Introducing “The Scarborough Beat Tape”, Canadian-Tamil Producer Yanchan’s Paying Homage To His Scarborough Roots

Yanchan is a Canadian-Tamil producer, mixing engineer, singer and South Indian hand drummer (Mrithangam) from Scarborough, Canada. As a producer and artist his unique sounds that express his Scarborough upbringing with Tamil foundations has been evident in his consistent release of solo and collaborative projects that have garnered over 1.3 million streams on Spotify. Yanchan most recently has helped build Emtee Education, which is an artist development and music education firm for artists and labels (both independent and major).

Tell us about your upbringing and how that sparked your love of music.

I grew up in a very Tamil-cultured household so my parents put me in Carnatic vocal lessons at the age of six and also put me in Bal Vikas (religious classes around the teachings of Sai Baba). It was there that I witnessed someone performing on the mrithangam for the first time and I was really fascinated by the sounds. That really sparked an interest in me to learn and that was the first moment I really started appreciating how music could make me feel.

What is “The Scarborough Beat Tape” and why are you so excited about it?

Last year Pre COVID-19, I went on the “Oh Gawd India Tour” accompanying Shan Vincent de Paul and released an instrumental tape shortly afterwards entitled “The India Beat Tape” embodying all my inspirations/love from that tour. The success of that project really encouraged me to focus more on my production.  I knew I wanted to keep putting out instrumental tapes and shed light onto places that were meaningful to me. I was born and raised in Scarborough and it’s helped shape me into the man I am today. I wanted to create a project that showcased all my memories from this beautiful city.

You describe yourself as a Carnatic Hip Hop Producer.  For people that may not know what a producer is, can you provide a description?  And why did you specifically select Carnatic & Hip Hop as the 2 genres of focus?

A beat maker is someone who makes beats and ends it there. A producer is someone who is a part of the whole process and vision of a full song. When I work with artists, I make sure I help them carry out their vision and it’s a real collaborative process. I chose Carnatic and Hip Hop because those were the two genres of music I had the deepest love for when I first started producing. My foundation in music stems from mrithangam and Carnatic Music.  When I later formed a new passion for Hip Hop, it became my mission to bridge the gap between these two worlds.

You’ve had a very busy couple of years including doing a tour in India with Shan Vincent de Paul and putting out a huge summer hit in “Best Friend.” How was the experience touring?  Anything unexpected?

I’ve always dreamt of touring and once I was out there, it was crazy. It was amazing to see how much fan love we had over there. My first ever festival show experience was our first stop of the tour and watching Shan perform and doing mrithangam raps live with him was something to remember.  I’m grateful for that experience because it showed me how much work I had to do on my own to become a great performer.  Doing an independent tour definitely comes with its challenges but we overcame all of them because we had such a great team.

***Read the rest of interview at TamilCulture.com.***

Sumu Sathi Is Spearheading Change And Breaking Glass Ceilings As A Union Leader, Anti-Racism Facilitator And Public Servant

Sumu Sathi is a union leader (Chair at CUPE905) representing 3,700 public servants, an anti-racism facilitator, and the co-founder of BIPOC Collective Human Rights Committee with CUPE905. Sumu’s experience includes 15+ years in community leadership and media. She has a B.Sc from the University of Toronto and in the final year of BSW at the University of Manitoba. Her community work has been featured in publications like Toronto Star, Toronto.com, NOW Toronto and SAPNA Toronto. In 2017, she was chosen to be part of post-war socioeconomic development work in Sri Lanka as a Leadership facilitator.  She also launched Ms. Brown Plus, a body-positive movement where we promote body confidence and showcase women breaking glass ceilings.

Congrats on being the first women & person of colour to take a chair position in the CUPE905 Union! What made you decide to take on this role?

