The Human Library Project



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Real people. Real conversations.

What does home mean to us? How do we find belonging and community?

 

Details: Have you ever lost yourself in a good book? Explored new ideas or experienced far-off places through the written word?  Now is your opportunity to come face to face with a human book, ask questions and hear, first-hand, from people who have lived to tell unforgettable stories.

As Canada moves closer to its 150th Anniversary, we must grapple with what it means to live on Native land, to be Indigenous, to be a newcomer and/or a settler. This particular Human Library hopes to explore notions of home— coming home, leaving home, finding home, and losing home as it relates to identity and our place(s) in the world.

Each participant in our human library can be checked out, like a book, for 25 minutes of one-on-one time. Hear a story, share an insight and gain perspective.

This event is open to students, staff and community members.

Drop in or register on-line. Books are checked out on a first come, first serve basis.

When: Fri., Dec. 2, 2016, from 11 am–3 pm
Where: East Common Room, Hart House
Cost: Free / Registration encouraged


2016/17 Human Books

Suzanne Methot / The Defeathered Indigenous Intellectual
Kwanza Msingwana / Kwanza: The Keeper of Stories
Farheen Khan / From Behind the Veil: A Hijabi’s Journey to Happiness
Chizoba Imoka / Fearless African Woman – Community Mobilizer, Scholar, Social Justice
& Public Education Advocate
Terry Gardiner / Where They Can’t Kick Me Out
Azfar Rizvi / Storytelling is in our DNA
Delane Cooper / From Damaged Good to Authentic Person
Skylar Shilling / Niibinaanakwadikwezens
Sean Kinsella / How to avoid doing the splits while traveling down a rainbow coloured
river with your feet in two canoes (Hint: It’s not easy)
Callay Mayers / Everyone calls me Lil’ Miss
Kathy Morgan / Exploring my Metis roots. Growing up Metis in Toronto
Elise St. Germain / At the Centre of My Wheel
Suzanne Smoke / Am I Next? Thoughts of an Indigenous Woman in Canada
Juliet Kego / Finding the Floetry of My Soul
Jaymie Sampa/ Preacher’s Kid Meets Club Kid Played Out on the Stage of Life
Tina Garnett / 6 Generations of Displaced Invisibility
Sandra Whiting / I Just Said Yes, Yes to Possibilities and Yes to New Experiences
Gilad Cohen / How North Korea and a motorcycle crash redefined who I was



Suzanne Methot / The Defeathered Indigenous Intellectual
Story available in: English
As an Indigenous woman who is healing from intergenerational trauma (and writing a book about the subject), I would like to share ideas about trauma, healing, and reconciliation. What do Indigenous peoples have to do to change their lives and the lives of their communities? What do settlers/newcomers have to do to support the work of healing and reconciliation? What systemic and institutional changes must we undertake in our society in order to create a country where everyone belongs? The story I want to share isn’t just about abstract notions – it’s grounded in human stories and the transformative power of dialogue (and really good recipes). When people attend one of my workshops, or read something I’ve written, or speak with me, they always say, “Wow, I never thought about it that way.” I want to share my story so that people understand that change is possible.

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Kwanza Msingwana / Kwanza: The Keeper of Stories
Story available in: English
Sitting in a room with a UNHCR official and an immigration rep you realize that your fate is in the hands of these people. Your life is hanging in the balance so to speak. What will they say” you wonder. I hope I’m worthy, I pray. Suddenly the sound of the squeaking fan overhead becomes very ominous. It reminds me of a “chambre rouge” and the horror stories I have heard of people being tortured there. With the bang of a fist on the table and a curt, ‘Next!’ your fate has been decided. Go out on the streets and live as an illegal alien, yes, an alien, not welcome in this country. Or find another country that will take you, give you asylum. And so began the first tentative steps of my journey to Canada.

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Farheen Khan / From Behind the Veil: A Hijabi’s Journey to Happiness
Story available in: English, Urdu
In today’s political climate Muslims are presented in a very negative manner. How do we counter such negativity and islamophobia? We do so by sharing the lived experienced of Muslims and their positive, inspiring stories with the world. This is my story. The story of one muslim woman and the impact that islamophobia has had on my life and journey from my corporate life into social justice.

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Chizoba Imoka / Fearless African Woman – Community Mobilizer, Scholar, Social Justice & Public Education Advocate
Story available in: English
At age 14, Chizoba led a school wide strike action against her school management and the school’s catering company for the poor quality of food they served students. This strike action led to personal threats from the catering company and the eventual termination of their contract with the school. Since then, Chizoba has remained a fearless and outspoken critic of inequities wherever she sees them.

At age 19, she founded Unveiling Africa – an international non-profit organization that engages young Africans in political advocacy, community mobilizing and community service. As a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, Chizoba has served in numerous leadership roles on campus, including as the convener of the Massey International Development Symposium and the past co-chair of the Diversity Committee at Massey College. In academia, Chizoba’s research explores how a critically inclusive and African-centered education framework can be used to facilitate educational change and social transformation in Africa. Amongst other recognition for Chizoba’s academic excellence and public leadership, Chizoba is the recipient of the 2016 Adel Sedra Distinguished Graduate Award and the 2016 Adrienne Clarkson Laureate for Public Service.

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Terry Gardiner / Where They Can’t Kick Me Out
Story available in: English
Terry was born in Montreal, Quebec, raised in Montserrat, British West Indies, studied and worked in New York City and returned to Canada as an adult because it is the one place in the world where they couldn’t kick him out. He has been a ballet dancer, Early Childhood Educator, Social Worker and currently calls the University of Toronto home. He supports equity, diversity and inclusion and is totally OK in conversations where others fear to tread.

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Azfar Rizvi / Storytelling is in our DNA
Story available in: English, Urdu
As the executive director of the ‘Institute of Canadian Archives’, Azfar Rizvi is breaking the stereotype of how traditional filmmakers can be.

When he is not in a conflict zone producing feature docs, he teaches filmmaking and volunteers with young adults interested in narrative storytelling. His own story starts only a few years ago as a new immigrant when he migrated from Pakistan to escape persecution.

He now assists government agencies and nonprofits to frame, design and produce narratives that aim to increase diversity, community engagement, and interfaith dialogue. He is the recipient of the prestigious 2012 Ontario Media Development Corporation HOTDOCS Fellowship, and has received accolades from international and UN agencies for his work around the world.

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Delane Cooper / From Damaged Good to Authentic Person
Story available in: English
Delane has a unique gift for reminding people they are special; that their life is precious by telling their story through jewellery. Delane chooses to share her story in order to raise awareness of how survivors of childhood sexual abuse can use their trauma as a springboard for growth and how an art project can be a healing journey for many.

After writing custom jewellery stories for The National Ballet of Canada, the Canadian Women’s Foundation as well as countless private commissions, it is now time for Delane to share her story of triumph over trauma.

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Skylar Shilling / Niibinaanakwadikwezens
Story available in: English
Hi my name is Skylar you might be wondering why it says Niibinaanakwadikwezens, that’s means Summer Cloud Girl in Ojibwa, it is my spirit name. So as you can tell I am Ojibwa, and I am from Rama First Nation near Orillia. I am 13 years old and I am in grade eight. I love horseback riding and visiting my family in Rama. I go to a special school it’s called Trillium Demonstration School. It is in Milton, so I have to travel two hours (at least) back and forth every week. The school helps me with my LD, LD stands for learning disability, but disability means that you can’t do it. l have proven that wrong and I found a way to get around it, so that why that should change to Learning Difference because it is just a different way we learn. My LD is dyslexia it’s a thing that makes it hard for me to read, write, and spell. I have more to tell and if you have questions about me come ask, I don’t bite.

