Thursday, September 16, 2021

Happy Dancing Group Contributes to Wellness for Residents of Chinese Orgin in Regent Park

Regent Park residents of Chinese origin represent the largest ethnic group in Regent Park - and Mandarin and Cantonese together represent the second largest non-English language groups in Regent Park after Bengali. Despite this large contingent of residents they remain relatively unseen in the cultural life of Regent Park. The exception is the Happy Dance Group.

In Regent Park, every Wednesdays and Saturday evenings, between 6 pm – 8 pm, a group of twenty Chinese women from around the area gather to meet, talk and…dance. The Happy Dance Group, made up of mostly seniors meet in the courtyard behind the Daniel’s Spectrum Arts Centre to dance to popular Chinese music.

The Happy dance group was founded by Miss XIANYAO TANG. “Dancing makes me feel friendly, happy and helps me get some exercise,” she said. The group has been dancing/practicing together for more than 5 years. According to Miss Tang, in China people dance in huge groups in the public square using similar routines, to keep fit, both physically and mentally.

IRENE ZHANG, one of the members, helps Miss TANG to teach the dancing steps to the other members of the Happy Dancing Group. Most of the dance routines they follow are from the internet. The group wears a dancing attire which is all black in colour. It consists of a black top, black pants/tights and a black mini skirt with shinny red borders. Some of the mini skirts were brought from China and the rest were hand made here in Canada by Miss TANG herself for the members of the Happy Dancing Group.

The “Happy Dancing Group” dance so they can feel happy, refreshed and get some exercise. Although they are currently all Chinese women, Miss Tang insists that anyone who wishes to join them can be a part of the Happy Dancing Group.

The Happy Dancing Group uses an app called 'WeChat' to connect and coordinate with each other. The Happy Dancing Group, can be reached on WeChat or via phone at 416-516-0181.


To see the performance of the Happy Dancing Group visit 

https://youtu.be/o0oGbpMhMYU


Written by
Dawar Naeem

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre


Healing Black Leaders Graduation

Healing Black Leaders Project holds a community graduation celebrating participants.

On July 28, 2021, the Healing Black Leaders Project held a graduation ceremony outside the Daniels Spectrum Arts Centre in Regent Park. The graduation ceremony celebrated 23 leaders of African descent who completed the program. The leaders that attended the event, work in identified at-risk communities (commonly referred as Neighbourhood Investment Areas) across the City of Toronto, including several participating young leaders from Regent Park. In addition to handing out completion certificates and swag, the ceremony was also held to recognize the work of leaders in the communities they serve.

The Healing the Black Leaders Project is a pilot project designed to provide Black leaders with the inspiration, support and additional skills they need to continue making a difference in their community. The project is part of on-going efforts to deal with anti-black racism and systemic barriers and was an opportunity to bring together leaders from across different communities to talk about their concerns, discuss issues, engage in skills training and strategize on ways that they can improve and heal their neighbourhoods.

According to Jacqueline Dwyer, one of the leader’s involved in the project, “Sick people cannot build monuments but healthy people can, so after 500 years of violence, racism, systemic anti-black racism, poverty and sickness, its now time for us to heal our selves and to wake up out of the slumber and develop what we need to see as African peoples. “

According to organizers, the Healing Black Leaders project was very successful and there is hope that the project will continue in the future. For more information about the project contact the Toronto Centre For Community Learning.


 


Written by
Adonis Huggins

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre



Access To Amenities

Regent Park residents are having trouble accessing amenities in their own neighborhood

Regent Park is currently in it’s last phase of revitalization. The community, once entirely composed of social housing and lacking in proper facilities, is now a mixed-income and mixed- use neighbourhood that features a number of new state-of-the-art amenities, including a new community centre, soccer fields, parks, an aquatic centre, playgrounds, and skating rinks.

The new spaces have created tremendous opportunities for Regent Presidents and their families to gather, socialize and engage with each other.

Unfortunately, more and more Regent Park residents are voicing the opinion that the new amenities are not for them. Furthermore, some residents have even claimed that they have been denied access. Considering that Regent Park residents spent years advocated for new facilities and participated in numerous meetings related to the building and design on these facilities, why is it that they are being accessed by more people living outside the neighbourhood?

This is because the city has a policy that allows anyone to access any facility regardless of where they live or their income. That means anyone living in the GTA of Toronto can use facilities in Regent Park. This also means that low-income residents in Regent Park must compete for use of their facilities with higher income users – not only in Regent Park but who live elsewhere in the city.

