Erin Kang, Co-facilitator
Erin is a passionate facilitator, event producer, and storyteller local to Toronto.
Through her professional work and personal endeavours her goals are always to connect the right people to each other to collaboratively tackle issues, empower Torontonians to increase civic engagement and fight systemic oppression, and use creative arts to drive positive change and strong, resilient communities. Erin is a firm believer in the power of storytelling to achieve social change, and shaking up who gets to share and consume such stories.
Anjuli Solanki, Co-facilitator
Anjuli Solanki is an artist and urban planner with over 10 years experience leading community engagement and public arts programming. She is the Director of Community Programs with the STEP Initiative and has been the project manager and administrative producer for numerous multi-stakeholder projects. Anjuli has worked with various institutions that approach heritage in a community-minded manner including the Riverside Business Improvement Area, Jane’s Walk, Open Cities Project, and the UBC Museum of Anthropology.
As a child of immigrant parents with extensive diasporic histories (Indo-Zambian and German), and having lived in three different continents she is an advocate for working with communities to have their perspectives and histories shared. Anjuli is a life-long learner and holds an MSc in Urban Planning from Oxford Brookes University and a BA in Human Geography from the University of British Columbia.
Susan Jama, Secretary
Susan Jama is an emerging museum professional. She is a recent 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. She practices what she preaches.
Douglas Worts, Board Representative
Douglas Worts is a culture & sustainability specialist with WorldViews Consulting in Toronto, Canada. Douglas approaches culture broadly, as ‘how we live our lives’, seeing museums as potential facilitators in forging an emerging ‘culture of sustainability’. His professional work combines a 35+-year career in museums with over two decades exploring how culture shapes and directs the prospects for global human sustainability. Within Douglas’ museum career, experimental exhibits and audience research, coupled with organizational design and change management, have been of central importance. Systems-thinking is fundamental within his work. Douglas has published, taught and lectured widely on his work.
Gianna Maria Babando
Gianna Maria Babando is the Manager, Rare Books and Archives in Special Collections at Toronto Reference Library. An historian and archivist, her education and career have been divided between Canada and the United States. She is committed to life-long learning, optimism, and work-life harmony. A strong collaborator, she values understanding and teamwork, and believes that everyone has something to contribute to and something to learn with every experience.
Jackie Brown is a program developer, community builder, and educator in Toronto. Most recently, she served as the Manager of Arts & Culture Programs at the Prosserman Jewish Community Centre and the Schwartz/Reisman Centre, where she created a series of programs at the intersection of storytelling, art, food, and music. In 2013, she co-conducted a McMaster-funded research project on the role of grassroots placemaking initiatives in fostering neighbourhood cohesion in cities across North America and Europe. She enjoys conveying her passion for city building to university students through an experiential one-unit course she teaches at McMaster called Urban Placemaking.
Farishta Murzban Dinshaw
Farishta Murzban Dinshaw is an adjunct professor with the Immigration and Settlement, and Criminology and Social Justice programs at Ryerson University. She works as a Community Development Worker/Researcher at COSTI Immigrant Services where she raises awareness about problem gambling, family violence, and mental health issues within ethno-cultural communities in Southern Ontario. She is also the founder of Ishoni Professional Development, a collective of professionals who build capacity within the not-for-profit sector in Ontario. Farishta has presented on issues related to immigration and settlement, problem gambling, and violence against women at conferences across Canada, and has co-led research studies on these issues. Prior to immigrating to Canada, her work experience in Pakistan included teacher education, community engagement, resource development, and research.
She enjoys writing and has an eclectic collection of publications to her name including a young adult novel, “Discovering Ashavan”, and a children’s story in Urdu, “Thar ki Ek Larki” (A Girl from Thar). She is the recipient of the Eve Bunting Scholarship awarded by Highlight Foundation for their Writing for Children Program, and was the initiatory editor of “Funline”, Pakistan’s first English magazine for children. “Eat, Live, Pray: A Celebration of Zarathushti Cuisine” and Culture, a cookbook she edited, is available for free download at www.fezana.org
Artist manager and cultural programmer Sergio Elmir has over a dozen years of experience under his belt as an events curator for a variety of large and small scale arts organizations. As a grass roots, independent events producer, Elmir built and ran his own non-profit arts organization focused on Contemporary Latinx Music, Dos Mundos Arts and Media, for several years before taking on the role of artistic associate at Harbourfront Centre and most recently as programming supervisor for the City of Toronto’s official Canada 150 celebration. Elmir now launches his own boutique artist management agency, Futuro Libre, with an exciting roster of first and second generation Canadian artists creating vanguard global pop music.
Born in Montreal to Barbadian immigrants, Kathy Grant is a Public Historian and founder of Legacy Voices which ensures Black Canadian History and Military History is documented and preserved. Her efforts were formally acknowledged in 2012 when Kathy received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Kathy has made educational presentations to municipalities, schools, and community organizations promoting an inclusive approach to storytelling and historical documentation. Connecting to her audience through social media, Kathy continues to engage a diverse audience receiving half million views on her page annually. In 2017, Kathy was the Toronto Regional Coordinator for the Ward Museum’s Block by Block project. Currently Kathy is the resident historian/curator at a Different Booklist and Cultural Centre. Her story “Fashionable Jamaican Weekly” was published in the book The Ward Uncovered.
Maggie Hutcheson is a community-engaged artist, educator, curator and consultant. Over the past 15 years she has collaborated with other artists and Toronto residents to animate oral histories of war, gentrification, homelessness and migration. Maggie has worked with a range of arts and non-arts organizations, including CBC Television, Jumblies Theatre, MABELLEarts, Toronto Arts Foundation, and York University. She is the Artistic Director of the award-winning Department of Public Memory, an arts collective that she co-founded in 2011. Maggie authored the Ontario Arts Council’s recently published handbook on best practices in community-engaged art, has extensive teaching experience and holds a PhD in Environmental Studies. She was the Lead Curator and Researcher for the Toronto Ward Museum’s Block by Block/ Quartier par quartier project in 2017.
Maggie grew up in Toronto. Her father immigrated to Montreal from London in 1955. Her mother’s family migrated from Kent (England), Alsace and Bukovina between 1860 and 1910.
Originally from Spain, Marta Keller-Hernandez is an arts administrator who moved to Toronto in 2012. She holds Degrees in Tourism and Humanities, a Masters in Social Media Marketing from the University of Alicante (Spain), and became an international student of the Culture and Heritage Site Management program at Centennial College in 2013.
In Toronto, Marta has worked with arts and culture organizations who serve communities of different ethnic backgrounds such as Black Artists’ Networks Dialogue, Latin American Canadian Art Projects and Sur Gallery, and Art Starts. Currently, she is Program Manager at Mural Routes. Marta has also worked with Heritage Toronto, leading the “Immigration Stories: Making a Home in Old Toronto” tours for the organization.
Marta is the co-founder and Director of Programming of Paralia Newcomer Arts Network, a Toronto-based non-profit that supports and promotes newcomer artists by providing them with the skills and resources needed in order to establish an artistic presence in Canada. As the mentor of the Venezuelan-born Canadian artist Mirna Chacin, she is the recipient of the Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship grant from the Toronto Arts Council.
Amrita Kumar-Ratta, MGA
Amrita Kumar-Ratta is a lifelong learner, a passionate traveler and a self-proclaimed transnational feminist activist. She works at the nexus of human rights and social inclusion and has extensive experience with community outreach and engagement, social policy research and evaluation, curriculum development, workshop facilitation, and project implementation in diverse settings both in Canada and internationally. Previously the Project Lead for the Diversity & Inclusion Charter of Peel Initiative at the Regional Diversity Roundtable, Amrita holds a BA (Hons.) in World Religions and International Development Studies from McGill University in addition to a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs from the University of Toronto. She is currently a PhD Student in the field of Human Geography. Committees and Advisory Groups that Amrita is currently a member of include The Ward Museum (TWM)’s Programming Committee, and Amnesty International Canada’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee (DEISC).
Amrita is a firm believer in “thinking globally, acting locally” and finds her self-expression in dance, literature and theatre. She recently wrote and performed in her own solo show, ‘50 Shades of Brown Girl’, inspired by her experience growing up ‘Brown’ in Brampton. Connect with her on twitter @i_amrita_.
Rebecca MacKenzie-Hopkins serves as Public Programs Manager for the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With almost 20 years of experience in the programming, instructional design, and experiential education sectors, Rebecca is committed to creating dynamic learning opportunities for diverse audiences. Rebecca holds a Master of Education in Educational Psychology from Mount Saint Vincent University. During her degree programme she focused specifically on how group dynamics affect learning processes. When off the clock, Rebecca is an avid soccer player and shoe enthusiast who enjoys playing slow jams on the piano and baking for her family.
Dani is a social planner by training, having recently graduated with her MSc in Planning (Social Planning) from the University of Toronto. Inspired by her mother’s experience as a live-in caregiver, her research centred on the experiences of Filipino live-in caregivers and how they experienced and defined safety within urban settings. She is currently working as the Evaluations Manager at the Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture, a Filipino-Canadian charity and non-profit that employs a led-by-youth-for-youth framework in leadership and programming.
Dani moved to Canada from the Philippines, in 2010, and has called Toronto home since.
Irina D. Mihalache
Irina is a professor of Museum Studies at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. She has a background in communication and food studies, and now teaches graduate courses in museum interpretation, global cultures and museums, and museum studies history and theory; in addition, she teaches an undergraduate course in Food and Material Culture. She is a member of the Culinaria Research Center at UTSC. She is originally from Romania, where she lived the first eighteen years of her life and experienced the transition from communism to democracy. She left Romania to study in the United States, and then immigrated to Canada to continue her doctoral studies.
She researches what people eat in museums, which takes in multiple directions: the study of museum restaurants and their menus; the examination of women’s committees’ culinary work in art museums; and the analysis of inequalities obvious in the food history of Canada, vis-a-vis migrant communities. In addition, she is interested in how museums think about and with migrant communities when creating content and programming, which brings her to her partnership with the Toronto Ward Museum. She constantly reflects on collaborative models which can transform the university and the museum into allies to minoritized groups.
Lena Mortensen is an Anthropologist at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). She has long been interested in how stories of the past are celebrated (or not) and how the differential privileging of heritage enables and constrains the ways people shape, value, and make connections to places and claims to belonging. She specializes in critical heritage and since the late 1990’s her research has looked at heritage politics and cultural and archaeological tourism, especially in Honduras. At UTSC she teaches classes on heritage, tourism, material culture, anthropological methods, globalization, commodification, and food and culture, and is a member of the Culinaria Research Centre. From 2009-2016 she chaired the Working Group on Cultural Tourism in an international collaborative project on ‘intellectual property issues in cultural heritage’ (“IPinCH”), focusing on building resources for sustainable, community-based tourism, especially for indigenous communities. This experience deepened her interest and commitment to collaborative approaches in research and all her work, which led her to connect with the Toronto Ward Museum and support their inspiring approach to local stories of heritage and belonging. Lena was born and raised in California where her parents immigrated from Denmark in the 1950’s, and Toronto has been her home since 2006.
Mounir Nasri is a social entrepreneur and advisor in the field of community development. His multicultural background as well as his wide-spread organizational network in different countries across the globe have helped him build several refugee settlement programs in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq prior to his arrival to Canada under the Syrian refugee sponsorship program.
Alongside his role with ACSA – Newcomers’ Centre as a Program Specialist, Mounir currently works as a Settlement Consultant for organizations and local communities in Canada. He was invited as a guest speaker and panelist by various conferences and organizations to shed light on some of the current global and local emerging issues.
Known for his passion about Arts and Cultures, he was invited by Luminato Festival organizers to participate in designing an inclusive program for refugees. With the vibrant and variant perspective he brings into the refugee crisis, Mounir strives to create the bridge that will bring hope and positive change to many of the displaced in the Middle East and in other parts of the world.
Shazlin Rahman is a public engagement specialist, artist and freelance writer with 6 years of architectural training in Malaysia and Australia. She has a degree in Journalism from Wilfrid Laurier University and a M.A. in Communication and Culture from the interdisciplinary joint program at Ryerson/York. Shazlin has contributed to a number of placemaking and community engagement projects including the Couchiching Summer Conference where she used research data to facilitate difficult conversations on Islamophobia in public spaces; the 4Rs Youth Movement where she co-developed a cross-cultural dialogue framework on reconciliation; Toronto’s first Open Iftar, where she trained over 50 volunteers to bring over 400 community members to break fast at Dufferin Grove Park; and Jane’s Walks aimed at building solidarity with Muslim communities by turning sites where Muslims have experienced trauma into sites of solidarity. Currently, Shazlin is the Inspirit Foundation Stakeholder Engagement Specialist and is leading the foundation’s national anti-Islamophobia strategy through engagement with Muslim communities in Hamilton, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg. In her free time, Shazlin sits on the 4Rs Youth steering committee and on the board of directors of The Tessellate Institute, Canada’s first Muslim-led research organization. She also facilitates hands-on, cross-cultural solidarity workshops.
Zhixi is an Associate Professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University. She has always been fascinated by cities and the interactions between people and urban spaces. This passion for city- and community-building has sparked her research interests that encompass place-making, retail developments, neighbourhood revitalization and multicultural planning.
She has been conducting research on the various trajectories of immigrants’ settlement, adaptation, and integration processes in multicultural Canada, specifically on how immigrant settlement affects urban and suburban landscapes, municipal policies and planning. One of her research focuses is on the rise of ethnic retail neighbourhoods as physical markers of increasing multiculturalism. She has completed a two-year SSHRC-funded research project exploring placemaking practices in over 100 emerging suburban Chinese and South Asian retail clusters in the GTA. Her research aims to explore how immigrant communities have shaped and transformed urban spaces, and how municipalities should tackle typical issues related to land use, built form, economic development and community-building. Her recent publications can be accessed through the following link (https://www.ryerson.ca/surp/people/faculty/zhixi-zhuang/).
She is also a Registered Professional Planner and a member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute and the Canadian Institute of Planners.