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Sean Kinsella / How to avoid doing the splits while traveling down a rainbow coloured river with your feet in two canoes (Hint: It’s not easy)
Story available in: English
What does it mean to exist today as a(n) (in)visibly queer, disabled and urban Indigenous person in the context of the upcoming anniversary of the founding of Canada? How do we understand concepts of being mixed race and Métis and what this means for notions of home and belonging?

Join Seán (nehiyaw/nakawe/Irish/Métis) a seasoned Student Affairs professional and Professor in Indigenous Studies at Centennial College in exploring how the roles of education, storytelling, and understanding our own narratives is critical for building a new understanding of this place we call Turtle Island as home for everyone, while honouring those ones who have come before.

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Callay Mayers / Everyone calls me Lil’ Miss
Story available in: English
Hi my name is Callay I am a 15-year old girl who has interest in sports such as in gymnastics and cheerleading. I have 3 dogs (Aka. brothers) who live with me and my mom. They are a piece- of work but, what can I say, I do enjoy their company. Now back to me. There is one thing about me that most people don’t understand, I have dyslexia. This means I have trouble with reading and writing. The school I go to is Trillium Demonstration School it’s a school for kids who have learning differences. It’s in Milton and I live there throughout the week butI live in ‘Sauga city.
One most important thing about me is my great sense of fashion. Fashion for me is a way how I can express myself and how I feel. My favorite type of music is RnB, old Rap, 90’s hip hop.

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Kathy Morgan / Exploring my Metis roots. Growing up Metis in Toronto
Story available in: English
I am a proud member of the Metis Nation of Ontario. I can trace my roots to the Red River Settlement (present day Winnipeg) where my great Grandparents Jean Baptiste Lajimodiere (a voyageur, buffalo hunter and fur trader) and Marie Anne Gaboury (first European woman to raise a family in western Canada) raised a family of eight children. I descend from their youngest son Joseph Lajimodiere whose oldest sister Julie was the mother of Louis Riel. I was born and raised in Toronto. I was taught to be proud of my culture and heritage, however I was also taught to keep them a secret to the outside world. I have found my voice and I have embraced without shame my family’s contribution to building this great country.

I am a member of a women’s drumming circle, we perform at different cultural events and schools. I am a leather worker, I do traditional beadwork, I am an avid traveler and I am always seeking information on my family and heritage. I am a retired Foster Care Worker from the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto.

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Elise St. Germain / At the Centre of My Wheel
Story available in: English
My great-great-great-great-great grandfather was one of the first leaders of the Métis. I take his legacy of resistance seriously and have learned that community-building, environmental stewardship, and art are all part of living up to it. The symbols and stories from his time have oriented me with an Indigenous worldview. One symbol, The Red River Cart Wheel, has helped me to navigate away from the narratives of shame, dispossession, and disconnection by allowing me to focus on what makes Indigenous people so resilient: our relationships. Let’s talk about the symbols and stories that orient us in community, work, and home.

I am an Environmental/Indigenous Studies student completing my bachelor’s at U of T; a volunteer with the Toronto & York Region Métis Council; and an aspiring opera singer.

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Suzanne Smoke / Am I Next? Thoughts of an Indigenous Woman in Canada
Story available in: English
I am a magnificent First Nation woman in my own sovereign land and I am proud to be a Mother and Lifegiver to a beautiful Daughter, Ogema Geeziko Kwe.. a jingle dress dancer, a pipe carrier, Water Walker and daughter. Sadly, she is 9 times more likely to become a victim of violence or go missing than any other race of women on this continent.

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Juliet Kego / Finding the Floetry of My Soul
Story available in: English

I am Juliet ‘Kego. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. And for the first four decades of my life, I chased the dreams I was conditioned to. I checked all the boxes; daddy’s little girl, straight A’s student, religious, married my sweetheart, had five children, pursued a series of multi-disciplinary careers in fields such as Engineering, Project Management, Wealth Management and Leadership Consulting.

