About Block by Block
Building a more inclusive city through storytelling, one neighbourhood at a time.
Block by Block is a participatory, multimedia program of the Toronto Ward Museum. It engages young people in the collection and interpretation of oral histories in collaboration with Indigenous and newcomer community members. By training young people to interview residents in their own neighbourhoods about their lived experiences, the program preserves and animates stories of migration, settlement and civic life.
From 2019-2021, Block by Block is focused on four Toronto neighbourhoods: Agincourt, Parkdale, Regent Park and Victoria Park. These neighbourhoods are all undergoing significant redevelopment and we are learning from local experiences in them as they change.
The Toronto Ward Museum is leading Block by Block in partnership with nine other organizations. They are: Agincourt Community Services Association; City of Toronto Newcomer Office; OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants; Regent Park Film Festival; Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning; Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre; Toronto Public Library, West Neighbourhood House; and Working Women Community Centre.
We are grateful to our funders: the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Inspirit Foundation, and the City of Toronto Music Office (City Hall Live).
Block by Block 2020 Credits
Researcher and Copy Editor
Citywide Production Coordinator
Program Director/Lead Curator
Interim Executive Director
Stephanie is an emerging social worker who is passionate about strengthening and building communities through knowledge sharing and storytelling. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work from York University and is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who settled in Niagara Falls in the 1990s.
Krish Dineshkumar is a Tamil Canadian second-generation immigrant. He is a cook and emerging audio producer with a passion for food and music, especially when they coincide to bring communities together. Krish cares deeply about reimagining what racialised masculinity means and hopes to run community/arts-based programming around these conversations in the upcoming year.
Delal is a Global Health student who is interested in healthcare policy, the social determinants of health, and mental health that involve Indigenous peoples and newcomers. Her parents immigrated from Eritrea to Saudi Arabia, where she was born and raised; she then immigrated to Canada in 2016. As a newcomer, Delal has worked and volunteered with different organisations, allowing her to get to know people from around the world.
Growing up, Fahima moved around a lot and learned to find comfort in change. She was born in the United States and her parents immigrated to Canada in the 1990s. They lived in Victoria Park for a few years before settling in Regent Park. Although she was raised in Toronto, Fahima still feels a strong connection to her Bangladeshi roots. She creatively expresses herself through writing and painting.
Ahmed Hegazy is a cultural worker originally from Cairo, Egypt. He has worked on community engagement projects with the Toronto International Film Festival, Paprika Festival, and Community Arts Guild. He is interested in exploring the ways that the wondrous, ever-evolving world of community arts can be a vehicle for imagining better futures.
Maggie is a community-engaged artist, curator, educator, and consultant. She has worked with a range of arts and non-arts organisations, including the CBC, Jumblies Theatre, Toronto Arts Foundation and Arts Etobicoke. She also co-founded the award-winning arts collective ‘Department of Public Memory’. Maggie authored the Ontario Arts Council’s handbook on best practices in community-engaged art, has extensive teaching experience, and holds a PhD in Environmental Studies.
Born in Nogojiwanong (Peterborough), Julia is a second-generation Vietnamese Canadian interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker, archivist, and researcher. She graduated with her MA in Photography Preservation and Collections Management and has worked with non-profit organisations, artist-run centres, and ethno-specific community-based archives.
Fatema Isam is an educator, researcher, and curator. She has a passion for community-based initiatives and enjoys documenting the intricate stories of newcomers and immigrants living in Toronto through arts-based approaches. She is also interested in conducting research on well-being, educational psychology, and exploring inclusive pedagogy applied across various learning settings.
Susan Jama is an emerging museum professional and alumni of the Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto. Her cultural identity as a Somali-Canadian has always been underrepresented in museum spaces, and her community’s voice has historically been marginalised in the national narrative. As a result, she is an ardent advocate for practising inclusive strategies in museums, galleries, and archives.
