An evening of ‘magical’ thinking: Scarborough Discourse holds its first Story Circle

Community members came together to discuss how Scarborough is covered by the media, and how we can create new narratives.

As I sit down to write this, I’m struggling to string together words that properly express the gratitude I feel towards the community members who attended Scarborough Discourse’s first-ever Story Circle, as well as the many others who supported our efforts. On a cold Tuesday evening, 16 people took time out of their busy lives to participate in a conversation about how we can not only challenge existing narratives about Scarborough, but also create new ones. For my colleague Anita Li and I, it was both a productive and moving experience.

Story Circles are intimate, informal gatherings where community members participate in facilitated conversations, share stories about their lived experience and brainstorm solutions to issues confronting residents. At our Story Circle, we discussed Scarborough stereotypes perpetuated by existing media and how outlets can better cover this community. As a journalist, it was an opportunity to listen deeply to residents, so I could better understand local issues from your perspectives, and also to earn the trust of a community that you say has been historically misrepresented by media.

Some attendees of Scarborough Discourse’s first-ever Story Circle at McGregor Park Community Centre.

Attendees shared their insights into the challenges of trying to report on a place that is as geographically vast as it is diverse, and as a result, doesn’t have one unified voice. We heard that some residents don’t have dedicated local spaces where they can express themselves freely (e.g. members of the LGBTQ community). We heard about how media coverage tends to overlook stories that impact Scarborough residents’ daily lives, which can get lost in broader policy conversations about hot-button political issues (e.g. the Scarborough subway debate). We also heard lots of practical solutions that I’ll try and incorporate into my journalism — from asking local youth for their take on issues to tapping into my existing network of community organizations to reflect diverse viewpoints.

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My main takeaway, however, was to continue getting feedback from and checking in with community members. I definitely plan to keep the conversation going, and encourage everyone who participated in Scarborough Discourse’s first Story Circle to keep sharing resources and solutions. One of the attendees, Carol Baker, called it a “magical evening,” and it certainly felt that way to me and Anita. We hope to continue recreating the magic.


Ronald Royer conducting at the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra’s fall 2018 concert. The orchestra is in its 39th season.

As music director and conductor for the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra, Ronald Royer is often listening — not just for a false note, but also for ways in which he can collaborate with Scarborough’s many community organizations. Why? Ron believes such collaboration can attract new audiences to SPO concerts and keep the organization relevant. Take, for example, a concert at which the orchestra performed with a steelpan band to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. This unusual alliance came about because of the SPO’s connection to a young musician who also happened to be a congregant of St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux Anglican Church where there’s a youth outreach program.

“It was certainly one of the more challenging performances we undertook because the steelpan band plays by ear, whereas we follow sheet music,” Ron told me, describing how the orchestra developed a process that helped them perform in sync with the band.

The SPO now supports the youth outreach program. You can catch some of its musical collaborations at the orchestra’s annual holiday concert tomorrow. “You have to see the kids play,” Ron said. “They really make your heart sing.”

Let’s meet up

  • Dec. 1. The Nutcracker and More! A Family Holiday Concert. Start off the holiday season on a musical note! The Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra brings together local musical talents, including the Sistema Toronto Youth Choir and the Scarborough Philharmonic Women’s Choir, for their holiday concert. A 6:15 p.m. pre-concert will feature choirs performing with piano, followed by the orchestra’s performance at 7 p.m. The concert’s second half will feature the first act of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. 7 p.m. at Scarborough Citadel.

  • Dec. 1 to Dec. 30. December Weekends at the Scarborough Museum. The museum is in full festive swing. Check out holiday decorations and enjoy delicious winter treats, including spice muffins and candy cane hot chocolate. You can also make a Victorian ornament and a traditional pop-up Christmas card. 12 to 4 p.m. at Scarborough Museum.

  • Dec 3. Scarborough Young Moms Support Group. Motherhood can be a lonely experience for many new moms, so this support group offers space for young mothers between the ages of 15 and 25 to connect, learn parenting skills and develop personal-growth strategies. The get-togethers also feature activities such as cooking, crafts and listening to guest speakers. Free childcare is available. 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Heron Park Baptist Church.

Help me investigate

After tackling the misconception of Scarborough as a cultural desert for my first article, my next story will address how this community is perceived as being rife with crime and grime. Recent news headlines focused on victims of gun violence suggest a resurgence of gang activity in parts of Scarborough. By taking a closer look at available stats on gun violence and academic research about how street gangs operate today, I want to find out whether Scarborough is any more dangerous than other parts of the Greater Toronto Area or other comparable Canadian cities. If you have any suggestions for how I can report on this topic, please email me.[end]




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