resiliency skills for youth between the ages of 12-14 with a focus on socio-emotional learning. This project will provide (1) capacity building and workshops and (2) hands – on learning opportunities and real life application of skills. 6 youth ambassadors will lead the coordination of 6 youth-identified projects/events to further animate Regent Park


3. The Regent Park Youth Collaboration in Partnership with Toronto Inner-City Rugby Foundation receives $70,000 for The Regent Park Neighbourhood Rugby Club. This project focus on peer-to-peer mentorship through the sport of rugby. The Regent Park Youth Collaboration team will design a comprehensive Leaders in Training program that will provide opportunities for meaningful service, promotes youth civic engagement. This program will also provide free weekend rugby programming for Regent Park school-aged children.

4. FEMME (Female Empowerment Magazine Meet-Up) in partnership with FOCUS Media Arts Centre receives $40,000 for the The Femme Collective. This project will be providing leadership opportunities for young women between the ages of 14-18 through journalism, photography and creative writing. Participants will be creating an online magazine centering on the experiences and interests of young women residing in Regent Park.

City of Toronto would like to thank the ten youth that participate in the grant design and review for all their amazing work!

 


Written by
Fred Alvarado

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre



 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

New Parkette coming to River St area in 2024

A new parkette is coming to the River street area. The parkette is expected to open in 2024 as part of a residential development project at 1 Defries Street, located just east of River Street and Shuter Street, between Marks Street and Labatt Avenue.


The new parkette at 1 Defries Street will be about the size of a basketball court. A portion of the parkette will be located on the existing Labatt Avenue and will be part of a residential development. The parkette will be accessible and include various amenities and seating areas. A dogs off-leash area will not be included in the design due to the parkette’s limited size.

The parkette’s design will evolve through consultation with nearby schools, area residents and the general public in order to design a space that meets the needs of the growing community.

If you have ideas for this new, take the online survey to share your thoughts.

The design team will use the community feedback to help develop design options for the new parkette. The survey closes on May 27, 2022.

For more information you can contact:

Katie Black
Project Coordinator Landscape Architect at 437-788-7245/ Katie.Black@toronto.ca


Written by
Fred Alvarado

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre



Report on May 18th All Candidates Meeting – Toronto Centre 2022

In Regent Park, a community that is in the process of a massive transformation, from Canada's largest social housing complex to a mixed income/mixed use neighbourhood, the outcome of elections, be they Municipal, Provincial, or Federal is of profound interest to area residents.

The Community Civic Engagement Collaborative (CCEC) is a grassroots collective of agencies and residents in Regent Park, Moss Park, St. James Town and Corktown neighbourhoods, working to increase civic engagement in elections and beyond, through non-partisan community organizing.

On Wednesday May 18, 2022, the CCEC organized and hosted an all-candidates meeting (held at the Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St E, Toronto) and invited candidates to share their respective party's platforms regarding the key issues facing the Toronto Centre riding, which includes Moss Park, Regent Park, Cabbage Town, Church Wellesley Village, and St. Jamestown.


 The meeting was moderated by Ina Labuschgne and Walied Khogali. The three parties were represented by Nicki Ward (Green Party), David Morris (Liberal Party) and Kristyn Wong-Tam (NDP). The Conservative Party candidate did not attend.

Candidates were asked to respond four major themes, Employment, Housing, Environment, and Income Security.

On the issue of Employment, the central concerns are better working conditions, as in the 10 permanent days of employer paid sick days, the $20.00 per hour minimum wage, changing laws to ensure worker rights are protected in areas such as misclassification, firing, wage parity between contracts, part-time and full-time or other areas.

In the riding of Toronto Centre where many residents identify as low income, housing is a vital concern. Candidates were asked what they would do to provide safe, affordable, and stable housing for people who live at various income levels, including the lowest income? Additionally, and more specifically, area residents are interested in rent geared to income (RGI), portable housing benefits, and rent-to-own models?

On the subject of the environment, candidates responded more on what their parties planned to do in a general sense and less at what the parties planned to do locally.

The final question to the candidates was, “what will you and your party do to ensure all Ontarians have income security, such as the $500.00 weekly minimum benefit for all, including the recipients of the Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), Universal Basic Income, better support for seniors and other programs that indirectly improve Ontarians income security?”