Why is this a problem? Let’s take the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre as an example. The Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre is a new indoor poor located in Regent Park. According to the city of Toronto data of postal codes, most registrations at Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre come from outside Regent Park, as space for recreation programs remain tight across the city. In order to register for family swimming lessons and the various swim programs the centre offers, users must register on-line. For low-income Regent Park residents whom may lack computers, internet access or have language barriers, competing with up-scale residents from other neighbourhoods may put them at a disadvantage.

Prior to Covid, when Regent Park residents had the option of registering in person, community members could be seeing lining up at 6:00am in the morning to register for Aquatic Centre programming.

The same issues occurred with soccer fields in Regent Park. Fields are being inaccessible because of the amount of people at the field, often from members from different communities. This is what Regent Park soccer league coach, Orville Renalls, has to say on the matter.

“We don’t want to take other people off the field because they need it just as badly as our team does yet, our team does need to practice. Youth in our community can only play in a team with a permit which is very difficult to come across. What happens a lot of the time if you don’t have a permit is teams of other communities will come to regent park claiming they have a permit and kick youth off the field.”

Now with Regent Park being a beautiful new community, it has become a tourist attraction for other communities to have a great time here. However, given that Regent Park’s resident population has tripled due to the influx of new condos and market renters, does our community need to accommodate other people from across the city by increasing green spaces and amenities or should we prioritize users from Regent Park?

The question remains - how can we accommodate other communities using regent park amenities while also making sure that regent park residents are proportionately getting access to these amenities?

Watch the video on Youtube:
https://youtu.be/DRkS-bJwxA4


Written by
Samir Abdella

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre


PEACE AND UNITY IN THE COMMUNITY

People’s Elite holds a Peace and Unity event in Regent Park

On August 20, 2021, a grassroot organization named ‘People’s Elite’ held a Peace and Unity in the Community event on the Regent Park’s Athletic Field. The four-day community event used basketball to engage youth in life skills, business and entrepreneurship and mental health. The activities included yoga, speakers and journaling. Co-founders, Foad Karimian and Duane Spencer, decided to hold this event so they could cater to the youth of Regent Park who have had a difficult year and a half due to the Coronavirus and spread unity since there has been some discordance among youth in the community. The organizers decided to use basketball as their teaching tool due to its inexpensive nature and its ability to integrate other learning lessons such as life and entrepreneurship skills. According to Karimian, youth in Regent Park don’t have opportunities to engage with professionals, “these youth have more opportunities to mingle than (professional) network.” Networking, according to Karimian, could lead to potential employment issues, as many Regent Park youth may not know how to code switch to speak in a professional manner. Karimian also mentioned that “network equals net worth,” without the skills to build a professional network it is extremely difficult to gain a strong net worth. Noah Berhane, a participant in the program spoke about the importance of the event on youth in the community. This event made him feel as if there are genuine adults in the community that look out for youth. In addition, he mentioned that the event promotes peace and happiness between youth. In closing, Karimian passionately reminded us that “there is no community without unity.”

 

By Jamelia Parnell

(Jamelia is a journalist with the Focus Media Arts Centre)

 

REGENT PARK ACTIVIST CHARGED FOR THE TOPPLING OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD'S STATUE

Miguel Avila-Valarde, a resident of Regent Park, is charged for the toppling statue.

Regent Park and the surrounding neighbourhoods of Moss Park and St. James Town, are some of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Toronto. These neighbourhoods are also home to a significant population of indigenous residents. Toronto itself is situated on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis peoples.


Both locally and nationally there a is heightened awareness regarding the legacy of systemic racism perpetrated by White European settlers against the Native people during the period of colonization (1788 - 1901), and which even today persist in many facets of contemporary life, including the commemoration of key historical figures who contributed directly to various oppressive and discriminatory practices; such as the resident school system (1870 – 1997).


As a resident of Regent Park, Miguel Avila Valarde has been a prominent figure in numerous resident organizations, including Community Benefits Coalition and the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association. Miguel is also the tenant representative his building. Born in Peru, Miguel is of indigenous background, and identifies as an activist who speaks on issues related to social justice.


On August 14, 2021, Miguel attended a rally in Hamilton, Ontario to protest the City of Hamilton's decision not remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald that was located in Gore Park. Sir John A. Macdonald is the first Prime Minister of Canada and among other things, is considered to be one of the architects of the Residential School System. At the rally, it is alleged that Miguel played a definitive role in taking down and destroying the statue.


