Exposed: Using Photography to Expose the Social Impacts of Poverty and Racism in Black Creek

1. eXposed using photography to expose the social impacts of poverty and racism in Black Creek a photovoice project by residents of Black Creek 2. Acknowledgements About…
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  • 1. eXposed using photography to expose the social impacts of poverty and racism in Black Creek a photovoice project by residents of Black Creek
  • 2. Acknowledgements About ‘Exposed’ Photovoice Project The ‘Exposed’ Photovoice project is a community- false sense of safety and security. Photo-researchers This project would not have been possible without the based, arts-informed research project conducted in also captured the ‘neglect’ and disinvestment in successful collaboration and support of numerous community 2008 by the Income Security, Race and Health (ISRH) the Black Creek area by government agencies and members, advocates, volunteers and organizations. Our warm research working group of Toronto. The main goal of their failure to provide adequate garbage collection thanks to our generous funders: Metcalf Foundation, The the project was to use an arts-based research method services and properly maintain public spaces and Wellesley Institute, Toronto Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts called photovoice to ‘expose’ the social impacts of facilities in the neighborhood. The deteriorating Council. Thank you to Black Creek Community Health Centre poverty on low-income families. The project was and substandard condition of housing in the for providing child care and meeting space, and to Working located in Black Creek – a low-income area located in neighborhood is also highlighted through the Women Community Centre for their support in recruitment the north-west inner suburb of Toronto. photos and narratives. Photo-researchers also made and arranging space in Seneca College to hold our weekly innovative use of photos and narratives to express photovoice sessions. Special thanks to Mohamed The Exposed photovoice project was led by Ruth what certain signs in the neighborhood mean to Abdelrahim, Community Outreach Worker for the Exposed Wilson and Dr Yogendra B. Shakya from Access them, capture ‘hidden borders,’ and geographical Photovoice project, who provided invaluable support during Alliance and Dr Sarah Flicker from York University. expressions of the inequalities and discriminations the recruitment, data collection and dissemination phases We recruited 14 residents of Black Creek to be ‘photo- that they face. of the project. Rodrigo Moreno lent his photography skills researchers’ for the project. Each photo-researcher was to the project, teaching community members photographic provided with a digital camera and received training in This photobook captures the diverse perspectives techniques and acting as a mentor throughout the data photographic techniques and in photovoice method. that different residents have about important collection process. Seon Kyen (SK) Kim and Jiha Kim Renowned Toronto photographer Rodrigo Moreno issues such as gangs and safety or different generously volunteered their time and analysis to the project provided the photography training and mentoring, landmarks in the community. For example, several as facilitators and offered valuable feedback and support to serving as Photographer-in-Residence for the project., photo-researchers perceived York University as an the photo-researchers. Over a period of 9 weeks, the 14 photo-researchers institution that does not try to connect with the Black took photos related to the research project, analyzed Creek community despite its geographical location. Our special thank you to Theon Harrichand (Access Design) and discussed their photos in the weekly photovoice In contrast, another photo-researcher talked about for doing such beautiful layout and design for this photobook. group discussion sessions, and wrote narratives for how every time she sees York University it brings her Theon also provided valuable support in project evaluation, relevant photos. The title of project ‘exposed’ was also a sense of hope and joy because her son is currently data analysis and writing. selected by peer researchers involved in this project. studying at the university. In fact, we found that the photovoice sessions provided a creative platform for Finally, we’d like to give special recognition to all of the Note: All text accompanying the This photobook is a compilation of some of the key inter-generational and inter-community dialogue on photo-researchers. This book is a reflection of their artistic photos consists of words from photos and narratives produced by these 14 photo- key issues that affect the community. visions, thoughtful analysis, and courage to expose the social project participants, from one-on- researchers. The photos and narratives produced by impacts of poverty and racism in Black Creek. We dedicate this one interviews, group discussions or the photo-researchers offer a nuanced, multilayered, More importantly, as a way to challenge the negative photobook to them. written narratives. Text attributed and rich picture of the everyday realities of living in portrayal of Black Creek by mainstream media, all to “Photo-researcher” is taken from a low-income neighborhood in Toronto. For example, the photo-researchers expressed strong interest The photo-researchers involved in this project include: either a group discussion or an photo-researchers combined photos and narratives in using photovoice to document community anonymous interview. to document everyday challenges associated with strengths and community knowledge in Black Creek. Ann Moses, Anne Marie Chow, Anthony Harvey, Brian Durson, safety and security issues associated with living in a This photobook thus begins with the section on Celena Knight, Dorigen Appiah-Kubi, Htay Win, Muzna low-income neighborhood. The photos and narratives community strengths. Rehman, Rui Zhao, Safy Abouzaid, Samira Ahmed, Say Les, highlight that increasing surveillance cameras, police Sha Me Ri, and Stanley Muddah. presence and private security companies provide a 3
  • 3. What is Photovoice? Photovoice is an arts-based research method I would say that, my eyes have opened even more that combines the visual documentation powers so to photo, to print, to words that I see. Like there of photography with the explanatory insights of are some things that obviously grasp you and some reflective narrative. Arts-based research methods like things you pay no attention to. But I found that I have photovoice are gaining popularity among researchers a heightened sense now of paying attention to every for many reasons. First, using arts-based methods advertisement. Everything that I see now I feel like like photovoice can make research more accessible, I have to rethink about, wonder, you know, is that creative and fun. Second, combining photos and really it? It has opened my eyes and I also ask my narratives can help to produce high-quality findings kids as well. Before commercials was that time that that cannot be captured by conventional methods you go to the washroom; now we’re discussing the of research. Third, arts-based research methods like commercials: what does that mean? It’s just opened photovoice facilitate sharing findings more widely in our eyes to think more outside of the box of what’s accessible formats (such as exhibits and photobooks going on around us our surroundings. You know what like this one). Also, there is a growing track record of to take in, what to leave out, what’s good for us, and photovoice research leading to positive what’s not. So that was my enlightenment and I’ve service or policy change. For example, another brought that unto my kids and now they reflect it photovoice project conducted by Dr Sarah Flicker with back to me that they’re aware now. Before when I was youth in social housing in Toronto documented how taking some photos I used to take a lot of photos of lack of good lighting in the hallways and premises of like babies or babies with their mom and stuff and their buildings made the building unsafe; this finding then that was just it. Oh yeah, that baby looked cute led to Toronto Community Housing Corporation in the picture and that was kind of it, but now it’s (TCHC) to add more lights within TCHC housing like this whole world of advertisement and things out premises. there, messages you know and stuff so now I’m just Sha more aware I have more of an awareness of my whole We believe that photo-researchers from this ‘Exposed’ environment. photovoice project have managed to capture important findings about the everyday realities and -Photo-researcher challenges of what it is like to be a person of color living in a low-income neighborhood in Toronto. My Story We will be sharing these findings widely, and using these findings to mobilize relevant service and policy I am a Karen from Burma. I was born in Burma but I was brought up in a Karen refugee camp located on the Thai-Burma improvements on issues that have been highlighted border. I don’t remember my life in Burma since I was very young when we came to the camp. I spent by whole life in the camp by the photo-researchers. In our evaluation of the before coming to Canada. One day a resettlement worker came and announced the opportunity for this workshop. So I joined photovoice project, photo-researchers mentioned the project. In the future, I want to be a photo journalist reporting the news about Karen people to the world. Millions of Karens many benefits from being involved in the project. The are now suffering inside of Burma and not many people know about it. This project inspires me to become a photo journalist. following are some quotes from photo-researchers regarding their experience being involved in the -Sha Exposed photovoice project. 4 5
  • 4. About the Income Security, Race and Health Why Black Creek? Research Working Group The Black Creek area is a composite of four Canadian census data, in addition to many other studies identity” and in their experiences of inequality and neighborhoods (Humber Summit, Humbermede, highlights that, compared to people from European discrimination. Racialization is the process by which Black Creek, Glenfield-Jane Heights) located in the backgrounds, ‘people of color’ (racialized communities) racial categories are constructed as different and unequal northwest inner suburb area of Toronto. The Black face higher levels of unemployment and poverty, are in ways that result in regressive social, economic and Creek community is bounded by Steeles Avenue in the more likely to be concentrated in low-paying, part-time, political impacts (Galabuzi, 2001). north, Keele Street in the east, Humber River in the unstable jobs, and are more likely to be living in low- west, Wilson Avenue in the south, and includes 20, 30, income neighborhoods with sub-standard housing and The key goal of the ISRH working group is to conduct and 40 Falstaff. Many people know the Black Creek area inadequate service, in combination with other forms of community-based research (CBR) to investigate and as the “Jane and Finch” area as well. We decided to base marginalization. The Income Security, Race and Health overcome the growing ‘racialization of poverty’ in Canada. our project in the Black Creek area not just because it is (ISRH) research working group was established in 2006 The Exposed photovoice project is the first component a low-income neighborhood with a high proportion of under the leadership of Access Alliance Multicultural of a two-part research project that the ISRH group is racialized people, but also because of the rich history of Health and Community Services (AAMCHC) to investigate conducting. The Exposed photovoice component of the social activism in this community. We have developed why racialized groups in Toronto are facing these research project documents the impact of poverty on strong partnerships in the Black Creek community. The employment and income inequalities. The ISRH working racialized families living in low-income neighborhoods. Black Creek Community Health Centre, for example, is group conducts research on this important topic with the The second part of the research project involves a one of the lead agencies that helped to found the ISRH goal of mobilizing service and policy changes required longitudinal ethnographic study to find out why people research working group. Other partners include Delta to overcome the systemic barriers and factors leading of color are facing difficulties in getting good, stable jobs Family and Resource Centre, Griffin Centre, Working to these inequalities that people of color face. The ISRH in their fields (in spite of having necessary qualifications Women’s Community Centre, and York University-TD working group will also assess the health impacts of this and in spite of using multiple strategies); this second Community Engagement Centre. negative trend so that we can develop and advocate for research component is scheduled to be completed by the appropriate supports and services to address negative end of December 2009. According to Census 2001 data, 74.8% of the population health impacts. For the first phase of the project, we are in Black Creek area identified themselves as “visible minorities.” 62.6% of residents are immigrants. The focusing on the Black Creek neighborhood. The ISRH research working group is made up of unemployment rate, average household income, and low-income rate in Black Creek area are two or academics, staff from community agencies, and three times above the average rate for the city of Toronto (Census 2001). A quick note about some of the terms the ISRH working community members from Black Creek (we refer to group uses. First, instead of using terms like ‘visible them as ‘peer researchers’). The group includes: Safy At the same time, the Black Creek community has a rich history of social activism. In the early minority,’ ‘ethno-racial groups’ or ‘ethnic minority’ Abouzaid, Peer Researcher; Michelle Ashem, Toronto 1970s, a group of residents, politicians, and community workers banded together to begin addressing to refer to people of color, we use ‘racialized groups.’ Public Health; Kenza Belaid, Peer Researcher; Diane community issues. Their main efforts were to improve the community’s negative image and to This is because we feel that the former terms such as Broad, Griffin Centre; Lisa Brown, Black Creek Community create a sense of community pride. The results of this dedication has led to the development of over ‘visible minority’ is more static and relates primarily to Health Centre; Felix Cabrera, Peer Researcher; Sarah 30 grassroots associations based on principles of mutual aid, including social and health service number and colour. In contrast, the latter term (racialized Flicker, York University; Grace-Edward Galabuzzi, Ryerson organizations. The organizations that exist today include the Black Creek Community Health Centre, groups) recognizes the dynamic process by which racial University; Tha Dar Hsae, Peer Researcher; Michaela The Spot, Driftwood Community Centre, Oakdale Community Centre, Firgrove Community Centre, categories are socially created by dominant groups in Hynie, York University; Naomi Ives, Delta Family Resource Jane/Finch Community Centre, Belka Enrichment Centre, and Delta Family Resource Centre. In 1998, ways that worsen social inequalities and marginalization. Centre; Celena Knight, Peer Researcher; Patricia Landolt, the Jane and Finch community won the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Caring Community Award. When we use the term ‘racialized groups’ we are referring University of Toronto; Darren Pham, Peer Researcher; Residents in the Jane and Finch community are also very active in a number of festivals and events like to what Dr Grace-Edward Galabuzi (one of the academic Brenda Roche, Wellesley Institute; Carina Reider, International Women’s Day, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Caribana, researchers involved in ISRH) calls “non-dominant Peer Researcher; Yogendra Shakya, Access Alliance; Canadian Hispanic Day Parade, and Driftwood Community Centre’s Annual Multicultural Festival. ethno-racial communities who, through the process of Zahoorunnisa, Peer Researcher; Ruth Wilson, Access racialization, experience race as a key factor in their Alliance. 6 7
  • 5. Community Strengths Photo-researchers were very critical of the negative ways their “People think we can’t build up our neighborhood but we communities have been and continue to be portrayed by the need to prove them wrong and build up and try to be strong. mainstream media and government reports. Thus all of them We must continue to build our neighborhood.” felt strongly that this photovoice project should also document the strengths and knowledge of their community in order to “I was just walking home and then I just really took a picture challenge the negative stereotypes attached to the Jane and because I wanted to take a picture of the community having Finch area. For example, photo-researchers took photos of fun, not just a negative thing to make the media talk more what they perceived as positive spaces in the community. about our community.” Positive spaces captured in their photos include the Black Creek Community Health Centre, The Spot, The Jane and Finch Boys “… we can see how the community is changing. People and Girls Club and the Jane and Finch Mall. The narratives and are going outside more and not doing bad things. Positive discussions linked to these photos highlight the importance programs create positive people and more programs will of the range of local services that these community agencies help us get jobs. This picture teaches other people that our provide, including programs to keep young people out of community is not bad” trouble. “I believe our seniors and adults and our elders have a lot to Mainstream media particularly tends to portray youth from offer and a lot to teach our youth and I think they’re willing Black Creek in a negative light (e.g. all youth are involved in and they’re out there but there’s again there’s no programs gangs and violence). In direct contrast, photo-researchers that or not enough programs that offer that or they offer it from this project captured the positive roles that youth play with such rigid things that don’t fit into people’s schedule and in the community, including being involved in advocating on things like that so it’s unrealistic to happen. issues important to the whole community. The younger photo- researchers were keen on including photos of themselves “If Jane and Finch does a good thing, media are the last to say (sometimes overlaid on top of their community) as a way it. When there is gun violence, they are the first to say it.” to reassert the positive spirit that youth represent in the community. “[The Jane and Finch Boys and Girls Club] is my favourite place where children and youth can come and relax and get Photo-researchers also discussed the community’s capacity away from like, the whole drama of the outside world.” to effectively come together and advocate for change. In fact, participants mentioned that the community’s tendency to “… our community is never lazy and wants to do something aid each other in times of need and emergency significantly active.” contributed to their ability to rise above the structural barriers Community Strengths and challenges facing many people living in poverty in Black Creek. Additionally, residents located sources of knowledge in older residents in the community, and thought that “I decided to focus on the positive stuff in my community because like even though we live in like these low income housing or whatever I wanted to show that just because you intergenerational programs that transferred this knowledge to can’t have the finer thinks in life doesn’t mean you still can’t youth would be helpful. Finally, photo-researchers captured a live your life.” lot of beautiful spaces and scenery located in their community, including pictures of children, sunsets, views from their ba
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