A Common Table
Final Report to The Propeller Project
We at MABELLEarts would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to The Propeller Project for supporting A Common Table this summer and helping us welcome 1351 people of all ages to community events in The Mabelle and West Mall neighbourhoods. In particular, GTAA's generous support has been essential to the success of one of the central aspects of our recent work: welcoming the 500+ asylum-seekers and refugees who part in our summer series of free workshops and events, all of which offered a range of low-stakes entry-points for these newly arrived families who are working to build new relationships in their new homes. As well, this summer's focus on nurturing community leaders of all ages - including an incredible team of twenty-seven MABELLEyouth (from both Mabelle Avenue and The West Mall) - and building their leadership and hosting skills, offered a unique opportunity for more-established newcomers to welcome those newly arrived in Toronto, and extend the welcome they know first-hand to be so vital. We are incredibly proud of the success we have seen over the summer and the resulting deepening of relationships, between neighbours and between new Canadians and their nearby public spaces, that we have witnessed.
Iftar Nights and Eid al-Fitr in Mabelle Park
For the past five years, MABELLEarts has been working with community members of all ages and backgrounds to create inter-cultural celebrations that mark the holy month of Ramadan. Each year, residents from a range of cultural backgrounds gather in the Mabelle Park to join their Muslim neighbours as they break their Ramadan fast. This year, as well as four Iftar Nights, we hosted our first ever celebration for Eid-al-Fitr in Mabelle Park, and opened the invitation to attend each of these community festivals to families from across the city, newly settling in Toronto. Each night, we welcomed bus-loads of asylum-seekers and refugees from across the GTA, thanks to partnerships with The Together Project, The Arab Community Centre of Toronto, COSTI Immigrant Services, and the The City of Toronto Birkdale Residences. Over five events, we welcomed a total of 934 guests, over half of whom were newcomers and asylum-seekers, joining us for festive evenings of musical performances, art-making, fire-side stories and delicious food prepared by the Mabelle Ladies Cooking Circle. The art-making and music featured three community choirs (The Ismaili Muslim Youth Choir, The Jumblies Theatre Ground Floor Choir, and The Making Room Community Arts Choir) and 10 guest artists including: Turkwaz (www.turkwaz.ca), Anahita Dehbonehie, Sharada K. Eswar, Faten Toubasi, Melanie Fernandez-Alvres, Michael Burtt and Waleed Abdulhamid. To help us build these large-scale events, a team of 22 MABELLE Youth Leaders met with MABELLEartists through the spring to assist in the development of Iftar Nights, and build leadership skills in order to act as hosts and event assistants at each event. MABELLEyouth contributed a total of 702 volunteer hours to their community.
“Celebrating Iftar with my neighbours is important because many people here don’t get the opportunity to celebrate Iftar in Canada by visiting family and friends, the way we did back home. In Mabelle Park, we provide everyone who comes with the opportunity to celebrate Iftar as a community; we get to meet new people, join in art activities, and try new food.” – Farah Jibril, Mabelle Youth Leader
Family Day Camps in Mabelle & Broadacres Park
Last year we piloted two art and nature camps for kids and families - one in the Mabelle Park and one in Broadacres Park. These highly successful programs inspired Global TV, the Toronto Star and Etobicoke Guardian to tell our story. This year, we’ll offer this free, weeklong program in both parks, to over 100 low-income immigrant and newcomer kids while continuing to support the particular needs of Syrian kids and families, many of whom are brand new to Canada.
We’ll involve diverse artists with experience working with at-risk kids;
We’ll work closely with ACCT who’ll reach out to Syrian families and provide translation;
We’ll provide one-on-one support to kids in need, with the help of Mabelle youth.
"Coming to MABELLEarts events is the first time, since I had my three children, that I have a place to come and
Performative Picnics in Broadacres Park
The dictionary defines a picnic as: "...an entertainment at which each person contributed some dish to a common table; an excursion or pleasure party in which the members partake of a collation or repast (usually in the open air, and from food carried by themselves)".
What a lovely image - the common table - one that particularly resonates for a company like ours that seeks to set a common table - and what a lovely way to imagine a park (the traditional setting for a picnic) but as a common table - a place for all kinds of people to bring, meet, share, enjoy, repast.
We'll devise free activities for Etobicoke residents of all ages and backgrounds that will foster creative dialogue through artmaking, singing, writing and cultural sharing about what makes a sturdy common table. We'll also dive in and present 4 unique public picnics that will present new work created by a diverse artistic team and participants, with food created by The Mabelle Ladies Cooking Circle (a program we've run for many years with skilled cooks from the Mabelle community who will expand their circle to include cooks from the West Mall neighbourhood where Broadacres Park is located).
"First Iftar for me ever in Canada. We enjoyed our time with you all. All were happy. we heard Azaan, we shared food, we celebrated and enjoyed Arabic traditional songs and music. People from everywhere, from every religion were there. This is how humanity is. Thank you MABELLEarts team, no word can explain how precious your work is to all people around you" - Islam Rezk, Community Participant
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"The first time I was [in Broadacres Park] was, 'I don't know this place, where am I?' A few months later and I feel like I'm part of the place. Everyone was very welcoming." - Mohamoud Mohammed, Youth Volunteer
Arab Community Centre of Toronto
City of Toronto Birkdale Residence at the Quality Inn and Toronto Plaza Hotel
Islington Village BIA
Making Room Community Arts
The Community Arts Guild
The Together Project
Toronto Community Housing
Toronto Parks, Forestrey & Recreation
Trinity Square Video
Leah Houston (Artistic Director)
Shifra Shifra Cooper (Assistant Artistic Director)
Fiona Raye Clarke (Operations Manager)
Christen Kong (Project/Outreach Coordinator)
Joseph Leo Callender
Sharada K. Eswar
Adrienne Marcus Raja