Youth, Faith & Gentrification: Multimedia Exploration into Regent Park

MiCA hosts a presentation about the redevelopment and lived experiences of Muslim youth in Toronto’s Regent Park.

About this event

Urban studies researchers across the world have been studying Regent Park’s billion-dollar redevelopment process and how the newly “revitalized” mixed-income neighborhood has affected long-time social housing residents, who are primarily Muslim immigrants (Brail and Kumar, 2017; August, 2014; Laughlin and Johnson, 2011). However, few of these studies incorporate the perspectives of youth. This talk analyzes the pedagogy of a course in which undergraduate Urban Studies students and youth members of a neighborhood media arts non-profit collaborated to ask the question: “Who is this revitalization really for?” The class was committed to principles of “knowledge justice” and participatory action research (PAR) in which academics and community residents are collaborative partners in the process of designing an inquiry for the purposes of social change (Torre et al, 2012). The two groups of students envisioned and co-produced their own media projects addressing revitalization and gentrification in Regent Park from the youth perspective. These projects included a podcast which explores how the Rap and Hip Hop culture of the neighborhood disintegrated during redevelopment; a YouTube mockumentary that exposes how inaccessible the neighborhood’s new public amenities are to long-time social housing residents; a zine documenting subversive art and memorabilia of the rapidly changing neighborhood; a photography exhibition that counters mainstream media stereotypes; and an interactive timeline that embeds the life story of one Regent Park youth resident into the history of the redevelopment and its accompanying academic scholarship. Analysis of these media projects, participant observation, focus groups, and students’ written reflection reveal that the media, academic scholarship, and practitioners have missed an important aspect of Regent Park’s story: the role that Islam plays in the lives of social housing residents, especially youth. This research examines how the students collaborated to reach these findings and argues that religion deeply affects the way one experiences the built environment and should be better accounted for in redevelopment planning processes.

About Aditi Mehta

Aditi Mehta has been an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies Program at the University of Toronto since 2018, and was a 2020-2021 Community-Engaged Learning Faculty Fellow at the U of T Centre for Community Partnerships. Aditi designs courses and research projects in collaboration with community partners for the purpose of social change and, through her pedagogy, reflects on the process of knowledge production. Her research critically examines discrimination, inequality, resource divestment and media bias against marginalized urban communities, and identifies promising new social and technological infrastructure that can help address these disparities. Her research process emphasizes participatory action research to ensure that affected communities are not mere subjects of academic research, but, rather, are co-creators of public knowledge She was recently awarded the Social Science and Humanities Research Council Partnership Engagement Grant for her participatory action research course in which U of T students and youth members of the non-profit FOCUS Media Arts collaborated to conduct research about how young religious and racial minorities in Regent Park have reimagined and repurposed city infrastructures to support their communities. Aditi completed her PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, where she was awarded the department’s most outstanding dissertation prize for her investigation of the politics of community media in post-disaster cities. Aditi was also awarded the Institute’s highest public service award for co-designing and co-publishing about MIT’s first course inside prison.

About Moska Rokay

Moska Rokay is the Digital Humanities Research Fellow at the Institute of Islamic Studies (University of Toronto) tasked with coordinating the Muslims in Canada Archives (MiCA). She is an advocate for community-centered, activist archives, especially of diaspora communities. She completed her Master of Information at the University of Toronto (2019). In 2020, she was the recipient of the ACA New Professional Award and Archivaria’s Gordon Dodds Student Paper Prize. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO) as Director Without Portfolio. 

About MiCA

The Muslims in Canada Archives (MiCA), a collaborative and participatory initiative at the Institute for Islamic Studies (IIS), provides a platform for the missing Muslim voices in Canada.  MiCA acquires, organizes, preserves, and makes accessible records of and about Canadian Muslim individuals and organizations that possess enduring value for the preservation of the history and documentary heritage of Muslims in Canada. About the Event Series The Community Collaborations Learning Series is a series of collaborative events where MiCA hosts a discussion or talk with an archive or related public history/community storytelling/cultural heritage initiative. These events allow MiCA to leverage its platform and audience to showcase the multitude of archives and archives-adjacent initiatives to a wider audience and learn from other related initiatives about community-centred, decolonial, anti-racist, and radical archival practice.