Saturday, 30 December 2017

SOME 2018 BLACK CANADIAN EVENTS IN ONTARIO AND ELSEWHERE IN CANADA


From left: Thomas Olajide, Stephen Jackman Torkoff and Tawiah Ben M'Carthy, actors in the play, "Black Boys," which will tour Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto from January to March. Presented by Buddies in Bad Times and Saga Collectif.
Afro Canadian Caribbean Association presents Martin Luther King Jr. Day Annual Social Justice Brunch on Sunday, Jan. 14, 1:30pm-4:00pm with a special guest speaker at 754 Barton Street East, Hamilton. Tickets: $25-$30 per person or Table of 10 for $225. Call 905-385-0925

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) presents its ROM-original exhibition Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art. Opening Saturday, January 27, 2018, the exhibition, which features the works of nine artists, explores contemporary art, race and historical identity in Canada. The exhibition runs until April 22.

The artists are: Sandra Brewster, Michèle Pearson Clarke, Chantal Gibson, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Bushra Junaid, Charmaine Lurch, Esmaa Mohamoud, Dawit L. Petros and Gordon Shadrach.
"Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art” is an important exhibition that grapples with current and historical interpretations of Black culture and identity in this country," says Josh Basseches, the ROM's Director and CEO. "The work represented in this exhibition not only encourages visitors to re-examine their idea of what Canada is, but offers a broader telling of the Canadian story through the Black Canadian experience."
www.rom.on.ca

ONTARIO BLACK HISTORY SOCIETY will present its 2018 Black History Month Kick-Off Brunch on Sunday, Jan. 28 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building. Keynote speaker: Dr. Beverly-Jean Daniel. Call 416-867-9420 or contact admin@blackhistorysociety.ca
www.blackhistorysociety.ca

Karolyn Smardz Frost, historian, archaeologist and author, will be among those honoured at the Ontario Black History Society's 2018 Black History Month Kick-Off Brunch.

Black History Month at the Toronto Public Library https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/programs-and-classes/featured/black-history-month.jsp

KUUMBA, HARBOURFRONT CENTRE, Feb. 3-24
www.harboufrontcentre.com

1st FRIDAYS – BLACK HISTORY MONTH EDITION – will be held on Friday, Feb. 2.
Presentation opportunities available: email events@firstfridays.ca. Call 416-441-0792

A BLACK GIRL IN LOVE (WITH HERSELF) – TREY ANTHONY
Photo contributed.  Trey Anthony, playwright and author of "A Black Girl In Love (with Herself)."

Saturday, Feb. 3 – Harbourfront Centre
Playwright, Trey Anthony, has embarked on a new enterprise with a publication.

 Her first book, “A Black Girl In Love (with Herself)” is a “sexy lifestyle planner” that “celebrates diversity and speaks to the challenges and triumphs contemporarily recognized as #blackgirlmagic.”


Father and Son DUELING PIANOS Montreal - Eddie & Quincy Bullen

Saturday, Feb. 3, 9:30 p.m.
Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, 7141 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Concordia University, Montreal.


The 11th annual Durham Black History Month celebration “Back to the Future: Reclaiming our heritage” will be held on Saturday, Feb. 3, 5:00-9:00 p.m. at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate, 1355 Harwood Avenue North, Ajax. A free event presented by Cultural Expressions Art Gallery Inc. in partnership with the Durham District School Board, Durham Black Educators' Network and the Congress of Black Women (Ajax/Pickering). For details contact 905-427-2412

Obsidian Theatre presents the Canadian premiere of British playwright debbie tucker green’s remarkable work, “hang,” Feb. 6 – 25 at the Berkeley Street Theatre – Upstairs, 26 Berkeley St., Toronto.
Co-directed by Philip Akin and multi-Dora-nominated choreographer, Kimberley Rampersad. “hang” is a powerfully compelling play that brings us into the heart of a woman’s unthinkable decision.
Tickets: 416-368-3110

University of Ontario Institute of Technology presents the panel discussion "The Trajectories of Black Youth Achievement" to celebrate Black History Month on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 7:00-9:00pm at Regent Theatre, 50 King St. East, Oshawa. uoit.ca/blackhistorymail