See what each candidate has to say to these questions by viewing the RPTV coverage of the event https://youtu.be/-PHx9JHNNuo .

For more information about the CCEC visit their website at www.downtowneastvotes.ca.


Written by
Dimitrije Martinovic

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre


Toronto’s Regent Park singer-songwriter Mustafa wins alternative album of the year at Juno Awards 2022

At last weekend Juno Awards 2022, Regent Park community singer-songwriter Mustafa de Poet won the award for alternative album of the year. Mustafa’s 2021 debut album When Smoke Rises is a meditation on the grief he experienced after losing several friends to gun violence. 


 At the event, Mustafa said backstage.

“I am because of Regent Park. I am nothing without my community,” he told media backstage after accepting the award on opening night. “Every experience, every death, every building that was buried, every argument. It shaped me and it shaped the way that I write, and it’s the reason that I write.”

At Sunday’s Juno Awards broadcast, he went a step further to bring visibility to Regent Park, pulling up to the red carpet with an entourage of friends from his area, including rapper Lil Berete. Later that evening, for his live rendition of “Stay Alive,” those close confidantes joined Mustafa on stage to sing the final chorus of the song with him, smiling and slinging their arms around one another. It was a touching, soul-stirring moment—a moment when Regent Park, and the many communities like it, could feel seen by the rest of Canada.

“For me, Regent Park was an island, and I wanted to beautify that island as best I could. And eventually that beauty became a bridge for me; it became a bridge to every other world. And I was starting to carry that universe with me whenever I went.” Mustafa said backstage.

Ironically, Mustafa was wearing some armour of his own on Sunday—a custom-made vest with the word “poet” stitched across the chest.

The singer-songwriter, who is Muslim, said he feels Islam is in a vulnerable place, with those who practise it seen and portrayed as perpetrators, rather than victims of violence.

As a producer, the Toronto-born artist has made a name for himself in Canada and beyond, working with internationally successful pop artists like the Weeknd, Camila Cabello and Usher.

Mustafa has described his debut album, When Smoke Rises, as "inner-city folk music”, inspired by Canada's singer-storyteller greats — Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell — he tried to meld their poetic sense for songwriting with his community's underexplored narrative.


Written by
Fred Alvarado

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre



The World Urban Pavilion in Regent Park

A spotlight on the Regent Park Revitalization, celebrating the successes locally and globally.


The arrival on Thursday, April 21st, 2022, of the United Nations World Urban Pavilion in Regent Park, locates the Regent Park Revitalization on a global stage. More than twenty-five years in the making, the transformation from an area known only for being Canada's largest social housing complex, to listing as of “Toronto's Top Neighbourhoods,” (Macleans Magazine) is still another tens from being completed. Nonetheless, the bold experiment of combining social housing with market value housing has for the-most-part paid off.


But it is not only this mix of public and private-sector funding that has worked, but it is also the input from residents groups that has had an equally significant impact.


In recognition of these successes, the United Nations Habitat and UrbanEconomy Forum have partnered with Daniels Corporation (one of the development partners of Regent Park) and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, to open The World Urban Pavilion in Regent Park.


Based in Toronto’s Regent Park, and located in the DueEast Condos at 591 Dundas St East, the Pavilion aspires to become a global knowledge hub which shares best practices, promotes research and conducts social and institutional innovations in sustainable urban development. The Pavilion will support cities and communities to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, SDG11: sustainable and resilient cities and communities. It will do this through local and global partnerships driven by creativity and innovation.


There is a palpable sense of pride that permeates throughout the Regent Park community, and now with this new global spotlight, there is a resounding sense that everyone may have got this right, and that indeed there is much to be celebrated on all accounts.


Written by
Dimitrije Martinovic

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre


Monday, April 11, 2022

Project Hope – Regent Park Police Officers Support Afghan Refugees with Donations

Regent Park Police Officers Mustafa Popalzai and Farzad Ghotbi from 51 Division started Project Hope, an initiative to collect household items, clothing, school supplies and hygiene products to help the new generation of Afghan refugees coming to the GTA as a response to the Canadian government commitment to resettling 40,000 afghan nationals after the Taliban regained control of most of the country with thousands of people desperate to leave Afghanistan back in August 2021.


