Shakespeare in Action now hiring

Shakespeare in Action’s performance of the Lorde song, ‘Royals’ as applied to Lady Macbeth.

Shakespeare in Action is looking for new talent to assist in providing programs for young people. They’re looking for people with skills in teaching/education, music, spoken word, hip hop dance, rap, classical text, clown, and more. Those hired will join a roster of talent working in four capacities:

  • Running experiential workshops in schools (with commitments on a day-by-day basis)
  • Leading groups in the TD Shakespeare for Kids Library Club (commitment of 6 Saturdays required)
  • Performing in touring and mainstage productions (commitment of 4 to 6 weeks)
  • Being part of an exciting new program “Shakespeare Hip Hop Fusion” in association with the Toronto Public Library. Participants will serve as instructors and mentors to youth aged 13-17, helping to teach Shakespearean text, rap, hip hop dance, and/or spoken word.

Applicants will be asked to perform two of the following (of your choice):

  • a classical monologue
  • a song or rap
  • an original piece of text
  • a piece of spoken word or poem
  • a contemporary monologue

Auditions will be held on Thursday October 11th, 2018. Successful applicants will be trained on October 23rd and 24th.

For more information, click here.

York South–Weston will be part of ‘cultural hotspot’ next year

The former City of York, which includes Weston and Mount Dennis, will be a ‘cultural hotspot‘ from May through October of next year.

The city’s hotspot program brings “cultural activities, art interventions, development opportunities and legacy projects to the Hotspot neighbourhoods”, and it includes online marketing, events, and exploration guides.

It sounds great!

City of York map
The former City of York

What’s new at the YWALC/Canada Day Lunch

Have you ever wanted to try clogging?  How about belly dancing or even tap dancing?  At the York West Active Living Centre, you can try these and so much more!

The York West Active Living Centre offers a variety of classes and social outings for people 55 years old and up.  The fully accessible, air-conditioned facility is located at the corner of Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue.

In addition to dance classes, the centre provides fitness and educational classes including Zumba, Pilates, computer courses, Spanish and Italian language courses and a watercolour painting class.                               

I spoke to Suzanne Teixeira, Executive Director of the York West Active Living Centre about the centres’ commitment to promote, encourage and support healthy, independent living. “Some members are very involved at the center; participating in different fitness classes and trips.  For others, knowing they belong to the Centre is enough,” she said.

Dancing with Parkinson’s is easily one of the most inspiring programs offered at the centre.  Instructors guide individuals with Parkinson’s and other neurological ailments through a specialized dance that empowers them and encourages them to explore movement and music in ways that are stimulating and creative.

A non-profit organization, the centre uses money it receives from the small membership fee it charges and grants to fund the programs and pay for equipment including its two vans which play a vital role in bringing people to the centre.  “A lot of our members are no longer driving, so we have two minivans that are used to bring members to and from the Centre.  We also use these vans for social outings,” said Ms. Teixeira.

This Friday, June 29th, the York West Active Living Centre will be holding a Canada Day Lunch from 12 PM to 1:30 PM.

The event is open to both members and non-members who are 55 years young and older.  Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options will be available along with coffee, tea, and dessert.  The cost is $10.00.

Ujima House – A Safe Place for Young and Potential Fathers

Ujima House at the corner of Weston Rd. and Lawrence Ave. holds a treasure-trove of resources for young and potential fathers.  Ujima is a Kwanzaa principle that means Collective Work & Responsibility (To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together).

Officially opened on June 21, 2011, Ujima House is a non-profit organization that focuses on meeting the needs of African-Canadian men.  However, the centre warmly welcomes men of all ethnic backgrounds.

The only father-focused centre in Canada, services include one-on-one mentorship, parenting courses, supervised visitation areas, cooking lessons and help with legal matters.

I spoke to Ed Gough Jr., Program Coordinator at the centre about why the centre was created and the impact it has had on members of the community. “A lot of fathers feel like they are not being listened to or heard,” he said. “Many of the men who come here did not have stable, supportive father figures in their lives.  Ujima House provides a safe environment for men to talk, share experiences, and learn from one another on how to become a better father for their children.  When men feel safe, they are bound to open up.”

As social stereotypes surrounding the roles men and women play in raising children continue to erode, it is encouraging to know that a place like Ujima House exists.

Quickly approaching their 10 year anniversary, the centre is focused on expanding the services it provides to men beyond the Weston community. One initiative the centre hopes to have up and running by September 2018 is a series of free webinars and talks.  Not only will this help to young and potential fathers outside the Weston community, it will also allow people who are not able to visit the centre access resources anytime they need it.

This Sunday, June 17th, 2018, Ujima House is hosting a Fathers’ Day Celebration.  The event will take place from 11 AM-5 PM.  Activities include an Annual General Meeting (11 AM-12 PM), drumming, and a Daddy Olympics which include a diaper changing competition. All are welcome!