A Message from Historica Canada:
Hello! In celebration of Black History Month, Historica Canada is hosting "Raising our Voices - Sharing Black Canadian Stories," an evening of cocktails, canapés and storytelling.
Speaker lineup includes Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri, Canadian hip-hop legend Maestro Fresh Wes, Pride Toronto Executive Director Olivia Nuamah, youth activist Aisha Addo, social justice advocate Anthony Morgan, and human rights educator and writer Kim Katrin Milan. Historica Canada is thrilled to welcome back City News Anchor Tammie Sutherland to host this free event.
We hope you enjoyed last year's event, "Black Canadian Trailblazers - Then and Now," and would like to invite you to join us once again for a special evening on Thursday, February 8 at the Isabel Bader Theatre.
You can RSVP at this link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/raising-our-voices-sharing-black-canadian-stories-tickets-42053224326



The Black Daddies Club and Harboufront Centre present the Journey to Black Liberation Symposium as part of Kuumba on Feb. 9 & 10 at Harbourfront Centre. www.harboufrontcentre.com

Eddie & Quincy Bullen "Father & Son Dueling Pianos" on stage at the Ada Slaight Hall, Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas Street East, Toronto. Saturday, Feb. 10, 4:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets: Adults $50/Youth $20. Available at: Ticketgateway.com/eddiebullen
"Father & Son Dueling Pianos" dedicates these two shows from the 2018 Black History Month Tour to raise funds to benefit the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and the Diaspora at York University. Special Benefactor Tickets: $150. $100 tax receipt from York University Foundation. Benefactor Ticket: duelingpianosconcert@gmail.com

HAMILTON BLACK HISTORY COMMITTEE presents the 22nd annual Rev. John C. Holland Awards on Saturday, Feb. 10, 5:30 p.m.-1:00 a.m. at Liuna Station Banquet and Conference Centre, 360 James Street North, Grand Central Ballroom, Hamilton.

 
Afua Cooper, historian, poet, and author.
ROM CONNECTS: Heart of a Poet, An Afternoon with Afua Cooper 
Sunday, Feb. 11, 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.  Doors open at 1:30 p.m.
Royal Ontario Museum
Signy and Cléophée Eaton Theatre
Level 1B
  
Join Canadian icon Afua Cooper for an interactive poetry performance in support of the ROM original exhibition Here we are HereInspired by the African Canadian experience, Cooper's poetry delivers rich nourishment for the imagination. 

CARIBBEANTALES will be co-hosting several screenings and events around Toronto, all in celebration of Black History Month 2018.
So I Might Be a Vampire Book Launch – Feb. 13   TBD
Bruk Out! A Dancehall Queen Documentary – Feb. 16, The Royal
Brown Girl Begins screening – March 3, Cineplex Yonge/Dundas
http://caribbeantales-tv.com/2017/12/18/caribbeantales-celebrates-black-history-month-2018/

6th annual Toronto Black Film Festival, Feb. 14-19. torontoblackfilm.com



Kay Livinsgtone Celebration Dinner & Dance Gala will be held on Saturday, Feb. 17, 6pm at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel, 475 Yonge St., Toronto. The founder of the Congress of Black Women of Canada has been honoured by a Canada Post stamp marking Black History Month. Tickets are available through Eventbrite or by calling 1-866-986-2292.



The Racialised Students' Collective presents "Queering Black History Month 2018" on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 7-10pm at Thomas Lounge, Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould St., Toronto. https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/queering-black-history-month-entrepreneurial-black-queer-activism-tickets-41216142592

BLACK BOYS
February 28 - March 11

Buddies in Bad Times + Saga Collectif

A raw, intimate, and timely exploration of queer male Blackness. Black Boys is created from the lives of three people seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, of each other, and of how they encounter the world. As they explore their unique identities on stage, they subvert the ways in which gender, sexuality, and race are performed. Theatrical and intimate, Black Boys weaves together the ensemble’s own personal stories in search of an integrated self and a radical imagination.
The play features actors: Tawiah Ben M’Carthy, Stephen Jackman Torkoff and Thomas Olajide
The smash hit production from 2016 comes back to the Buddies stage after embarking on a nation-wide tour to theatres in Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal.
The tour dates for Black Boys:
  • Vancouver (The Cultch): Jan 16-20
  • Calgary (High Performance Rodeo): Jan 23-26
  • Montreal (Espace Libre/Black Theatre Workshop): Feb 13-17
  • Toronto (Buddies): Feb 28-Mar 11
Black Boys was developed in Buddies Residency Program, sponsored by BMO Financial Group. buddiesinbadtimes.com/residency



Brock African Heritage Renaissance Committee presents ‘Babe I’ve got to go’: Screening & panel discussion with filmmaker Andrew Moir, migrant labour advocate Andre Atlyn and Jamaica’s Consul General Lloyd Wilks on Thursday, March 1, 6:00-10:00 p.m. at Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, MW156 15 Artists’ Common, St. Catharines.


 

SOME EVENTS ARE POSTED ON EVENTBRITE ALSO:


SOME EVENTS AT THE TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY:

FOR EVENTS IN OTTAWA, CHECK OUT:

Operation Black Vote Canada will hold some municipal boot-camps from January to April for those running in the elections.

SOME FILMS TO CHECK OUT
Filmmaker, Alison Duke, with mic, talking about her new documentary, "Mr. Jane & Finch."

Alison Duke and Frances-Anne Solomon were on a panel at the National Black Canadians Summit, Dec. 4-6 at the Toronto Reference Library and spoke about these films.

HERO
Frances-Anne Solomon (Director/Producer/Writer)

HERO is a feature docudrama inspired by the life of Trinidadian war hero, judge and diplomat Ulric Cross, whose long life spanned key moments of the 20th Century including the Second World War, independence movements in Africa and the Caribbean, the rise of a new brand of Black leaders around the world, the coming of age of Caribbean and African societies in the eighties and nineties – – incidents and shifts that defined our present reality.
Ulric’s story intersected with that of many of the great leaders of his time, including George Padmore, CLR James, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.
The film follows Cross, as he lives through the sweep of history, from colonialism to independence, and the evolution of Pan Africanism, an ideology first created by Caribbean intellectuals, that aimed to unite and strengthen people of African heritage worldwide.

MR. JANE & FINCH
Alison Duke (Cowriter/Producer). Ngardy Conteh George (Writer/Director)

A documentary about the black history hidden in an endangered archives of over 7000 hours of footage filmmed by amatuer documentarian Winston LaRose aka Mr. Jane & Finch over the past 60 years

PRESS RELEASE
 
December 28, 2017
For Immediate Release

Jamaican- Canadian actor inches closer to his big break 



On December 22nd 2017 moviegoers had a chance to see a familiar local face on the big screen. As scenes unfold in the new movie “Downsizing” starring Matt Damon, be on the lookout for our own Damiãn Garth Brown.

Damiãn Garth Brown is a Jamaican-Canadian actor. His journey to this point has had some interesting turns. A child of Jamaica’s harsh neighbourhoods he has followed his dreams of making an impact into acting. While pursuing acting in Toronto he was also very active as a Restorative Justice practitioner at a Youth Court and was even accepted to one of the Top 10 Law Schools in England before choosing
(film)acting as a full-time pursuit only 2 years ago. He is proud of having had the opportunity to blend both roles and is certain this informs his ethics and approach to his craft.

He is now known for his performances in Doggy Daycare: The Movie (2015), Kim's Convenience (2016) and soon Downsizing (2017). Damiãn is also passionate about theatre, and has performed in several highly acclaimed productions in Toronto, Canada. He is a proud graduate of York University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science/Theatre Arts (‘09). He has also received a Certificate in The Principles and Practice of Social Work from the University of the West Indies.

Currently Damiãn is bi-costal living in and working on projects in Toronto and Vancouver. While in Vancouver, Damian recently had the opportunity to stand
- in and photo double for Idris Elba in his latest movie “The Mountain between Us”.

When asked about this current principal role Damiãn whose mantra is; “in life there
are no small roles ” is excited to say the least. He simply cannot express enough how honoured he was to work with acclaimed writer and director Alexander Payne who personally selected him from a pool of qualified actors. There is also the added bonus of working in a movie with such acclaimed actors as Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Neil Patrick Harris and more.

He is truly grateful to mentors like Marcia Brown who got his name into this audition and his agent Dean Osmon for making this and other deals possible.
Be sure to get your tickets “Downsizing” which is now playing in theatres
globally is certain to be a hit.

Media Contact:
Danae Peart (jcandanae@gmail.com)

Official Trailer — “Downsizing”:
https://youtu.be/UCrBICYM0yM
Damiãn’s links:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4200451/
http://instagram.com/damiangbrown

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Beauty and the Beast Musical Hits the Stage in Toronto


Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Ceine Tsai as Belle and Stewart Adam McKensy as Beast in the musical "Beauty and the Beast" at Young People's Theatre in Toronto.

Photo contributed

Stewart Adam McKensy

By Neil Armstrong

The Broadway musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” which opened at Young People’s Theatre in Toronto in November, includes a Jamaican Canadian actor among its stellar cast of 14 who is playing the role of Beast.

The timeless classic features Stewart Adam McKensy as Beast and Celine Tsai as Belle.

Initially scheduled to end on December 31, the theatre has extended the run to January 7 “due to unprecedented demand.”

Originally produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, “Beauty and the Beast,” ran for over thirteen years on Broadway and was nominated for nine Tony Awards, including best musical.


McKensy says his parents immigrated to Canada from Jamaica and their marriage produced three sons.

The children grew up attending Revivaltime Tabernacle church in North York where he joined the choir and fell in love with theatre.

“I have performed at Stratford and Shaw and was in four Mirvish production shows and two US National Tours (Kinky Boots, Wizard of Oz). I am very thankful I am playing Beast at YPT, a role I would not expect to get and I think it is great for kids to see representations of themselves on stage,” he said.

McKensy was last seen at the theatre as “Grasshopper” in the YPT premiere of James and the Giant Peach (2015).

Selected credits include Me and My Girl, Ragtime, Trouble in Tahiti (Shaw Festival); “Sebastian” in The Little Mermaid (Globe Theatre); “Angel/Lola” in Kinky Boots (US Tour/Mirvish); The Wizard of Oz (National Tour/ Mirvish); My One and Only,
To Kill a Mockingbird (Stratford Festival); Hairspray, The Producers (Mirvish).

“What is there to learn from this beloved musical – this tale as old as time? Sometimes, the hardest thing in the world is to be who you authentically are. And sometimes it takes someone else to bring that out in you. This is a story of hope. Despite appearances, the pretty Belle and the cursed Beast are not what everyone assumes them to be. But their true selves could be revealed – if they can find each other in time,” says Allen MacInnis, director.
In this ‘tale as old as time’ an enchantress places a curse on a selfish prince and all his servants that transforms them all, but can only be undone if he learns to love another and earns their love in return.
Belle is a young woman from a nearby town, who feels that she doesn’t fit in with the rest of the townspeople. She lives with her father, Maurice, an inventor who sets off on a trip to a competition to exhibit his latest invention.
On his journey, Maurice becomes lost in the forest and stumbles upon a castle. While looking for help he is, instead, taken prisoner by the Prince (turned Beast).
Concerned, Belle searches for her father, finds the castle, and her father who is not in good health. She makes a deal with the Beast to take the place of her father as prisoner.
Once in the castle, Belle meets the servants who have all been turned into enchanted objects. Desperate to regain their humanity, the servants try to make Belle feel at home and open her heart to the Prince so that spell can be broken.
Meanwhile Gaston, the town hero, is determined to marry Belle and destroy the Beast. What unfolds is a journey of self-discovery, exploring what it means to be compassionate and learning to see beyond difference.
The musical also features Damien Atkins, Aaron Ferguson, Neil Foster, Susan Henley, Phoebe Hu, Jacob MacInnis, Dale Miller, Andrew Prashad, Claire Rouleau, Emma Rudy, Zorana Sadiq and Joel Schaefer.
The creative team includes musical director Diane Leah, musicians Jeannie Wyse and Jamie Drake, choreographer Dayna Tekatch, set designer Sue LePage, costume designer Joanna Yu, lighting designer Jason Hand, and assistant director Liz Pounsett.
The 85-minute musical is for ages 5 and up and will run at Young People’s Theatre until January 7. It opened on November 9.

Trey Anthony Launches Lifestyle Planner for Black Women



Photo contributed     Trey Anthony, playwright, has published a new book, Black Girl In Love (with Herself).

By Neil Armstrong

Playwright, Trey Anthony, has embarked on a new enterprise with a publication that is out just in time for the Christmas holiday.

 Her first book, “A Black Girl In Love (with Herself)” is a “sexy lifestyle planner” that “celebrates diversity and speaks to the challenges and triumphs contemporarily recognized as #blackgirlmagic.”

Anthony had written an article for the Huffington Post entitled “A Black Girl in Love with Herself” which was shared many times.

“It was just an article about me coming to the realization -- after so many failed relationships -- of what I had found out for myself, that I couldn’t expect somebody to show up fully actualized and wanting to love me if I wasn’t that person myself.”

She says the article talks about the lessons that she learnt, like how a person carries their history from their childhood. People kept asking her where could they find it or get a copy.

The idea was formed from there and Anthony decided to expand it and put it in a book so people could have it “and have daily reminders and affirmations, and black women can see themselves.”

“It was really, I feel, like a project about self-love,” she says.

Anthony thought about what a person would use everyday and came up with the idea of a planner or an agenda.

“It’s a combination of a self-love poem and messaging but also a practical use to it as well as a planner.”

Every year Anthony would buy a planner to write down her goals and her meetings,   what’s important to her and the things that she needs to do.

“Every year that I bought one I became frustrated with it as well because there was nothing that really spoke to me fully as a black woman. I would sometimes cut out some pictures of black women and put them in my planner. I would write down quotes that I’m inspired by and usually they were by black women as well. And I would put them all in the book and I would kind of make my own planner. And every time I took my planner out somebody would ask me where did you get it from.”

She saw that there was a need for planners “that showed us, that inspired us, that had images by us and that could speak to us.”
She has ‘bad gyal’ quotes – she doesn’t call them inspirational quotes -- in the planner because that’s what she would always reference them to people.

Anthony says out of everything she has done, this was a labour of love which spoke to her on multiple levels.

“This is a love letter I think for black women, something that all black women should have.”

Anthony says orders for the book are going well and she’s surprised that people are buying them in bulk.

“When I was doing the planner I was thinking that it would more appeal to black women of a certain age. I’m realizing that people are buying them across the board  for the black women and girls in their lives and saying it’s an important book to have. Some people are even saying they think this is going to be like a classic kind of masterpiece that is going to be worth money years to come,” says Anthony with a laugh.

Anthony thinks there’s a new wave in the air – the black girl magic – “and women really wanting to see themselves and demanding to see knowing that we don’t have to settle.”

“It’s been a learning curve. I’m learning about the book industry, about printing, about publishing, I’m learning about e-commerce -- stuff that I had no idea. And definitely this is something that I feel like I’m going to come out with every year,” she says about being an author.

Anthony started her entrepreneurial journey as a comedian and has been an actor, and the award-winning playwright and producer of  “‘da Kink in My Hair” which debuted in 2001. She is also a popular TEDx speaker.

She will promote the book with a speaking tour in 2018 in Atlanta, Toronto (on Feb. 3), New York and Los Angeles. Toronto and Atlanta have been her biggest selling markets.

In fall 2018, she will expand her motivational pursuits with the launch of “Black Girls on their A-Game”, a networking series, at the luxurious Henderson Beach Resort in Florida managed by BET co-founder, Sheila C. Johnson.

“The A-Game also is, I feel it’s a reflection of my own growth around wellness and self care and love. And I think anytime something works for me I try to give it to the masses as much as possible,” says Anthony who was a guest at the hotel last year.

