The Canadian non-profit has awarded over $95,000 in funding to 17 community-based 2SLGBTQIA+ projects and initiatives…
By Michelle Doyle and Michael Schneider
Toronto’s colorful Church and Wellesley neighborhood is home to recognizable spaces where 2SLGBTQ+ folks go to party, perform, and connect. You can find support and resources at The 519 Community Centre, or catch an emerging playwright’s newest work at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre. In close proximity to these queer hubs are The ArQuives, Toronto PFLAG headquarters, and Sherbourne Health Centre. Each of these organizations share a common thread: they were built with the generous support of the Community One Foundation.
Community One began as a grassroots organization in 1980 to raise funds for local 2SLGBTQ+ projects. Prioritizing initiatives that center on Two-Spirit, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour communities, these funds are distributed through their annual Rainbow Grants initiative, which awards grants to projects within the Greater Toronto Area. This year’s ceremony was fused with the Inside Out Film Festival gala premiere of SOS: Supporting Our Selves—a documentary commemorating 40 years of Community One’s work.
With $100,000 awarded annually, community leaders can apply for one of three categories of Rainbow Grants: General Grants – up to $1500 each (individuals and groups not eligible for Foundation Grants,) Foundation Grants – up to $7500 each (registered charities that use a Trustee for fiduciary responsibility,) and the James Stewart Grant – one grant up to $10,000 (to a community-based registered charity whose project supports 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and/or addresses community needs.)
This year’s James Stewart Grant was awarded to SKETCH Working Arts for their Movement Programming for 2SLGBTQ+ Youth initiative. In 2019, SKETCH received funding for their Trans ID Clinic, which provided 40 young people aged 16-29, who identify as transgender, with private professional legal guidance to make identity-affirming changes to name and gender markers on government identification documents. SKETCH Working Arts is a community arts organization that engages Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous and other racialized young people navigating poverty, living houseless, or on the margins, to experience the transformative power of the arts, build leadership and economic self-sufficiency, and cultivate environmental and social change through the arts.
This year’s project invites participants to come as they are into inclusive space for weekly movement workshops. Participants of all body types/abilities wear what they want, be who they are, and lean into their right to occupy space and experience empowerment through movement. This program aims to undo social stigma and toxic self perceptions of 2SLGBTQ+ bodies by embracing connection through movement in a safe, fun and accessible space. The result is greater physical and mental wellbeing, higher levels of joy, and the opportunity for greater social connection.
As with all of SKETCH’s programming, nutritious meals are provided as is access to primary health resources. This way, participants are able to put their energy into participating in the program, rather than the barriers they experience related to their poverty.
BollyHeelsTO was awarded a Foundations Grant for production of their new project, Becoming Sanjina. A former grant recipient for their documentary, Sanjina: The Untold Story of a Fijian Drag Queen, this project expands upon Sanjina DaBish Queen’s story in musical form.
Told through the lens of a child whose only friend and escape is dance, this musical will share Sanjina’s experiences growing up in her family home within an East Indian-dominated community. The project’s main goal is to raise awareness, inspire others, and provoke conversation in households, so that other South Asian queer artists can more freely express who they are.
BollyHeelsTO is a Bollywood fusion dance company, established in 2020, that blends Indian classical, Bollywood and Western styles of dance, performed in heels. BollyHeelsTO’s works are inspired by the vulnerability, struggle, success, and rebirth of Toronto-based Drag Queen, Sanjina DaBish Queen, whose mission is to expand our knowledge of dance and connect with dancers from different backgrounds. Inspired to create dance works that tell stories, ranging from South Asian history to individuals within our community, they aim to unlock the doors to both Bollywood and Hollywood, and establish more openness within South Asian and BIPOC communities.
A total of seventeen grants were awarded in 2023, and we are excited to see what impact these projects will make! More details about Community One Foundation’s Rainbow Grants can be found at www.communityone.ca. Applications open up in April, and funding is awarded in June and July. All projects must be complete by March of the next year. Do YOU have a project in mind that will enhance our community? The first step is to apply for a grant!