To be honest, I didn’t plan this. It was more like my members chose me and I accepted because it was the right thing to do. Activism has always been part of my identity as an Eelam Tamil Canadian. During my days in university, I was the President of Tamil Students Association at University of Toronto and was heavily involved in advocacy for our people in 2009. After entering the social work field and decided to do my advanced degree in Social Work, I realized that social justice is very intertwined with my profession. Labour movements have become homes for many activists who are fighting for systemic change and let’s say that I found my people. Fighting for human rights was aligned with fighting for safe and fair working conditions. I feel that this was the next chapter that was meant to open as part of my purpose towards advocating for human rights. York Region Unit – CUPE905 went from being an organization with an executive group that was predominantly white men to one now that has a majority of women including 4 racialized women.  History was made and I am honoured to have witnessed it. 

What is your vision with you in this role?

I entered the union space because there was a lack of representation for racialized people and women. Then I realized that it wasn’t welcoming to everyone from equity-seeking communities. My anti-racism work which involves challenging white supremacy and dismantling colonial systems will continue as I build a strong union for my members. Part of my vision is for us to be a progressive and inclusive union where all members feel safe and protected. 

I am a leader of a team of 9 labour execs who oversee the following units – Community & Social Services, Paramedic Services, Transportation & Environment, Long-Term Care, Public Health and Corporate, Courts & Finance. Approximately 3500 public servants come under this unit and continue to provide frontline services during the pandemic.  My vision includes focusing on business continuity, building community partnerships and member engagement to build a strong union. I believe in sharing the power and identifying potential leaders to continue the fight. 

How did your past roles as a media and television host/producer play a part in the work you do now?

My past work as a television producer and host built my skills to lead and engage in meaningful discussions  with a vast spectrum of people. My skills ensure that I can create space for others to share their own narratives, giving voice to their realities many of which have not been heard. I recently moderated a panel for Women’s Month to highlight the work of female leaders in the labour movement – something that is not spoken of often enough.  As a South Asian woman in a male dominated media world, my journey was filled with horrendous barriers and obstacles that in themselves can make for an interesting movie. I learnt from each instance, grew a thick skin and learnt to assess situations critically and strategically. It also pushed me to be bold and blunt, building my confidence to call out oppression fearlessly. The same people who criticized me for being outspoken now choose to congratulate me.  This is evidence that women need to roar and support each other without fear. 

What are some of the goals that you would like to accomplish in the next few years, would feel like a big win for you?

My heart and soul is filled with many creative projects and social justice campaigns. I have directed, produced and hosted over 100 videos and am currently working on a documentary that will highlight the resilience of Eelam Tamil women. I am hoping to complete that project in the near future. I am also completing a postgraduate degree in Social Work with University of Manitoba. I do see myself always evolving as a creative, pushing myself creatively, to tell untold stories from within marginalized communities. 

What is a challenge you overcame these past few years that taught you something significant to help you get to where you are now?

As someone who was always ambitious, I started looking for role models at a young age and frustratingly found none. Without guidance, I often had to settle for information, resources and expertise positioned by individuals who I truly did not resonate with. I wasted several thousands of dollars on motivational books, on personal branding content, dreaming of achieving overnight success based on a skewed perspective presented to me from a place of inherent privilege. I realized that my race, gender and ethnicity played key roles in my own journey to success. As a daughter of a refugee who saw her parents start their life in Canada in their 50s, I didn’t inherit generational wealth or privilege. My first language is Tamil. My life was a daily struggle challenging oppressive cultural practices, seeking identity and fighting racism. How can I achieve success the way a white man does where he hasn’t faced racism, sexism or discrimination like I have? After facing many failures and disappointment, I had to look for role models and mentors who have walked a similar path like mine.  This was a huge eye opener for me and a very hard pill to swallow, something that required great introspection and self awareness. I am very mindful of whose content I read, watch and listen to now – my tolerance for entitled mediocrity is low. 