Public opinion is divided on the removal of historical statues of public figures who have been linked to racism, colonialism and genocide. While some jurisdictions have removed these statues, others have not – with some jurisdictions electing instead to erect contextualizing plaques. The refusal to remove statues has led opposing and often marginalized citizen groups and individuals to take matter in to their own hands involving actions such as defacing, destroying or removing offending statues. These actions have sparked anger by others who oppose the destruction of public property, and claim that the removal of statues are attempts to 'rewrite' and 'erase' certain parts of history.


On August 15, 2021, Toronto Police arrested Miguel at his home and was formally charged by Hamilton Police Services for Mischief Over $5000.00 related to his role in taking down the statue. While it is uncertain whether Miguel is actually claiming responsibility, he along with Hamilton rally organizer Jordan Carrier, both insist that the action was justified. Both Miguel and Jordan argue that the recent discovery of buried indigenous children in resident schools all across of Canada, lack of action on missing and murdered Indigenous women, the slow pace of implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the clearing out of homeless encampments along with the failure of apathetic decision makers at the municipal, provincial and federal level to address social justice issues - are all reasons that compels Indigenous people's and their allies to take action into their own hands.


Watch the video to hear more of the interview with Miguel Avila-Valarde as well as with Jordan Carrier. The video also features an interviews with Ari Goldkind, a Toronto Criminal Layer who strongly opposes the destruction of statues and 'rewriting' history.


Watch the video on Youtube:

https://youtu.be/VhjIKfFyBJY 

 


Written by
Dimitrije Martinovic

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre


 


RADIO REGENT YOUTH COLLECTIVE AND THE REGENT PARK REVITALIZATION

A conversation with William Mendes, the Director of Program Delivery for TCHC

Radio Regent is a 24-hour, public access radio station in the heart of the Regent Park community. The station is managed by the Focus Media Arts Centre. One of the weekly shows that is produced on Radio Regent is the 4GetAboutIt! Youth Collective.

In this episode of Radio Regent’s 4GetAboutIt! The youth collective invited William Mendes, the Director of Program Delivery for Toronto Community Housing, to be a guest on their radio show to discuss and learn more about the 4th and 5th phases of the Regent Park redevelopment.

As anyone who has been living in and frequenting the downtown east neighbourhood of Toronto over the past 15 to 20 years, you may have noticed that Regent Park has been going through a significant large-scale revitalization. Once entirely made up of aging social housing managed by Toronto Community Housing (TCH), the neighbourhood is now entering the final 4th and 5th phases of physical revitalization. The physical development plan seeks to transform Regent Park into a new, integrated and thriving mixed-income community boasting new TCH buildings, multiple new market rent apartments, condos, state of the art sports and recreational facilities as well as new businesses and streets.

William Mendes, the Director of Program Delivery, had interesting things to say to the youth who are often left out of conversations about their own neighbourhood. Mendes told the youth collective that in the fall there is going to be an opportunity for Regent Park residents to participate in a Plan and Process meeting to create a vision of the community and find out what they would like to see for the phases 4 and 5 of the Regent Park revitalization. Taking this vision forward TCHC and Tridel Builders, the new developers for the phases 4 and 5, will design and plan what to build. Going further into the conversation, Mendes mentioned that there is an interest from the City of Toronto to introduce a library in Regent Park. He also talked about more public and retail spaces for the economic development and uplifting of Regent Park. Mendes explained that the master plan of the Regent Park revitalization will be updated according to the latest trends and City requirements during the fall.

Mendes also mentioned that during the summer TCHC held public meet and greets to introduce the new developers, Tridel Builders, to the residents of Regent Park and that these kinds of activities will continue.

Working together with the City of Toronto, organizations serving Regent Park, Regent Park tenants, their neighbours, private sector development partners, community partners and grass roots groups, TCHC is transforming Regent Park into a urban neighbourhood of choice.

It may take a village to raise a child – but it takes a community to raise a neighbourhood.

 

Written by
Dawar Naeem

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre




 

The St. James Town Co-op Outdoor Food Pop-UP

The St. James Town Food Co-op launches an emergency food Pop- Up

On August 12, 2021, the St. James Town Co-op launched an outdoor emergency food distribution pop-up in an open space behind the swimming pool located at 275 Bleecker and Wellesley Street. Located in the middle of the neighborhood, this pop-up was a temporary substitute for the regular food distribution in the Wellesley Community Centre. The Wellesley Community Centre, located at 200 Wellesley Street is now been used as a vaccination clinic.

The importance of the pop up was to distribute emergency food to residents struggling with food insecurity. Although the Co-op is struggling to secure a place for their food insecurity initiative, making sure that the needs of the community have been met is the Co-op first priority.

Yasmine, the Food distribution department manager explains to us how the initiative tries to offer different kinds of food that is culturally appropriate and that would keep the community healthy and fed.

“There are a lot of people who know about this initiative." said Yasmine. " Sometimes, more than we can afford to cover.”

The outdoor pop-up was not an easy project to put together. The organizers had difficulties while setting up this event. Izewei Kuwe, a volunteer responsible for the food delivery department, explained that their pop up has faced different weather challenges like wind and rain, hot weather and the difficulty of keeping certain foods, like milk and eggs, without a fridge. These items are important especially for kids' growth and many low income parents would find difficulties affording them to their children. Nevertheless the Co-op continued to find a way to persevere and more than one member of the community indicated that it’s heartening to see them doing their best to support food security in St. James Town.

It's also worth mentioning that the co-op has been struggling with funding since March and they continue to be persistent in creating a neighbourhood without hunger.

The St. James Town Food Pop Up will last till the end of August or September, supporting the neighborhood with emergency food.

 

 

Written by
Nea Maaty

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre



10 Interesting facts about St James Town

An animated youth reporter presents 10 interesting facts about the St. James Town Neighbourhood.

St Jamestown is a neighborhood located in Toronto’s downtown core. The neighbourhood, composed of a diverse and resilient culture, represents the best of Toronto. Here some facts you didn’t know about St. James Town

Fact 1

It’s the most densely populated neighborhood in Canada.

The population of St Jamestown is officially listed as 17,000 residents but estimates say there could be 26,000 residents living here.

Fact 2

St. James Town is one of the smallest neighborhoods in Toronto.

With a land area of just 0.23 kilometres comprised of 17 high rises, explains why St. James Town explains why St. James Town is regarded as one of the smallest and most densely populated neighbourhoods!

Fact 3

St. James Town was once known as the Homewood Estate.

Yes, back then it was occupied by upper middle-class residents and the homes and had more in common with Rosedale. Once the car became popular most of the wealthy left for the suburbs.

Fact 4

The first Pizza Pizza location was opened in St James Town.

Yep! The first ever Pizza Pizza location is located on Wellesley and Parliament. Founder Michael Overs opened the location in December 31, 1967.

Fact 5

The local high school serving St. James Town is the oldest in Toronto.

Jarvis collegiate was founded in 1807, which makes it the second oldest high school in Canada just 2 years behind The Saint Johns school in New Brunswick which was founded in 1805. Jarvis even has memorials of students who died in World War 1 and World War 2.

Fact 6

Parking in St. James Town is extremely difficult.

With just 1 square metre per person according to CBC analysis, St. James Town has the least amount of parking space per capita of any neighbourhood in Toronto.

Fact 7

Princess Diana has visited St. James Town.

Back in 1991 Princess Diana visited Casey House, a hospice located on Isabella street.

Fact 8

St. James Town might be getting a park with a halo light.

Yesss! Our very own St James Town West Park is currently going through a ‘revitalization’. One of the construction designs planned is a large halo light installation. If everything goes as planned construction will begin mid – 2022.

Fact 9

The St. James Town Cemetery is the oldest cemetery that is still been used in Toronto.

The St. James Town Cemetery was founded in 1844 for the burial of people of the Anglican faith. At that time, most of the city's population of lived south of Queen Street West, and the cemetery's location was regarded during as being outside the city limits. Today the cemetery serves people of all faiths.

Fact 10

St. James Town once possessed tallest mural in the world.

The Phoenix, is a mythical bird associated with the sun. The mural of the Phoenix located at 200 Wellesley Street in St. James Town represents the rebirth and resilience of our community. The building was chosen because of the 2010 fire that displaced 1000 residents. The idea for the mural rosed from an arts group, which in 2013 had been working with a handful of kids who lived in the building.

How many of these facts did you already know?

To see the video visit
https://youtu.be/etkbmQBLDk4

 

 

Written by
Sharleen Chebet

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre



 

SPEAKING WITH CONFIDENCE

“Speaking With Confidence” is a free, 6 week public speaking training that teaches Regent Park residents newcomers how to successfully express and advocate for themselves in public settings


Part of Regent Park’s Revitalization plan includes significant City of Toronto funding for the Regent Park Social Development Plan (SDP). The SDP aims to foster Social Cohesion and Inclusion in the new Regent Park. This process includes identifying key areas and action projects that meet the goals of building Social Capital in a new mixed income neighbourhood. After a consultation process with the community, four key areas were identified, these were: Safety, Community Building, Communications and Employment and Economic Development.

To implement action activities in each of these areas, working group committees were formed.


The “Speaking with Confidence” training was an initiative developed by the Safety Working Group in collaboration with Regent Park’s Mother’s of Peace and TD’s Centre for Learning and Development. The facilitator of the series was an instructor from George Brown College.


Ines Garcia, a resident member of the Safety Working Group and an organizer of the Speaking with Confidence workshops, shared why she felt this workshop was important. “Workshops like this are important for the community in order to have everyone’s voice considered in matters that involve all Regent Parkers.” Garcia expressed that many newcomers living in the Regent Park community want to be part of the revitalization process and other projects that are happening in the community but due to difficulties speaking English and lack of understanding and familiarity of Canadian ways of doing things, do not have the tools or do not feel confident speaking out in big groups. Therefore, an initiative like this was crucial in her eyes, in order to reach true social Inclusion and cohesion.


Shabana Rangoonwala, a South Asian resident who attend the Speaking with Confidence series, told us that before the workshops she was very uncomfortable speaking in front of large groups. After the workshops she gained much confidence from the knowledge she acquired and feels that she is much more comfortable now speaking in public.


In the 6-week public speaking training, participants learned things like how to prepare a point, how to approach and speak in different contexts like meetings or job interviews. They also learned speech techniques and vocabulary for different situations and non-verbal communication.


Adriana Dasilva, a Brazilian participant, stated, “after I finished the workshop speaking with confidence, I got the skills to speak up, to ask a question -- because before, I have participated in many meetings but I stay behind. I have so many things to ask but I don't feel confident to ask a question. Now I got the skills to ask a question and be more participate.”


All Regent Park residents were welcome to the free series of workshops. The workshops took place on Tuesdays starting May 18th and ending June 22nd from 1 - 3pm, online on zoom.

Ines Garcia and the SDP Safety Working Group hope to run another Speaking with Confidence series again in the new year. 

 

Written by
Ana Higuera

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre
 


 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Press Conference Held In Regent Park To Announce The Supporting Black Communities’ Initiative

The federal government announces funding to the Black Community

On August 4, 2021, Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre Marci Ien, and Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, Ahmed Hussen, held a press conference just outside the Daniels Spectrum Arts Centre in Regent Park, to announce a 96 million dollar grant i to support Black Canadian community organizations.

According to Marci Ien, “Covid 19 has highlighted the inequities linked to anti-black racism not only in Toronto but right across the country. What this has meant is that many Black Canadian communities are increasingly vulnerable to economic hardships and this represents an opportunity for government, organizations and individuals to change the status quo. This is what our government is focusing its efforts on – to support Black communities right across the country.”

In his remarks, Minister Ahmed Hussen reminded attendees that he was once a resident of Regent Park and that the community is close to his heart. The minister also reminded us that the numbers surrounding systemic inequities related to incarceration rate, employment rates, access to affordable housing show a pattern of systemic racism and discrimination.

‘Its time that we address the issues that matter to Black Canadians. Over the past six years our government has worked hard to ensure that each and every Canadian has the same opportunities for success and this includes tackling systemic racism. It includes tackling the challenges faced by Black Canadians every single day….the covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated, and only made worse those existing challenges, by disproportionally impacting racialized Canadians.“

According to Minster Ahmed Hussen, the Supporting Black Canadian Initiative fund prioritizes Black community organizations that are at the heart of the community that do so much with so little. The fund will support approximately 1300 projects to approve black led organizations, workplaces and community spaces over the next two year. The fund will also allocate financial resources to intermediaries to build the capacity of grassroots Black organizations from coast to coast. The 96 million in immediate funding, according to Hussen, is the largest federal investment in Black Canadian community organizations in history.

Among the recipients of the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative was Yasin Osman, founder of Shoot for Peace, a photography program for youth in Regent Park. Yasin was on hand to speak on how the funding will affect his and other community organizations.

“It (Shooting for Peace) wasn't just about photography, it was about brotherhood, a sisterhood. It was about community. It was about feeling seen and feeling safe. Creating safe spaces are so important that what organizations like Shoot for Peace and many many organizations across the city are doing for Black youth and it’s so important to support these organizations.”

 


Written by
Adonis Huggins

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre