Graphic by Sabrina Lin

With International Women’s Day just behind us, several Hamilton organizations are taking the time to show their appreciation for the women in our community. One such organization is Never Gonna Stop, a youth initiative that is hosting Empower Me: A Women’s Appreciation Brunch on March 16 at the Hamilton Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.

In addition to brunch, the event will feature games, raffle prizes, a variety of visual and performing artists and speakers. The event is open to all ages and genders. It was important for the organizers that this communal appreciation of women be done by not just other women.

“[I]t's really important to have men to support women in our community. Men's voices are heard a lot more than just women’s [so] we're trying to get men to align with women… [W]hen we hear [about] domestic violence, usually it's men doing violence towards women, so… that's what I mean when I say we try to align men with women to support each other,” explained NGS member Gonca Aydin.

The brunch, which is now sold out, is free of cost. Making it free allowed the event to be accessible to everyone in the community. Reducing financial barriers is important for this organization, which is catered towards helping low-income youth.

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NGS was created by David Lingisi, Saifon Diallo and Joshua Kiena, all of whom come from low-income backgrounds. They wanted to create an initiative that would provide physical and mental health-related activities for youth from the ages of 13 to 29.

“[W]e've seen how there's a lot of older people… that have talent basically wasted because they didn't have an opportunity… [A]s the younger generation, we basically want to help [youth] out to make their dreams come true. I want everyone to provide a platform for them, to give them an opportunity to… go to the league, allow them to become doctors and [whatever] they want to do,” said Lingisi.

Lingisi was born with sickle cell anemia and has spent his life in and out of the hospital while still working towards his dream of being a music producer. Each of the co-founders have underwent personal challenges, which fuel their desire to help others overcome obstacles. Growing up in immigrant families, they all faced culture shock in addition to financial barriers.

The initiative hopes to provide the support for low-income youth that they feel is missing in Hamilton. They want to support the artistic, athletic and academic talent of today’s youth by providing them with opportunities and the knowledge to succeed.

Since the creation of the initiative last summer, NGS has hosted a youth panel, a holiday food drive, an All-Star weekend basketball tournament and a talent and fashion show for Black History Month among other events. They are continuously planning new events in partnership with other organizations in the city.

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They took on the Women’s Appreciation Brunch because it fits within their goal of creating community. NGS is proud to call themselves inclusive to all genders, races, religions or economic statuses. Setting aside space and time to celebrate women and promote the resources that women can access within the city fits within that mandate.

Most importantly, the Women’s Appreciation Brunch delivers the message of persistence directly to Hamilton’s women. They named the event Empower Me because they want women of all ages to know that they can accomplish any goal that they set out to reach.

“[K]eep following your dreams, whatever it is, don't ever stop, don't let anything stop you. You are able to make it no matter what you're going through, it doesn't matter the situation, just keep going as long as you get one more day… I just want to [say] that everybody's a part of NGS. I'm NGS, you're NGS, anybody going through anything but still fighting is NGS,” said Lingisi.

That is why they named themselves Never Gonna Stop. More than a name, it is a movement and source of encouragement for those involved. Knowing how hard life can be, NGS is focused on motivating others to work hard in order to achieve their wildest dreams.

 

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Illustration by Roushan Tabassum

From sitcoms to home improvement shows to commercials, the kitchen is assumed as the central space of a family. It is shown as a spot where its members gather, whether they’re grabbing a quick breakfast or cooking a multi-course holiday dinner.

However, since family can define so much more than just blood, it is only fitting that kitchen spaces be found in the community as well. The North Hamilton Community Health Centre and Speqtrum Hamilton have teamed up to create the Intergenerational Kitchen, an all-ages cooking series for the LGBTQ2S+ communities.

“[F]or myself there is definitely a period of time that I did not feel as comfortable maybe engaging my grandparents or aunts and uncles because I didn't know what they thought about my identity or I wasn't sure how accepting they're going to be. So it's a way that we can be our full selves in a space and also connect with other people that are different ages,” explained Jyssika Russell, the project co-ordinator for Speqtrum Hamilton.

The kitchen series has run every other Tuesday since Sept. 18 at the NHCHC’s community kitchen. The first series of events ends on Nov. 27 but there are plans to start up a second series of the program in the future.

Each event consists of making three or four dishes, usually consisting of a salad, main and dessert. Care is taken to try and make options for different dietary restrictions. Participants have also brought in their own familial and cultural recipes to share with others.

The NHCHC kitchen has been busting with turnouts of as much as 13 individuals. The program has also received a diverse age group with attendees as young as 16 and upwards of 70 years old. The kitchen is typically set up with learning stations, allowing cooks of different skillsets to learn from one another.

“[O]ne of the things that is the foundation of what Speqtrum does is [that] we try to create opportunities to do stuff together… I've always found doing activities, whether that be learning a new skill or doing something together, you're able to connect and have those conversations about who you are or about the things that you like,” Russell explained.

For those who don’t want to cook, there is also a chill space with a LGBTQ2S+ -themed colouring station. There are also other tasks such as dishwashing and table setting to do. People are also welcome to skip the preparation altogether and just come to eat.

The Intergenerational Kitchen has received a warm response. Having intergenerational events had been requested by the youth that Speqtrum serves and they have been participating, eager to meet and mingle with members of the community with different amounts of lived experience. While there has been a variation in ages, Russell hopes that the kitchen will continue to bring in more generations.

The kitchen has also tapped into the way that food transcends differences. By providing a space outside of partying, it has engaged people with different tastes and ages within the LGBTQ2S+  community.  In cooking and sharing a meal, the series has been crossing generational gaps and bringing together those with completely different interests and knowledge, from reality television to sword-making.

“[L]anguage and identities and ways of thinking about gender and sexuality are always evolving. [W]ith younger folks and the Internet… there's a lot of conversation that happens in those spaces that maybe hasn't trickled up to older generations so sometimes there's a generational divide in how we think about gender and how we conceptualize sexuality… I think this is really about recognizing all the similarities that we have across age and across identities,” said Russell.

Like any kitchen, the Intergenerational Kitchen is forging familial ties. It is providing a central space for LGBTQ2S+ individuals of different generations to connect and share in the healing power of a home cooked meal.

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