In between trying to juggle family and career, stress, anxiety and a sense of pervasive numbness soon ensued. I forgot to dream. I had suddenly disappeared from my life.

One day, I gave it all up; I let go of my career, the attachment to husband, children, and beliefs that shaped (and locked me in).

I chose to write and share poetry. Between coffee shops, subway stations, Apollo theatre and trips around the world, this is my story about finding the floetry of my soul and becoming…

 

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Jaymie Sampa / Preacher’s Kid Meets Club Kid Played Out on the Stage of Life
Story available in: English / French
Jaymie is community organizer, performance artist, researcher, friend, sister and daughter. With settler roots in Canada’s coastal Newfoundland (of German and Scottish origin) and Indigenous roots from Zambia (Bemba tribe, Crocodile clan) she was raised in rural south western Ontario, born in a town of population… 200. Now residing in Toronto, Jaymie’s pull and commitment to equity and social justice have provided her with incredible opportunities to work with youth, girls and women, Indigenous communities, and LGBTQ communities both here in TO as well as internationally in Namibia and Kenya. She is privileged to have presented her work in cities such as Stockholm, Sweden and at both the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. She loves people, art (especially dance, music and theatre – and their beautiful intersections!…arguably a musical theatre addiction at play here), and dreams of a time when self-determined realities of community life are accessible for all of us. We are all so beautifully complex…I’m in – shall we talk about home?

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Tina Garnett / 6 Generations of Displaced Invisibility
Story available in: English
I am who I am because of where I was born, how feminine I appear and the shade of my skin. As an educated, non-gender conformist ethnically diverse Canadian Black woman, I do not fit the white euro-centric views regarding ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality, thus, I am left in the socio-political borders of identity. Being a 6 Generation Canadian Black person means I have never fit in with the ‘new’ or ‘real’ Blacks who had immigrated from the Caribbean or Africa, nor did I ever think of trying to blend with the white community. Growing up I was Black – that was it; there was no conversation about my shade of blackness, or being racially mixed, multi-ethnic, or ethnically diverse. I was black and the racist names that rang in the streets and my ears left no doubt of my identity and where I fit.

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Sandra Whiting / I Just Said Yes, Yes to Possibilities and Yes to New Experiences

Story available in: English
I am a big believer is just jumping in and saying yes. Yes to new adventures, yes to projects, yes to jobs, yes to possibilities…

I grew up with parents who thought I could do and be anything and my father especially instilled in me a belief that I was special. He wanted his daughter to be a lawyer but that was not for me.

So I left Jamaica with less than $50.00 and came to Canada to see the world.
It was not quite the adventure I had planned at the beginning but over the years jumping into volunteer work, storytelling and saying yes to new experiences allowed me to fly. And become the person I now am.

I believe in giving back— I believe I can do anything.

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Gilad Cohen / How North Korea and a motorcycle crash redefined who I was
Story available in: English, Romanian
In 2008 and on a whim, Gilad Cohen took a very last minute trip to North Korea. Hoping to use this as an opportunity to brag to his friends, Gilad instead returned confused and shocked with how little he knew about the country and its people. In an effort to raise more awareness in Toronto, he launched JAYU in 2012, a charity that shares human rights stories through the arts. As the charity was trying to find itself in its early years, so too was Gilad, and it wasn’t until a fateful motorcycle crash in 2014 where everything changed.

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The Human Library Project is an event designed to create dialogue, promote understanding and reduce prejudice. A collection of “human books” (widely varied in gender, age, and cultural and religious backgrounds) are offered on loan to visitors. Facilitated by Human Library Librarians, visitors borrow the human book for up to 25 minutes for an open conversation. We hope to promote tolerance and deepen the understanding of social justice, equity and diversity.


For media inquiries, please contact:
Stephanie Eldred, Senior Communications Officer: stephanie.eldred@utoronto.ca


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