Summer Saturdays at the Moss Park Market
By Dustin Stern, Director of Community Programming
Summertime for Building Roots is a special time. Starting in 2018, we have had the privilege of animating the courtyard space outside the Moss Park Market during market hours (11am-3pm). This ramped up during the pandemic when spaces to safely come together in the community were limited, as were paid opportunities for musicians, performers, and facilitators.
Over several years of spearheading the planning of our ‘Summer Saturdays’ in-house, this year we decided to intentionally take a step back and allow the connections made and the local community really take the lead role. We are thrilled at what has and will take place.
Local organization Equitable Action for Change is leading a harm reduction outreach table. Our neighbours, Charlie’s Freewheels, will be setting up a pop-up bike safety check and cycling education stand from July 8th through August 19th. Local community member, Tracey Lacroix, has enthusiastically volunteered to lead weekly activities for the little ones in the community, alongside our BookShare where a steady supply of children’s books is made available thanks to our local partners, The Children’s Book Bank.
Music for Climate Change, an initiative led by Cassie Norton, a teacher at the Regent Park-based Community Music Schools of Toronto, has found their homebase in our Summer Saturdays. They began with puppet-making workshops starting June 10th, led by Laura Sharbell, each week involving different community members in their construction, all leading up to a parade and party of the giant puppets on July 15th.
We invited Cassie Norton to perform on our first Summer Saturday of the season, and magic happened. A little girl from the community went from bobbing her head, to shyly singing along, to asking if she can try Cassie’s electric ukelele, to performing with Cassie, and then asking for the microphone and singing a song from her own repertoire. All the while, adults and kids together got their hands dirty and with smiles ear-to-ear, began constructing the giant puppets. This community spirit is exactly what Summer Saturdays is all about.
Every Saturday you can also stop in at our Coffee & Conversations table, where iced coffee, snacks, and smiles are all free. Plus, many Saturdays you will stumble upon a stand of fresh harvests from our community-led Urban Farm at Ashbridge Estate, where education about urban farming, and ideas for how to cook with that week’s harvests will be offered.
The summer will also feature two special events organized in partnership with fellow community members and organizations.
The first of these is the Queer Wellness Fair, taking place on July 8th, where with the help of community partners and our lovely board member Verlia Stephens, information and resources for 2SLGBTQ+-identifying folks will be made available, with an extra focus on racialized community members and newcomers who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. There will also be music and other performances by members of these communities, and as always, a special offering of freshly prepared food.
Then on August 26th, we will be hosting the 4th Annual Café Caribbean, in partnership with our long-time collaborator Grace Cameron, founder of JamaicanEats Magazine. This is always a highlight of our summer, with food vendors representing the diversity of Caribbean cuisine, and a lineup of performers that in the past have included music, dance, storytelling, and always a healthy dose of pandrum performances.
Important to note that none of this could happen without our incredible team of volunteers – a list too long to name them all. I do, however, want to give a special mention to Sojourn House. The residents of their transitional housing have been showing up in huge numbers and providing invaluable help in running our community programming.
Whether you are from Moss Park and surrounding neighbourhoods, or simply interested in joining in on the family-friendly fun, we invite you to join us out in the sun!