Ujima House is located at 1901 Weston Road #18, York, ON, M9N 3P5.

For more information please see the flyer below.

YSW Provincial Election Debate 2018

Moderator Sean Hertel instructs candidates on the debate format.

Last night’s debate at the York Civic Centre was an exercise in civility as well as democracy. There’s a lot at stake in this election and all but one of the main party candidates showed up to answer questions from ordinary folks. Not all people present were regular voters. Many were party movers and shakers, aficionados and rabid hacks from all sides (you know who you are).

The ‘elephant’ not in the room was PC candidate Mark DeMontis. Whatever the reason, as Adam wrote yesterday, his absence was a loss to the debate. Mr. DeMontis allegedly spent the evening canvassing, tweeting profound thoughts while doing so. Here’s a sample:

Organizers could have left an empty seat and name tag out for the missing candidate but didn’t, reflecting the professionalism and civility mentioned earlier. While candidates who miss debates are generally Conservative, Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen skipped out on the main YSW debate back in September 2015 and it didn’t seem to hurt him in spite of predictions to the contrary.

A consortium of groups came together to organize the debate including  For Youth Initiative members GreenHills, Rockliffe Smythe and Mount Dennis community groups and the Weston Village and Stockyards residents’ associations.

Political debates can get nasty and raucous. This one was a positive love-fest thanks to superb organization with a team of volunteers performing a variety of tasks including ushering and gathering written audience questions. Questions were presented, usually by their authors. Candidates were able to deliver their answers without interruption. Moderator Sean Hertel outlined his expectations then kept things in line with effortless skill and injections of humour. Timekeeper Cherri Hurst kept candidates on the straight and narrow.

One thing pointed out during the debate was that all but one of the candidates present was an immigrant to Canada and how that reflected well on our country. Another thing that came across was the decency and sincerity of the candidates.

Faisal Hassan is the NDP hopeful in YSW and has been active in the party for a long  time. He began his life in Canada in Winnipeg and more recently worked for former YSW MP, Mike Sullivan and for the NDP in Etobicoke North during the last federal general election. He has lived in Weston for 20 years and believes in the importance of helping members of the community. Over the last fifteen years, he thinks that life has become harder for people in YSW, referring to inadequate transit links, hallway medicine and expensive childcare. He believes that we need to make life more affordable for everyone. More on Mr Hassan here.

Libertarian Party of Ontario candidate Bonnie Hu is a grocery store worker who has run for the party here and in a Vancouver by-election in 2016. Her party is big on self-sufficiency, lower taxes and minimal government involvement and Bonnie’s answers were mainly consistent with that philosophy – although she does feel we should spend money on ESL teachers. She would like more services for immigrants, decriminalization of all drugs and is opposed to the $14 minimum wage and says it was too large a hike.

Grad Murray is the Green Party of Ontario’s nominee. Articulate and knowledgeable, Mr. Murray has a degree in political science and it shows. He wants to put the community first and believes everyone has a right to live in dignity and that would include comprehensive health care and transportation systems. Mr. Murray believes in the need for ‘fearless public transportation’  and says that investing in people is a helpful hand up, not a humiliating hand-out.

Laura Albanese for the Liberal Party of Ontario stressed the importance for voters to be informed. She reminded the audience that she has represented YSW for the last 10 years and believes that the most important job of a legislator is to bring real improvements to a community. As evidence, she pointed to investments in the West Park Health Care Centre, the UP Express and Eglinton Crosstown Line, training and support for young people, full day kindergaten in schools, modernizing classrooms. She would like to continue to do more like provide free childcare and tuition programs.

To watch the full debate go here.

Debate Winners in each category:

Passion – Faisal Hassan

Sincerity: Bonnie Hu

Effective Messaging: Grad Murray

Gentility: Laura Albanese

York South-Weston is indeed fortunate to have such great community involvement and the opportunity to view the slate of candidates in a calm and rational atmosphere. Kudos to all involved.

What about gentrification?

From The Economist.
Gentrification holds both a promise and a threat, depending on who you talk to.

The gentrification of an area, once under way, seems to be an inevitable and unstoppable process once wealthier people move in. This causes rising prices that drive a significant number of people away – perhaps some of the area’s more vibrant members. At least that’s the theory pushed by the left. On the other hand, gentrification proponents say that non-gentrified communities miss out on cleaner, better surroundings with people stuck in poverty while crime levels rise.

Gentrification is hard to study. If someone moves away, how do we know that gentrification is the cause? All neighbourhoods have a ‘churn’ with people arriving and leaving for various reasons. We do know that change comes slowly to neighbourhoods.
Toronto’s downtown area is expanding and gentrification of adjacent areas has followed. Forty years ago, the Junction was an artistic haven with cheap rents and property because of  its grimy industry and toxic residues in the soil. It’s been cleaned up since and is a now hot area. Bloor West Village the same. Mount Dennis with its vibrant residents’ association, new Crosstown Station and Net Zero initiative may be next.
Once gentrification starts in an area, more people want to live there and demand drives up prices. Is there a danger of this in Weston / Mount Dennis? A review of the literature on gentrification found that,
New fixed-rail transit has a generally positive effect on both residential and commercial property values, but its impact varies substantially according to context.
There are signs of greater investment since the UP Express became an affordable commuter train.  How then, can we keep people from being forced out as prices rise?
There is a fair amount of subsidized housing in our area. This is unlikely to change. In addition there are affordable rental apartments. Elsewhere, rent control keeps accommodation costs down but may stifle new housing.
 In a study of Philadelphia neighbourhoods, Richard Florida found that there are benefits to gentrification that are enjoyed by all but the poor and vulnerable. He also found that there are fairly unstoppable market forces behind gentrification when it occurs and the secret to minimizing damage is to ensure that the most vulnerable are still able to access housing and work opportunities and that their micro neighbourhoods are well maintained.
If the secret is to have a variety of housing and work options, it doesn’t help to have penny pinching councillors (as we do out in the boonies) who make it their business to keep taxes down and starve initiatives that help poor people.
Here’s an example. The expansion of Woodbine Racetrack was recently under discussion at council. More gambling will bring problems to the community. A motion was put forward to ameliorate the negative effects by requiring that the new gambling facility install a daycare for employees and also hire a percentage of local residents. Here are two motions put forward:
1. OGGLP provide a maximum of $5 million to develop and equip a child care centre on site or within the vicinity land and work with the Children’s Services division in recruiting a not for profit operator for the site and request that the selected operator provide extended hours of operation and provide casino employees with priority access to the centre.
The motion carried but local councillor Mike Ford voted against it.

3 – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Joe Mihevc (Lost)

That City Council amend the Community Benefits Agreement with the Ontario Gaming Greater Toronto Area Limited Partnership set out in Attachment 1, as amended, in accordance with the following:

a. amendments to the employment and hiring terms to provide that:

i. OGGLP will hire a minimum of 50 percent new hires through social or local hiring, of which at least half must be local hiring; and

ii. after two years of operation, at least 60 percent of employees shall have full-time employment;

This motion lost narrowly by 19 to 23. Guess who voted against that? Local Councillors Mike Ford,  Vincent Crisanti, and yes, our own Frances Nunziata.
It’s voting like this that does not help vulnerable residents.
Here’s another example; living in a rooming house is probably quite cheap but the city fights rooming houses and accommodations that don’t fit into the middle class mindset e.g. the alleged illegal dwellings above the Weston Station restaurant.  Surely there is a way for these accommodations to be cleaned up, made safe and licensed – especially when housing is in such short supply.
If we had affordable housing spread evenly throughout the city, gentrification would not be an issue. The city did help recently with a ban on Airbnb basement apartments but unless some brave city or provincial politicians enact legislation to insert affordable housing in every area of the city, we’re going to be stuck with the present model of an expanding gentrified zone spreading out from the core and no amount of protests and marches will stop that.
The left needs to get its act together and figure out a way to embrace the positive benefits of gentrification without allowing it to drive people out of the area. They haven’t done that yet. The right needs to understand that cutting services to the poor simply entrenches poverty and the consequential crime that comes when people have no route to prosperity.
Finally, a well managed community has room for everyone regardless of income or personal circumstance. The mark of a good society (and good people) is how well it takes care of its most vulnerable.

Dave McGregor is a brave man

Dave McGregor, a Mount Denizen, is putting his mouth where the money is to raise funds for kids: McGregor will be boxing at the 2018 Victory Charity Ball. The proceeds will go to young people who have dropped out of high school, and will help them complete their diplomas and move into post-secondary.

Photo by Krug Studios

McGregor, who will be fighting a larger and taller opponent, has been training for the fight since the beginning of the year. Far from being nervous, he says his at-risk childhood has made him ready.

I boxed as a kid and I took it up again a few years ago. I’ve met Pinball Clemons and I heard him speak. [His] charity helps kids, and the goal is to help them get back in school and get their diplomas.

I’m from Regent Park and I had to work to get through school, so it’s of profound personal importance to me. That’s my motivation for getting involved.

If I’m being completely honest, the fights I’ve been in in my life have been a  lot more dangerous than this one. The biggest strain has really been making sure that I make the goal I commented to donation wise.

 

Those who give $50 or more get a link to live stream the event. McGregor is at 78% of his fundraising goal.