Anthony is also at work on the feature film adaptation of her most recent play, “How Black Mothers Say I Love You,” which will be directed by acclaimed filmmaker, Clement Virgo (The Book of Negroes).

They are hoping to start shooting by the end of 2018.


Nadine Williams Opens the Doors of All Opportunities


Photo contributed.  Nadine Williams, poet, at the event at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, Ryerson University where former US First Lady, Michelle Obama, was the keynote speaker.

By Neil Armstrong

Poet and author, Nadine Williams, believes that opportunities are for the taking and she keeps doing that -- which recently resulted in her performing at an event in Toronto where former US First Lady, Michelle Obama, was the keynote speaker.

She met her and presented a specially-made copy of her poem, “Us Women,” to Obama who was in Toronto to speak about equality for girls and women at an event organized by the Economic Club of Canada and Plan International Canada at Ryerson University on November 28.

Williams, who is from St. Mary, Jamaica, says she met Rhiannon Traill, president and CEO of the Economic Club of Canada at an event in October where Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, announced an initiative of the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan.

Through networking they had a conversation about her work and kept in touch.

As an organization that has speaking engagements, Williams hoped to be included in one of those events.

The opportunity came when Traill told her that she had just the event for her, a luncheon where Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker.

Having heard about the theme of the event, Williams selected her poem, “Us Women,” and wrote another when she understood that it would be attended by an equal number of corporate Canadians and youth.

“I thought about the young people and what a dream this is and so I wrote a poem for the young people of the event called ‘Dreams,’” says Williams.

She sent the poems to Traill who loved them and told her to open the event performing both.

On the actual day, Williams says there was a bit of a faux pas where because she missed the mic check, the sound engineer and the deejay were not aware that she was to perform two poems.

As a result, she only performed “Us Women” and although she garnered many compliments, she wasn’t satisfied because she wanted to perform “Dreams” too.

“It’s a lesson that I learn. I took for granted that with mic check because I don’t have any musical accompaniment as long as the mic works it would have been fine. But I quickly learned in that instance that there is a lot more to mic check than that.”

Her disappointment, she thinks, will lead to another opportunity. 

“’Dreams’ would have had the young people on their feet. The other awesome thing about that disappointment as well is I’m sure there will be an opportunity created or presented in the future for that particular piece to have the resounding effect.”

Williams credits her success to the humble beginnings of reading under the kerosene lamplight to her family as a child, coupled with being reared by witty grandparents who spoke in parables all the time.

“I was extremely thrilled for the opportunity,” says Williams about the event for which 3,000 tickets were sold.

She described Obama as a very warm person and gifted to her the poem, “Us Women,” which she “created on canvas with a picture of her [Michelle Obama] in the background” and a copy of her book, “With This Pen I Do Tell.”

“It’s just a phenomenal thing to have happened and there will certainly be quite a number of other opportunities that will come from that opportunity as well. Every time you walk through one door – and this has been my experience – other doors open.”

She gives credit to Margarett Best, a former Member of Provincial Parliament and former cabinet minister, for opening this pathway that has allowed her to perform her poetry at Queen’s Park and other venues.

This year has been an amazing one, says Williams, noting that she got funding for her work, and the event with Obama was a crescendo for her.

Before the year ends, Williams has six school engagements and performed her poem, “The Immigrant Child,” at the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada’s Christmas party on December 15.

In 2008, Williams successfully self-published her first book of poetry, “The Culmination of Marriage Between Me & My Pen,” and has been actively engaged in many events throughout North America, Europe and the Caribbean ever since.

 The overwhelming success and demand for the book resulted in the launch of three new books, “With This Pen I Do Tell,” “Pen on Fyah,” and a children’s book, “Love Rocks.”

In Feb. 2014, Williams was the recipient of the Deeds Speak Award from York Regional Police.

She has received certificates of recognition for her work, including for community service from York Regional Police; from the mayor as Brampton's poet; Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) volunteer; Ministry of Consumer Services, and Culture Link Community Service.

Williams lives in Brampton, Ontario and is the mother of three children. 

[This story has been published in the NA Weekly Gleaner, Dec. 21-27, 2017 issue.

