By Raagave Kannan
FOCUS Media Arts Centre (FOCUS) is a not-for-profit organization that was established in 1990 to counter negative media stereotypes of low income communities and provide relevant information to residents living in the Regent Park area and surrounding communities. We seek to empower marginalize individuals and under represented communities to have a voice, through the use of professional training, mentorships and participatory based media practices that enable the sharing of stories, experiences and perspectives on relevant matters and issues.
The mandate at FOCUS is to provide a voice to underrepresented communities and individuals. Primarily started with Regent Park but they now work with several communities. The reason they got into media literacy is because many of the communities that they work with are stigmatized in mainstream media because they are low income and racialized. Their activities counter that by giving opportunities for community members to tell their own stories and to represent the communities in ways that they wanted to be represented. That’s their mandate and they do this through several ways.
They do this through a TV station for Regent Park, a 24 hour closed circuit TV station that goes to all the TCH buildings and the new Toronto Community Housing buildings in Regent Park in partnership with Rogers. They’re hoping to form a partnership with the market rent buildings so that everyone who has access to cable TV will have access to Regent Park TV. Along with Regent Park TV, they have a 24 hour digital radio station (Radio Regent). Their goal is to provide an alternative to mainstream commercial radio and provide access to people who generally don’t have access to radio broadcasting.
They run other media literacy programs such as gaming design, music recording studio, photography, and video production workshops with youth. Due to COVID, much of their programming has been limited but generally they would be running programs in partnership with some of the schools in the area. They would be running a youth radio program, where youth get together and produce their own youth radio show. They have a young woman’s group called the Divas Media Group that is still running online as well as the community journalism program.
Once the lock down is over, their goal is to work more closely with our partnership communities including St. James Town, their primary community to produce media stories. They recently started St. James Town TV in partnership with the St. James Town Corner (The Corner) and with the support of his colleague, Nea Maaty, they would like to begin running programs for youth and residents to produce their own shows and tell their own stories as well as film community events that are important to the community. Stay tuned for more from St. James Town TV.
Adonis Huggins is the Executive Director of the Focus Media Centre (FOCUS). His role involves administrative activities, and coordinating creative activities and programs of the organization.
Nehad Maaty is a staff journalist with the FOCUS Media.
For more information about Focus Media Centre (FOCUS), please visit http://www.focusmediaarts.ca/