Gracia Dyer Jalea, Founding Executive Director

Gracia is an oral historian, educator, fundraiser and arts and culture professional. Most recently, she was the Programming Director for Friends of the Pan Am Path, working on Toronto’s largest Host City Showcase project for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Prior to the Games, she worked for the Montreal Life Stories Project, and co-authored  Mapping Memories: Participatory Media, Placed-Based Stories and Refugee Youth. In 2012 she produced the Montreal Life Stories Rencontres, a series of 48 events that took place throughout the city to disseminate the life stories of newcomers and refugees to Quebec. The Rencontres included a year long exhibit at the Centre d’histoire in Montreal.

She is a founding member of the Ward Museum and the founding executive director of the organization. In less than two years she has built partnerships with over 15 institutional partners from across the country, overseen the museum’s programming and has presented the museum’s work from South Africa to Halifax, in additional to raising funds to help support the museum’s work.

She holds a BA in Cultural Studies and World Religions from McGill University and a MA in Media Studies from Concordia University.

This year Gracia also received the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism from Ontario’s Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration for her work on the museum.

Maggie Hutcheson, Lead Curator and Researcher, Block by Block

Maggie Hutcheson is a community-engaged artist, educator, curator and consultant. Over the past 15 years she has collaborated with other artists and Toronto residents to animate oral histories of war, gentrification, homelessness and migration. Maggie has worked with a range of arts and non-arts organizations, including the CBC, Jumblies Theatre, MABELLEarts, Toronto Arts Foundation and York University. In 2011, she co-founded the award-winning Department of Public Memory, an arts collective that commemorates overlooked public institutions in Toronto. Maggie authored the Ontario Arts Council’s recently published handbook on best practices in community-engaged art, has extensive teaching experience and holds a PhD in Environmental Studies.

Maggie grew up in Toronto. Her father immigrated to Montreal from London in 1955. Her mother’s family migrated from Kent (England), Alsace and Bukovina between 1860 and 1910.

Kathy Grant, Toronto Regional Coordinator, Block by Block 

Born in Montreal, Kathy is a Public Historian and founder of Legacy Voices which ensures Black Canadian History and Military History is documented and preserved. Her efforts were formally acknowledged in 2012, when Kathy received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Kathy has made educational presentations to municipalities, schools, and community organizations promoting an inclusive approach to storytelling and historical documentation. Connecting to her audience through social media, Kathy continues to engage a diverse audience receiving half million views on her page annually.

Kathy’s father immigrated to Canada from Barbados in 1946 after serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force in WWII and her mother immigrated to Canada  from Barbados in 1959.

Phyllis Lewis, Montreal Regional Coordinator, Block by Block

Born in Jamaica, Phyllis Lewis moved to Canada with her family at a young age. Growing up in Toronto she developed an interest in books, music, movies and technology. She worked at the National Film Board of Canada for 12 years as a digital editing technician on documentaries and animated films. Later she co-created, Project Media and Next-Gen NDG developing and facilitating workshops for a new generation of media creators. She lives in Montreal where she continues to work and collaborate on a variety of creative projects.

Richard N. Liu, Vancouver Regional Coordinator, Block by Block

Born and raised in Canada, Richard resided in Beijing for over 20 years, starting the influential “Canadians in China” network and founded the Canadian Alumni Network that connects thousands of individuals currently in China who attended Canada’s post-secondary institutions. He was educated at the University of British Columbia and Peking University, and his family has had strong Canada-China ties for 3 generations. His Great-Uncle, Dr. Liu Shih-shun, was China’s first Ambassador to Canada in the 1940s, and his father, Dr. Liu Dun-ren built relations in education, culture and tourism for 3 decades.

Richard has worked in public relations, education, diplomacy, and major event organization. He’s been a leader in the development of a wide variety of volunteer projects in China, such as the Terry Fox Run and Special Olympics in Beijing. Richard has volunteered for 3 Olympic Games; and was also Team Attaché, a key member of the Canadian Paralympic Committee delegation for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Summer Games.

Vidhya Elango, Toronto Fellow, Block by Block

Vidhya Elango is a second-generation suburban kid, who currently lives in downtown Toronto. Her parents arrived in the GTA in the late 80s by way of the United States. Vidhya is currently working on a degree in linguistics and anthropology at the University of Toronto. She frequently thinks about what stories can teach us about the diversity of the city and is very excited to learn more about the Ward and histories of migration in Toronto by working on the Block by Block project.