Knights Table Pushes 'Adopt a Family' Initiative for the Holidays



By Neil Armstrong

An organization that has served the needs of people dealing with issues of poverty and homelessness in the Peel Region for over 26 years wants individuals to adopt a family over the holiday season.

For the past ten years, Knights Table has been engaging sponsors with its “Adopt a Family this holiday season” initiative.

The organization will provide the sponsor with a brief background and profile of the family (for example, a single mother and two kids), a grocery shopping list, and wish list of gifts for the children.

The sponsor can request the family size/makeup that they are willing to support and can provide the funds for Knights Table to purchase the food and gifts for the adopted family, or the sponsor can “enjoy the experience to purchase the food and ‘wish list gifts’ for their family on their own.”

Lena Shaw, volunteer and outreach manager, said people told Knights Table this is what they wanted to do and Knights Table had to come up with a plan for it.

“We know on average how much it costs because we normally give our clients weekly food. So, in the month of December, because we close the food bank, that’s when we give them a month’s worth of groceries. It carries them into January until we open the food bank again.”

Shaw says they calculate what a month’s worth of grocery is and for a mother of two, it’s roughly $600.

Supported by a staff of nine and over 3,200 volunteers who are committed to assisting people who come through its doors, Knights Table says they assist the clients regardless of colour, culture, religion, economic status, gender, sexual orientation or social condition. 

“During the interview process when our clients are sitting down with the operations manager, they need to give us proof of I.D., proof of address and rental agreement,” says Shaw.

In terms of number of racialized people served by the organization, Shaw says sometimes when she does intakes one out of every two falls in that category.

She said someone who is homeless does not have access to the food bank because a person needs to have a kitchen to cook. Knights Table is open every day for the homeless.  

“People who are living in a basement apartment or even a storey in a house, whatever, as long as they have access to a kitchen then they have access to our food bank and our holiday hamper.”

The people who qualify for their services are on Ontario Works, on Ontario Disability and part of the working poor families – they’re making less than $22,000 per year. 

Knights Table is supported by various levels of government, businesses, charitable foundations, groups, churches and individuals. 

“With their assistance they make it possible for our doors to remain open to serve over 74,000 meals annually,” it says.

St. Marguerite d'Youville church adopts twenty families annually and sometimes corporation say they will handle one, or sometimes wealthy families want to teach their kids about sharing the wealth and will sponsor families, Shaw says.

She says sponsored families are “thrilled and overjoyed.”

“The love and passion that people put in their hampers is incredible. They go above and beyond. We basically will say just three gifts. We figured they would want pajamas, here’s a pair of boots, it’s not a gift, it’s not a toy, I know, they go above and beyond in giving so the families are just overjoyed by the gestures of love.”

Knights Table is dedicated to inspiring people to achieve their full potential. 

It helps by providing food bank, hot meals and other services to the people of Brampton who deal with the daily issues of hunger, poverty and homelessness.

Forty-three per cent of its clients self report a physical disability, mental illness affects more than 23% of its client group, and over 26% are homeless.

Shaw says on a weekly basis clients come in to get their groceries from the food bank but in the month of December the food bank “becomes the holiday hamper because it’s one month of groceries, they also get a turkey with all its fixings and each child’s gift to open on Christmas morning.”

That’s what they do for their clients but when a corporation or a church says they want to adopt a family, Knights Table gives them a list of the groceries and the family’s wish list.

They also arrange a day and time for both parties to meet if they want to do so.

 “My belief is that we are born to serve and there’s something innate in us that we need to open up our heart and give – there’s something inside. When we see a need we seek to fulfill it and Knights Table is a great place for you to do that,” says Shaw about the reason people should volunteer there.

The volunteer and outreach manager said volunteers must be 16 years and older, and during December the organization is aggressively looking for groups of ten to come in during the evenings (6-9pm) to help with the holiday hampers.

“Not everybody gets adopted out because we have over a thousand families who are counting on us so we need groups of ten to come and volunteer,” she said, noting that such groups make an impact.

[This story has been published in the NA Weekly Gleaner, Dec. 21-27, 2017.]