Urban Indigeneity / Indigenous and Racialized Communities

Community Organizing: Leading Through Change

This series seeks to centre the expertise of grassroots community leaders in conversations surrounding COVID-19 response and opportunities for change amid the pandemic.

PDF iconConroy Gomes and Evelyn Ascencio (2020). Community Organizing: Leading Through Change. A research report. Toronto: CA. School of Cities, University of Toronto.


"Community Organizing: Leading Through Change" is an interview series developed by University of Toronto alumni and School of Cities Academy members, Evelyn Ascencio and Conroy Gomes, in partnership with Platform. For this project, we interviewed four Black, Indigenous, and racialized community organizers based in Toronto and Ottawa, Yohanna Heyuan Mehary, Gabrielle Fayant, Rosetta Lucente, and Andrea Vásquez Jiménez, in the autumn of 2020 to learn more about their work, how the pandemic has affected their community organizing efforts, and calls to action that the public can participate in. This project was developed after noticing that community organizers are not regularly profiled for their work despite being leading experts on social issues. As a result, Community Organizing: Leading Through Change aimed to shift the equity, diversity, and inclusion narrative from institutions back to the grassroots community level where many of these ideas originated from."

Yohanna is an organizer with Climate Justice Toronto, Climate Justice Scarborough, and Scarborough Co-op Market.

Gabrielle Fayant, a co-founder of Assembly of 7 Generations (A7G).

Rosetta Lucente, the Secretary General of Anakbayan Toronto.

Andrea is the co-director of Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network (LAEN)

Evelyn Ascencio

Evelyn Ascencio, (UTSG) Graduate – Master of Public Health, Social and Behavioural Health Sciences (Health Promotion)
Project: Not Your Average History Lesson: A Photo History of Racialized Communities in Toronto’s Inner Suburbs

Growing up as the daughter of Salvadoran refugees in a predominately low-income and immigrant neighbourhood in Toronto, Evelyn Ascencio witnessed the daily effects of health inequities on her family and friends. These lived experiences motivated her to work directly with the community to educate them about societal factors that lead to health disparities. This has led her to work as a Youth Health Action Network member with Toronto Public Health. She has also facilitated peer support groups and supported community advocacy efforts for Fred Victor Centre. At Planned Parenthood Toronto, she has analyzed teen pregnancy and STI rates to identify high risk neighborhoods in Toronto. Evelyn ultimately aims to raise awareness of the experiences that marginalized communities face in Toronto in her work as a researcher and educator. Most recently, to contribute her skills to the Covid-19 pandemic response initiatives Evelyn worked with ReConnect, an interactive web-based tool that allows users to locate available services and supports in their respective communities. Watch her interview on CTV's "Your Morning" as she puts job-searching as a new grad during a pandemic, into perpective. 

Read more about Evelyn's thoughts and journey in her Students in the Spotlight feature. "Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.

Conroy Gomes

Conroy Gomes*, (UTSG) Undergrad – Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience, Biology and Physiology
Project: Art in Oppression and the City

Conroy is a passionate, experienced, and knowledgeable student leader within the academic community at U of T. Growing up in traditionally underprivileged areas, an early understanding of the role of urbanization and infrastructure mismanagement in social and health inequalities has driven Conroy to use his passions in public health policy, research, and law toward the demonopolization of resources for traditionally marginalized peoples. Although only a fourth year student, he has engaged in advocacy, outreach, and leadership on the ground through community-service development, policy, research, and student initiatives. These activities encompass work at institutions such as the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Kensington Health, the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, the Hospital for Sick Children, and U of T’s International Health Program. 

Read more about Conroy's thoughts and journey in his Students in the Spotlight feature. "Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.