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 story-telling series: Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC”. 

The project launched in summer 2020 in collaboration with writer and editor Grace Cameron, 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. This project is supported by STEPS Initiative (@STEPSInitiative) as part of their Main Street Art Challenge.

The “Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC” story-telling project makes physical space in storefront windows for BIPOC artists, and gives voice to stories from local BIPOC community members in Riverside. Each piece of art and each story shared has a bigger meaning that connects to the local business/window and to the BIPOC community member by sharing a link/QR code to their full story online. The Main Street Art Challenge brings this new and ongoing storytelling series to life, and the art produced for the challenge will continue to live virtually beyond the Main Street Art Challenge as part of the ongoing ‘Humans of Riverside‘ storytelling initiative.

We’re sharing stories here and also on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We are proud to showcase all of these community members, artists, businesses and their stories of family, food, perseverance, legacy and unstoppable strength.

THE STORIES AND THE ART

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

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

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

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

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

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.