Brannavy Jeyasundaram is an Eelam Tamil writer and bharatanatyam dancer born in Toronto. Her father arrived in St. Jamestown (by-way of Berlin) as a refugee following the 1983 anti-Tamil pogroms in Sri Lanka. This same event prompted her mother’s displacement and forced her to settle in Toronto’s west-end. Brannavy is moved by expressions of diasporic memory, survival, and place.
Nipuni Kuruppu is in her third year of her BA in Creative Industries, where she is studying curatorial practices and storytelling in media. Having arrived in Canada as a young child, she identifies as a one-and-a-half generation immigrant.
Born in Tkaronto (Toronto), Jane is a second-generation Chinese Canadian immigrant with roots in Hong Kong. She is a student, dancer, and researcher who is pursuing a Master’s in Urban Planning at Ryerson University. Post-graduation, Jane hopes to work in the urban planning field with a focus on inclusive, grassroots-based community engagement.
Perry is a marketing and communications consultant with over thirty years of experience in strategic development, communications, fundraising, and event management. She has held numerous positions on non-profit boards and recently served as Executive Director for the Riverside Business Improvement Area. She is a board member of the Toronto Council on Aging and the Muskoka Pickleball Association, volunteers with Muskoka Hospice, and is working towards a Yoga Teacher training certification.
James’s work as a documentarian is focused on introducing the audience to new perspectives within the ever-changing urban environment. He strives to allow people to reflect on preconceived notions of status and place. As he continues to grow his practice, he looks forward to discovering new methods of community storytelling and archiving.
Max is a second-generation Canadian urban researcher, curator, and environmentalist. She graduated with her BSc in Biological Sciences from Ryerson University and currently volunteers as a crisis counsellor for Kids Help Phone. Max also works as a researcher for Pivot 2020 and the Toronto Ward Museum.
Soha is a dedicated community worker and advocate. She migrated to Canada from Sudan with her family in the 1990s. With a background in Social Work and International Development Studies, she has led and helped organise initiatives promoting social and economic justice for Black youth, newcomers, and racialised women. Soha believes that sharing lived experiences through storytelling is one of the most effective ways to exchange knowledge and promote positive changes.
Aniqa Rahman is a community researcher and curator. She graduated with an Honours BA in Psychology from the University of Toronto and owes much of her success to her family, friends, mentors, and beliefs. She works in mental health initiatives and community arts programming. Her ultimate goal is to address the gaps in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and to introduce more accessible resources and programs that improve quality of life.
Henrick “Shoolie” Sales immigrated from the Philippines in 2006 when he was fourteen. Through sheer willpower, he became the 2010 BAM! Toronto Youth Poetry Slam Champion. He spent the next few years performing poetry to any unfortunate soul who was willing to listen. In 2019, he started telling youth attending his workshops to ‘Stay Golden’. He is unashamedly learning more than he is teaching from these youths.
Originally from Malaysia, Sara recently graduated with an Honors BA in History and cross-disciplinary certificates in Public History and Sexuality Studies. She is currently based in Toronto and is happy to be back with Block by Block.
Aashna is a first-generation Indo-Canadian interdisciplinary artist, community worker, and writer living in Toronto. Her parents immigrated from India to Scarborough in the 1990s, where she was born and raised. She attended the University of Toronto (Scarborough) and has been working as a film festival organiser for the past few years.
Born and raised in Parkdale, Maggie is a second-generation Chinese Vietnamese Canadian and aspiring social worker. She is completing her final year of the Honours BA in Social Work program with a minor in Communications at York University. Post-graduation, Maggie hopes to pursue a Master’s in Social Work to practice in the area that law and social work interact and create substantial change in the sex trafficking of women and girls.
In 2017, funded by Canada 150 and Ontario 150, the Toronto Ward Museum and nine partner organizations ran Block by Block nationally, focusing on historic immigrant neighbourhoods in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Over one year, the national team engaged 520 participants; recorded 30 oral histories in 3 neighbourhoods; co-created 3 local exhibitions; co-curated an online exhibition (visited 5000+ times); and hosted three “Block Parties”, where the research team and local partners animated neighbourhood stories with creative programming.
Block by Block 2019 Credits
Local Coordinators 2019
Stephanie Chan (Victoria Park)
Brian Joe (Parkdale)
Joanna Prescod (Agincourt)
Melana Roberts (Regent Park)
Photo Documenter and Editor
The Public Studio
Program Director/Lead Curator
TWM Founding Executive Director/Evaluation Lead
Gracia Dyer Jalea
Abby Grace Bangod is a film student at Ryerson University. Her interests and passions revolve around the newcomer youth experiences and the sense of community that is found in community spaces with newcomers. Her parents are of Filipino descent and her mother has worked in Canada for more than 8 years. Abby’s mother has sponsored her, including her father and sister to live in Canada. Becoming a part of a newcomer youth program has helped her be more confident and knowledgeable about the services that are available for newcomers like her.
Abby hopes to utilize her passion and experience in film to tell the stories these racialized communities experienced during their settlement in Canada. She aims to understand how important it is to belong in a community that provides support for your needs.
Stephanie Chan is a second-generation Chinese-Canadian, born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, spending most of her childhood in the suburbs before moving to Toronto for university. Her parents, both from China immigrated to Canada in the 1990’s. She currently holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from York University and is passionate about community development work and is interested in how storytelling can be a catalyst for systemic change.
Growing up, Fahima moved around a lot and learned to find comfort in change. From flying back home six times to moving around in the same neighborhood three times, she sometimes creatively expresses herself through writing and painting. To Fahima, home isn’t just one set place, because she was born in in the States, raised in Toronto, but still feels a strong connection to her Bangladeshi roots as well. Fahima’s parents immigrated in the 90’s, lived in Victoria Park for a few years, but eventually decided to settle in Regent Park.
Maggie is a community-engaged artist, curator, educator and consultant. Over the past 15 years she has animated oral histories of war, gentrification, homelessness and migration in collaboration with other Toronto residents. Maggie has worked with a range of arts and non-arts organizations, including the CBC, Jumblies Theatre, MABELLEarts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Foundation and York University. She co-founded the award-winning Department of Public Memory, an arts collective that commemorates overlooked public institutions in Toronto. Maggie authored the Ontario Arts Council’s handbook on best practices in community-engaged art, has extensive teaching experience, holds a PhD in Environmental Studies and was the Lead Curator and Researcher for Block by Block in 2017.
Maggie grew up in Toronto. Her father immigrated to Montreal from London in 1955. Her mother’s family migrated from Kent, Alsace and Bukovina between 1860 and 1910.
Fatema Isam holds a Master’s degree in Teaching from OISE and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Sociology from the University of Toronto. As an educator, researcher, and curator, Fatema has a passion for community-based initiatives and documenting the multidimensional stories of newcomers and immigrants living in Toronto through arts-based approaches. She is also interested in conducting research on the topics of well-being, disability studies, educational psychology, cultural studies, and exploring inclusive pedagogy applied across various learning settings.
Susan Jama is an emerging museum professional. She is a graduate from the Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto. Her parents immigrated from Somaliland to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) in the 1980s. Susan and her entire family of 6 immigrated from the U.A.E to Canada in August 2000. As a child and as an immigrant, it has always been difficult for Susan to be able to relate museums. Her cultural identity as a Somali-Canadian has always been underrepresented, and her community’s voice has historically always been marginalised in the national narrative. As a result, she is an ardent advocate for practising inclusive strategies in museums, galleries and archives.
Brian Joe is an arts administrator with a deep interest in community building through sharing knowledge, stories and thought. He holds a Master or Museum Studies Degree from the University of Toronto and is the son of Chinese immigrants who settled in Vancouver in the late 1970s. Brian has brought his skills to artist run centres, cultural programming initiatives and now coordinates two graduate programs at OCAD University.
Helen, a current graduate student, was born and raised in Toronto to Ethiopian parents. With a background in International Development Studies, she has spent time working and conducting research in her parent’s homeland. This has contributed to her ongoing interest in migrant work, diasporic communities, and urban geographies.
Helen hopes to use her experience in research, community development, and arts programming to amplify the stories of racialized communities often left out of Toronto’s mainstream narrative of multiculturalism.
Brenda is an interdisciplinary artist and Bachelors of Social Work graduate from Ryerson University. Her growing interests and passions relate to themes of racialised identity in the Chinese Canadian community, and immigration and settlement in the GTA. Her parents are of Chinese-Vietnamese descent and escaped Vietnam during the civil unrest in the late 1970’s. Under the private sponsorship program, they and the 9,500 Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese refugees were able to settle in Canada.
Sofia is a 20-something first generation Chinese-Vietnamese Canadian whose parents immigrated to Canada as refugees sometime in the 1970s/1980s from Saigon. After living in and out of the city, her family settled in suburban Toronto. Currently, she is a writer/editor, community volunteer, peer support worker, and event producer living in downtown Toronto. Having developed an interest in community radio over the years, she has a monthly show on Montreal-based n10.as radio, where she showcases the musical selections of POC-identified, musicians, artists, and listeners. As a writer and researcher, she is interested in the different ways in which diasporic communities shape neighbourhoods and how neighbourhoods help define diasporic communities.
James’ work as a documentarian is focused on introducing the audience to new perspectives within the ever-changing urban environment. Having lived and worked throughout the Greater Toronto Area, he strives to allow people to reflect on preconceived notions of status and place. His previous short documentaries have covered topics such as housing, transit, heritage, and education. As he continues to grow his practise, he looks forward to discovering new methods of storytelling such as Immersive Video, Installation Art, and Interactive Applications.
Tenzin Norzin immigrated to Canada as an adolescent from India. Born to Tibetan refugee parents, she grew up stateless in India and Nepal before her family was granted asylum in Canada. Her personal experiences have inspired her to explore and gain a deeper understanding of issues associated with integrating into a new culture while honoring one’s own roots.
Tenzin recently graduated with a Bachelors of Science from Ryerson University, majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Psychology. She is passionate about public health research, with an interest in the social determinants of health and it’s implications for immigrant communities.
Joanna is a cultural worker that enjoys facilitating community-engaged projects. She is a Master’s candidate at York University. Her research focuses on the representation of race and gender within Visual Culture.
Joanna is the founder of Social Uniforms, a platform that uses clothes and stories to discuss topics relating to invisibility and subjectivity.
Joanna is a proud Vincentian. Her mother and father immigrated to Toronto from the Caribbean in the 1960s
Born near the cradling waves of Goa, India, Sampreeth immigrated to the diverse suburbs of Scarborough as a nosy youngin’ with a bowl-cut. As a filmmaker, he is elated to discover stories that would otherwise go untold. In the process, he hopes to learn a little about his own history.
Melana is an award winning researcher, curator, community builder, and consultant. Her work sits at the intersection of community development, policy and art. She sees art as an important tool to interrogate issues of space, access and power, forcing us to confront questions that can shift and subvert dominant practices, ideas and history-making processes to build cities that work for everyone. Melana’s curatorial work aims to centre the experience of racialized artists and communities and has been featured at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She has consulted on various community-arts projects in Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana and across Toronto.
Born and raised in Toronto, Melana’s maternal and paternal lineage is rooted in Trinidad and Guyana respectively, with both her parents coming to Canada before adulthood.
Originally from Malaysia, Sara is currently studying public history and sexuality studies in Toronto. With a strong interest in the social histories of marginalised communities, she is very excited to work with the Regent Park community and wants to continue combining her academic background with community-based work.
Shafia Shaikh is an artist, curator, and community organizer, currently living and working in Toronto. She is the founder of The E.W.o.C. Project; an initiative dedicated to expanding
representation and creating opportunities for women of colour through community public art
projects, youth workshops, and street art.
Shafia spent her childhood in India, Saudi Arabia, and Uganda, before immigrating with her
family to Scarborough, Ontario.
Anika a second-generation Scarborough native of Tamil Sri Lankan parents. They majored in Equity Studies at the University of Toronto. Anika is interested in how oral histories can fill the affective gaps left by other forms of recorded history. They are not on social media, but you can usually find them sitting at the back of the 21 bus.
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