After a month’s worth of work and anticipation, yesterday the women of Central Neighbourhood House hit the scene at Yonge & Dundas, art in tow, ready to mix, mingle, meditate on social justice – and of course (it goes without saying), boogie down.

I carried with me the bag of cards lovingly made in our second workshop of weeks past, each card holding a unique handmade pin in the shape of a paper doll.  In our first workshop, we’d started with this image, and made dolls that hand to hand surrounded the perimeter of CNH, symbolizing the solidarity of its Women’s Club.

I gave out one to everyone who’d come with us, to start with.  The point was to find someone out in the crowd to give it to, to make new connections.  I could never have guessed how quickly the women kept coming back to me, one by one asking for one…three…five more…  Once the music started pumping greater excitement filled the air, fueling the delight for finding homes for their creations on the lapels of their fellow Risers.

At a point, I became involved chatting with folks and explaining exactly what it was we were doing with these cards, leaving the bag innocently perched over on a table where Family Service Toronto was setting up for outreach, left of the Canadian Women’s Foundation.  I returned later to find that Family Service volunteer and all-round upbeat soul, Zahra D, had taken on the unexpected task of handing out cards for us, as a curious crowd swarmed our designs. Appreciations, Zahra, for all your fine help!

Zahra (left) and Mehrak (right)

Shortly before the list of speakers hit the stage, a few came by to meet our women and check out the work. Many of the local organizers cheerfully came to don a paper doll pin in support of our initiative: great thanks to trendsetter Mehrak Mehrvar for starting this wave!  Eve Ensler, celebrated author of the Vagina Monologues and founder of One Billion Rising, also chose one particular masterpiece, which she wore for the duration of the event.  As this formidable freedom fighter delivered her address to an impassioned audience, the women of CNH could take collective pleasure in seeing some part of their project represented on the same stage.

A serious chill took to the square at evening’s end, but our women, now madly dancing, seemed hardly to notice or care.  I don’t mind saying I was a little ashamed that some of our Mandarin seniors exhibited more energy than I boasted out on the dancefloor (!)  All in all, there could be no doubt that the goals driving the project had been met – in spades, in fact – as evidenced most strongly on the smiling faces of our attendees.  A few other organizations I encountered expressed interest in doing a workshop swap next year.  Which is totally cool: we’ll look forward to that!

There are multiple perspectives I’m missing here in my description, and I’m excited to debrief with the group about their experiences.  But if a picture is worth 1.000 words, perhaps a tale will be told through the shots in the following gallery:





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