Jennifer Su, Toronto Fellow, Block by Block

Jennifer Su is a Toronto-based artist working primarily in photography and film. She is interested in exploring themes of identity, community, and resistance through storytelling. Her first short film, 36 Questions, won the DGC and WIFT-T award at the Reel Asian International Film Festival. She is currently finishing up her undergraduate degree in socio-cultural anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Jennifer was born and raised in Southern Ontario, spending most of her childhood in the diverse suburb of Mississauga, Ontario. Her parents were born in Vietnam and met at a refugee camp in Hong Kong before settling in Canada.

Maxwell Adjei, Montreal Fellow, Block by Block

Born and raised in Montreal, Maxwell Adjei is a Graphic Designer and YouTuber. He currently works at the CardboardBox Project and is also the Co-founder of Trooth Empire, which is a social enterprise that educates, empowers and evolves the minds of youth through social media and apparel.

Maxwell holds a DEC in Illustration & Design from Dawson College.

His Mother immigrated from St. Vincent and The Grenadines and his father from Ghana.

Leah Woolner, Montreal Fellow, Block by Block

Passionate about art and social justice, Leah Woolner holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University and a Masters of Social Work from McGill University. She currently works at McGill as a research assistant and coordinator of a multi-country research project that explores the perspectives and experiences of children born of wartime rape. She continues to learn about her own Filipino heritage and culture as a community organizer at PINAY Quebec, a grassroots not-for-profit organization for Filipina migrants in Montreal.

Dominique Bautista, Vancouver Fellow, Block by Block

With roots across the trans-pacific in Southern China and the Philippines, Dominique was the first in her family to be born and raised in Vancouver. With a background in humanities, education and migration studies, she loves time spent with elders telling stories and supporting community-based education. You can catch her tweeting about the collision of food, identity, and culture @_DBAUTISTA.

Angela Ho, Vancouver Fellow, Block by Block 

Angela Ho is a second generation Chinese Canadian born and raised in Vancouver, BC. Currently, Angela is majoring in Geography and minoring in Asian Canadian Studies at the University of British Columbia. Angela finds a lot of joy in using digital media as a way to learn and connect with the communities that she is embedded in, and is excited to be a part of the Block by Block Vancouver team this summer.

Daniel Panneton, Researcher and Project Lead, Not Just Numbers

Daniel Panneton is a historian and museum professional based in Toronto. He holds a Masters of Museum Studies from the University of Toronto and a Masters of History from Queen’s University. Dan was born in Mississauga, but was raised abroad until he returned to Canada for university. He co-curated The Ward: Representations and Realities, 1890-1950, and publishes regularly in popular and academic publications. He is interested in public space, popular memory, performance, and politics.

Susan Ali Ibrahim Jama, Programming Student Intern

Susan received her undergraduate from York University double majoring in History and Psychology. Susan is currently a Museum Studies graduate student at University of Toronto. She believes education is one of the central building blocks both in life and in museums. Her ultimate life goals are: to receive a PhD and to rebuild the national museums in her parents’ country. Her current motto for grad school: survive and succeed. Her life motto: opportunities come to those who actively seek it, not to those who sleep on it.

Niusha Niki Assadian, Student Intern, Dishing Up Toronto

Born and raised mostly in Iran, Niusha Niki Assadian migrated to Canada for a short period during her childhood and returned to Toronto for university. She is currently finishing her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto Scarborough with a Major in Anthropology and Minors in Sociology and Culture, Creativity, and Cities. She enjoys learning the life stories of others and firmly believes in grassroots activism. Her hope is to become involved with social justice and community-based projects around the world.

Amani Hasin Farook, Student Intern, Dishing Up Toronto

Amani is currently a student at the University of Toronto. She is majoring in English and minoring in both Anthropology and Sociology. Amani was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and immigrated to Toronto, Canada with her family at the age of 3. Her hobbies include kickboxing, travelling and reading. She is particularly interested in migration stories that teach us about the diverse array of cultures around us. She is delighted to be working on the Dishing Up Toronto project alongside the Toronto Ward Museum.

Rumaisa Khan, Student Intern, Dishing Up Toronto

Rumaisa Khan is a 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, pursuing a major in Health Studies and double minor in Political Science and Anthropology. Rumaisa is interested in projects around refugee and newcomer youth and and has a particular interest in migration studies and public health. She is also interesting in exploring the ways in which we can use storytelling and narrative to advocate for change.

Akash Kovoor, Student Intern, Dishing Up Toronto

Akash Kovoor is an Indian – Canadian undergraduate student who is currently finishing his last year at the University of Toronto. A willing adventurer in terms of food, he is excited to try new and different items from an array of cultures. He is very enthusiastic about participating in Dishing up Toronto and is excited to see what this venture holds for the Ward Museum now and in the future.

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