The Neighborhood Community Officers Popalzai and Ghotbi, came to Canada as refugees from Afghanistan and Iran, both know by their personal experiences the challenges that refugees face in their journey of resettling in a big city like Toronto.


They started Project Hope last year by attending the hotels where these Afghan refugees were landing in, they approached them to know their needs and make sure they feel welcomed after they suffered tremendous difficult times when they arrived in military planes with no backpacks or luggage. Both Police Officers got emotional when they saw the children in the hotels having barely nothing to wear and no toys to play, however, they are thankful to receive the support from the Senior Command and their bosses at 51 Division and be encouraged to take some time off in the Regent Park community to assist these Afghan refugees with donations.


For both Community Officers, it is very important to make sure they build a strong connection with the new generation of refugees and clear some misconceptions about policing, make them feel welcome in the neighborhood and make sure they don’t feel fearful of police but rather protected.


Donations can still be dropped off at 51 Division at 51 Parliament Street. Some of the items they are looking for are: School supplies such as (backpacks, School essentials, tablets/electronics), children’s essentials such as (Diapers and strollers), Hygiene products such as (shampoos, soap, etc).


For more information please contact PC Popalzai/PC Ghotbi  at RegentPark@torontopolice.on.ca


Written by
Fred Alvarado

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre



OASIS The forgotten pool in St. Jamestown

OASIS Food Hub is working in St. James Town to address food insecurity


When you walk a bit further behind food basics in the space between the little park and 200 Wellesley, you will see the old empty swimming pool. The pool is owned by Toronto Community Housing and was closed in 2010, when it was discovered that black tar was leaking into the pool from a newly installed deck. TCHC assessed that the maintenance required to maintain the old pool would be too much. Once a vibrant social hub in the summer, the fenced in pool has stayed forgotten and waiting to be demolished. That is until now.


OASIS Food Hub is a program of the St. James Town Community Co-op, a resident owned and operated organization. OASIS stands for Organic Agro-ecological Sustainable Integrated System. Co-op members and residents developed the OASIS Food Hub model to address food security in St. James Town. Their idea, why not transform the empty pool into an urban organic food farm as a way of addressing food insecurity in the neighbourhood?


Josephine Grey, the founder of the OASIS Food Hub, feels that out model zoning laws and regulations are preventing the use of pool for an organic farm, but that has not stopped OASIS from advocating against out dated barriers that prevent the city from reaching their own sustainable and human rights goals and commitments. It also doesn’t stop OASIS from develop other alternative ways of addressing human rights to food.


In response to the covid pandemic, OASIS has been reaching out and developing relationships to local farms in Ontario to obtain donations of organic farm produce that could be given out to community members who are struggling with food insecurity. Funding support helps to transport and package the produce from the farms in addition to donations received from Food Share and the Daily Food Bank. OASIS also runs two food gardens I the neighbourhood and is developing a feasibility study to build a climate controlled agricultural greenhouse which will be able to provide upwards of 300 pounds of produce and 50 pounds of clean, healthy fish per month.


Find out more in this video about OASIS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgolqyWYNaM&feature=youtu.be



By Adonis Huggins and Nea Maaty

(Adonis and Nea are journalist with the Focus Media Arts Centre)

Regent Park Celebrates The Social Development Plan

The Regent Park Community Meets to Hear About the Regent Park Redevelopment and the Social Development Plan.

On March 23, 2022, the Regent Park Community came together to celebrate the Regent Park Social Development Plan and hear about its activities. The event was held in the Daniels Spectrum Arts Centre located at 585 Dundas Street East.

The first part of the event, taking place from noon to 5 pm, featured a market place of community vendors as well as the official launch of the Community Living room hosted by Centre for Social Innovation (CSI). Located on the first floor of Daniels, the Community Living Room is a partnership between CSI, Daniels and Artscape. The space, consisting of tables, lounge chairs, books, children’s toys, a cafĂ© and a TV, was designed as a public living room for residents and community members to informally gather and use as they see fit. The launch of the space featured a variety of vendors and speeches by Denise Soueidan-O’Leary and Tonya Surman from CSI, Farid Jalil from Artscape and Heela Omarkhail from Daniels.

