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  • Sewing the Quilt of Love

    By Karen Whaley | Photography by Yasin Osman | Videography by Candice McCavitt

    Portrait of Sakina by Yasin Osman

     

    Regent Park: A Love Poem

    In the lobby of the Paintbox Condos hangs a remarkable quilt titled, “Regent Park: A Love Poem”, a colourful streetscape where old apartment blocks stand next to shiny new towers, children splash in a wading pool, women tend to communal gardens and families picnic on expanses of bright green grass.

    It is a handmade tribute to the neighbourhood’s past and a vision of its future seen through the eyes of members of the Regent Park Women and Families Quilting Group, a collective of Bangladeshi women who gather together to sew and socialize in their spare time. The Daniels Corporation commissioned the quilt, and a song inspired by the Quilting Group is included in The Journey: A Living History of Regent Park.

    You drew a pattern with stories from our past. Sewing squares of fabric that make the memories last.

    Lyrics from “Quilt of Love”

    Mossammat Sakina Khanam

    footnotes10

    When Mossammat Sakina Khanam moved to Regent Park with her family in 1997, she quickly found friends in the neighbourhood’s large Bangladeshi community. As an immigrant herself, Sakina recognized the challenges of being half a world away from the people who love, understand and accept you. She noticed the women in her community were struggling with their new life in Canada and, as a social worker, she knew that she wanted to help.

    In the evenings after work, Sakina and a handful of like-minded women went door-to-door, speaking to their neighbours and learning about their problems and concerns. They formed a grassroots group, Regent Park Women and Families, and with an injection of funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation they began running programs to connect South Asian women and help them integrate. They offered ESL classes, a homework club, parenting workshops and a sewing circle.

    Sakina’s Sewing Circle

    Sakina Khanam

    Sakina’s sewing circle started as a social activity, but its members soon developed entrepreneurial ambitions. “The women wanted a way to earn money,” Sakina explains. “But they are not skilled, they have language barriers, they come from conservative families.” Many of the Bangladeshi women Sakina was working with had never been employed outside the home; their responsibilities were raising children and taking care of the household while their husbands went out to work. The idea of a sewing business was appealing because they could practice their cultural traditions while earning a small amount of money in their spare time.

    “When women spend their time in a fruitful, creative way, it gives them some happiness. And when they get money [for it], they are so transformed,” says Sakina. Thirty women participated in the initial sewing program and some went on to start their own business as seamstresses. Other women from Regent Park Women and Families now work as early childhood educators, food service workers and professionals.

    footnotes8

    More than a decade later, Sakina’s sewing circle still gathers together to produce their beautiful quilts and handmade bags over tea and conversation. Regent Park’s redevelopment has given them new opportunities to sell their work and showcase their talent around the neighbourhood, but it has not come without hardships. The relocation of TCH residents to other units around the city has fractured the networks that Regent Park Women and Families worked so hard to develop; sometimes friends who move out of the neighbourhood don’t come back. Unable to afford commercial rents in the new buildings, the sewing group has not been able to secure a permanent workspace that accommodates their needs.

    Dreaming of the Future

    footnotes7

    After more than a decade as a grassroots organizer, Sakina dreams of a future where Regent Park’s many agencies and not-for-profits work in a coordinated way to deliver programming for women. “I have a vision of one women’s organization in Regent Park. For all cultures, with all programs. Everything under one umbrella in one big space,” she says. Her experience living in a multicultural community has shown her that people have more similarities than differences. All cultures have their handicraft traditions. Young women around the world are taught how to sew, weave and cook by the older generation. One of the biggest similarities she sees is the desire to be connected to the people and communities around us. To participate in building something—big or small—and to stitch together the pieces of our past into the future we’d like to see.

    View highlights from our live interview with Sakina below.

     

     

    Employment Opportunity

     Venue Support Staff

    Position Type: Part-time, hourly

    Remuneration: $12/hr, minimum 4 hour shifts
    Location: Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St East

    Start Date: As oon as possible
    Application Deadline:  Friday, October 7, 2016

    Artscape is seeking candidates for part-time occasional work as Venue Support Staff to support events taking place at Daniels Spectrum. Events that require Venue Support Staff include theatre/dance/musical performances, conferences, weddings, community activities, private/social events and corporate events.  For more information about events that are held at Daniels Spectrum, visit www.danielsspectrum.ca.

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    Employment Opportunity

    Venue Supervisors, Daniels Spectrum

    Position Type: Part-time, hourly
    Remuneration: $14-18/hr, minimum 4 hour shifts
    Location: Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St East, Toronto
    Start Date: As soon as possible
    Application Deadline:  Friday, March 3 by 5:00 PM

    Artscape is seeking candidates for part-time occasional work as Venue Supervisors to support event venue services at its Daniels Spectrum community cultural hub (Dundas St East and Parliament St.).  Events that require venue supervisors include performances, conferences, weddings, community activities, private social and corporate events.  Learn more about Artscape’s event venue business at www.artscapeeventvenues.ca and Daniels Spectrum at www.danielsspectrum.ca

    Reporting to the Events & Sales Manager, the Venue Supervisor is responsible for ensuring events at Daniels Spectrum are safe, welcoming and successful and that the client experience is positive. The Venue Supervisor is integral to the success of events at the venue. The work schedule varies in length and may include weekends and/or evenings and/or night shifts depending on the nature of the event. Shifts are a minimum of four hours, based on the assigned role.

    RESPONSIBILITIES

    • Opening and securing premises before and after the event, and supervision during event production
    • Ensuring that the venue is run in a safe, orderly and disciplined manner in accordance with the conditions of all health and safety, fire, and building regulations, as well as Artscape procedures that include, but are not limited to: liquor licences, fire code/fire lane policy, sound restrictions, health & safety requirements, City of Toronto Park policies
    • Ensuring operational and service checklists are completed thoroughly and with attention to detail
    • Ensuring clients/tenants/caterers/vendors are fully informed of, and adhere to, event and facility policies and procedures
    • Ensuring the secure and safe keeping of stock, goods and equipment
    • Providing and/or monitoring bartending services in accordance with the laws of Ontario, Smart Serve and Artscape protocols
    • Providing set-up/tear-down duties as assigned, and as per client requirements
    • Ensuring that a high level of cleanliness, safety, and hygiene is maintained in the event space(s) and associated areas, including kitchens and washrooms, and identifying hazards and problems if they arise
    • Monitoring, supervising, and reporting back on the work of the security staff and all other contracted staff/vendors
    • Ensuring garbage is disposed of properly and clients/tenants/vendors/caterers adhere to the green/garbage/recycling policy of the facility
    • Adhering to uniform requirements as communicated (i.e. blacks/casual etc.)
    • Ensuring seamless shift changes
    • Submitting an event report electronically after each event to the Managing Director and/or the Events & Sales Manager and reporting any incidents
    • Contacting the Events & Sales Manager in the event of an emergency
    • Confidently and professionally representing Artscape, and communicating our mission and mandate upon request
    • Other duties as required

    QUALIFICATIONS

    Experience

    • Extensive knowledge of food safety, event service and hospitality industry
    • Smart Serve certified considered an asset
    • Basic computer skills
    • Time management, office administration and organizational skills
    • Proven customer service skills
    • Food Handler’s Certificate considered an asset

    Personal Skills

    • Excellent interpersonal skills
    • Demonstrated ability to deal effectively with a variety of people and resolve conflict when necessary
    • Maintaining a calm demeanor when dealing with clients/tenants/vendors/caterers
    • Professional appearance and demeanor and a positive and proactive attitude
    • Demonstrated flexibility, dependability and a high level of team and service orientation
    • Ability to multi-task effectively
    • Work well in a fast-paced, self-motivated environment

    Physical Demands

    • Ability to lift up to 50 lbs
    • Ability to continuously stand and walk; bend and reach

    Application Deadline: Friday, March 3 by 5:00 PM

    Apply Now   

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    Daniels Spectrum Announces Inaugural Artist-In-Residence
    Photo credit: Zoë Gemelli

    Syrus Marcus Ware set to write a love letter to Regent Park’s activists

    Written by Karen Whaley

    Regent Park is a community with a rich history of political and social activism. But as the Revitalization reshapes the neighbourhood and its residents, who will remember the individuals that fought for change? As Daniels Spectrum’s first Artist-in-Residence, Syrus Marcus Ware wants to shine a light on Regent Park’s unsung activists, revolutionaries and organizers in a collaborative new project that will be presented at the cultural hub in 2017.

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