Success Story: Bigger Than We 2

All photo credit: Fraser Collins

We’re excited to be back sharing new success stories from our 2021 Rainbow Grant Recipients!

The Bigger Than We Collective is an ad hoc group of Black queer artists and community activists who came together in 2016. The Collective’s focus is the use of various artistic forms to develop intergenerational creative experiences for members of the GTA’s Black queer communities. The purpose of these creative experiences is to strengthen the fabric of our communities by building intergenerational bonds of understanding, friendship and solidarity. Check out our interview with project lead Phillip Pike below!

Could you tell us a little about the initiative your 2021 Rainbow Grant has supported?

The project is called Bigger Than We 2 and it brought together six Black queer/trans artists and twenty Black queer/trans community participants over the summer to co-design and co-develop a creative experience culminating in a one-day intergenerational event for the purpose of creating connections and facilitating knowledge exchange among members of Toronto’s Black queer/trans communities. Essentially, we were using art as a means of community building. Over one hundred people attended the one-day event on September 12th. 

Was there a particular thing that sparked this idea/initiative?

The idea was sparked by a realization that there are very few intentionally intergenerational spaces for Black queer/trans folks. There was, for example, a realization that younger generations were unaware of a lot of the community’s history. This led to Bigger Than We 1 back in 2017 which grew out of a documentary project capturing the history of Toronto’s Black queer/trans community and a desire to bring together in one room community members from different generations to learn about our history. 

What is your goal with making this initiative happen?

Our goal was to build intergenerational bonds of friendship and solidarity that nurture, protect, educate and facilitate knowledge exchange among members of Toronto’s Black queer/trans communities. Essentially, we want to strengthen the fabric of our community.

Many organizations have been faced with a set of new challenges, due to COVID-19. How is your team adapting?

The pandemic and the accompanying and ever-evolving public health restrictions meant that we had to be nimble and resilient in our planning and execution of the event. We were fortunate to find a venue that was large enough to accommodate our desired number of attendees while still maintaining physical distancing. Other impacts included the fact that some of the artist/community participant workshops took place online or outdoors instead of indoors in order to accommodate participants’ comfort levels.

How was the response of your initiative within the community?

The feedback has been extremely positive. Folks very much appreciated being able to gather in an affirming space. Ninety-three percent of those responding to our feedback survey agreed or strongly agreed with the following statement: Attending the event gave me feelings of affirmation as a Black queer or trans person. Seventy-six percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the following statement: As a result of attending this event I feel a greater sense of connection and belonging to the Black queer/trans community in Toronto.

Below are some of the verbatim comments from the feedback survey:
“The energy of the room was beautiful and much needed, I feel like more spaces for healing are needed in these difficult times. A beautiful event and I can’t wait to see more videos and coverage.”

“WOW! Oh, what a delightful, energetic and fun filled evening. Please convey my appreciation and thanks to the Organizing Committee, ceremonial hosts, artist, volunteers, technical crew and all who made the evening possible. I enjoyed the event in it’s [sic] totality.” 

Stay tuned for more Community One Foundation Success Story interviews coming soon!