The second part of the event called Celebrating the Regent Park SDP began at 5 pm and was held in the Ada Sleight Hall of the Daniels Spectrum. This part of the event featured a community dinner; updates on the Regent Park redevelopment from TCHC, Daniels and Tridel; presentations from various committees involved in the Social Development Plan; and entertainment featuring Snooky Tynes funk band, juggling from Square Circle, Chinese dancing from Happy Dancers and spoken word from Spoken by T and Southside Santana. The following is a report of the Celebrating the SDP Event held in the Ada Sleight Hall.

After a delicious dinner, the Celebrating the Regent Park SDP event began with introductions of the three co-chairs, Greg Gary -the co-chair representing the Executive Directors Network, Ismail Afrah- the TCHC resident co-chair and Marlene Degenova-the Market resident co-chair. After the land acknowledgement, Greg Gary invited City Councillor Kristen Wong Tam to give opening remarks.

“I know that the social development plan is a contract between the community, TCHC, their developer partner and the City of Toronto. It’s a document that guides us and our work on your behalf and with you and so that contract is one that we build upon, one that we shape to make sure that it does what it’s suppose to do and keeps us accountable to each other. That work is not easy and it’s done with community and with the leadership of the SDP and the stake holder’s table.” said Kristen Wong.

In her remarks, Kristen Wong-Tam evoked the memory of Councillor Pam McConnel. “I know that Pam would have been so proud to see this community that she loved so dearly.” said Councillor Wong-Tam.

Kristen Wong Tam concluded her remarks with a thank you to the leadership of the SDP and a presentation of certificates honouring SDP and its partnership community organizations.

Following Councillor Kristen Wong Tam opening remarks, the community viewed a video message from MPP Suze Morrison. “Neighbourhoods are only as strong as the community of people who live in them and Regent Park has showed time and time again that community and connectedness is something that exists here in droves.” Said Suze Morrison.

Ismail Afrah, the TCHC resident co-chair of the SDP started the evening presentations by providing information on the structure of the SDP. According to Ismail, the Regent Park Redevelopment consists of a physical plan related to the construction of bricks and mortar and a social development plan related to social development of the community. The Regent Park Social Development Plan, explained Ismail, is a community wide initiative aimed at fostering social inclusion and cohesion. The initiative is focused around four priority areas. The priority areas are Communication, Community Building, Employment and Economic Development and Safety. Each priority area is represented by a working committee comprised of TCHC residents, market residents, grassroots groups and agencies.

Ismail then invited Tereza Todorova from TCHC, to do a joint presentation about the Community Benefits Oversight Working Group and the newly developed terms of reference. The Community Benefits Oversight Working Group will be a newly formed committee that will work with TCHC and Tridel to assist in the allocation of the 26.8 million dollars of community benefits promised to the community. In reviewing the terms of reference for the working group, Tereza explained that in keeping with the values of the values of the social development plan, half of the voting members on the working group will be TCHC tenants and the other half will be Market residents. Other members will be non-voting content experts. Tereza announced that they will soon be looking to recruit residents to the working group and that anyone that is interested should reach out to her.

After hearing the updates from TCHC, Daniels and Tridel, the community now had an opportunity to hear short presentations on the activities of each of the four working groups.

Joel Klassen and Walied Khogali reported on the activities of the community building table. Next the community heard a video presentation from Gail Lynch and Ismail Afrah, who reported on the activities of the Employment and Economic Development. Ines Garcia, a member of the Safety Committee, talked about the delivery of Speaking With Confidence Training Workshops and the Mental Health First Aid Training to residents.

Ibrahim Afra and Adonis Huggins of the communication committee reported on the release of Hello Neighbour, a newly developed community app serving Regent Park. They also reported on the creation of the Regent Park TV Weekly news and the Regent Park monthly newsletter.

Diana Mavunduse concluded the business of the SDP with a video presentation talking about the role of the SDP Planning Committee and its successes.

Following the SDP presentations, the community was treated to a variety of entertainers including a juggling act by Square Circle, Snooky Tynes Funk Band, spoken word performances by Spoken by T and Southside Satana, and Chinese dances from the Happy Dancers. All and all, Celebrating the SDP was a successful evening of food, information and entertainment.


Written by
Adonis Huggins

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre