As a culture, we are facing a crisis of empathy.
Social technologies are meant to allow us to be more connected, but we are arguably more polarized and disconnected than ever. This lack of emotional connectivity diminishes our capacity to have empathy and understanding for one another. It is our belief that today’s youth are the ones to help us all connect the dots.
The Empathy Squad
is creating meaningful connections and increasing our understanding of one another across our city through public engagement, facilitated conversations, active listening and presentation aimed at capturing and preserving our country's collective community memory for generations to come.
We need to talk:
building bridges to fight against the increased discrimination and marginalization that has historically accompanied periods of significant demographic and cultural change is a must.The best way to build these bridges is by connecting through shared experiences from differing perspectives
Click the icons below to listen to how Torontonians find belonging
How does your heritage influence how you belong?
Tell me a story of when you felt like you belonged. [Different voice] When I belonged… Uh…
I feel like I belong in my community. Like my Canadian community and also my African community. So I belong in both of them. It’s totally different though. That’s one thing: both communities are different, the culture is different, the understandings are different, um, the lifestyle is different. It’s two complete different cultures, right?
There was just all kinds from different cultures, different backgrounds. [Different voice] We’ve really valued Toronto and a really diverse population. [Different voice] The minority is a majority here. There’s a lot of halal places um very um bunch of, bunch of mosques and little spaces for the very large Muslim community there. [Different voice] I’m just happy to have all these different kind of people. Whether they’re from Asia, from Europe, from Africa, like, they’re all, they all you know helped me be who I am. [Different voice] I am Bangladeshi and you know like, I still engage with that culture as much as I can. I go to you know family get-togethers, and I eat the food. [Different voice] An Asian restaurant, that we still hang out, is called the Lion City Restaurant. It’s um a little Singapore-Chinese restaurant that actually cooks the kind of food from my own country, Singapore.
And at the same time, you know, I’m living in Canada. I’m still being immersed my, in the Canadian culture as well. So I think that when I’m trying, when I define myself, I, I wouldn’t settle on one of more of the cultures. I would say that I am, you know, I’m Canadian-Bangladeshi and through those things I have been able to not place more emphasis on one or the other but kind of combine both of those things to truly understand, you know, who I am as a person. [Different voice] It’s like you get to know the culture. You get to know how other people live in the culture, you know what I mean? So it’s like you grow. We can even start speaking their language.
I believe that language is integral to culture and it’s almost impossible to continue a culture without the language. That was central to it.
Let’s talk about language first because um I guess English wasn’t my first language but I definitely learned some of it in Bangladesh. [Different voice] English is one, is the um, it’s the main language in Nigeria so… They taught that in school, I grew up with English and Yoruba, so yeah. There’s English, Pidgin, and there’s my native language Yoruba so I understand Pidgin language but I can’t speak it because I lost it. I don’t usually speak Pidgin. Yoruba, I know a bit of it. But I can’t, I understand when they talk to me in Yoruba. [Different voice] Living as a francophone, it’s been difficult, let’s be honest. My childhood was very confusing for me as um my dad would speak to me in French, my mom would speak to me in Korean, and everywhere else, they would speak to me in English, so… I did, I was always nervous around strangers because obviously there were talking to me in English and this language was like, I don’t know, like nonsense to me, I’m like, “I don’t know what’s going on.” I feel like isolated from this society because everybody else speaks English and then you’re just like this little community but that, but when you grow up, I feel like that’s so great. Um, because you have a sense of little, there’s a little Francophone community that’s always there, you know, to greet you. You feel like a little family in a middle of a big, big, big, big uh family over here.
Yiddish is interesting for me because it’s, it’s, everyone, you know, takes these DNA tests and people wanna know about where they come from. [Different voice] Uh, it was my first language. I grew up speaking it. I spoke it at home, my parents were from Poland. Uh, the only thing unusual was I’m from Lethbridge Alberta originally. So it, I mean there is a Jewish community people think, “Oh, you must have been the only Jews there.” Yeah us, and three hundred and fifty other people, were the only Jews there. But uh, my parents were, they were, my family was quite religious. And they thought that this was a way of maintaining some kind of Jewish identity in a place where no matter how religious you were at home, and no matter what you might not eat when you went out of the house, you otherwise blended in pretty much with everybody else. You really had no choice. So I think it was a way of inculcating of [pause] a you know, a worldview. [Different voice] It always seemed like something connecting me to my ancestors and with sort of um I guess my place uh in Canada.
I, as a joke, kind of talk to my mom in Urdu. Like if I’m trying to bother her. If I didn’t actively seek it, I would have probably lost it. Especially, I feel like with language especially, if you aren’t speaking it, you, it does kind of go away. Uh, I’ve been actively trying to learn more Urdu. [Different voice] You know as Isaac Bashevis Singer once said, “If you don’t understand your grandfather, you can’t understand yourself”. [Different voice] I’d like to actually learn the guts of the language. You know, it does require a lot of solitary time um but I also feel like I’m doing something enormously worthwhile. And once I have more of a grasp of the language, there’ll be so much cultural material um and thoughts that I can access in a way that it was meant to read and meant to be heard that that would have been so gratifying. [Different voice] Most likely, the Indigenous peoples of Canada, who are making an effort to relearn their languages which are you know in a lot of cases there are some that are completely lost and there’s some that very few people are speaking anymore but there’s a real effort now to get their cultural heritage back. And a great way to do that is to get that language happening again.
Who makes you feel like you belong?
What does community mean to you? [Different voice] It means a group of people with some feeling of familiarity or kinship. [Different voice] A sense of belonging. [Different voice] Become accepted. [Different voice] Space to like find your people. [Different voice] To be accepted without any reason. I guess that’s what I would describe as this sense of belonging. [Different voice] And I think that one of the things about doing something silly and dumb is that makes it feel very communal. You’re all getting together and being very foolish and that’s a very easy way to feel one and, one and the same with a bunch of people from, from all over the place. [Different voice] It’s just wholly accepting that your presence is allowed there and you can just freely be who you are.
School, it’s like you get a sense of belonging, because you get to meet new people and you get to grow with them. You get to understand like their cultures. Technically, you get new siblings from other mothers and other countries. [Different voice] So the highschool itself was huge. It was two thousand people but I also, because there was so many different people and kind of artsy kids, we gravitated to each other and, and so really feeling like I had such a strong friend group and like a strong core of people to be with. Like that felt like home.
So LARP stands for Live Action Role-Play. So you definitely, you definitely find family here. And especially when you’re, you kind of have always been the odd duck, you’ve been kind of the outskirts cause the stuff that you were into like other people didn’t think was cool.
At gamings tournaments, it’s a very diverse community and then when these events happen multiple times a week, you can become a member of the community so quickly. [Different voice] And then you get into LARPing and you’re like, “Oh shit, like all these other people like this stuff too.” And it’s all these people that you wouldn’t think would, like your construction workers, and your librarians, and your like, like event coordinators or whatever you are. [Different voice] You walk up to a stranger and say, “Hey, wanna play?” And they’ll say, “Yeah, sure.” And you sit down and you play and you talk. You could, you could end up talking for thirty minutes. Suddenly, you made a new friend. Like it really is that simple. [Different voice] That we can all be kind of like geeky on the inside, like there’s a lot of people that don’t mention that they LARP because people are gonna be like, “Oh, that’s weird.”
I really enjoy doing service at like Women’s Detox. And you go and you get to put on meetings and there’s, and you see a variety of different people and it just makes you realize again and again like it, it just you never know and it doesn’t matter. If you saw like, if you saw me, whoever’s listening, they’ll like, you probably wouldn’t think, “Oh, like that girl like spends her evenings in like a church basement.” And that doesn’t matter but that’s just because of the way that maybe I look, represent myself and what we know about things and what we kind of associate stuff with. Mental health, it, it doesn’t discriminate against anybody.
Continue to recognize the importance of barbershops and coffee shops and like staples in a community that bring people together.
Café Diplomatico is very much an institution in Toronto. It’s a meeting point for people to come in, talk about their day, talk about their you know politics, uh soccer. [Different voice] There’s one cafe downtown Toronto. I’ve met so many people in here, I’ve made friends with them. Just by enjoying a drink with them. Coffee or beer. [Different voice] At late night, a guy came in and he was working here before and he was too much drunk. But he knows all the employees very well and he was a good member of us. So he’s like, “I wanna give you guys individual tip.” So he gives fifteen bucks to each and everyone. Yeah, this neighborhood Yonge and Dundas people are so good.
But our main focus is community right? It’s neighborhood. [Different voice] We like what we do. We like the community, it’s really great community and it’s a mix between like you find professionals, young people. Everyone’s nice it’s like a really nice community. [Different voice] Because I think we need it more, as the more separate, disconnected and detached that we get in it, burying our faces in our phones and stuff, it’s nice to have some human interaction, whether it be a half-hour haircut or an hour of just sitting in a coffee shop, listening to music or something, you know.
A comedian that I liked says, “You know, you’re more likely to get ill, or sick or shot or whatever in the city. But you’re also more likely to get sex, coffee and conversation.” Which is totally true, totally true. It kind of felt like I just arrived and everyone was waiting and it was this wonderful party for me.
Being in a community, I think it’s all the good things about life rolled into one.
Do you feel like you don't belong?
I guess it comes in spurts. Like there are moments when I feel like I belong and moments when I feel like I don’t. But, like, that belonging is layered.
When I’m here, they ask me who am I and I say that I’m Canadian but that response is not accepted. But even when I went to Congo, um they were asking me, “Who are you?” And I would I say, “I’m Congolese!” But they would say, “No you’re not! You’re not Congolese!”
I don’t feel like I truly belong in Canada and Toronto, although I do feel like it’s the land of opportunity.
As immigrants, we’ve have always kind of faced a kind of—what’s the word—maybe oppression but kind of hesitation from a lot of people.
My parents were born in Russia but um, even though they were born in Russia and their parents were born in Russia, their neighbors made it very clear that they were not one of them. And um and throughout Europe, even the Jewish people who assimilated it’s always been um, their host country has always made it very clear in many ways that they were not really welcome and that they were the Other.
Coming from Prague uh, how to say, uh the social life here was pretty cold. [Different voice] That sort of uh metropolitan life where, yeah, you, you, you would bubble yourself away. You put your headphones on go on the subway, don’t talk to anybody, you know, everybody that you walk by is sort of a blur. You don’t really notice anyone, you just go to work and you go back home and you know and then sort of these rifts are created.
A lot of people who had a lot of hateful feelings towards minorities are really, still today, are really feeling comfortable expressing the hateful um and distasteful comments.
It sends a message that people don’t belong in the community. [Different voice] Personally I felt really disconnected. From a very young age, I was immediately ostracised um only because I acted or displayed you know effeminate characteristics. [Different voice] It’s absurd to me, the idea of not being welcoming in a place like Toronto, like North America, that everybody here they’re not from here.
I feel like you kind of have to make your own place.
So many people who identify as homosexual have always flocked to large urban centers to find others like them. [Different voice] So you definitely, you definitely find family here and especially when you’re, you kind of have always been the odd duck. You’ve been kind of on the outskirts because the stuff you were into like other people didn’t think it was cool. And you’re like, “Oh, shit. Like all these other people like this stuff too.”
Those were there as safe havens, as places where could go and express your identity and not feel, not, not feel ashamed, embarrassed, scared. I’m just very fortunate now that I live in a city with enough of a previous gay identity in a community, enough gay rights, and human rights for that matter, have pushed it forward where I could now almost live anywhere in Toronto and be gay. And that’s ok.
When I was younger, I was afraid of my radiance, my personal me. The thing that I thought that was bad is not bad at all. It’s the thing that connects us all together, it’s that little spark inside of each and every one of us. That connects us to the infinite. That’s really what it’s about, that, that’s what we’re here for.
How do you define home?
A picture of places or where I feel like I’m home is um my aunt’s house in Scarborough. [Different voice] Uh, well I live uh at Lakeview Place which is on Lake Aquitaine, right next to the community centre. [Different voice] The carpet makes it feel like somebody’s home, that you’re hanging out in, that you like have been invited to. And that feels nice. [Different voice] You come home and the smells are just amazing coming out of people’s apartments, what they’re cooking. [Different voice] Food, food’s better back home.
So when I think of home, the first thing that comes to mind is my home country, Portugal. It’s just where I feel the most comfortable. [Different voice] I always think about, for example, visiting Quebec, Montreal, with um cabanes à sucre, uh, shack, maple shack. I think that’s what we call it in English. [Different voice] So I’d say Canada is my home. [Different voice] And when I grew up, I think I, I remember telling people that I, I, I, like, I identified more as coming from the Internet than I did as coming from Canada. Um, but as I’ve travelled more and learned to really, really like it here. Uh, yeah, I think of now, I think of myself as being Canadian. [Different voice] It’s hard to leave Toronto, I love it so much. So my husband was in the same program, we met on the first day of journalism school and got engaged on the last. We’ve really valued growing up in Toronto in a really diverse population and couldn’t see ourselves moving back to London.
Growing up this process of uprooting myself, finding things that make me feel more at home, and uprooting myself again. Those sort of variables were always changing. Or changing frequently enough to, to remove the idea that there could be, you know, a static place that you might call home.
We were there, we were having fun, we were playing together, um, we were creating a lot of memories. We weren’t really distracted by technology either. You don’t notice it as a kid, but it really lays a strong foundation for your relationships when you grow up. That’s a picture of home for me is where very strong and healthy relationships are created and fostered.
I started learning piano when I was in grade three. My mom was amazing, she wouldn’t let me quit. That worked for me. I needed it so much. And even in that, I feel like I learned a lot about what it means to give love to somebody. [Different voice] Hmm, when I think of home, I think of family, I think of community. [Different voice] I totally miss mostly my family because that’s where most of my family is, that I was raised with. Um, and my friends and of course my animals. [Laughing]
Especially when we were, when we were younger, we used to gather a lot. Especially during summertime, to just have a great time and just enjoy each other’s company. [Different voice] Like, you know, you don’t open up to people easily but, you know, certain people, you don’t think about it. You know, you don’t always tell story [sic], like you know nobody knows my story in many ways but Janet met me like in two days she knows all about me. Like, you know, because we talk. [Different voice] We would play, we would sing, dance, have different barbecues, cook different types of foods and just enjoy life. [Different voice] Peoples [sic] matter more than anything. That’s what I am telling my wife and myself and like I want my daughter to know harsh part too. Not only the happy part, you know. Because then she knows, it’s like it’s not, not to like grow up blindly. [Different voice] It’s in those moments actually that we were able to learn even more about our culture and our history and what our grand-parents were like, what they believed in. A lot of these things shaped who I am today.
When I think of home, I think of laughter. There’s a big tradition um in like Somali culture of like making fun of each other. Like there’s like this big like, and, and nobody really takes it personally, you know, so like if you have a person who’s like, who’s been married three times, and like his nickname is forever gonna be, like, “Three-times Married”. Like when I think that when you come from a culture that has just been stepped on, like over and over and over again. And this is like not specific to just Somali people, I think Palestinian and Syrian people have like a killer sense of humor. [Different voice] What initially comes up is a difficulty in [pause], in picturing what home is for me.
I don’t know, I think at this point, I’m very much disenfranchised from the concept. I don’t invest emotionally into saying that “Yes, this place is mine, this, this is the place that I can come home to, or arrive at indefinitely. Plant my roots and, you know, say that I’m gonna grow up here.”
I think it’s, I think it’s little moments in my life that have sort of allowed me to like believe that like this is, like I have a stake to claim, like this is also mine, like whatever this is. The whole like Canadian experience, whatever you wanna call it, um, that like I, I, like it belongs to me too, you know?
Um, when I think of home, I also think of somewhere where I can also create a reality for myself, opportunities for myself and for other people who look like me and who are like me. Um, so that’s what I think of when I’m home and a place where I’m home is a place where I can prosper and a place where I can flourish in anything that um I feel like I’m called or supposed to do.
Now more than ever, it is critical to invest in accessible and sustained projects that bring together the diversity of voices that make up our country, foregrounding the local and personal stories that speak to both our uniqueness and our universality. That is something that deserves celebration, and together with the energy and contributions of young Canadians, we will create a physical and virtual space where these voices can live and be heard.
Listen to the short podcasts below created by our Empathy Squad members
Our Generation explores how young climate activists are navigating their relationships to the older people in their lives as they fight for a better future. Young people today are inheriting a world defined by the climate crisis and it’s root causes, colonialism, capitalism and white supremacy. We find our purposes buried in the baggage and gifts left to us by our parents, our grandparents, our mentors and those who have been part of making the world for us. We find our hope, community and spirit in the movements we are building together.
REBECCA NELSON: I guess in, like, a very literal sense, we are the future because we are the ones who are going to exist for longer.
GRACE KING: I think I first really understood or learned about what climate change is… Or the term… When I went on an exhibition to the Arctic when I was younger and I was in Nunavut and I was in these communities that were truly some of the first to face the effects of climate change and I was taught a definition of climate change which had to do with temperature rise over time and watching glaciers melt.
JESSICA NACHMAN: So I was brought up in the TDSB and there’s always this consciousness of, “We need to take care of the environment.” But never framed in the sense that “This is urgent and our planet is dying,” kind of thing. I think that recent reports backed by science and also actual tangible events like floods and extreme weather crisis have made it seem more real. I think before that, climate change was just talked about and felt like an issue for the future.
GRACE KING: I think I first started questioning my future plans when I was learning about climate change for the first time just because there are new timelines to work with.
ANNA OSTERBERG: What brought that sense of anxiety and agitation… I mean, that’s something that I’ve felt I think since I became politically aware which I actually was quite young and I credit my dad for that.
JULIA DASILVA: I think, for our generation, I think climate change is a big part of this. There’s almost this dark comedic nihilism around it of not assuming that we have a future that is like the present in the same way.
DUBINIA NIEFORTH: I’m a new aunt and I feel emotional even thinking about it because I didn’t think about how her being born would affect my sense of urgency to try and make a difference until I push myself as far as I can to understand what I can do. Push myself out of my comfort zone to advocate for what’s going on and advocate, you know, focus to understand the federal election. All of the things that I’m doing that we can get into but it was my niece being born. A few weeks ago, she was turning one and I had to take a day off work because I just felt so sad for her. Yeah. Like, it’s sad to think that in 10 years, she’s just… It’s… Yeah. You’re not… I don’t know. You start thinking about other people that you love and that have… They haven’t done anything to deserve what is happening.
JESSICA NACHMAN: I think the difference between the younger generation that I’ve spoken to and adult is of course an urgency and where it is more personal. Because, I mean, there’s this constant comment of, “You did this to us.” The older generation did this to us and now it’s our problem that we have to fix and it… Whoever’s responsibility it is, it doesn’t matter at this point but it is true that it is our problem now if we want to continue living on this planet.
ANNA OSTERBERG: I think that the philosophical (indiscernible) of previous generations has been very individualistic and not future generation focused and that is probably 95 percent of why we are in the current situation that we’re in.
JULIA DASILVA: I got on a bus to go to Ottawa in first year and I kind of just called my mom a couple of days before and was like, “So I’m going to go to Ottawa and it’s like a civil disobedience thing. I just thought you should know.” (Laughs). And after that, when I called saying that, you know, I’d been arrested but it was fine. We just got trespassing notices and no criminal records. We had this whole very, very emotional conversation. What I said and still hold is that it’s a question of whether we have a livable future or not. And my mom would say things like, “When you take these very risky actions or actions that could have gone bad, you’re risking your future by putting your body on the line in that way.” And my response is always like, “A future in which I’m not doing this work is just not one worth living in.”
GONZALO RIVA: I kind of had a bit of an awakening two summers ago. I was at a wedding and I was seated at a table with a guy who was just awful. He worked in organized politics. In party politics. I won’t name which party but just… The conversation really hammered home for me how depressing it is that people inside of party politics are just responding to the worst kinds of incentives and don’t necessarily want to have a really bold vision. It suddenly occurred to me that social movement politics might be the actual answer for trying to move the needle.
JULIA DASILVA: Before starting to do this work, I never felt that sense of ongoing support from anyone other than my immediate family.
GRACE KING: When I think about my future now, I think in part due to getting to know this community and getting to organize here in Toronto, I think not only am I just trying to shift my timeline so that I can fight to win this thing, what I’m starting to realize is that maybe I really like to hear about people’s stories and get to know them on the ground.
ANNA OSTERBERG: In terms of thinking about my own future, I think that my personal future will be continuing to do this work and potentially leaving behind some certain things that I had wanted in the future. And that’s sad. It’s sad to talk about and it can bring a lot of anxiety to think about the things that we have to give up but at the same time, through this work… And it’s only been a few months… But I feel like I’ve gained so much. The friends that I’ve made here are amazing. They’re such amazing people. The sort of community that activism and organizing brings is so much stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced. I leave meetings and I leave all these actions and I feel so joyful and hopeful and optimistic. So in certain ways, I feel like I’m actually not giving up things so much as I’m moving into a new space that I didn’t necessarily think I would be moving into but is actually maybe more positive and maybe more where I belong? (Laughs). If that doesn’t sound so corny.
DUBINIA NIEFORTH: I just think that there’s a momentum. I feel it. I feel this, like, collective energy in youth. It’s just so beautiful and my hope for the future, to answer your question, is that that never stops. I don’t think it can at this point. We’re building this amazing mass movement that I think I’m confident will reshape the way that we do things and I just hope that doesn’t stop. That the urgency never stops.
BELLA LYNE: You’ve been listening to Our Generation. Created by me, Bella Lyne. This piece is part of Fixt Point’s Arts and Media, Points of Empathy project made possible by Canada Service Corp. A big thank you to Rebecca Nelson, Grace King, Jessica Nachman, Anna Osterberg, Julia Dasilva, Dubinia Nieforth, and Gonzalo riva for sharing their voices, stories and insights. The music you heard at the beginning is Recalling by Blair Moon. A special thanks to Climate Justice Toronto and Sing for Joy for allowing me to record the rally sounds and singing you heard throughout
Within the hustle and bustle of the city, there lies an unorthodox little bungalow in the west end, transformed into a public living room. This is an aural portrait of a local community art-hub called Bampot House of Tea and Boardgames, and the various unconventional characters who have held the space. This ‘portrait' aims to capture it’s eclectic atmosphere and the impact of it’s created culture on the community.
So a friend from Ireland actually brought me to Bampot for the first time about a few months ago and as soon as I walked in it was the most chill, welcoming vibe that I think I’ve ever had from any kind of coffee or tea place.
When I found the Bampot, I had just come back from a big spirit quest, you know? Out in B.C, living in a tent on an island and meditating all day long. Very soon after I came back to Toronto, my friends were like, “Hey dude. You’ve gotta go to Bampot.” I said, “Okay. What’s that?” I went to Bampot. Walked in the door and was like, “Ah. My people. Are you hiring?”
So I started there in April of 2015. They were only a year old at that point. At first, when you’re walking up to the place, it’s this little house on Harbord street. It’s over 100 years old. It sets itself apart by being the most colourful object on the street. Everywhere else on the street is at least three stories and this place is essentially a bungalow. The steps leading up to it are made out of brick and the whole house is made out of brick. Very deep, burnished colours that make you feel almost at home. When you walk in, tiny on the outside but large on the inside somehow, space.
I walked in and there were curtains hanging. It smelled like incense and I was being asked to take my shoes off.
Directly to your right, there is a shoe rack and you’re in socks the rest of the time because you’re in somebody's living room. This is not a normal restaurant. You are welcomed into somebody’s home and that is what it feels like.
And then you walk through the curtain and there’s just cushions.
It’s like stepping into a Turkish hookah den.
There’s, like, artwork and beautiful music and they’re serving this tea and this homemade food. It’s this sensuous experience.
It has a very unique smell to it. Just all the different tea leaves, all the different herbs and spices. It just has a very unique aroma to the place.
It’s also very bohemian in the sense that there’s all these cool pictures of old people on the wall and it looks like it just got cobbled together from a bunch of different garage sales or, like, estate sales from old people. Everything is mismatched. Nothing seems to really have a very specific theme to it but everything seems to fit because of that.
There’s a wooden frame hung on an air conditioner on the one wall because they can’t take the air conditioner out due to the fact that it would just be a big hole in the wall if they did that. But it also doesn’t really work so… (Laughs). They just hung a frame on it so it became a piece. It became part of the art of Bampot. (Laughs).
One of the first nights I was working there, I had left Bampot to go pick up wine. We put some wine in a teapot and we went and sat out front because, you know, why not? And we’re sitting at this table and a couple people come in, obviously just fresh from a concert of some kind because one person was carrying a violin and they were all dressed up in suits and stuff, and they sat in one of the booths near the front. There’s these booths where you can take off your shoes and sit on these carpets and pillows and lounge. And these old folks were sitting around a round table in front of this booth and they started bugging them to play music. They were like, “Okay. Fine. We’ll play a song.” So the one guy gets out a saxophone and this girl sits next to him and he plays saxophone while she sings. And Mark, he’s the owner, explains to me his vision. To this background music. Where he always wanted to own a sort of smokey tavern bar where there was like, a jazz club. That’s exactly how he put it. It was like from Blues Brothers, almost. That was his identifying marker for what he wanted to move towards. And at the time, we had hookah so there was smoke in the air and there was some jazzy music being played and we were drinking and listening to this and, you know, it was all very elicit and interesting and I was 23 and just totally enraptured by this vision and this idea that we could create a place where music and wine and just fun and interesting times could flow freely and creative expression could be everywhere because there was art all over the walls and we could change that. And we could change every aspect of the place if we really wanted to. We could just put ourselves into it.
I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I had an idea. I had a feeling and I thought, “I don’t want to live in a city that doesn’t have a place like this.” And without that being there already established I thought, “Well, why not try and do it myself?”
If people were to say, “You’re an artist,” they say, “What’s your medium?” Bampots my medium. Well, Mark and I say Bampot is like we’re selling our lifestyle in some way. You know? So everything is decorated to our own aesthetic or liking and we serve everything authentically and it’s handmade and nothing’s aritificially sold to you. It’s genuine. You want a good pot of tea? We have that. You want good food? We can give you that.
Because we don’t hassle people. We don’t continually ask people to keep buying things, buying things. “Oh, you’re not buying anything? Go away.” It’s not like that. It’s a place for people to come and just be.
You come here and you can be who you really are with people. It’s so refreshing. Rather than going to, like, on a date to a restaurant and you have to put on an emotional tie. But here, you come in and you can just be frank and you can just see what’s really happening. You can touch the ground of your own emotional life. There’s all sorts of different people talking about all sorts of different things and almost unanimously it’s from this incredible place of heart centredness. Even if they’re just sitting and playing board games. They’re often also discussing the nature of reality or what it means to grow as a human or how to open your heart to your lover.
So in that way, it also felt very real and home like to me because being in this industry where I have to smile all the time and have to present as a very specific thing constantly. This place is not making me do that. Ever. But people will come to me and ask me, “Hey! So I have a stomach ache.” And I would go, “Oh. Okay! Well, I can make a tea for that.” (Laughs). And I started doing that a lot and just going through all these lists of things they… Ailments they might have. I would go through how they were feeling and how they would want to feel after. It’s interesting. They encourage you to take ownership of this place when you’re there. Even as a guest. It is a living room in a sense also that it lives and breathes on its own accord and so, as the time goes on, it is a dynamic space that changes and grows and takes what it can from the people that enter that space and incorporates it into part of a hole.
You have this feeling that you’re in the right place at the right time and you found something here and this is magic that happens. People often leave here just getting a thing that they need.
I personally introduced… I think it’s like five couples now that have ended up getting married. Clayton, who used to work here, it was me that introduced him to Hardel. Hardel was a customer and Clayton worked here and I think it was one night they were going to go for a little walk and I was like, “Ah. Clayton. You need to take a bottle of wine with you if you’re going to go for a walk at midnight.” You know? And I guess the rest is history. I’m not going to claim… I didn’t interfere in any way but I definitely was there to introduce them and they’ll tell that story to… It’s wonderful. You get to hear all the stories from all the people who come through the place.
Toronto would not be Toronto for me without Bampot. For sure. Because even now, I still meet up with all these people that I met through Bampot. I went through yoga teacher training because of somebody I met through Bampot. I have multiple board game groups because of people I met through Bampot. I just know about so many different things in the city because of Bampot. It created culture for me. As much as I try to create culture inside of it. So Toronto became more of a home because Bampot existed.
I feel that it was a very important part of my own evolution. I feel like I’m more open as a person. I’m more open to other people but I’m more open to myself and more open to expressing what I’m actually feeling and just full of love and being with whatever experience, whatever people are there. You know?
I’ve always been a social person but I was very awkward about it. Now I’m very much less so. (Laughs). Because of that place.
How would you say the city would be different if it no longer had Bampot?
I mean, this is a little secret gem. I don’t know if many people know about this place. I think that many, many beautiful wanderers would have nowhere to go. You know? They would have no place to congregate and celebrate life and the cosmos and enjoy tea and play board games. How would the whole city change? I think kind of like a bass player in a band. Do you know? Like, you often don’t know they’re there but you definitely know when they’re not there. It’s a sanctuary to go to respite from our often overly busy lives and our overly scheduled restrictiveness in general and I think that the city would become maybe a little bit more uptight if the Bampot wasn’t here.
Yeah. It’s truly a beautiful space. It was built by two incredible people and maintained by a myriad of hippies.
You’ve been listening to Bampot: The Public Living Room, the public art piece. Created by me, Alina Kouvchinova. This piece is a part of Fixt Point Arts and Media’s Points of Empathy project made possible by Canada Service Corps. A big thank you to all who made this podcast possible. Alex Moore, Mark Newell, Bianca, Hannah Elizabeth Kalmar, Jaimie McClyment and the Fixt Point production team.
People around the world all share the similar goal of finding purpose and meaning in life. The big question we all face is how? My piece explores how peoples' ideas of themselves and others prevent them or push them towards becoming their true self. This podcast includes a number of voices, young and old talking about a variety of experiences all pertaining to the idea of reputation. There are many different ways people come out, and many different things people “come out” about. This broader perspective on coming out brings to light the similarities between people as well their intrinsic fear of becoming their true self. In this podcast I compare the voices of the LGBTQ+ community with stories of people coming out in unconventional, unexpected ways. By the end of this podcast listeners will leave with a deeper understanding of what it means to come out and a greater curiosity for those around them.
This podcast may not be suitable for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.
I mean, everyone has reputations. Everyone has things that they’re known for. Certain traits and characteristics and I think a lot of times, you outgrow those but if someone’s known you since you were in grade one and you’re still friends by the time you’re in grade 12, the things you consistently did for the past 10 years of your life they will remember as opposed to the past two years when you started trying to change yourself.
Honestly? I’d have to say I didn’t really feel like I was fully becoming into the artist that I was meant to be or that I was fully doing what I was supposed to be doing until around the time that I came out as transgender. Before that, there was a lot of rules for me and a lot of expectations. When I came out as trans, I was allowed to express myself so much more freely and who I am as a person and I also became a lot more creative and I did a lot more paintings and a lot more artwork that I found really resonated with me and how I felt.
I think I generally give less shits now. I’m a lot more open about other stuff as well that I am in life. You know? I was… When I started high school, I was super secretive. I didn’t really talk to a lot of people and it wasn’t until I was okay saying that I was gay that I fully was like, “Okay. Yeah. I can be kind of more open.”
I was treated like a completely different human being when I came out. You know? I wasn’t the same person that I was. Even though I still feel like I’ve kind of always been the same person and I’ve sort of more just evolved into who I’m meant to be, it’s like I was sort of almost reborn into a new identity. Into a new life in which I could live the way that I wanted to.
A lot of my growth came in the past year when I did get to move away. There’s a quote. I don’t remember who said it but it says, “You can’t heal in the same environment that you were hurt.” And I think a lot of that’s true and I don’t have a tragic childhood story. I was fine. I was happy. I think I went through a lot of the same things emotionally that most teenagers do but I can only ever talk about my experience, really, and I know that moving away and starting fresh really helped me.
I think a lot of people, when they imagine coming out of the closet, they imagine just saying, “You’re gay” one time and that’s it. You’re done. Everything changes when you come out of the closet so I just want to make sure that I’m ready for that because I see my parents and my sister every single day so coming out of the closet to them… I have to make sure that I’m mentally ready to deal with the kind of aftermath of having them look at you very differently. Because I’m… There’s no one else in my entire family who’s out of the closet. So I’m going to be that relative. I’m going to be… To all of my cousins, they’re going to see me as the gay relative.
Before I went away to Queens, I wasn’t in a great place emotionally. It wasn’t horrible or anything but I definitely have a very self-deprecating sense of humour and I think I put myself down a lot as a joke and I think I would do that because a lot of my friends were competitive or didn’t feel good about themselves but I think in the long run that kind of took a hit on me because I started believing the things that I was saying as a joke and coming back from Queens, I’ve just become more confident in myself. I’ve been more positive toward myself and I’ve accepted myself more and as a result, those jokes have kind of stopped. So… The people who used to use me as relief... I was relief for them when they were going through hard times. I’m still willing to talk to them and I’m still willing to be friends with them but I don’t provide the same sort of relief that I did and the same sort of comfort in making them feel better because I’m not willing to sacrifice myself for that anymore.
Sometimes I’ll still think, “Oh. You shouldn’t do this! This doesn’t look good.” Or, “That’s too out there.” Or, “Maybe that doesn’t make sense.” But it’s like, “No!” If I feel like something is right and natural and it’s what I want to do, it belongs out there and people should see it. You know what I mean? And I just want to live my life to the fullest that I can because that’s what I’m really meant to do.
I think when people think of the word “homophobia” they think of somebody who’s walking around protesting gay marriage. It’s the same thing with sexism and racism and all that. It’s so much deeper than that and, you know, like I said, I haven’t come out to my parents yet and I told one of my friends that I’m bi-sexual and she’s a really close family friend and I trusted her with that information and since then, she has kind of been pressuring me and bullying me to come out to them sooner. She said once that it would be easier on her if I just came out and told them. And I was… You know. It’s like, people… Especially people that are straight… And this girl, my family friend, is straight. And she was trying to explain to me how to tell my parents and telling me that it’s going to be easy but a lot of people don’t realize that there is so much that changes when you come out to somebody. Even my friend. She was like, “Nothing changed between us when you told me.” And I was like, “Well, you’ve brought it up in every conversation we’ve had in the last two months.” Like, that’s a change.
It got so bad for me that in high school, I ended up in a hospital and I couldn’t leave the house or go places without thinking awful, awful things about myself. I couldn’t live my life as a normal human being. It got so bad that I was just so depressed and didn’t really understand what… I didn’t understand why I belonged and what life meant for me and why I should even be here. And then with time, I allowed myself to breathe and I allowed myself… Even though I still struggle to this day, I allowed myself to think, “Why am I being so hard on myself all the time?” But it’s like, what’s the point in punishing yourself even further than it already needs to be? What’s the point in hurting even more? You know? It’s honestly kind of been a lifelong journey for me and I still struggle with it to this day. I’m not going to pretend I’m happy all the time. Yeah. It’s about allowing yourself to breathe more and giving yourself space to be okay and not be so mad at yourself for the little things that you can’t change.
My father’s two favourite words for me were “idiot” and “moron” and my mother told me I was never… I said, “Well, I’d like to go to university, I think. What can I be?” And she’d go, “Oh. No, no, no. You’re so small. The best thing you could be is a jockey.” (Laughs). I said, “How’s that for advice from a mother?” Anyway, I was always put down and it took me years, in fact, to figure it out. That that’s exactly what happened.
Some people always try to make it about themselves. They always find some way to either say something like, “My friends said it would be easier on me if you came out.” Or they’ll go into really gross graphic details about why they don’t identify the same way I do. Or they’ll said, “Yeah. You know, I had a woman tell me once that yeah, I can’t see myself fucking a female or fucking someone with a vagina.” And I was like, “I really don’t give a shit.” Like, I really… I didn’t ask. (Laughs). Yeah. People just make it about themselves and some people just, you know, don’t really notice how much everything changes when you tell them.
I went to the pride parade with my friend and I was walking around without a shirt on and I definitely wouldn’t have done that, you know, four or five years ago. Yeah. I think I just give less of a fuck now.
I’d say I’m going into my second year and I now have a house with four of my closest friends that I met there and I’m really excited because I think that it’s an opportunity not only for me to learn to live on my own a bit more but as well to move away from the city I grew up in. The people I grew up around and get to… I wouldn’t say start over but become who I really want to be but I feel like a lot of times you’re held back by what other people expect of you and just the normalcy of your life that you’ve always known.
I’m such a different person than I was even a year ago. I used to struggle so much all the time. And I do struggle but not nearly in the capacity that was debilitating me for almost all of my life. I had such anxiety that I couldn’t leave my bed. I couldn’t talk to people. I would shake and fall in front of people and presentations and I had no confidence in myself and I’ve come to realize with forgiving myself and coming out and allowing myself to be who I’m meant to be, I’ve become so much more confident in who I am and I’ve allowed myself to stand my ground and not be so apologetic for who I am, you know? And not, like… Because sometimes, you know, you can feel like you don’t belong and you’re not meant to be here. Especially if you’re trans or queer or whatever. Something like that. And people will tell you that you don’t belong but really at the end of the day, it’s about reminding yourself that you are just as worthy as anyone else. That’s what’s really trying to get me there. I’ve been lucky enough to have a good support system over the past couple of years. I’ve come so far. I’ve come so far and I believe that it could only get better for so many other people too, you know? If they just believe in themselves and believe that it can get easier.
You’ve been listening to Reputation created by me, Charlotte Desousa. This piece is a part of Fixt Point Arts and Media’s Point of Empathy project made possible by Canada Service Corps. I would also like to thank Alisa Stanley, Kevin McConnel, David Surplis, and Julie Robinson
Is our ability to belong dependent on having a sense of purpose? Can we belong without really knowing what our purpose is in life? Are we always becoming something and if so, what are we becoming? ‘My Brain’ explores these questions through the eyes of young adults as they discover their sense of purpose, where they stand in the world and what they believe they are becoming. This podcast also doubles as an audio representation of the creator’s thoughts, and how they come to be, and even their answers to these questions which are shared by the responses of the others.
(multiple voices overlapping)
JACK LANGEDIJK : Every time we answer a question, we say, “Because.” But if you look at the word and you change it around, it’s “my cause to be is this.” So how do you find purpose?
AMANDA LECLERC: A place where you feel in your life where you’re meant to be. Of course I have insecurities about being a mother but I’m just so confident that it’s a part of myself I’m supposed to give and I feel okay giving it and it just feels right. Other than me being a mother, I got into social working so I just graduated as a social service worker and I would have to say that helping people and just being in places where I can actually offer my help would feel like that’s where I belong. I always feel great helping other people. Whether it’s giving them directions to somewhere or providing them with services where they can get help. Anything! Even just a shoulder to cry on or someone to give a hug or whatever. I just feel I belong in helping people.
SUNITA PERSAUD: I joined a youth counsel called MSYL which stands for Mid Scarborough Youth Leadership. It’s counsel that does community work. We organize events and programs for the community. For example, in April, we did a human library event which allowed people to come and listen to other people’s stories. In May, we did a Mother’s Day fine dining event and I think both went really well.
ARENNE KIRITHARAN: I would say one of the first moments I felt like I belonged somewhere was probably my second meeting with the Mid Scarborough Youth Leadership program. I was a new volunteer and I talk about this all the time. It’s how fast we were to react to something that happened in the community. It matched my level of passion that I shared for improving the lives of people around us and so that was one of the first moments I thought, “I think I made the right choice. I think this is going to be good for me.” So there was an accident that happened near an intersection and we heard about it on the news during our first meeting. Immediately there was a response created in order to just pay our respects and so I was pretty taken aback by how quickly and how efficiently we got together and created something meaningful so that the person who passed was recognized for his efforts in this community. That was one of the first times I thought, “I think I found the place where I can make the most change that will help Scarborough.”
ASWINE KRISH: Right now I’m a student. I’m studying accounting. I volunteer for a startup doing accounting stuff. I started working this semester at a police station. It’s pretty close by to Ryerson.
JACK LANGEDIJK: When we’re little children, everyone asks us, you know, “What do you want to become? What do you want to become?” And then you get a little older. Maybe you’ve been working in your career for a couple of years. No one asks you what you want to become anymore. Especially when you start becoming 40, 50, 60. She was 70. But we always are becoming.
ASWINE KRISH: I usually don’t do anything… Anything actively to change. Not showing my personality. But I want to try. I feel like in university, it’s like a completely new part of your life and a completely new chapter and literally no one knows you and I feel like I could have been my authentic self but again, I don’t know. A lot of my thoughts and my mind prevent me from doing that.
ARENNE KIRITHARAN: I’ve established that I’m secure in the person that I am. I am constantly yelling and screaming and embarrassing myself.
AMANDA LECLERC: I feel like I’m building a relationship with myself right now and I feel like myself is giving me that sense of belonging. If that makes any sense. I pay attention to myself. I think about the good qualities that I have as an individual. How can I contribute that to the world? And that’s pretty much it. For now, anyways.
JACK LANGEDIJK: If you could ask that question, “Who am I?” and you say you’re happy to be who you are? Well then, you belong on earth. You belong in your life. I’m proud of you because you’re on a journey that I think is the most important journey and the most important journey is feeling like you have purpose.
ANITA PERSAUD: Thank you for listening to My Brain. This piece is part of Fixt Point Arts and Media Points of Empathy project made possible by Canada Service Corp. I’d like to thank the following people for being a part of this project; Sunita Persaud, Amanda Leclerc, Edward Walker, Yandy Zuo, Arenne Kiritharan, Aswine Krish and Jack Langedijk Thank you so much for all your hard work and I appreciate it.
Toronto is currently ranked as one of the most ‘livable’ cities in the world, and many established and emerging creatives call the city home. But in a place formerly (and sometimes still) known as the “Screwface Capital”, how do artists who exist on the margins create work and build community amidst rising rents and closing venues? Whose City Is It Anyways? explores the challenges, lessons learned and beauty of pursuing artistic passions in Toronto. It highlights the strength of communities that fight to exist against the constant pressures of a rapidly changing city.
ZYMBUL FKARA: Where I fit in all of that? You know… (Laughs) I’m still figuring that out. I think that I’m definitely a force. (Laughs). And I don’t think anybody really performs like me. There are a lot of great performers and I’m learning from a bunch of them in Toronto.
MELISSA HAUGHTON: Toronto is a city in transition and changes are never without their growing pains. It feels like for every condo that goes up, an arts venue closes down. I’ve grown up around the arts my whole life and growing pains aside, for me this city is home and home never feels complete without art. So I decided to ask my artistically inclined friends, strangers and my cousin who you just heard, singer R. Flex, where they find home in Toronto and how they make space for their art and for themselves in a city that kind of feels like it’s growing and shrinking at the same time.
JAMES YEBOAH: People will say Toronto has this screw face… This dreaded screw face mentality. I actually just think we just have this collective social anxiety. We all know each other but we are too scared to actually want to ask, kind of situation.
STEPHANIE HYNES: Artists in general are always fighting with, like, “Do I belong here? Am I supposed to be doing this?”
JASLYN MARSHALL: Like, yeah, it’s just a thing in Toronto. I remember hearing people used to call Toronto “Screw Face Toronto” because people didn’t really want to support each other or didn’t really want to show that they want to be around each other.
JAMES YEBOAH: A lot of people in Toronto, when you see them, you see them often because of how small the city is but there is really no interaction. It’s kind of just like, “Oh! I know this person. I follow them on Instagram.”
TREVOR TWELLS: Yeah. I didn’t talk to anyone. It was my first time exhibiting and I was nervous as hell and I remember even John was like, “Yo! Do you want to say some words?” I was like, “Damn. Uh… Thanks for coming.” (Laughs). Yeah! That was pretty much it and I didn’t say anything or I had people saying like, “Hey. This person wants to talk to you.” Or whatever. And they’d be like, “Oh. Good job.” And I’d be like, “Oh! Thank you!” And I’d just kind of walk away.
STEPHANIE HYNES: And a friend… Actually, last week we had a laugh because she had gone to a gallery opening for a contemporary artist. It was in a boujee part of Toronto in Yorkville and so she walked in and there was a lot of young women wearing Chanelle and she made a joke to me that she walked in with her Forever 21 shorts and her Forever 21 blazer so we had a good laugh about that because she felt that she felt really, really out of place. That she didn’t belong because there was all these boujee art people wearing high end designers and they had money to spend on this art and she just simply went in because she was a fan of art.
STEPHANIE SAWAH: I think this is a city that prioritizes a certain kind of person and it’s increasingly prioritizing a certain kind of person and if you don’t fit what the institutions in this city deem you as that certain kind of person, you don’t get to reap the benefits of going out. You don’t get to reap the benefits of having stable housing. Having food security. You don’t even get the benefits of having recreation. Like, going out to party if you want to let loose because you had a tough week trying to grind. I really believe in the fact that I have stability in my life and I want to create those spaces that I so genuinely crave and that people who also exist on the margins so genuinely crave.
TREVOR TWELLS: I broke my leg and my leg kept breaking so I had to get a tibial osteotomy. It’s one of the most painful things you can get with your leg. So I was out for six months and also, like, they drug you up so much. For some reason, things were just clicking better and when I was on the mend, I created this thing called a TTC pop culture project. I took TTC stations and made them into pop culture icons and that got on Blog TO and they called me an artist and I was like, “Oh. Okay.” I didn’t have a community around that time. I think after I started mending and I started recovering, it was definitely a Toronto arts community that helped me a lot, right? I made a lot of connections with them. A lot of people that I still talk to today.
JAMES YEBOAH: I’ve kind of developed a connection between my work as to where my work kind of takes up a life of its own and teaches me different things.
STEPHANIE HYNES: When you walk into the art gallery, there’s so many emotions that are coming out of the paintings that you could walk in and be happy and then you’re staring at a painting and it brings sadness to you. So you really don’t know what you’re going to feel.
KEELIA STUART: Everyone in the room goes to a certain place and has pushed themselves emotionally, physically, mentally, to a certain point and we’ve all been there together. There’s a very deep connection that is made in that moment and we’re all experiencing something outside of ourselves but together.
STEPHANIE SAWAH: This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot of recently as I start to learn how to DJ and I start to think about how to throw my own parties. How certain kinds of music have enabled people to come together. Especially in this city. So, I think historically, house music having origins in disco… There are a lot of people of colour DJs in the 80’s and 90’s who are kind of fostering this party culture where there are these legendary clubs that had a cult following. They weren’t super big but you can definitely guarantee it would be packed on a Friday or Saturday night because the DJs were so incredible and had such a great ear for song selection and great mixing style. I’m particularly thinking of places like Chicago and Detroit and New York City where a lot of these DJs are often people of colour. I’m thinking of Larry Levan who was this legendary DJ who had this club called Paradise Garage in New York City. He’s since passed away, unfortunately, but he had such a huge cult following that people referred to nights at Paradise Garage as “Saturday mass.”
SHEILA MACDOUGALL: And that was my first foray into that understanding about how music brings people together.
JAMES YEBOAH: At one point we went to the Red Bull Music Academy. The 481 projects? We went there and then I was talking about, “Hey. It’s so cool how went to the Samiam with the friend who came with me.” And somebody who was at several of the other parties that I had gone to would be like, “Oh! Dope! You were at Samiam? I was at Samiam.” And we started talking about all the concerts that we’d gone to and we had gone to the same shows and that was a really huge connection from there on out.
ZYMBUL FKARA: And I think we were able to just peel back a bunch of layers that would otherwise maybe get in the way but that musical connection… I think music is one of the ways that, especially black folk, get to really connect because it’s a spiritual thing that goes beyond language.
SELINA MENDEZ: At that time especially, it was very much en Vogue to, like, make little puns or jokes based on lyrics. And I was like, “Hahaha! I don’t understand what lyrics you’re talking about. I don’t know what this is from but sure! That sounds cool.”
MELISSA HAUGHTON (AS INTERVIEWER): Like, “Real G’s move in silence. Like, lasagna.”
SELINA MENDEZ: Like, I literally don’t know what that’s about. (Laughs). What is that? What song is that?
STEPHANIE SAWAH: And it’s so, so hard to throw a DIY party if you can’t find a venue. It’s so hard to even have a venue that isn’t going to be incredibly costly to run.
JAMES YEBOAH: We can say what we want about Toronto nightlife and, like, Toronto as a music city. Because it does suck. Because venues are closing left, right and centre and it’s trash. But when those spaces are cultivated in a proper and nice healthy way, communities are also cultivated in a nice and healthy way. Like Boosie Fade. Like, they’re digital and they’re physical at the same time so basically, they have these meetups and it’s non-judgemental as well too so I actually think they’re running a really great community in that aspect and it’s pretty brilliant because, you know, I get these opportunities like I’m talking to you right now which is great. You’re a lovely human being.
ZYMBUL FKARA: I did a show called Rainbow Radio back in London and there was only artists that I was playing and loving. You know, Adria Kane, Stago Daniels, Everything Loves Sean, Ally. And that helped me a lot because then I would just be like, when I saw them, “Hey! I used to play your music and Tweet at you when I was on air.”
And they’re like, “Oh, hey!” And it’s just a very natural conversation from there. Like, Just John, I got to meet him through Blank Canvas and Dead Poet and I didn’t know that he was going to have this blowup that he’s having right now, right? But it was just one of those people that you meet along the way.
TREVOR TWELLS: Doing my first exhibit… Just John. He started Blank Canvas and when I went to him saying, “Hey. I want to do an art show.” And I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know who Blank Canvas was, or whatever, whatever. And they’re like, “Yeah! Totally. This is dope. Let’s do an art show.” I was like, “Wow. Everyone is so accepting.”
STEPHANIE SAWAH: People are really trying and I really like that resilient spirit of the folks here. Despite that incredible oppressiveness of the fact that venues are shutting down left, right and centre. We’re increasingly being creative with the solutions we put forth.
JAMES YEBOAH: To me, that’s how you build social capital, right? By actually coming in and not trying to just show face and take pictures on Instagram and stuff like that. Which is all cool but talking to the artist. Talking to the bartender at the gallery. Seeing what they’re up to. Seeing what they do. Stuff like that.
STEPHANIE SAWAH: Go out and dance. Go out and get turnt up. Go out and eat tons of different food. For me, that has been super fulfilling and important and I am definitely going to try and do that for other people because I think that is a kindness that has been extended to me and I want to extend that onto other people and community building starts with me so I’m going to do that.
JAMES YEBOAH: As cliche as this sounds, support your local artists. They will surprise you.
MELISSA HAUGHTON : Special shoutout to the people, events and collectives helping to keep the vibes alive in this city. Blank Canvas, Boosie Fade, Upper Echelon, Yes Yes Y’all, Manifesto, Black Miss Yes, New Ho Queen, Jerk, Gumbo, Black Gold, The Space Project and many others. You’ve been listening to Whose City Is It Anyways? Created by me, Melissa Haughton. This piece is a part of Fixt Point Arts and Medias Points of Empathy project made possible by Canada Service Corp. Also, special shoutout to all of the people who helped to make this piece possible.
Hi, my name is Trevor, Stephanie Sawah, Sheila McDougall, Jaslyn Marshall, James Yeboah, Keelia Stuart, Zymbul Fkara, Selina Mendez, Stephanie Hynes.
"The Regulars" is a portrait of The Mezz - a bar, long-time institution and close-knit community in Parkdale, as told through it's most devout members. As the neighbourhood experiences gentrification, The Mezz persists, trudging on against the odds and through multiple incarnations. With rent increases and the dwindle of public space, places to gather, celebrate, sing, mourn, shoot the shit and be seen are threatened. "The Regulars" explores the role of community, what it means and what it looks like to show up everyday.
LAURA HUBERT: Hi! I’m Laura Hubert. Mezzrows. Now it’s called The Mezz and it used to be called Burnettes. When I first started coming here, I was playing with my band Elizbet Trio back in the olden days.
PATTI BLOUIN: Hi, I’m Patti. I am a big fan of the old Mezzrows here. I was actually a patron back when it was Burnettes. We used to called it burnouts.
DANIEL DUKE: My name is Dan Duke. I’m a long time seven year regular, two year bartender, here at the Mezz
SHERRY MCLAUGHLIN: My name is Sherry McLaughlin. I’ve been coming to Mezzrows for almost 20 years.
BROOKE MURRAY: My name is Brooke Murray. I’m a cook and I’ve been coming to The Mezz for 13 and a half years.
JENNIFER STOBART: When I first started coming to Mezz it was about 20 years ago and I had just moved into the neighbourhood and I didn’t know anybody. Toronto’s a pretty difficult place for a single human being who is over the age of 30 to actually find community and I was finishing writing a book at the time and I came into Mezz and I had several books that I was writing. One which was the book I was writing and then other things that I was writing. And nobody looked at me sideways and the bartender just kept coming over every time my beer was almost finished and asking me and remembered my name which I thought was kind of really quite amazing. And I started looking around, I guess the fourth or fifth day that I was in, and I recognized that everybody in the place had a special connection to everybody else.
DANIEL DUKE: 90 percent of people that walk through this door I already know. Half of them I’ve been to their house or I have their phone number, right? These are pals. I’ve got a pretty sweet gig in that I get paid to hang out with my friends. I don’t know, really, if many other people in life can do that.
BROOKE MURRAY: I think a lot of people assume that people that are regulars at bars are just like a Charles Bukowski booze bag, but it’s different than that, you know? It really is sort of like in some small communities like the legion would be.
LAURA HUBERT: You know what I love about The Mezz? It’s like a clubhouse. It’s like a resource centre. If you break your ankle, you can find some crutches. If you need to play golf, there’s some golf clubs hanging around. If you need a plumber, you’re going to find one. Actually, one of the first times I came here, I was in desperate need of a plumber. It was like a burst pipe and I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t find the water shut off and I was in a panic and I ran down the ally way and I found plumbers sitting at the bar. And for a case of Heineken that I had to carry home with me from the beer store that used to be on Brock Street, I got plumbers to fix my issue.
JENNIFER STOBART: Years ago when we’d all go out, one of the things that we always did was say, “Oh. I’m going over here. I’m going over here. I’m going to be out till. I’m going to be out till.” And at last call, everybody would reconvene at Mezz to let you know that you all got back to the neighbourhood. It used to drive the bartenders crazy because we’d phone in our last calls and everybody would show up going, “Here’s my last call! Here’s my last call!” The bartenders were not necessarily thrilled with it but they always accepted you and it was always a measure of, “I got home safely. I’m back in the hood.” And, you know, that crazy ass feeling... Especially when you’re a single woman alone in the city and you live by yourself and you realize that you could spend several days without anybody noticing that you’re not around.
SHERRY MCLAUGHLIN: I think we all have a love-hate relationship with it in a sense. Because, you know, everybody knows your name and not only your name but where you go, what you do, you know? In the beginning, that was hard for me. Letting people in knowing that people were wanting to know more and more about you but I think that’s what makes it a place that we care about people. Not just when they’re here. We ask about each other when we’re not.
PATTI BLOUIN: I feel safe here. I’ve never, never felt intimidated by being here. I know there’s lots of people to back me up. I know there’s always someone to walk me home. I know there’s someone who could lend me 10 bucks so I could get home. That’s really important, I think. For a woman. It’s the first bar I’ve ever come to where I was alone, you know? I can come in here any time alone and not feel threatened or weird or like I’m a piece of meat or something like that.
JENNIFER STOBART: I remember one of the first times I came in here and I wasn’t writing. I was just sitting and this guy came over and talked to me and I’m very socially awkward and I’m not necessarily one of those people that wants company when I’m sitting by myself and it was very weird. That bartender who was working remembered my name. It was Keith at the time.
PATTI BLOUIN: I’m surprised!
JENNIFER STOBART: I’m surprised! I wasn’t really cognizant of this guy making me uncomfortable but the guy got up and went to the washroom and Keith walked over and said to me, “Should he be sitting here at this table with you?” And I froze in terror and didn’t know what to say and Keith just very gently lifted the guy’s beer back up, put it back at the bar, walked up and met him on his way out of the bathroom and said, “Hey, buddy. I think you were sitting over here.” And I kind of recognized at that moment that this place was about taking care of people when they weren’t giving off signals that they needed help.
BROOKE MURRAY: You know, if something happened to somebody or something goes wrong in their family or there’s a crisis somewhere, it’s amazing to see how everybody bands around and really does, you know, come together in a sort of a phone tree or emails or someone’s sick and that kind of a thing. It really is a cohesive group of people that basically… Am I allowed to swear?... Give a shit.
SHERRY MCLAUGHLIN: I’ve had the people at this bar pay for me for a trip home because I hadn’t seen my mom in six years. I mean, I didn’t ask. I didn’t have to. You know? I just happened to mention it to someone and they went and got together and got donations. I think I was here one day and somebody presented me with a card and… I can’t remember what excuse they gave to give me the card but they gave me this card and I opened it up and of course I burst into tears because it’s a trip to Victoria. I remember saying to someone, “Why did they do this? I can’t take this. This is too much!” And I was told I was loved and respected and we do this for our friends.
JENNIFER STOBART: I was in England. I was in London, England at Josh Durays who also used to be a regular here, when I found out through her that Mezzrows was closing and she and I actually had a wake. We felt like we had lost a friend and the feeling of loss, of lack of centre, lack of place.
DANIEL DUKE: It was a time of great uncertainty and at first we weren’t really sure. A few of the other bars in the neighbourhood who didn’t open during the afternoons, did. And we called them the Mezzugee’s. We called them the Mezzraelites. They all found somewhere else.
JENNIFER STOBART: Frank, who owns a Miko’s, actually did one of the coolest things when he found out that Sean had purchased Mezzrows and was going to reopen it. He hired the daytime bartender Mary for the summer and opened his hours early so that all the Mezzites would have their bartender and a place to go until Mezz opened up again and then as soon as they did, he shut his hours back down to normal, let Mary come back over here… So, I mean, not only did the neighbourhood take care of one of our favourite servers who would have been really in trouble but it’s… Again, that recognition by Frank that this place is a place that needs to be and that people need a place to go.
BROOKE MURRAY: Parkdale is a very special place and everybody’s very loyal to all aspects of the people who live here and I think Mezz reflects that and has since I’ve come here. It’s important for the neighbourhood itself because they’re becoming few and far between in Toronto, I think. Gentrification is real. I mean, people need to make money and everything like that but I think we’re all really fighting to keep our neighbourhood the way it is.
JENNIFER STOBART: When I’m on the road, if it’s been a long time, the one thing I miss is that ability to just walk out of my house, walk down the street, walk into Mezzrows, order a drink and find a conversation.
DANIEL DUKE: There’s always going to be somebody there that I know and want to talk to.
LAURA HUBERT: I remember one time we hung out here when there was no heat in the winter for like six months. We just brought our parkas and sat inside. It just stayed open because we kept coming to see each other. It is a place of solace at the end of the day.
ALEX CHOUINARD (AS INTERVIEWER): I was going to ask if you could describe Mezzrows for somebody who’s listening and what it’s like to walk through the door.
BROOK MURRAY: Oh. That’s a tough one. Part of me wants to say, “Get out of my bar!” (Laughs).
ALEX CHOUINARD: You’ve been listening to The Regulars created by me, Alex Chouinard. This piece is a part of Fixt Point Arts and Media’s Points of Empathy project made possible by Canada Service Corp. Special thank you to The Mezz and its generous regulars. Laura Hubert, Patti Blouin, Dan Duke, Sherry McLaughlin, Brooke Murray and Jen Stobart.
What is the cliché of lifelong learning all about? This eclectic podcast uncovers the continuously shifting gap between what we know and what we don’t know by taking stock of the ordinary everyday. How do we creatively discover parts of ourselves that were already there? How can we collectively achieve common goals? What role does curiosity and humility play in situating our capacity to learn together?
The cliché that life is a life-long learning process, is one of the only clichés that I probably agree with.
Throughout our life, we don’t stop learning. [Different voice] I’m certainly never gonna stop learning or doing research.
Even if down the road I was older, had graduated, gone through the whole schooling system, I’d still consider myself to be learning things every single day. The things I learn outside of school I wouldn’t necessarily learn in school.
I was just talking to uh colleagues the other day and there was this student that was not in a digital program. But he had learned to do some data analytics stuff. And they asked him, well, where did you learn this? Because it wasn’t part of his program at school, but he learned it while he was in school. “Is there something in Hamilton that provides this for you?” He said, “Well no, I go to school in Toronto but I live in Hamilton. I commute between the two cities and my commute every day has allowed me to watch videos on the GO train to and from work and school and home. And then I’d been able to go and get the program and then practice everything that I had been learning in the videos.” And so he taught himself, as a commuter. So that’s one example, how you can creatively uh develop these skills and learn these skills.
In high school, I started playing Super Smash Bros Brawl with some of my friends. I thought this game was a lot more fun and I was really intrigued by figuring out how I think of creative ways that can coach myself into believing that I can actually win. When my opponents play and their behaviour becomes predictable, it allows me to predict what they’re gonna do next. And if I can use that to ensure that I can land a hit on them or punish them for doing something that used to work for them. When you’re able to think of things in these concrete terms, that makes it really easy for me to see success because now I know exactly what I need to do.[Different voice] That’s what really a community of learning is about. It’s to engage others in the same goal.
Driving is a very cooperative activity. There are millions of drivers in Canada and we’re all trying to work toward the same goal, which is to get home alright and to get to work alright and take our kids out. And the whole point to a driving school is to prepare the new generation how to drive with the rest of us. The key to that really comes down to patience. [Honk honk] Remembering that everybody used to be sixteen or at least at some point learned how to drive. They didn’t just suddenly become expert drivers.
Community, education is very important.
I wish that I hadda stuck with piano ‘cause as a musician now, I find that there’s so many times where I would have had more to give to my music. I didn’t think piano was cool. [Different voice] I started learning piano when I was in grade three. My mom was amazing she didn’t let me quit. That worked for me, I needed it so much. And even inthat I felt like I learned about what it means to give love to somebody. And I think she knew that I needed that.
When I am playing piano and I’m singing those two things connect. You know that there’s sometimes in which my music when the sound of my voice blends in with the piano or it’s the same similar quality. So just thinking about the piano as an extension of my own voice is really interesting.
When I think about music and learning, and singing, dancing, like these things are your birthright and it’s something that you do. And if you don’t do, you sometimes find yourself a little bit lost.
[Singing the end of the song]
You can lose yourself in the shelter program. If you are not stable, you become taken for granted. You are disrespected. You are considered a lesser person. Why? Because you are not an independent.
However, for me, it has been a plus in that it has given me the freedom to find myself, in another area of my life. It has made me know that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. Recognizing in order to survive. You have to stay focused. If you lose that focus, you lose your life. That again came from my mother because she brought us up not knowing, literally knowing the faith, but being very staunch in her faith.
It’s me alone that’s been through what I’ve gone through. I’ve had a few rough patches in my life where you will see the bottom of the barrel. But I’ve rised and I’m, I’m still rising to the top of the barrel.
I’m interested in learning how to develop my skills in health, self-care.
When I first diagnosed with diabetes, I cried, I saying I’m going to die the next day, I’m gonna die soon. Every time I go for my checks up and my sugar is high, I would cry and cry. And one day, to myself, “‘Kay, know what? I’m going to manage my diabetes!” If I had known these things before, I wouldn’t have gone on medication so fast. First of all, you have to manage you diets, OK? After every meal, you have a snack, OK? Then again you have to watch your weight, exercise plays a good role. Exercice is where you take the time to breathe in, breathe out, either by running, dancing, you know? You check your blood level, right? After every shower, make sure that between your toes is dry. Because the foot could be amputated as a diabetic because sometimes it won’t heal.
Knowledge isn't that useful unless you can use at the right time and place. [Different voice] When it comes to driving, this is especially true for technology. Our cars are changing rapidly like nothing else. And a lot of people learned how to drive a long time ago and they’re buying new cars that have technology that they don’t know how to use. And so that life-long learning comes back to understanding that laws change, rules of the road sometimes change, and your car has changed. And you need to take the time out to learn about what your car does. So that you can operate it appropriately. There are apps now that are going to be able to collect data on how we drive. And assess how we drive in real time. And be able to make that available to our insurance carrier. And that will actually affect our auto-insurance rates moving forward. That’s happening right now.
I wish that I’d known earlier that the more I know. [Different voice] I feel like as though I know nothing at all.
Being social creatures, we always have the capacity to learn things. [Different voice] The point of gazing into that abyss of yourself is to treat the world around you much, much more humanely. Much more compassionately and with greater empathy. That's the point. [Different voice] I keep thinking about this line in a song that I heard India Arie sing: “All the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again.”
And even though she’s been gone, I still certainly have recognized and become so much more my mother. She must be cackling in Heaven, just and saying “I told ya, I told ya”. She gets the last laugh. [Laughs]
You’ve been listening to In the Making—Lifelong Learning created by me Karen Young. This piece is a part of FIXT POINT Arts and Media’s Point of Empathy project, made possible by Canada Service Corps. Special thanks to Anita, Brian, Chris, Colin, Gehan, George, Jannel, Nasir, Nicole, Sang, Sharon, Shayan, Tayyab, and Vishal.
This piece covers the personal experiences and feelings of first and second generation immigrants. I wanted to particularly explore the viewpoint of those who have had their formative years in Canada. In that way, I could see how generational differences played out between them and other members of their family who immigrated with them. A perspective that is seldom represented. I saw myself in people who have gone through the same thing of coming from more than one place. Do they feel like they belong? How do they negotiate with their dual identity, their attitudes towards marginalization and community? Are there any stories about their culture and the languages that they speak? Was it their friends at school, or volunteering in their community, or family ties that made them feel at home? And so the making of The (Kid) Immigrant Experience was the answer to all of these questions. I hope that you enjoy this piece as much as I enjoyed making it. It holds a special place in my heart.
My first memory I guess was when I was living in Thorncliffe. And I remember going to a daycare every day after school while my parents were at work. And um a person, one of the daycare workers named Sheila, who used to draw on me Ninja Turtles and I really like her for that.
Summers growing up, we would all gather at my aunt’s house in Scarborough. And uh that felt like home because we were there, we were having fun, we were playing together. You don’t notice it as a kid but it really lays a strong foundation for your relationships when you grow up.
When I think of home, umm [pause] what initially comes up is a difficulty in picturing what home is for me. Like literally, it’s this place I’ve been living at since February in Toronto.
When I think of home, I think of a place where I feel comfortable, I feel welcomed, I feel safe and I feel protected. [pause] So um that’s a picture of home for me is where very strong and healthy relationships are created and fostered
And then, home here we used to have this like big oak or walnut I think walnut like big wooden table and like eating dinner together and having tea late at night. Like that’s such an experience of like my family is like late-night teatime and sweets. And just like talking about life.
And then my dad had describes the moment of like landing in Toronto as kind of like falling from Mars. Like suddenly being in this totally new place. And having to like figure their way around.
THREE. TWO. ONE. IGNITION. [pause] We have liftoff.
[Loud engine noises in the background] I arrived in Canada when I was six years old. It was a little jarring because I mean I was so far away from home and it was such a long journey. But I did have to leave a lot of my family behind. So having to I guess kind of adjust without them was I guess a little hard for me.
[Loud engine noises continue] It was July of 2013. It was just me and my mom. From Portugal. Once I did start school, it was just a completely different world. [Loud engine noise fades away] So I thought that this is really gonna take some getting used to. [laughing]
Ooh so I was born here but I am the daughter of two immigrants. So my parents both came here when they were super young. And my dad did a bunch of odd jobs um while my mom was in school. And my mom did a bunch of odd jobs while my dad was in school. And basically yeah I think we’ve got like a pretty sort of like cliché immigrant story, where like your parents come as like these dreamers, these people with very big ideals and like notions of what it means to be Canadian and then they like put it all on you as like a first generation kid.
As an immigrant daughter, I can say that it’s tough. So it’s a lot of sacrifice, sacrifice for your parents and also sacrifice for yourself. Sometimes, you don’t have what other people have, right? It’s not easy being an immigrant daughter, it’s not. Sometimes, you wanna ask your dad for like fifty dollars or even twenty, and he doesn’t have it. Not because he doesn’t wanna give it to you, but because he’s keeping it for something that’s way better than going out and eating at Moxie’s.
I think that there’s like an audacity that comes with like kids who are born here. We don’t see the differences between us and like the white kid whose family has been here for like eight generations. Because it’s like the nerve, like we got the nerve to exist.
When your parents come here, it’s like finding a job is not easy especially with the language barriers. They need to learn a new language, they need to learn a new lifestyle, it’s very hard. So from zero, from nothing [pause], right?
I had a little bit of an identity crisis. Um because when I’m here they ask me who am I and I say I’m Canadian but that response is not accepted. But even when I went to Congo, um they were asking me “Who are you?” and I would say “I’m Congolese!” but they would say “No, you’re not!”.
Our parents are very quick to acknowledge their difference but we sometimes we [stutter then pause] forget. And I think that’s a luxury. I think that’s a luxury to forget that your different.
The immigration system in Canada is deeply flawed. It doesn’t make it easier on any type of immigrant to come to Canada. You already need to have resources or even connections in Canada for you to be able to come here. That can be worrying for some people.
A lot of people had very different much harder experiences finding a way in Canada, due to no fault of their own, that were barely adults. Many of us have come because our parents came and it’s not easy to make a life here. Like I understand that I had a pretty easy journey being my parents were born here, my parents had jobs here, my parents could find jobs here and then live here.
There’s always the issue of race and religion. That doesn’t really make me question my place in Canada but I definitely see why it would make other people question it.
There’s [sic] not a lot of people of colour who are in management roles. As a young millennial in the workforce, what we experience in the workplace is not necessarily overt. It’s just you feel that you're being underestimated in one way or another at times. Therefore, that sets the tone for your experience when you're working. It’s very strange, I’m born here but I don’t feel like this is my home.
Like growing up Canadian, I’m more um reluctant to engage in its Filipino practices. There’s, there’s like a lot of tension between the two things that I identify with nationally. It’s, it’s almost like I left behind my Filipino identity for a Canadian identity.
I am Bangladeshi and you know like I still engage with that culture as much as I can. You know family get-togethers and I eat the food and at the same time you know I’m living in Canada, I’m still being immersed in my in the Canadian culture as well.
Belonging to a place could be very subjective. I feel you kinda have to make your own place.
When I define myself, first I would say that I am you know I’m Canadian-Bangladeshi. And through those things I’ve been able to kind of combine both those things to truly understand who I am as a person. As immigrants, we have always kind of faced a kind of hesitation from a lot of people. But it doesn’t give me pause, if anything it actually makes me more motivated to not to fight back but to show people that I have the merits that it takes to succeed wherever I am. I know my morals, I know what it means to be a good person, what it means to give back. And just to go with people toward a brighter future.
Toronto is so multicultural, I’m just happy to have all these different kind [sic] of people. There’re all, they’ve all you know helped me be who I am. And then it kind of opened my eyes to be really open about all other culture [sic] and even religion too.
And it’s not something that’s replicated easily in other places. But it always is this strange sense of not [sigh] like not really tapping into that. There’s kinda like the imaginary of the city which is very upper-middle class, largely white and this idea of what Toronto is or like what the proper way to do things is. And there’s so many different experiences running under that that are different ways figuring things out, different ways of doing stuff. And that’s not seen in the way the way it should be.
You’ve been listening to The (Kid) Immigrant Experience created by me Zawadi Bunzigiye. This piece is a part of FIXT POINT Arts and Media's Points of Empathy Project, made possible by Canada Service Corps. Special thanks to all of the interviewees: Andrea Leduc, Claudie Ndombele, Furqan Mohamed, Gbemisola Akerele, Jareeat Purnava, Joanna Makutsa, Lilly Wiersma, Marisa Robeiro, Mical Kasweka, Ralph Tungol, Syntyche Kasweka, Temitope Akinterinwa, Tijana Spasic. Thank you so much for listening.
Community. Is it a place? Or a group of people? A feeling? Hear from 6 Torontonians who access community through an artistic hobby. Whether it’s acting, writing, music, movement, or visual art, there’s something about coming together to be creative that allows community to flourish. Listen-in to learn about these hobbyist groups, the people who make them happen, and their reasons for using creativity to tap-in to community.
Community. [Different voice] What’s community? Uh it means a group of people with some feeling of familiarity or kinship. [Different voice] How to say? It’s kind of a family thing, you know. You know they're there they're your friends, they’re part of you. [Different voice] And everyone exchanging hellos and “Hey, how’s it going?”. There’s hugs and like high-fives and that weird like bro-hug that dudes do. [Different voice] The community should come from within. If we haven’t got a community outside then make we’ll the community from within. [Different voice] A friendly place, I think. Very accepting. [Different voice] Space to be held with open ears and open hearts.
Community. Is it a place or a group of people? A feeling? We’re hearing from six Torontonians who access community through an artistic hobby. Whether it’s acting, writing, music, movement or visual art, there’s something about coming together to be creative that allows community to flourish.
The Nags or what now we call ourselves Nags Theatre or Nags Players. A local community putting on shows and performing and entertaining a general public. We only really produce light-hearted stuff. We don’t really try to make a political statement or any statement whatsoever quite frankly. But once a year we do a traditional English pantomime, we do a comedy and we usually do a um uh a thriller or a suspense play.
[A group of people beginning to sing with ukulele music playing.]
[Singers and music in background] Another weekly ukulele jam is UkeZac. So I’ve been going since the beginning. We usually do a warm-up song. Changes every week, it’s not the same song. Uh then we do review of skills and songs that we learned um previously. And now you would hear the open mic and uh the jam songs which is fun. Just sing your heart out and play along if you can.
[Singers in the group go from being in the background to being only thing heard in audio]
So the Five Lovely Guys are an art and drinking collective I guess. [laughing] Kind of an artsy social group but certainly what connects is drawing. So open-life drawing. Where the model is bare-clothed and then we just can’t [laughing] wait to go to town. To uh continue the night.
[Male voice singing a sea shanty]
[Singing continues in background] I run a quarterly sea shanty night. The name of the event is Shanty, Shan’t We. So we all get together, uh and print out the lyrics to this old music sung on boats uh for the past couple hundred years and we sing them all in a group. And we get progressively worse at it as we go through the night. [Sea shanty singing intensifies then fades out]
LARP stands for live-action role-play. When I need to explain what LARPing is, you can kind of answer it one of three ways: it’s improv on steroids, it’s Dungeons and Dragons but in real life or the make-believe that you played at recess in like primary school? It’s that but for adults.
It’s on Fridays so it’s catchy name Friday Night Writes, a yoga-meditation class that is really linked around creativity. And we finish the class always with an eleven-minute write. There are no prompts, sit in silence, we just write stream of consciousness.
Just the humans, like it’s really cool to be among humans. [Different voice] I am a AI and machine learning researcher. [Different voice] I’m retired, I’m a retired teacher assistant. [Different voice] And I work as a IT specialist. [Different voice] I am a full-time yoga and meditation teacher. [Different voice] I am a local handyman. [Different voice] I work in accounting, I work at a bookstore and as a freelance copy editor. [Different voice] Always new faces, there are regulars. [Different voice] Some people I’ve been around for a long long time, other people are new. [Different voice] Their professions let me just say they’re varied. I mean some people work for the city, some people work as an electrician. [Different voice] Military vets, doctors, I’ve seen a priest. [Different voice] People are retired, people are teachers. [Different voice] Construction workers, engineers, writers. [Different voice] Friends of friends of friends at this point. [Different voice] I think he’s maybe ten and he sat in the back of the room and wrote. [Different voice] I’ve seen a sixty-five-year-old do it. He was great. We all called him Gramps. [Different voice] Covers a whole range of people. [Different voice] I didn’t know who they were but I had the just a fabulous time. I didn’t want to leave. [Different voice] The people who come are just curious people. That’s, I think, my favourite quality in anybody. [Different voice] Well I’m surprised anybody comes at all. But people do. And we’re hoping people will continue to come.
You could have a whole bunch of people hanging out in the room and it doesn’t, it couldn’t be a community. [Different voice] Coming from Prague here, the social life here was pretty cold. [Different voice] It had been a while since I kind of had people check in on me like that. [Different voice] Was looking for a group partly to kind of find warmth in the city. [Different voice] Not even checking on me but checking in on each other. [Different voice] Went in with these people and they were so welcoming. Like oh my god. [Different voice] Just kind of pulling them aside and like “Hey like we’re good, right?” Everyone’s like “Yeah, we’re okay.” [Different voice] Like it felt like Christmas for me. [Different voice] I truly began to realize like how much of a community it was. You definitely find family here. [Different voice] The Lovelies were the first ones to kind of welcome me. [Different voice] This is a way good of - we’re reaffirming that this is a community that I want to be a part of. [pause] One of the things about doing something silly and dumb like singing a bunch of songs is that it makes it feel very communal. You’re all getting together and being foolish and that’s a very easy way to have allyship. [Different voice] I think of a lot of us crave community. [Different voice] And of course with it you need everyone to be honest with you. [Different voice] We don’t need to go to a cave to do this stuff in isolation anymore. [Different voice] It’s not just what happened on the stage, it’s building this set, it’s getting the props, getting the costumes. [Different voice] When we work together, we amplify the experience for everyone involved. [Different voice] Acting is like rugby, it’s a team game, you know so… [laughs] [Different voice] It’s a very easy way to feel one in the same with a bunch of people from all over the place.
The sea shanties I think have a lot to offer. Getting together and singing stuff and in a group. It’s uplifting and it’s enjoyable and it’s always a good time. [Different voice] To learn and practise and get better, you form such a bond with these people. [Different voice] So LARP’s a good place to learn what you can be that you might not currently be. [Different voice] Like I’ve met hundreds of people playing ukulele over the years. Never really met an asshole. [Different voice] Rule number one: don’t be a dick to each other.
There are as many reasons why people make art. [Different voice] Bringing together a group of people. [Different voice] That’s away from whatever it is from whatever you need to run away from. [Different voice] ‘Cause otherwise six days a week, I was like this very dry life. [Different voice] You just can’t be in a bad mood. [Different voice] It’s just such an amazing feeling. [Different voice] Group energy is the real deal. [Different voice] As there are people who do it together. [Different voice] Nicholas Frosst [Different voice] Susan Baberio [Different voice] Anupa Khemadasa [Different voice] Krista Schilter [Different voice] Martin Edmonds [Different voice] Sarah Desabrais. [Different voice] So find some folks and get creative.
You’ve been listening to 6 Torontonians, Crafting Community by me, Madeline Smith. This piece is a part of FIXT POINT Arts and Media Points of Empathy project, made possible by Canada Service Corps. Thanks to everyone who shared their passion with me and now with you. Thanks to UkeZac Ukulele Club, Shanty, Shan’t we, the Nags Players, Friday Night Writes, the LARPing community, and Five Lovely Guys.
♪Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you Came♪
Weather it’s a bar or a barbershop, maintaining places where people feel connected is more important than ever before. “Started from the Shop” explores the communities within barbershops and salons, and the stories they create. A surprise performance? Jello in hair? Shared experiences like these, no matter how trivial they may seem, are the foundations for a happier and more empathetic city.
There’s one particular time a gentleman came in and he said uh he sings opera. We’re like, “[Kisses teeth] Whatever! You know Black people don’t sing opera!” And he started laughing and he goes, “No, I sing at the Roy Thomson Hall.” Now, mind you, the shop is literally packed. There’s about sixty-five, sixty-seven people in the shop. Slammed. And we said, “Alright, everybody, you know, turn it down, this guy’s going to sing some opera.” This gentleman gets out of his chair, with his cape on, and, for about thirty-five seconds, he starts singing tones that had every like, like their faces was like “What is going on here?” And at the end, he bowed and the whole place erupted. So everybody screaming and they were like, “Woow, this is amazing”. And the thing is like we do that all the time so customers were always like “Oh, what’s gonna happen next?” You know what I mean? I am Lowell and I am a barber.
One woman came in one day and she said, “You know, if you use Jell-O, if you put Jell-O in your hair and set it on with the rollers with the Jell-O, it stays in forever!” I said, “Oh, that’s so brilliant!” So she brought in some Jell-O, I said, “How much Jell-O?” She said, “I don’t know, maybe just pour the whole thing in a bowl.” Dumped it on her head, combed it through, rolled her up, put her under the dryer. An hour and a half, she’s still not completely dry but she’s gotta go. So she comes out and I have to take these enormous rollers [laughing] out of her hair, which is stuck together with Jell-O. Like Jell-O. Yeah she was a really good sport. My name is Heather Armour, I was basically a hair-washer and a hair-sweeper-upper. I did have a few walk-ins but they didn’t, they walked in, they walked out, they didn’t come back. That should tell you a lot right there.
I’ve got a kid named Cooper who uh comes to me for haircuts and head since he was about six. And I think that he’s like eleven now. And he came in and he was all bummed out about a couple weeks ago and he was talking about how a kid in his class said that he’s a better skater than Cooper is. And he’s like, “Yeah, he said he’s gonna get sponsored before me and, you know, it kind of makes me sad ‘cause I’m really working hard at it.” And I was like, “Well you should go back to school tomorrow and tell him that you’re the first skater on the Town Barber skate team.” And his eyes lit up and he kinda like perked up and was kinda like, “Ok well, are you, are you serious?” And so we gave him like one, we have shop t-shirts and hats and stuff and I gave him one of everything like as a sponsored skater would get. And he sends me photos of uh, of like him skateboarding in his Town Barber shirts and stuff. And he’s just like really proud and it’s cool to like to make that kid’s day like that and just have him like feel like he’s a part of something too and like you know build confidence. Not just with like you know we do that all everyday with haircuts but do it on a different level is pretty cool. My name is Chris Hammel, I’m a barber and uh shop owner.
I found it all extremely intimate, that’s what started happening for me. It’s very intimate when you tip somebody’s head into the bowl and you put the hot water on their scalp, the smell of that person hits you.
I would say that we kind of become like therapists in a lot of ways. Like I’ve had cuts where you know a client has told me about their brother that’s passed. [Different voice] Uh, graduations, weddings, funerals. [Different voice] And I’d been like crying behind the chair like, you know, relating and understanding and, and, and, and figuring that stuff out.
The intimacy is astounding to me. [Different voice] Job promotions. Child births. We had a gentleman that came right after his baby was born in St. Michael’s Hospital to come and get a haircut and go back, you know what I mean? Like he’s like, “I have to get a cut because the pictures are going to be crazy.” [Different voice] It’s probably impossible to describe the type of people in like one sentence. [Different voice] Um, community that, that Salon was in was very Jewish. And so these women would come in and get the same hairdresser, the same hairdo, and they were terribly nice to me ‘cause they could see I was struggling. [Different voice] I mean we’ve got like everything from CEOs of companies, to, to young punk kids on skateboards. [Different voice] Picture a flapper and those waves that are close to the head. So we learn to do finger waves, we learn to do cuts, meh sort of. [Different voice] A customer came and he said, “Look, I wanna do a mohawk.” I was like, “Mohawk?” I was like “Punk rocker mohawk?” And he’s like, “Yeah, mohawk.” [Different voice] It will always be my favourite to get asked to do a mohawk just ‘cause of my punk-rock roots. [Different voice] I said, “Okay”, so I gave him a mohawk and now he’s like, “Put some designs on the side”. And I really wanted to work on it. [Different voice] Tease the hair until it breaks and then spray it. And then lay it down, loop it, stick little pins in it. [Different voice] And then he goes to Montreal to see a Cher concert. [Different voice] Spray it again and tell the woman, “Go home, wrap this in toilet paper every night”, which was gross.
And he said Cher picked him out from the concert. She said, “I love your hair.” She brought him up on stage. They were on stage together. He’s like, “Yeah, this is, this is it.” He’s came back, obviously he gave me a big tip. And he’s telling me “Yeah this is such an amazing time. So thanks for the haircut.” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m glad you met Cher! Like, seriously?”
I heard some uh some yelling matches outside that I didn’t agree with and some language that really bummed me out hearing in this community. And so I had my, my friend is a sign painter I had him paint this giant sign right when you walk in the door. Um and it says, “If you are sexist, racist, hommophobic, transphobic, or an asshole, come back when you’re not.” And I think that that was kind of like the nicest way to give everybody the finger that I don’t want in here. [Different voice] Our background is Christian so people know that you know there’s are certain things we don’t wanna encourage. So there’s no cursing in the shop, uh no drinking, no smoking, like all the things that in some barber shops would be allowed, we’d, like, there’s no way. [Different voice] If this existed when I was ten, eleven years old, you know, I probably wouldn’t have been such a shithead. [Laughing] You know? [Different voice] The generations that we see coming through the shop right now, um you see that there’s a lot of obstacles that they’re gonna face. A nd what we try to do is prepare them for them uh by talking to them, whether it’s in the shop or through community initiatives uh that we host outside of the shop. And you know let them know what they can do to lead a better impact on their, not just their immediate community, but the community at large which is the world.
Especially now we have to kind of like take more of a stance and, and, and show people what, what kind of community we want to create. [Different voice] I really hope that the economics state of Toronto and other big cities and, and small towns too like continue to recognize the importance of, of barber shops and coffee shops and like staples in a community that brings people together. [Different voice] We don’t necessarily get together, we text each other, though, and phone each other, we do all sorts of other ways of connecting. [Different voice] The more like kind of disconnected and detached that we get in getting burying our faces in our phones and stuff, it’s nice to have human interaction whether it’d be a half hour haircut or an hour of just sitting in a coffee shop, listening to music or something, you know?
Our hopes are to, well it doesn’t have to be honest, but it definitely has to be something or someone that we’ve touched to do some amazing things. I mean, building up self-esteem gives someone the opportunity to open those doors, to explore them. So I know that that’s what we get to do everyday.
It is kinda nice, when you uh let your hair down! And someone says, “Sadie, that looks fabulous on you!” [Different voice] And when I get a haircut, I feel great. I love getting my hair cut when I was a kid because I couldn’t pay for it. And that’s why I started cutting hair, ‘cause I was like I need to be able to feel good about myself. Not just by the way that, you know, that I look. But it internalizes something in me to make me feel like I can do anything. So, my concept is “Look good, feel good. Look great, feel great.” If you feel great, that’s not just inside, that’s outside too. And you, you could do a lot. You can do a lot, you could do a lot when you feel great. I know that um something else is coming along and someone else is coming along and do something great. And I’m, I’m hoping that those seeds are being planted right here, in the chair.
You’ve been listening to Started from the Shop created by me, Laura Stradiotto. This piece is part of FIXT POINT Art and Media Points of Empathy project, made possible by Canada Service Corps. Special thanks to Lowell Stephens, Chris Hammel, Brian Brock, and Heather Armour.
This piece was initially meant to allow for those I interviewed to have a space to tell their story of having gone through mental health struggles, including working through a mental illness. I found that the process of trying to make sense of your personal story becomes a cathartic experience for both interviewer and interviewee. What do I want to make people aware about that isn’t already known by the efforts of organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association? Our Points of Empathy team set out to bring empathy into the city we live in, so I wanted that to remain essential to my work. So, I set out to give listeners an idea as to what living with a disorder is like, and the overall context of mental health when it comes to concepts like staying well and recovery. Empathy humanizes us and it is through these stories that we understand a little more the nuances of individual experience. In this way, we may be of better service to our loved ones and others and also give better care to ourselves.
Thanks for tuning into for what I believe to be an important topic. Especially since it is associated with conflict in our personal and social livelihood. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about one in five people in Canada will experience struggles with their mental well-being or suffer from a mental illness. This could be yourself, a family member or a close friend. I myself identify and have been diagnosed with mental disorders, so I sought the stories of these great individuals with the hopes of making more sense of what this all means.
I’ve had struggles with like depression. [Different voice] Major depression. [Different voice] Anxiety. [Different voice] Fear and anxiety. [Different voice] Generalized anxiety disorder. [Different voice] Borderline personality disorder. [Different voice] Schizophrenia or paranoia. [Different voice] Obsessive compulsive personality disorder.
Life seemed extremely catastrophic. Like insurmountably difficult. For me that’s a sign you know that something was, was going wrong. It was just like the level to which I believed that was the unhealthy thing. [Different voice] It’s been pretty difficult for me to feel like I could connect with others, feel like I can like trust others and like just like that difficulty of like being able to like get along with people. [pause] [Different voice] As a kid, I honestly thought that there was like this evil inside me that I couldn’t understand. Like I was this chosen one or this Satan’s child or something because I would things like at 5 years old like take a full stroller and start hitting my mom with it at the airport because I was losing my mind. And, um, living in Scarborough, you know like, my, my brother and my sister like we all had neighborhood friends and we are all getting along and stuff, why is it that I felt like I was always being left out when no one was saying “Hey, you’re left out, you suck”. Like no one said that, it’s just that I felt that I was being left out and when um my brother and my sister and I were home alone and I can’t remember what’s happening, I wanted to play with them and either they said something to kind of joke around with me or something and I threw scissors at my sister’s head. Then I called my mom and I told her I was possessed and that’s why I did it.
I guess it’s a little hard to like put it into words ‘cause it’s like more emotionally based where I guess I would describe it as everything felt very gray. And not even necessarily bad or like upsetting but just there was no feeling behind my experiences at that time and that was really scary.
We know that a disorder constitutes as traits, thoughts or feelings that cause an impediment to daily living and flourishing. Yet, it becomes difficult to distinguish between normal emotions and an overall experience. What is a major depressive disorder when there’s something to be sad about? What is mania when there’s something that induces excitement? What does recovery mean in the context of mental health? And what does staying well mean for those who recognize in themselves that they suffer from a disorder?
First I have to make the distinction between mental health and mental illness. Because mental health is something that everyone has, everybody has mental health, everybody has physical health. But mental illness is where your mental health challenges become very problematic to their point where they prevent you from doing the basic functions that people have in life. [Different voice] Mental health it’s uh is as important as physical health only, bulk of it almost like a iceberg. It’s appearance is beneath the surface. [Different voice] Mental illness means that you have extreme difficulty in doing everyday routines like getting up, brushing your teeth, eating meals, um they sound very simple but when you’re in a point where you’re very very ill even these things are very challenging. [Different voice] It’s a hell of a lot more challenging than we used to believe. Like no one is alone in these kinds of feelings no matter how much it may feel like that.
I think that as a society, as a citizen, we just need to learn how to be with people who have mental health issue [sic] without judgement.
So I guess to people that are having symptoms to understand that, yes it is outside of you, it is a condition, it is a chemical that influences you and it’s so important to understand like what the nugget is of who you are. Yeah we can all feel anxiety, we can have that same “My heart is beating, I wanna run away” but what are the specifics that make it yours and make it you? To sit with that and honour it and own it. And I think that’s part of healing.
I learned about a new approach to recovery. Recovery was more based on finding a new you, finding the you that is right now. The one who has gone through all these things and create a life that will be meaningful for you as you move forward.
You aren’t only a depressive you are a person that has feelings and sometimes those feelings get bigger than you want them to be. But what is the core of that depression, where does it start from? [Different voice] We are animals at the end of the day. And whatever triggers that we have come as a result of being conditioned. Or in other words, being used to seeing certain symbols as symbols of threats. And so it’s kind of learning to unlearn what those threats are and it’s a lot of introspection.
It’s like you know it’s kinda like baffling to me that anyone actually does recover from mental illnesses like that are rooted in community support to recover. [Different voice] Those who have individuals who are struggling with mental illness in their lives um remember that even though you can’t connect with them in terms of their illness, you can always provide a listening ear and sometimes that’s the most therapeutic thing that you can do for someone is just give them your attention and listen without judgement.
The more calm you become and rather than um becoming anxious with them and rather than becoming scared of their anxiety, you can be the vessel of calmness. The moment they will see you that you are calm. Even though they may not overtly and quickly and immediately calm down, the more stable will you remain, the less threatened they will feel.
Staying well first of all means looking at your wellness very holistically. It goes beyond just taking your medications, seeing your doctor and just going back to work. It means putting things into place so that you can prevent a crisis. So that’s creating social networks, finding some kind of meaning to your life, being involved in your community, getting outside, getting exercise. So it’s really creating that foundation so that you can stay well without ignoring the fact that you can relapse, that you can fall into crisis.
With what I’m learning and how to cope is mindfulness, is you know just try to be in the present, try to make things factual as factual as possible.
I just been like trying to cultivate better habits, that can hopefully lead to like a at least a healthier lifestyle. And it’s helped me to like be a little bit more relaxed throughout my day. A little bit more present.
And if you’re someone who is prone to mental illness then you’re like you’ll have to just take kind of extra precautions, you’re gonna have to like make sure you sleep, make sure you eat, make sure you do all that stuff. And yeah once you’ve had that kind of wake-up call, that’s kind of how you gotta live your life. And it’s a pretty good way to live.
You’ve been listening to my piece of Mental Health Awareness, created by me Ralph Tungol. This piece a part of FIXT POINT Art and Media’s Points of Empathy Project, made possible by Canada Service Corps. Special thanks to Charles, Will and Aviva, for their ongoing support throughout this project. And to those who have openly shared their stories in order to empower others, and to the volunteers I worked with that have collaborated on making this project such a rich experience.
A slip stitch is a hand sewing stitch that brings together two pieces of cloth without being seen. This piece is a rumination on cloth and textiles — where they come from, how they connect us and the different ways clothing can impact our lives and the lives of others in ways we don’t always think about.
[Sewing machine sounds]
To do with clothing and experiences of cloth. It’s almost like how everybody should work a service job in their life so they’re not an asshole at a restaurant. I think that it’s really valuable too. Cause we’re talking about clothing, I'm sure this applies to many things but really learn about how clothing is made. Even if you’re not interested in making clothing, because it kind of just will give you a different perspective.
I like the clothes which should look decent and elegant. [Different voice] Love clothing when you don’t really feel like you’re wearing clothing. [Laughing] Anything that has um like an interesting texture that just kinda like um float on the body. [Different voice] You know when, when you’re at restaurants and you keep on tasting all the foods? And then at the end of the night or the end of the day you’re won’t settle for anything less? It’s the same with clothes too.[Different voice] I think that I was born and then I immediately started loving clothes. [Different voice] I love having clothing that makes you feel like you can do anything in it. Like, I could build a shelf, you know? I could run up those stairs two at a time.
I think textiles is really denigrated as this very much you know quote-unquote “woman’s work” and whether or not you know like I don’t think that that’s accurate to the way that certainly not the way the textile industry operates. Or the way that you know um Western designer companies work. But throughout history it really has been this traditionally feminine role of sewing and knitting and creating clothing for the family.
My mom is really adverse to sewing. She really doesn’t like doing it. She finds it very stressful. It just has like a memory for her that not positive. And I think that is because her mom made all of their clothes. They were always matching, she had three sisters and they were always matching uh in their little like you know floral outfits. And there was always like screaming coming from the sewing machine. And my grandmother did sew all the time but also didn't like it. She wanted everything to be really beautiful and she wanted to create the kind of life she felt that they deserved and that she wanted but she couldn't afford that life without this other you know level. And I think she mad about that on multiple levels and also and like base-level did not enjoy sewing.
When you know how tricky it is to make a dress, and you know that the fabric of that dress was woven, maybe it was by a machine, you know. Probably it was by a machine, but still that’s there are jobs there. And that thread was spun, and what that thread was spun of was harvested by people. All these different hands and then if your at like an H&M or whatever there's probably a lot of other items that are that exact dress that you’re holding that will never make it to anyone. They'll end up in a giant garbage pile somewhere very far away where people just don’t know what to do with it. It’s just this weird waste. And the reason why that’s happening is because that dress only costs five dollars.
Different kind of fabrics used to come from Japan, right? And now then Indonesia took over those kind of fabrics. But now it’s everything is from India, even India is taking um copy of whatever Japan or Indonesia used to do it. So we get it from India now. It’s good price everything is similar but the quality what I miss in Japanese is really good. It was really nice. There was a Kanebo name the name of the fabric used you used to get it. It was so good so smooth. India is also good like suratis, I don’t know if you know the name of the places but they make those places in Surat in India. They tried to copy it, it's quite similar, it’s quite soft. But that was real right? This is copy.
So if you only paying five dollars, other people are paying for the rest ‘cause the cost is the same.
I think because I’m way more conscious of what I wear, who’s making it. Like knowing what the designers you know that their livelihoods are like, based on how we can carry them and support them and sell them um and help them continue doing what they do. Like they work around the clock, it’s their whole life. I feel like I’m it’s like I’m both worlds, like I would love to be able to wear new stuff but is I know wear it’s made, I know who’s making it, I know who’s behind the drafting table and is like slugging away trying to express themselves and be conscious of like the fabrics they’re choosing.
Canada especially people likes to be here only one time. One time part. Even over here, I used sell it pure silk, everything was very pure, dupioni, very high class. But now it is people “We don’t want this silk, we want cheap, my daughter she’s not gonna be here a second time.” But it still mended my own. The ah name my name is good for quality still for special customers. I still have that people, that people comes to me after having four hours, five hours to get that quality.
Lots of things have changed since I opened the store now. Totally different, yeah. Because the priorities are changing now. When we opened the store here on Gerrard Street, there were hardly any store. I think in North America, this was the first market. Not very many people were there but after lots of people from East Africa at that time they came, and uh they were just um kicked out from that place, you know. Idi Amin was there, right? Something was going on at that time. So, lots of people they came. Once people started knowing that you know Canada is a country that there can go, right? So there was a time when all the Sri Lankan people came, so many of them they came. So once the people started coming, they started sponsoring their own family members. So that’s how the generation and generation you know it’s multiplication is going on right now in each community you see. So the same way, you know like the business are growing up too. And um you know still we have lots of customers you know our old customer, third generation is coming too. The people they got married, they bought the stuff from my store and the outfit, wedding outfit. Now their grandchildren come. I have to choose but people like it. So people teach you, many businesspeople teach you.
It’s nice when you have the opportunity to buy second-hand or to borrow from friends or family. Or to learn the skills to alter things. And I feel like when you experience making something for yourself, and then wearing it, like actually wearing a lot, it feels really good because it’s like you’re proud of it but also ultimately it is just a pair of pants. A big marketing technique is like kind of like going into a store and being like “Listen this red puffy jacket is the definition of me and I need it in my life”. The, the industry in the experience of buying clothes fast and often is it didn’t just become that way. It’s that way for a reason and you can break the cycle kind of a little bit by empowering yourself by learning a new skill. That’s just awesome.
I don’t know, I think it would benefit everybody to like sort of just take another look at your individual relationship to your clothing, and to your sheets and to your curtains. And think a little about how you are surrounded you are by textiles in your life and to just sort of like have a different understanding of the time and the energy and sort of like the emotional weight of all of that cloth.
You’ve been listening to Slipstitch created by me, Lily Scriven. This piece is part of FIXT POINT Arts and Media’s Points of Empathy project, made possible by Canadian Service Corps. Special thanks to Ainslie Lahey, Bhupinder Jandoo, Jennifer Snowsill, Madeline LeBlanc, Rachel Ormshaw and Sarab Jeet Singh.
Take a journey up the Credit River, and encounter how people take in the beauty of Mississauga’s majestic waterway today. Enjoy a stop at the quaint neighbourhood of Meadowvale Village and learn about its history as a 19th-century mill town amid the charm of Terry Wilson’s Miniature Village—a little known gem in the area. Take a glimpse into the historic importance of the Credit River for the Anishinaabe peoples in the area and how their livelihoods and identity were tied up with this precious ribbon of water. Contemplate how the colonial projects on Turtle Island, and along this very river, were entangled in other colonial interventions abroad that affected the ancestors of second generation immigrants living in Mississauga in 2019. Discover how water is embedded into this city’s name, and what water might mean for people living on this land today.
So I live near like a university campus. There’s like sort of a pathway to see I think it’s the Credit Valley River or something. Um and it’s gorgeous. You know when you’re surrounded by Nature. It’s incredibly quiet. [Different voice] In its early history, it was a main travelling route you know and as rivers were. It winds its way through what we now know as Mississauga.
We are in an area called Erindale. The Credit Valley Park is just like a ten-minute walk. And it’s fantastic, there’s deer there and uh fish you can see sometimes. [Different voice] I go there fairly regularly. [Different voice] I don’t know doing picnics and bike-rides along the river. [Different voice] During the salmon-spawning season. [Different voice] I go with my friends, I do some photography there. [Different voice] A lot of people are doing fishing there. I think it’s a very nice place to do a little hike. [Different voice] There is a very big tree trunk that has fallen over and across the creek. I tried to cross it by basically hugging the tree and inch-worming across. [Different voice] Recently, I did like a mini tobacco ceremony there. [Different voice] My parents immigrated into Scarborough, Toronto, and then we later moved into the Credit River area and Erindale park and stuff. [Different voice] If you go farther up along the Credit River, you’ll hit the orginal Meadowvale. Before the name was co-opted by developers, in the sixties and moved out west.
I remember the first time I entered Meadowvale Village. It felt surreal and otherworldly. And the only thing that jarrs you out of this slow moving dream world are the airplanes that fly overhead, because it’s right under a flight path.
My mother took, took us down there on some beautiful days and we looked for crayfish and turtles and it was just so pristine. One of my earliest memories was going down to Old Mill Lane near Derry Road when I was maybe six years old. This particular tree had a cavity in it. And three or four of us could go inside at a time and have a fort in there. We had these gigantic elm trees and gigantic maple trees and oak trees. Trees that were well over a hundred years old, lining the village.
The first time I was wandering around Meadowvale village, I stumbled across this really gorgeous house. I eventually found out that it was Terry Wilson’s miniature Meadowvale village.
[Faint] ...There are cobwebs in here but you can step in and get an idea of the kind of decor that we put inside...
The Emporium in Meadowvale Village in 1904 had all of the goods and services that the T. Eaton store had in Toronto had at the time. It was a huge store. [Different voice] Was this the Gooderham stores that did different [cut off] [Different voice] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Huge building, yeah, and they had a, a big staff of tailors and seamstresses and uh it was kind of a high end store. People who had done very well would uh go there and shop there for the latest trends. And Meadowvale village was founded because it was a milling village. [Different voice] One of the two servicing mills are buildings, small-scale replica. Here we have the only remaining pieces of the original Meadowvale Mill. That of course goes back from 1845. It’s called mortise and tenon type designs so that rather than nailing things, they fit together. Like, like Legos I guess, you might compare it to that.
Out here in suburbia, people in the actual old village here have no interest in this at all. They haven’t even been here. You know, it’s been here twenty years.
Uh, I can’t get some support for the little village. I don’t know what’ll happen to it. The likelihood is that when I kick the bucket or move on or whatever, that a developer will get a hold of it and my village will be gone in one day. They’ll bring a big machine and knock everything and you know down and throw, throw it all in dumpsters and away it goes.
We feel that the developers have overrun this quaint old village and it’s constantly threatened. They go back to the Indigenous people, their way of life was taken away from them.
We’re the Missisaugas of the Credit who signed Treaty Thirteen, commonly known as 1805 Toronto Purchase. We go out and promote about you know our history. I say that people need to know that we were there and we’re still here. We just don’t live in the area. So they can come and visit, they can call us, they can check out our website. Then they can help keep that land clean. ‘Cause it’s all about the land. Hi, it’s Caroline King, member of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. [Different voice] My name is Verlon Lloyd-James, I’m a pure-blood Anishinaabe from Misi-zaaga`iganiing. When I say that kind of angers me is that every bit of land is going towards development. So there’s gonna be nothing for people that haven’t been born yet. The land we’re on was regulated by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Treaty, which was a treaty between the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabe. Part of that obligation is that both parties and also the newcomers that are here, they’re obligated to share the resources equally but also to leave resources for the generations that aren’t born. [Different voice] The river was everything, it was the transportation route, you know, it was our food, and it was you know, it became our livelihood. Because we’re Mississaugas, our dodems are fish. We’re hunters, fishers and gatherers, and harvesters.
You know a lot of times in our culture, we’re given the positive spin on things, but when we start to look at the true historical context, we start to see what was done to our Indigenous peoples. [Different voice] About the mills, and the impact on uh the First Nation is mainly the fact that it took away the fishery. Literally just because of how mills are constructed, they dam up and then they create uh different levels of water, you know before and after. No, it, it changed our life, killed our livelihood actually. Wasn’t the best thing for us.
There was something like sixty mills along the credit river in the mid-nineteenth century. [Different voice] It’s a little surprising to think about too. Just cause, you know, your whole life you think of Mississauga as this suburb. Now thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense that it was probably all cleared through these lumbering mills which lead to this city essentially.
One of the largest buyers of this lumber was the British Royal Navy. At the time, the British were involved in all sorts of colonial interventions abroad. [Different voice] My dad’s family is actually from India, from a province actually called Rajasthan. And when the country was partitioned, they migrated to Punjab. [Different voice] The unique thing about British colonialism is how they turned the people there against each other and also how they kind of just took a whole bunch of resources. And you see that in North America. [Different voice] So when my parents talk about the Aboriginals, there is definitely an empathetic feeling and I think it’s because of this mutual effect of colonialism on them.
So I studied politics and Aboriginal studies at University of Toronto. When I was in Islamic school, middle school, that’s when I learned that Mississauga was named after Mississauga of the New Credit. I learned that they were Anishinaabe. What that course never really answered was: where are these people today?
So our, our name is Mississauga, meaning “Body of Water with Many Mouths”. I worked with another student, Ali Aman. He went and asked people, “Well, what about this river?” And they’re like, “I don't know, it’s just called the Credit. We have no idea.” [Different voice] No, I’m not familiar with the uh Indigenous named of the Credit River. [Different voice] Never been told what’s been called before. [Different voice] The original name for the Credit is “Missinihe”, meaning “Trusting River” or “Slow River”. [Different voice] Now it’s associated as a Credit River, so we’d have to somehow make it more aware to people that this is where this river came from. [Different voice] And when we moved from uh the “Missinihe”, it had taken on the name “Credit”. And that was based on the historical activity where we traded pelts for goods from the French or the British. And sometimes there wasn’t enough pelt to meet the trade, we’d question that today, but, they would put it on credit or on tick and they would pay up on the next trip in. So we became known as the “good credit Indians”.
We moved away, moved in 1847 down beside the Six Nations to no water. No body of water. [Different voice] I would say, at this moment, you know, we probably are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the preciousness of water. So like for example, up North, where I’m originally from in Northern Ontario, there’s a saying that there’s gonna come a time where an ounce of water is gonna be more than an ounce of gold.
You’ve been listening to Missinihe by me Johannes Chan. This piece is a part of FIXT POINT Arts and Media Points of Empathy Project, made possible by Canada Service Corps. Special thanks to my parents, [Different voice] MaryAnne Lee,[Different voice] and [Different voice] Andy Chan, [Different voice] my old high school friends, [Different voice] Ibrahim Faruqui, [Different voice] Taimoor Khan, [Different voice] Feerass Ellid, [Different voice] Dillon Aykac, [Different voice] my college roommate [Different voice] Jack Li, [Different voice] Eden United Church’s [Different voice] Reverend Jeff Smith [Different voice] and its star organist [Different voice] Catherine Ambrose. [Different voice] The beautiful soul behind miniature Meadowvale Village Terry Wilson. A new friend I met at the Indigenous Arts Festival [Different voice] Verlin Lloyd James. [Different voice] And the first female chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. [Different voice] Hi, it’s Caroline King. [Different voice] And also to Aviva, Charles, Will, and Michael at FIXT POINT. And also to all of my new story gathering pals that I met in the Empathy Squad. Cheerio.
Can a culture exist without the language that is central to it? “Yidd-ish?” explores thoughts and feelings within the Ashkenzi Jewish Toronto diaspora surrounding the demise of Yiddish. In the past, Yiddish provided a much-needed cultural touchstone and alternative lens for an isolated culture within a Christian society. Now, for the majority of the diaspora, it’s just a language your grandparents spoke. In an increasingly global and integrated world, dominated by a few major languages, some young Ashkenazim are taking on the difficult task of learning Yiddish in order to connect to their roots.
My name is Ariella Kohn Adams. [Different voice] Bruce Berger. [Different voice] Sabina Wex. [Different voice] Anna Kohn. [Different voice] Elaine Gold. [Different voice] My name is Mendy Bisk. [Repeats the exact same thing in Yiddish] [Different voice] I’m Josh Patlik. [Repeats the exact same thing in Yiddish.] [Different voice] My name is Michael Wex. [Repeats the exact same thing in Yiddish][Different voice]My name is Dina Bisk. [Speaks in Yiddish] That was the best I could do that wasn’t really Yiddish.
Because I grew up with Yiddish only associated mainly with religious people and having to try so hard to learn it to understand like the [says Yiddish word]. A [same word] is like the rabbi’s writings. It was just so annoying and academic and [Yiddish] but now that it’s just funny. And music and songs and regular pop culture. It’s fun.
I’ve heard it in a few like Jewish media things that show on Youtube Yidlife crisis. [YidLife Crisis clip from S2E3 with the speakers saying, “I need this, and you don’t. [Different voice] Eff off, mother. [Mayim Bialik’s voice] Hi ‘mom’? I’ve got these two schmendricks here, that think I can’t speak Yiddish and they’re wasting my time.”]
Yeah Yidlife crisis is like the best. It’s like Seinfeld in Yiddish. And yeah, I love it.
I guess it reminds me of my you know early childhood. [Different voice] It reminds me of like my grandpa's weird apartment that he used to live in with like family pictures lining the walls.
My students [unclear word] ask me how you say “fun” in Yiddish. And I’m like you know there actually is no word because in the shtetls no one ever had fun so they never needed it. [Different voice] Yeah it’s not like a happy language. [laughs] But it is funny.
Lots of Yiddish words get used by Anglo people who don’t have a Jewish background. And it’s so incorporated into the language they don't even realize. They’ll say “I was kibbutzing around”. No, you were kibitzing around [laughing] which is kidding around.
Shvitz. Shlep. [Different voice] I shlepped to the store. [Different voice] Schmekel. Um, sheigeitz. Shiksa. People say chutzpah a lot. [Different voice] Chutzpah. [Different voice] Chutzpah. [Different voice] My favourite is glitch, like when your computer screws up. [Different voice] I hear people say tuches too. [Different voice] And schmuck and putz. [Different voice] A lot of people of people will use the word schmooze. [Different voice] So a word like schmooze, which in Yiddush means almost the opposite of what it means in Englih. Schmooze means to have a relaxed, friendly, kind of pointless conversation. In English of course it means to affect niceness or affect intimacy with somebody in order to get something out of them that you want.
[Multiple voices of older people speaking in Yiddish overlapping]
[With the voices in the background] So the thought of Yiddish um brings people back to their childhood, to their bubbies and zadies and it um just makes people feel good. However, very few people actually use it in their daily lives.
My grandparents, that was their first language but after that generation, it didn't exist as a first language.
After the Holocaust, many Jewish people they wanted to disconnect and forget all the painful memories of the war and the past. And for them, Yiddish, although it had a lot of beauty to it they also associated it with a lot of pain. And therefore they deliberately did not speak it to their children and then a generation or two later it really has dwindled.
When you start to get large-scale Jewish immigration, you had something that Yiddish had never actually prepared itself for. Which was an anti-Semitism that was not one hundred percent exclusionary. Eventually, you could kind of became a part of the larger society. You could change your name, and after one generation nobody would ever know who you were or where you came from. And if you had no connection to any thing of that culture other than the language, the language is gonna be the first thing to go.
[Schoolchildren chanting in Yiddish]
I think it’s important to teach younger kids Yiddish because Yiddish has a part of our heritage for about a thousand years. Understanding Yiddish and understanding the Yidddish mindset allows us to get into the minds and the lives of our ancestors back in shtetls. It always seemed like something connecting me with my ancestors and with sort of uh I guess my place uh in, in Canada. That’s why I decided to learn Yiddish.
I wanted to learn Yiddish because it is a language that so few people know anymore. So it’s not like “Oh I’ll get a job because of it” or something like that. It’s just something that’s important to me culturally.
I wanna feel connected to my like Ashkenazi culture and I think that’s one of the better ways to do it.
What Ashkenazi people think of as Jewish culture is pretty much completely Yiddish culture. And if you don’t understand it, in an odd way you don’t really understand where you have come from. You know as Isaac Bashevis Singer once said, “If you don’t understand your grandfather, you can’t understand yourself”. [Different voice] It’s like the Indigenous peoples of Canada who are making an effort to relearn their languages.
This is an interesting discussion that is going on in Indigenous communities across Canada right now. Whether they continue the culture without the language. And most of them have concluded that they can’t. And I would say the same for Yiddish.
To actually learn the guts of the language, you know it does require a lot of solitary time. But I also feel like I’m doing something enormously worthwhile.
Uh I would wish [stuttering] I would like to see it keep going. I guess this all comes back to your original question “What does Yiddish mean to you”. It’s like you know ask a fish what water means. It’s just you know I don’t what I’d be without it.
You’ve been listening to Yidd(ish)? created by me Michael Berger. This piece is a part of FIXT POINT Arts and Media’s Points of Empathy project, made possible by Canada Service Corps. Special thanks to Arielle Bocknek, Michelle Goldenberg, Shoshana Hershkop, Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman of Yidlife Crisis, Elaine Gold and the Canadian Language Museum, Mirinha and Herbert Blaff, Mendy Bisk, and all those interviewed. You heard L'chaim by Kevin MacLeod which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
Karen recently graduated from the University of Toronto, having organized U of T’s first campus wide TEDx talks and starting a
by-student for-student mental health magazine. She is interested in learning more about intersections of disability, aging, Chinese diaspora, the Portuguese language, anxiety, global health and advocacy. Karen's audio piece "In the Making - Lifelong Learning" examines the cliché of lifelong learning by revealing the gaps between what we know and what we don't know.
Zawadi is a bilingual writer published in Young Voices, the Toronto Public Library’s teen magazine. With many varied interests including music, reading and coding, she is excited to explore audio art again as a continuation of her training in FIXT POINT’s 2018 Storygathering Workshop. Zawadi's piece "The (Kid) Immigrant Experience" explores the lives of young 1st & 2nd generation immigrants and how their formative years were influenced by their parent's culture.
Madeline is a freelance program manager and instructor, working with performing arts and non-profit organizations. She is passionate about bringing people together in productive communities, and empowering them in self-expression. She also has a love of organizational systems. Her piece "6 Torontonians, Crafting Community" explores people who find community though artistic hobbies.
Laura is an art director/designer who joined Empathy Squad to stretch her creative legs in the world of audio storytelling. Laura' audio piece "Started from the Shop" showcases the many barber shops found around the city of Toronto!
Ralph is an aspiring cultural anthropologist with a foundation in psychology. Living a block away from Dundas Square, he is captivated by the diverse populations and subcultures that frequent the downtown. Driven by curiosity, he chose to join the Empathy Squad because it captures the core essence of our humanity: the need to feel connected. Ralph's piece, "Mental Health Awareness", explores the challenges, triumphs and support one has living with mental illness in Toronto.
Lily is an actor, graduate of George Brown Theatre School and previous member of FIXT POINT’s 2018 Storygathering Workshop. Lily gained a great appreciation for audio work through her experience in the Storygathering Workshop, and is excited to be back to learn more skills and meet more people. Lily is using her audio piece "SlipStich" to explore themes of changing directions, interviewing costume and textile designers from the city of Toronto.
While Johannes was completing his degree in engineering and international development, he studied micro hydropower in the context of rural Nepal. Contemplating the impacts of introducing hydropower to these areas, he realized that water mills had also been introduced near his neighbourhood over a century ago. Johannes' audio piece "Missinihe" looks to capture the beauty & history of Meadowvale Village
Michael is a storyteller, writer and performer with a background in biology and environmental science. Her piece "Yidd-ish" is about the Ashkenazi community struggling to keep Yiddish in their lives.
Alex has a background in social work, is sometimes a country music DJ & is happy to finally be pursuing her crush on audio arts. Alex completed the Oral History Summer School in Hudson, NY and is excited to continue learning about story gathering & talking with folks here in Toronto. Alex's piece "The Regulars" is a deep dive into the experience of being a regular at the Parkdale bar "The Mezz"
Melissa is a Toronto-based storyteller and aspiring podcaster of Jamaican heritage. With the skills gained in the Empathy Squad, she hopes to use them to help other creators of colour to present and share their stories. Her piece "Whose City Is It Anyways", examines how artists in the city struggle to create work and community for themselves.
Anita is a first year Psychology student at Ryerson. After volunteering at a Human Library event, she discovered an interest in learning more about audio podcasting. While she is a person of colour herself, she is interested in exploring the struggles other youth of colour go through. Anita's piece "My Brain", explores the concept of belonging through having a 'purpose'. Do you need a purpose to feel like you belong?
Charlotte is attending UofT for journalism and is excited to apply her knowledge in audio storytelling. She is interested in learning about the education system, indigenous cultures, as well as how communities change as individuals age. Her piece "Reputation" explores how people push through the barriers that prevent them from being themselves.
Alina is a multi-disciplinary artist with a background in theatre & dance. After participating in Fixt Point’s Storygathering Workshop in November 2018, she is fired up about continuing her training in audio storytelling. Alina's piece "Bampot: The Public Living Room, The Public Art Piece" is an audio journey into a local tea shop.
Bella is a white settler born on Dish With One Spoon Wampum Covenant Territory, in Tkaron:to/Toronto, ON, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe, Haudenausaunee, and Wendat Peoples. Bella works at CRE, a youth-led organization building relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, where they support CRE’s national network of youth leaders. As a 24 year old engaged in Climate Activism, Bella is interested in the stories of young people who are finding purpose and creating imaginative futures out of the baggage and gifts left to them by previous generations.
Toronto is a city that prides itself on its diversity.
According to the recently released Toronto Vital Signs report “over half of Torontonians (51.5 percent) identified as belonging to a visible minority group, the first time this figure has ever surpassed 50 per cent” (Toronto Foundation, 2017/18). This is an exciting time, but also one that demands innovative approaches to strengthen conversation and connection between disparate voices across the city.
Click the photos below to hear short stories/anecdotes from a wide range of Torontonians
Keep coming back as we continue to add to our wall of empathy!
Interview by Zawadi Bunzigiye
So my name is Andrea Leduc, and I am a full-time student at York, and I work part-time as a lifeguard and swimming instructor.
Living as a francophone it’s been difficult, let’s be honest. That was a good start!
My childhood was very confusing for me as my dad would speak to me in French, my mom would speak to me in Korean and everywhere else they would speak to me in English, so it was so hard for me to keep up. So I was always nervous around strangers because obviously they were talking to me in English and this language was like, I don’t know, like, nonsense to me, I’m like, “What is going on?”
So it was hard for me. I kind of isolated. I feel, like, isolated from the society because everybody else speaks English and then you’re just like this little community, but that—but when you grow up I feel like that’s so great because you have a sense of little—there’s a little francophone community that’s always there to greet you, so it’s really fun, you know? You sometimes go here and there and you see little francophone and you feel, like, so, like, you feel like a little family in the middle of a big, big, big, big family over here
Interview by Tijana Spasic
My name is Zawadi Bunzigiye, I currently live in North York, I’ve been in Canada since 2001, so when I was one years-old, and the neighbourhoods that I’ve lived in, like, I’ve lived in Malvern, um, Scarborough, Victoria Park and now North York.
Toronto is home. Toronto c’est chez moi.
I hope to see, um, Toronto become more technologically advanced, because, I don’t know, I feel like other countries, other cities around the world are way more, like, ahead of us. I’d like to see, like, hover, hover, hover streetcars that’d be really cool. Cars—oh yeah—that drive themselves. So like, faster busses, um, better service. All this is, like, centered around transport for me ‘cause I get around a lot, I just think—I wish things went faster. Commuters would, like, know when the train comes, you just don’t have to guess or text the number. ‘Cause, like, there are sometimes little signs that say when the bus comes but they’re not, like, enough.
If my descendents lived in Toronto, I don’t know, I imagine, like, white, sleek buildings and like, lots of green space, you know, clean air. If climate change doesn’t kill us all, like, I think they would have, like, clean water. Toronto would be still as diverse as it is.
Interview by Johannnes Chan
Hi I’m Taimoor Khan, I’m 27 years-old, just turned 27 years-old.
So I was born in Pakistan. So Pakistan speaks Urdu, that’s the primary language there.I can read and understand but barely
speak Urdu. My mom’s family’s half Greek, so they spoke English at home, but we were surrounded in a culture that had these Urdu channels on, and then my extended family, my dad’s side, all spoke Urdu.
We are in an area called Erindale. The Credit Valley Park is just like a ten minute walk, and it’s fantastic! It’s just a huge park that’s just going along the river all the way to the lake, and I don’t really know where it starts to be honest, I’ve never gone north I’ve always gone south, but yeah it’s lovely! There’s a big trail, there’s deer there, there’s fish you can see sometimes. It’s
kind of getting polluted because of the cars the just go over it, but It’s still nice for what it is.
I think that language sort of dictates how we think about certain things and certain meanings are given to certain things, so I bet the Anishinaabe people named it “The Trusting River”
for a reason. There’s probably a deeper meaning that I don’t really know of, and the history is kind of lost.
Now it’s associated as The Credit River so we’d have to somehow make it more aware to people that this is where this river came from, but yeah, I feel like theres definitely been a loss
My Dad’s family is actually from India. They’re from a province called Rajasthan. And when the country was partitioned, they migrated to Punjab. In Punjabi, “pun” means five and “jab” means river, so it’s “The Five Rivers”. So there is in India and Pakistan, Punjab that’s now been divided. So when my parents talk about the Aboriginals, there is definitely an empathetic feeling, and I think it’s because of this mutual effect of
colonialism on them.
Interview by Michael Berger
My name is Ariella Kohn-Adams
I pretty much only speak English, I have very minimal French, I can like order food in Hebrew and I know names of food and body parts in Yiddish. And that’s it.
I don’t often hear Yiddish spoken. My grandparents spoke a little bit of it, but not that much.
It reminds me of, like, my grandpa’s weird apartment that he used to live in, with, like, all of our home videos that were just, like, painful to watch ‘cause I was so awkward, and, like, family pictures lining the walls.
I wish that I knew more Yiddish. I feel like not many people really speak it. I think that that has a lot to do with that fact that it isn’t tied to a country right now, it’s sort of tied to a very diffuse population of diaspora, and like Hebrew has a country attached to it where as Yiddish just like… it’s sort of dying out right now. So, I don’t know, I’m kinda sad about that. Whenever I hear it I’m like “I wish I could understand, I wish I could speak.” It feels like part of me but I don’t have access to it.
Interview by Madeline Smith
My name is Thomas Froh.
I’ve lived in Toronto for a little under a year now, or a little over a year now, I can’t quite recall.
I live right downtown, at like Bay and Queen. There’s a lot of, like, cool little shops, and, like, food is amazing here. There’s plenty of wonderful things that happen here. A comedian I like says, you know, “you’re more likely to get ill and sick or shot or whatever in the city, but you’re also more likely to have sex, coffee and conversation.” Which is totally true. Totally true.
It’s an adjustment, I don’t expect I’ll be in Toronto for the rest of my life, because I like the green of country living too much, and I like the quiet too much, and I find it all very charming and lovely. Sense of calm, quietness of country living is very noticeable in a way that I don’t see here. I got these plants very purposefully when I realized I’d be living in Toronto on a little bit more of a permanent basis, I decided to invest in some green things to make myself feel better. So there’s some succulents, there’s a rubber plant, what I am most proud of is a large ivy.
But as it stands I’m really enjoying being here and the people are wonderful. It’s kinda felt like I just arrived and everyone was waiting and it was this wonderful party for me. It’s been great, actually, so I don’t expect I’m going to leave anytime soon, but in the future, for sure. I will head out there sometime for sure.
Interview by Ralph Tungol
I think about in my early 20s I got to the point where I was really unwell, I didn’t really know what it was, I just felt this extreme heaviness and difficulty in getting things done. So I approached my doctor, the family doctor at that time, and told her that I was having a hard time, and she basically told me at that time that I should go to Africa where there are real problems. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and yeah just went through a course of medication trials that made me more ill, and then brought me to a new diagnosis which was, um, bipolar.
I tried so hard to do all the things that the doctors were telling me to do, and yet nothing was working, and eventually I ended up in the hospital. And it wasn’t until I got to a program at CAMH where I met a peer-support worker, and I took a course, um, called WRAP, Wellness Recovery Action Plan, and that basically helps you create a plan to stay well in case you have a crisis, so it’s all done by you and by other participants who share their ideas in a group setting. And it’s in that group that I learned about a new approach to recovery. Recovery was more based on finding a new you, finding the you that is right now, the one who has gone through all these things, and create a life that will be meaningful for you as you move forward.
For individuals who feel like they’re struggling with mental health issues I want you to understand that it’s OK to go and ask for help, and also it’s OK to have to go to a number of people before you can find somebody who will listen to you and take you seriously and give you the help that you need. So don’t give up because there are great people out there who will listen to you and provide you with assistance.
Interview by Laura Stradiotto
I’m Lowell and I’m a barber.
There’s one particular time a gentleman came in and he said he sings opera, and we’re like, “Whatever, you know Black people don’t sing opera.”
And he started laughing and he goes, “No, I’m singing at the Roy Thomson Hall!”
Now mind you, the shop is literally packed. There’s about 65, 67 people in the shop. Slammed. And we said, “Alright, everybody turn it down! This guy’s gonna sing some opera.”
This gentleman gets out of his chair, with his cape on, and for about 35 seconds he starts singing tones that had everybody like, “What?”, like their face was just like, “What is going on here?”
And at the end, he bowed and the whole place erupted. So everybody’s screaming and they’re like “Ah this is amazing!” and the thing is, like we do that all the time, so customers were always like “Oh, what’s gonna happen next?” you know what I mean?
Interview by Lily Scriven
My name is Madeleine LeBlanc, and my birthday is July 14th 1995, and I’m currently about to do my thesis at OCAD for material art and design, and I’m also interning at The National Ballet. Yeah, I’m a costume designer. I think a lot of the things that I make are informed by the experience of wearing them. Something that I make a lot of is these sort of… it’s hard to describe, kind of like backwards coats. They completely cover the arms and the hands and they cover the neck and they just have, sort of, an opening for the face. For me, that… when I put on my own work, I feel really uncomfortable and vulnerable. Those works, because when I designed them and I made them I was in a really difficult time in my life. I was feeling very isolated, but also having more human connections that I had ever had, and having more intimate relationships, and so, I—for me they kind of show this intersection of isolation and exposure, and I find that when I wear them it’s too much for me and it makes me feel kind of held but exposed. So I don’t wear them. I make other people wear them, and I think that when I’ve talked to them they have a similar experience.
Interview by Karen Young
Hi my name is Gehan Udayanga. I am a singer-songwriter and actor.
I started learning piano when I was in grade three. My mom was amazing, she wouldn’t let me quit. That worked for me. I needed it so much. And even in that I feel like I learned a lot about what it means to give love to somebody, and I think she knew I needed that.
♩Why don’t you see me ♪
♩Why don’t you see me ♪
When I’m playing piano and I’m singing those two things connect. You know, there’s some times in which my music—where the sound of my voice blends in with the piano and there’s the same, similar quality. So just thinking about the piano as an extension of my own voice is really interesting.
When I think about music and learning, singing, dancing, like, these things are your birthright and it’s something that you… something that you do. And if you don’t do, you sometimes find yourself a little bit lost.
My youth was very very challenging and I think when I discovered music it really gave me the gift of soothing myself, and then also then expressing myself, and then also understanding then that the things I was expressing and creating weren’t just for me.
I keep thinking about this song, this line of song, that I heard India.Arie sing.
“All the things I thought I’d figured out I have to learn again.”
Interview by Johannes Chan
My name is Verlin Lloyd James, I’m 42 years old. I’m a pureblood Ashinashbe from Misi-zaaga`iganiing.
I live way deep in Scarborough, so I’m near cliff sides. I’m a former U.S. Marine now working at Canadian Roots Exchange. So I’m the Tkaronto Youth Reconciliation Initiative Program Coordinator with my co-worker Emily.
Canadian Roots Exchange was an organization founded in 2008. A bridging program between Indigenious and Non-Indigenious youth with a purpose of creating reconciliation. This was before reconciliation was even a buzz word.
The part that I would like a lot of people in the city that are non-indigenious, newcomers, people that have been here for a few generations, is that they understand their obligation to actually being on the land. The land we’re on is regulated by the dish with one spoon wampan treaty which was a treaty between the Haudinashone and the Anishinabe. The Mississaugas of the credit themselves are Anishinabe. Part of that obligation is that both parties, and also the newcomers that are here, they’re obligated to share the resources equally, but also to leave resources for the generations that are unborn. So as this applies to water, probably I was say about a generation ago city planners, people in Southern Ontario have always seen water as an indefinite resource but it’s resource capacity is actually quite limited now so I would say at this moment we probably are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the preciousness of water, so like for example up north where I’m originally from in Northern Ontario, theres a saying that “There’s going to come a time where an ounce of water is going to be more than an ounce of gold” it’s going to come to that time.
Interview by Laura Stradiotto
Brian Brock. Profession, in this instance is co-owner and creative director. The barbershop name is The Fitting Room. The design of the space is kind of old school, meets new school. Modern meets vinatage and it kind of like speaks to the crowd we want to go for as well. The crowd that we’re, I guess, looking for and have attracted is kind of the definition of Toronto. So it’s super multicultural, got guys coming from all over the city, even if they don’t live downtown.
We live in, potentially, the greatest city in the world. What makes this place so great is the fact that there’s so many different types of people from all over the world and when you think about Toronto, like, I don’t think you could say a strength of Toronto without mentioning our multiculturalism or the diversity that we bring to the table.
To have a safe space that people feel comfortable at that they know they can get a quality service but at the same time if they’re just in the neighbourhood and wanna stop in and say hi or hangout, you’re more than welcome to.
In a weird way, the barber shop is this like hub, where you see and hear everything from life and death to jokes to really in depth, serious talks. And you share memories that may not be able to be created anywhere else.
Interview by Ralph Tungol
Marra Tungol, December 31st, 1989 and I’m a corporate trainer at CI. I was diagnosed recently with severe anxiety, major depression and borderline personality disorder. Before I knew I was borderline, the rage and the volatile actions, whether verbal or physical, I kind of defined that as just me having serious anger problems. So what I did with that was that I went to anger management but I was in shock. Borderline was just, that was a huge shock to me because I’d understand what borderline was as soon as they said that I just thought ‘I have another personality’ but as I learned more about that illness, it is more than that. There are certain things that are, you know, wired within you that cause you to be impulsive or cause you to be a lot of things that, I guess, I couldn’t define before the diagnosis. After the diagnosis, it was kind connecting the dots, but they weren’t dots that I wanted to connect.
Since I got diagnosed, I’ve been on meds and I’ve been trying to get used to those meds, I’ve been try to understand what I’m supposed to feel when I’m on those meds and it’s very confusing. It’s very confusing because I’ve had to face a lot of my emotions that I never had to face before. But with what I’m learning and how to cope is mindfulness. Is, you know, just try to be in the present, try to make things factual, as factual as possible. That’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to fight since I got diagnosed is how I used to just deal with things versus how I’m supposed to deal with things.
I would tell anyone who’s struggling that as hard as it is, to not give up. Don’t give up, because there are people out there who aren’t giving up on you. There are people who love and there’s help out there, you just need to go and get it.
Interview by Madeline Smith
My name is Nicholas Frosst. I have been living in the city for 8 years now. I’m very familiar with the downtown area. I like that it’s very easy to get around. I like that there’s a lot going on. I like that it’s not the biggest, but quite big. Means that there’s like interesting things and things happening, but I feel like I know every street.
I like that it’s very diverse. I mean you can’t live downtown and not experience that. I spent a fair bit of time living in Korea town but spending a lot of time hanging out in China town and then like friends living in Little Italy and you just like, by the nature of walking around I mean you go through all these different pockets, end up eating all this different food, hearing all this different stuff. Cause I bike to get around so you end up seeing all these places a lot.
A positive quality of biking in the downtown area is that you can get from point A to point B faster than a car and fast than the TTC. It’s one of the few methods of transportation in which you always have the utmost agency. I’m okay with not really paying strict attention to the rules of the road on a bike because I’m twenty-something and naive. When you’re on a bike you feel like you have the most control and have the most agency. You feel like you’re not risking anybody else’s life. You feel like ‘if things go wrong, you’re only putting yourself in danger’ which is not true in a car. And you also feel like you’re the master of your own destiny in that situation and so if you’re paying enough attention, you can maneuver safely. That’s what I feel like, that’s probably not true, none of that’s probably true, but it feels that way, and so I’m somewhat of a reckless biker.
Interview by Michael Berger
I’m Elaine Gold. I’m a linguist, but I’m also the director of the Canadian Language Museum. I decided to study Yiddish, partly because it is my heritage language, so growing up I learned a little bit of Yiddish but I was very resistant to it. But as I got older, I realized the rich literature that’s available in Yiddish, and also very aware of the fact that Yiddish is being lost in younger generations and so I felt it was important to study it. I believe that language is integral to culture and it’s almost impossible to continue a culture without the language that was central to it. This is an interesting discussion that is going on in Indigineous communities across Canada right now because their languages are so endangered, whether they can continue the culture without the language and most of them have concluded that, they can’t. And I would say the same for Yiddish.
Interview by Johannes Chan
Hi I’m Jack Li. My birthday is April 21, 1992 and I’m a software developer.
I was cycling with my cycling club this morning and we start at 6am. We start at High Park and then it’s basically a loop and then we end up back in High Park, obviously. So we went to the airport and around mid way of the ride, Streetsville is basically the half way point, there was one section with these railroad tracks across the road and it was also humid so it was quite wet on the ground. It was on Mississauga road, it happened around 7:30AM. I was going pretty quick speed through the railway tracks and the moment I crossed it, my bike slipped very suddenly and then I basically went head first into the pavement. The fall was so quick that I didn’t realize I had fallen until basically after I had started getting up already. It was a very small fraction of a second, it was that quick. Afterward though for about 2 minutes I was pretty dazed and I was still conscious but started feeling like I was losing consciousness a bit. Yeah so there was one guy in the group that was actually a doctor. So he came over and said “I’m a doctor, lie down”. He basically started asking these first aid questions and then they started calling an ambulance, but before they got the chance to do that, there was actually just by chance an ambulance passing by the road, so that ambulance stopped and then basically put a neck brace on me and then loaded me up onto the ambulance and took me to credit valley hospital. In the ambulance it was kind of like the back of uHaul truck if you’ve ever been on that before, although it was bit smaller and there was one paramedic who was taking my info through a laptop. So I got to ride an ambulance so bucket list item, checked.
Interview by Madeline Smith
My name’s Martin Edmonds. The Nags, or now we call ourselves Nags Theatre or Nags Players, was founded in 1976. They were formed out of the Nomad’s Rugby Club. Two years ago I invited a lot of old Nomads, some of whom were founders of the group, to come and see a pantomime. One of the things about a traditional English pantomime is it’s about audience participation and so sometimes the audience try to make comments to try and put you off your game on stage. So I warned the group, “look these guys are professionals, they know what a traditional English pantomime is, they are going to try and put you off. Just ignore them, and just carry on doing the same thing.” Because in the end they’re going to go “Wow. You’re fantastic.” They did try to put them off, but they soon quieted down when they realized how good it was. And I spoke to them afterwards and they said “I’m just amazed that The Nags have come so far.” So it was great. Acting is like rugby; it’s a team game.
Interview by Madeline Smith
My name’s Susan Baberio, I’m retired. I’m a retired teaching assistant. I came for about 3 years when it was the Annex Ukulele Jam. The Annex Ukulele Jam was the product of one person, one very talented person, who certainly taught and got people very enthusiastic and involved.
Sadly the Annex Ukulele Jam is coming to an end at the end of this summer and I come to really rely on coming weekly to learn and practice and get better and you form such a bond with these people. So we wanted to make sure that didn’t get lost. Then the Annex one ended, that was a big thing was realizing that I didn’t want to not see these people again.
Well UkeZac started in September, as UkeZac, so I’ve been coming since the beginning. The prior iteration was really one person’s jam, this is a little different it’s a little more of a committee, we’ve divy’d up the jobs a little more. And it really is a happy little instrument, you just can’t be in a bad mood when you play it. I’ve met hundreds of people playing ukulele over the years, never really met an asshole. Sometimes we like that the break goes on too long, otherwise it’s all work.
Interview by Zawadi Bunzigiye
My name is Temitope Akinterinwa. I was born on the 25th of March, 1987. I’m a filmmaker. Anytime I’m try to like, apply for a job and I have to provide a means of ID, a means of identification and I bring out my PR card, as soon as the card is verified and accepted it makes me feel like, “Yes! I belong!” I’m not necessarily Canadian, but I’m a permanent resident. I feel okay here, I feel loved here, I feel welcomed here, I feel like I belong here. In fact, I’m a Canadian, to me (laughs). In Nigeria, the way we are brought up, our parents they want to see us become engineers, doctors, you know, nurses. Obviously I was led in that direction and I thought “it’s a good idea to be an engineer” but over time I realized that I had arts skills. I noticed over time that I would naturally take the lead position in class when we’re giving projects to do. I was just not in that engineering zone. So last year I just knew that I needed a change. I have much more energy than sitting right in front of the computer using software, I have more energy than that. I like to be in front of the camera, you know. I’m just a lively person, I’m not shy at all, I like the stage. Engineering doesn’t make me take the stage. I knew that I had to switch and I made the switch last year, 2018. I have not noticed anything really different. I’ve lived in the UK before, so maybe I’ve kind of like experienced some things about people that are not from Nigeria. I’ve not really seen anything spectacular, anything different or out of the norm. There’s nothing really different. I felt at home, I felt welcomed. I knew that I took the right decision.
Interview by Madeline Smith
Bimal Patel, and right now I am a student and I’m working here at Burrito Boyz, Yonge & Dundas, part-time. Yeah, this neighbourhood, like, people are so good. They usually order on phone call because they don’t want to waste time (Madeline laughs in background) like, it’s a busy location so they don’t wanna waste time like standing here in the line. Sometimes the people are so good, they know people are working so hard so they give more tip to us. So they hand out individual $10, $20 tips.
A customer came, he just ordered a cheese queso and he just give like $10 tip, thats a 100% tip! And then late night, a guy came and he was working here before, and he was too drunk, but he know all the employees very well and he was a good member of us. He’s like, “I want to give you guys individual tips”, so he give $15 to everyone. There were like 4 people working so he give like $45. This neighbourhood, Yonge & Dundas, people are so good.
Interview by Michael Berger
My name is Mendy Bisk and I am a Yiddish teacher at Bialik Hebrew Day School. (Repeats in Yiddish).
Yiddish is popular when spoken, so the thought of Yiddish brings people back to their childhood, to their Bubbies and Zadie’s. It just makes people feel good. However, very few people actually use it in their daily lives. After the holocaust, many Jewish people wanted to disconnect and forget all the painful memories of the war and the past. For them Yiddish, although it had a lot of beauty to it, they also associated it with a lot of pain, therefore they deliberately did not speak it to their children. And then a generation or two later, it really has dwindled. I think it’s important to teach young kids Yiddish, because understanding Yiddish and understanding the Yiddish mindset, allows us to get into the minds and live of our ancestors back in the Shtetls. My students ask me how you say “fun” in Yiddish and I’m like “There actually is no word because in the Shtetls, no one ever had fun, so they never need it”
Interview by Johannes Chan
That’s why we can’t set anything up, it’s too windy. Our stuff is blowing away (laughs)
Hi it’s Carolyn King, member of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. This year I’m 70.
We have our display here at the Indigenious Arts Festival here at Fort York. We come here every year to promote our connection to the land. We’re the Mississaugas of the Credit who sign the Treaty 13, commonly known as the 1805 Toronto Purchase. The display is about a project that the first nation has and it’s called the Moccasin identifier. The idea is to mark the land of our significant site, so it’s actually an educational program. The teachers would research who’s land their school is built on, near or what treaty area and then they’ll take one of the pertinent stencils that’s in the box along with history, information and maps and they’ll stencil on the ground in wash away paint, so that when it rains, it’ll go away and they’ll do it again next year.
So our name is Mississauga, meaning body of water with many mouths. The river was everything. It was our transportation route, it was our food and it became our livelihood. Because we are Mississaugas our totems are fish. Cause we’re fish, the otter, the martens, those are our totems.
We migrated different places, like with the seasons. You know, so there was harvesting grounds, maple syrup ground, there was fishing days, there was winter camp. There’s six Mississauga nations, and we’re one of them. In our historical context we come from Mississaguai up north, all the way down the eastern side of lake huron and georgian bay. All around lake simco and then into Toronto. So this here Toronto is our land we’re at for thousands of years.
Interview by Ralph Tungol
(piano playing) My name is Karen Young. I was born on January 4th, 1993. I would say that I realized that anxiety presents itself in different ways for different people. I also think that despite anxiety and depression being one of the more talked about illness’, it’s really easy for people to stigmatize you. I think also recognizing, as I’m going with the label and taking medical help, I’m very aware of the stigma of that and whomever knows about me.
I’ve been formally diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Which basically means that I worry a lot and worry about a wide range of things. And basically it feels, not only do I worry a lot, but the worries feel very intense and they can go on for a long time. I’ve been taking a year off from work, for a year and a half now.
I started taking help from Stella’s Place and I went through there wellness recovery action plan program, which is basically how do you develop a series of actual steps to ensure that you are well. The other program I was a part of Ve’ahavta’s Building Foundations for Women. Another organization, program was called Transitions to Communities and it was a 7 week skills event and workshop where we went through all the skills that we needed to job search and to be well while job searching.
Interview by Laura Stradiotto
I heard some yelling matches outside that I didn’t agree with and some language that really bummed me out hearing in this community and so I had my… My friend is a sign painter, I had him paint this giant sign right when you walk in the door. And it says “If you are sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or an asshole, come back when you’re not” and I think that that was kind of like the nicest way to give everybody the finger that I don’t want in here.
My name’s Chris Hammel. I’m a barber and a shop owner.
It’s probably impossible to describe the type of people in like one sentence that do come in here. We’ve got like, everything from CEOs of companies to young punk kids on skateboards. I really hope that the economic state of Toronto and other big cities, and small towns too like continue to recognize the importance of barbershops, and coffee shops and like staples in a community that bring people together because I think we need it more as the more kind of disconnected and detached we get burying our faces in our phones and stuff. It’s nice to have some human interaction whether it be a half hour haircut or an hour of just sitting in a coffee shop listening to music or something, y’know?
Especially now, we have to take more of a stance and show people what kind of community we want to create.
Interview by Michael Berger
My name’s Michael Wex. (repeats in Yiddish). I met a nice girl, go over to her house and her parents are Holocaust survivors, so I would speak to them in Yiddish. The parents would fall in love with me. Well, there’s no better way to turn off a 16 year old girl than (imitating parents In accent) “When are you bringing this nice boy home again, he talks such a good Jewish”
Yiddish very consciously, I think, tried to provide a set of Jewish spectacles through which to look at the world. You had this gigantic culture that did not have a spoken language, Judaism. People talk about Jewish humour and Jewish way of thinking and all of this, that stuff was all encoded in Yiddish, which you can’t speak without…even if you’re not particularly well educated Jewishly, you learn how to think that way simply because that’s the way the language works. You start speaking English, and it’s not very nice to say, but you start to think like a goy.
Interview by Johannes Chan
My name is Ibrahim Faruqui. I was born July 11th, 1992. My social… uh my (laughs)
Yeah so I run two business’ and I have a community centre that I’m on the board of. It’s called Studio 89. It’s a free community space, super ethical café. It was created as a project by the Youth Troopers for Global Awareness. Which was started in a highschool classroom by highschoolers and were very proud of the work that we do.
I was skateboarding in my neighbourhood and I fell and hurt myself and scratched up my whole body. And I kind of like was resting by a storefront. There was nothing in that storefront I kind of peered through the window and I saw like some stuff that said like “Studio 89”. So I googled “Studio 89” and I found out what the were about, and I was like “This sounds awesome”. So they had an open house about a month later and they were just like looking for stuff from the community to get their cafe up and running, their community space up and running. So I got a truck from work and I petitioned everyone in my neighbourhood to like give stuff from that list and I grabbed some of my friends and on that open house we came by took the truck, dropped everything off. We also installed the floors, cut some baseboards. Did a lot of work. And I kind of just like stuck around ever since.
Interview by Karen Young
My name is Nicole and I am 24 years old. I am currently a student.
We have multiple points about ourselves or our identity that we think we know when we’re young. I actually started playing piano when I was younger, that was the first instrument I had ever been taught. I learned very little, I could not even tell you what I learned because to me, when I was young, I wanted to rock, so I wanted a guitar, like I didn’t think piano was cool.
I wish that I had stuck with it because as a musician now, I find that theres so many times I would’ve had so much more to give to my music.
We accept that we will always have things we need to learn more about and that will never know everything about.
Interview by Johannes Chan
My name is Reverend Jeff Smith. I am a United Church Minister, and I was born on May 28th, 1962.
Well I live at Lakeview place which is on Lake Aquitaine, right next to the community centre. Being a person from Atlantic Canada, from Newfoundland, I always liked being by a body of water. The building I’m in has a diverse population made up of quite a lot of different cultures. So you come home and the smells are just amazing coming out of peoples apartments, what they’re cooking.
I have a degree, a masters degree in English Literature from Memorial University in Newfoundland. During that program we studied pretty well the entire gambit of English Lit and of course William Blake, he’s like a must read and one of my favourite poets in a way.
🎵And did those feet in ancient times, walk upon England’s mountains green. And was the holy lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures...🎵
(laughing) And I think that’s about all I can remember without the words in front of me. The hymn was introduced to me by my great aunt Betty, actually. Back in Newfoundland she was a Scottish war bride and I think it was sort of the reflection of what the industrial revolution did to the environment in Scotland, England, all around the British Isles. What those dark satanic mills brought to the area and the damage that it did to peoples livelihoods. The whole idea of the polution, the child labour, so I think for me that was the social commentary of William Blake.
Interview by Zawadi Bunzigiye
My parents immigrated. My mom immigrated in the late 1980’s when she was in her late 20s. She had always wanted to live in Canada since she was 7 years old. She found a job and she started to work there. Then she started her own business and she became a citizen in the mid 90s I believe. My dad came here to do a post-doc. He originally thought that he was only going to stay for 2 years but he met my mom and they fell in love and he decided to stay in Canada.
My mom’s from Barbados and my dad’s from Sweden. Going back to Barbados, everyone speaks English and it’s pretty nice, it’s very warm. In Sweden, pretty much everyone speaks Swedish but most people also speak English. I speak Swedish so and I have a kind of Anglicised Swedish accent so a lot of people try to speak English.
My name is Lilly Wiersma. Date of birth, 26th of July, 2000. I’d say Canada is my home. I’ve never actually lived anywhere else, so I feel that this is my home. There’s my family, there’s my neighbourhood, there’s my friends. Like, here’s where we do everything.
Interview by Karen Young
Hi I’m Chris Palmer. I was born March of 1975. I’m a driving instructor in Toronto. I’ve been teaching students of all different ages, from 16-92 for 11 years. The learning process is lifelong. I used to be a highschool teacher; we have to remember theres more that we don’t know than we know. Seek to learn from others around us who have greater wisdom, and share that wisdom.
Driving’s a very cooperative activity. There are millions of drivers in Canada, and we’re all trying to work towards the same goal which is to get home alright and get to work alright and take our kids out and that’s what it’s all about. Well this is something that people often forget; the whole point of going to a driving school is to prepare the new generation how to drive with the rest of us.
The key to that really comes down to patience, remembering that everybody used to be 16 or at least at some point learned how to drive. They didn’t just suddenly become expert drivers. What we need people to do is when you see somebody who’s learning, or have a sign on the car indicating a driving school, that that person’s doing their very best and just give them a little bit of extra time and everything will be fine, there no need to really honk at them. You used to be that person, and that’s showing that empathy, that we respect the learning process.
When it comes to driving, this is especially true for technology. Our cars are changing rapidly like nothing else, like all technology, but it’s really quite startling when it comes to our cars. And a lot of people learned how to drive a long time ago, and they’re buying new cars that have new technology they don’t know how to use. So that lifelong learning comes back to understanding that laws change, rules of the road sometimes change and your car has changed and you need to take the time out to actually learn about what your car does so that you can operate it appropriately, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s all part of creating a cooperative driving culture.
Interview by Madeline Smith
My name is Sarah Desabrais. I currently work in accounting. I work in a book store and as a freelance copy editor. LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. When I need to explain what LARPing is, you can kind of answer it one of three ways; it’s improv on steroids, it’s Dungeons & Dragons but in real life, or the make believe that you played at recess in like primary school, it’s that, but for adults. I think my favourite moment, it’s Sunday at noon and someone’s got a megaphone and shouts “Game off!” And you watch everybody’s shoulders just go “(relief) Ahhhhh. Oh man” Then come the hugs, and the handshakes and the high fives and the “holy shit, you were great”, “that was a fun moment”, “are you doing okay?” like, that’s when everyone breaks character and becomes themselves and starts checking in with everyone. The directors will get up and be like “That was a crazy weekend. We love you all. Thank you for playing with us. Okay, let’s clean up the site and go get food, cause I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.” People start sharing stories and being like “I met you in game, but out of game, my name is Sarah. Who are you? It’s nice to meet you.” It’s that moment where you suddenly accumulated 15 more friends and it’s a very nice moment.
Interview by Zawadi Bunzigiye
So my name is Claudie Ndombele. I’m born in August, 2000. So I am a beauty advisor. I’m a student at York University. So I’m from Congo and I’m also from Angola. The culture’s different, very different. Completely different than Canada. People tend to view Congo, or Africa in general as a place of hardship, but it’s actually not. It’s just different in terms of understanding. Being an immigrant daughter, to be honest, my parents are very understanding, I won’t even lie. It’s tough first of all because they sacrificed their life back home, in order to bring you here in Canada for you to have a better life. They could have decided to think about themselves but they thought about you. They brought you here because they knew that “I want to give my daughter or my son a better opportunity”, right? So it’s a lot of sacrifice, sacrifice for your parents and also sacrifice for yourself. Sometimes you don’t have what other people have. You don’t have the newest clothes, the newest shoes, you know, you don’t have your edges nicely laid, with your wig nicely snatched. Like you just need to enjoy what you have, right? It’s not easy being an immigrant daughter, it’s not. Sometimes like, you want to ask your dad for, like, $50 or even $20 and he doesn’t have it. Not because he doesn’t want to give it to you but because he’s keeping it for something that’s way better than going out to eating at Moxies, you know what I mean?
Interview by Zawadi Bunzigiye
My first memory, I guess was when I was living in Thorncliff. I remember going to a daycare everyday after school, while my parents were at work, and a person, one of the daycare workers names Sheila, who used to draw me Ninja Turtles and I really liked here for that. And growing up over time, especially you know, being exposed and sort of encultured in Canadian society, I’ve learned to sort of… It’s almost like I’ve left behind my Filipino identity for a Canadian identity.
When I think of home, what initially comes up is a difficulty in picturing what home is for me. Like, literally, it’s this place I’ve been living at since February in Toronto and I consider it home because I live with my sister and her husband. And I have a bedroom to my name and sort of like a daily habit and routine to stay productive, sort of, begin to plant my roots in the heart of Toronto. I don’t invest emotionally, that’s because I’ve grown up in various different places and you know, I’ve seen various versions of me grow up in one place and stay there when I uproot and move to another place where then I become another version of me.
My name is Ralph Tungol. My date of birth is 11 June, 1993 and I am a student/volunteer.