The Riverside BIA – located along Toronto’s Queen Street East from the iconic bridge over the Don River to just past De Grassi St – is proud to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness with the ongoing story-telling series: Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC”.

The project began as an idea and collaboration of the Riverside BIA and Grace Cameron – a local writer, resident and editor of Jamaican Eats Magazine – to gather and share stories of local people. When the initiative was chosen to be part of the STEPS Public Art (@STEPSpublicart) iheART Main Street Art Challenge, the project grew to become a public art and place-making initiative.  And so, the “Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC” was launched in summer 2020 as part of the  iheART Main Street Art Challenge, in partnership with artists Bareket Kezwer (@bkez) and Yshmael Cabana (@_yshyshysh), and local residents, business owners and other community members, to bring public art and story-telling to Queen Street East in the Riverside BIA. The project made physical space in storefront windows for BIPOC artists, and gave voice to stories from local BIPOC community members in Riverside. Each piece of art and each story shared a bigger meaning that connected to the local business/window and to the BIPOC community member by sharing a link/QR code to their full story online. 

The stories brought to life, and the art produced for the challenge lives here virtually beyond the original challenge, and as part of the ongoing ‘Humans of Riverside‘ storytelling initiative.

Check back here and also on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more stories. 

THE STORIES

Rachelle’s Story

“My name is Rachelle Wintzen and I am the founder and sole owner of the Chi Junky Studio. This studio was born from my personal experience and journey to health. The philosophies and foundation that Chi is built on changed my life and it became my mission to create a space that would bring the same healing to as many people as possible.” Read the full story…

Rachelle Wintzen in the Chi Junky Studio, Riverside, Toronto (Photo credit: Chi Junky Studio)

Rachelle Wintzen in the Chi Junky Studio, Riverside, Toronto (Photo credit: Chi Junky Studio)

Joan’s Story

“I’ve been helping people ever since I can remember. In Grenada, I was 17 when I brought home a young woman and her two kids so they could have a place to live. But that’s me, always helping. It’s just natural.” Read the full story…

Joan King, photo taken in 2020 in Joel Weeks Park, Riverside (Photo Credit: MP Julie Dabrusin’s office)

Joan King, photo taken in 2020 in Joel Weeks Park, Riverside (Photo Credit: MP Julie Dabrusin’s office)

The Stories & Art, as part of the iheART Mainstreet Art Challenge in Riverside…

Rohit’s Story

“We were caught in the storm of COVID two months after opening and all our original hires left. But I decided that we would not shut down…not even for a day. I kept the doors open through deliveries and takeouts.” Read the full story…

Making Space: art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Rohit's story on the west-facing window at 800 Queen Street East

Making Space: Art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Rohit’s story on the west-facing window at 800 Queen Street East, 2020

Drew’s Story

“I like eating and trying to replicate dishes from different parts of the world. I love cooking because it gives me a chance to be creative and to test myself.” Read the full story…

Making Space: Art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Drew's story on the window at 686 Queen Street East

Making Space: Art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Drew’s story on the window at 682 Queen Street East, 2020

Charlene’s Story

“The recipes I love and make today have been passed down from my granny to my dad and now to me. I will forever be daddy’s little girl and my granny is always on my mind.” Read the full story…

Making Space: Art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Charlene's story on the east-facing window at 660 Queen Street East

Making Space: Art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Charlene’s story on the east-facing window at 660 Queen Street East, 2020

Grace’s Story

“My grandmother was fearless, or so it seemed, when she had a lot to be fearful of. She always found a way. Born left-handed, she learned to write beautifully with her right hand when she was punished at school for being a leftie.” Read the full story…

Making Space: Art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Grace's story on the window at 700 Queen Street East

Making Space: Art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Grace’s story on the window at 700 Queen Street East, 2020

Omar’s Story

“I was raised by a single mom who showed us how to be together despite our differences. And, as with my family in Afghanistan, I believe we can be strong and successful when we put aside our differences and work together.” Read the full story…

Making Space: Art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Omar's story on the Queen St window at 1 Munro Street

Making Space: Art by Bareket Kezwer and Yshmael Cabana accompanying Omar’s story on the Queen St window at 1 Munro Street, 2020

ABOUT THE ARTISTS – Mainstreet Art Challenge in Riverside

Yshmael Cabana is a Toronto-based visual artist, graphic designer and writer whose body of works focuses centrally on socio-political themes. He engages art in various scales to convey narratives, issues and struggles of people towards a positive outlook. Ysh designed the five portraits for the “Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC” as part of the STEPS Mainstreet Art Challenge.

Bareket Kezwer is a Toronto-based muralist, community engaged artist, curator, designer and eternal optimist. Her work is motivated by a desire to spread joy, cultivate gratitude, and support the growth of inclusive and connected communities. Bareket designed the ‘big words’ for the “Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC” as part of the STEPS Mainstreet Art Challenge.

ABOUT THE WRITER/EDITOR – Humans of Riverside Series

Grace Cameron is a Toronto-based freelance writer and copyeditor, Editor of Jamaican Eats Magazine, and part-time employee at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre in Riverside. Grace is working with the storytellers to draw out and convey their stories in a meaningful way for the “Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC” series.