***Read the rest of interview at TamilCulture.com.***

Post-Acquisition Of His Healthcare Startup Adracare, Edward Philip Talks About The Windy & Difficult Path To Success

Edward and his co-founders started with the idea of building an augmented reality DJ product, but somehow ended up building a healthcare platform called Adracare through a connection- eventually selling the company to WELL Health Technologies.

Tell us about how the idea for Adracare came to be, how the founding team came together and how you grew the company before it got acquired.

In 2013, after trying to build Augmented reality DJ Tech (gloves that would allow DJs and artists to “throw” their sound a venue), and not managing to secure funding to develop the idea out, my group of friends decided to take a stab at building technology to make access to care easier, and modernizing it.   It’s a huge problem that still exists today, and we set out to do something about it.

We were approached by a partner who knew the space well, and we started working on software that’s now the Adracare Platform.  We initially started by building a suite of tools that could integrate with existing EMR (Electronic Medical Record Systems), like SMS/Voice/Email Appointment Reminders, Virtual Consultations, Online Booking, Questionnaires, and Patient Portals.  It’s now evolved beyond that, to features like SmartFax, Chromecast Waiting Room Applications, and is used in countries all around the world.

In recent years, there’s been a glamourization in the start-up world around raising money and growth at any costs, how do you feel about this?

In my 20’s, hearing my friends talk about their Seed/Series A funding was super exciting, and it felt like a race to get there.  Later on in my journey, however, I began to realize that racing to find an investor to raise money should never be the goal.  

My advice to entrepreneurs is this:  Raise money when you absolutely need to.  Until then, keep working at building your product, understanding your customers, and then go back to building your product.  Establish revenue that, hopefully, you can reinvest in your product.  Build revenue, and drive towards a specific valuation before trying to raise.

How did the acquisition by WELL Health Technologies come to be?  Also, tell us what the experience of getting acquired looks like briefly.  

Networking is probably the most important thing any entrepreneur can make sure they do. I met an Tamil investor who was working with another company I had co-founded, a creative and digital marketing agency, Wooden Panda.  Though his investment team passed on Adracare, he made the introduction to a friend of his who worked for BDO, and was looking for a platform like Adracare.  

We had met the WELL Leadership Team previously, and it was clear to us that they’re a team that’s completely focused on improving patient outcomes, and strong believers that technology has the strong ability to make this possible.  So we knew right away that it would be the best place to continue doing the work we were doing, as part of a larger team.

Where do you see Adracare in the next 3- 5 years? Where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years?

Now that Adracare is part of the WELL Health family, I see it growing and becoming an app that everyone has installed on their phone, enabling them to connect with their doctor, therapist, chiropractor, etc., or find care.  

And personally, I see myself continuing this journey of mine, solving problems that matter to me, which is my purpose.  And there’s no unsolved problem that affects me and my loved ones every day more than the behemoth that is Healthcare.  

***Read the rest of interview at TamilCulture.com.***

Sindhu Senthilnathan Co-Founded E-Commerce Company Little Ladoo To Create Products To Showcase Indian Culture In A Relatable Way For Children

Our items tell a story deeper than just what the item is at face value, they tell the story of our grandparents taking us to the temple, our parents feeding us special sweets and Indian treats and most importantly they tell our children that our roots are not just overseas, but in their play rooms, on their book shelves and proudly showcased in their classrooms.

What made you start Little Ladoo?  How did you decide on that name?  How did the founding team (yourself & Vaishali) come together?

Vaishali and I met in University (Ryerson) and have been friends since. We always wanted to start a business together. We tried a few things, but sometimes due to timing, other times the idea, it never clicked. We actually started a Youtube channel and we worked really hard on that. Then we started paying attention to things around us. I noticed over the holidays all the gifts kids would receive and noticed nothing represented the children. There was a hole in the market, especially here in Canada. Vaishali’s husband suggested we write a book, so we started looking in to how with one thing leading to another and Little Ladoo was born. The name came to me quite easily, I just thought it would be cute and could also be our character. To be honest, of all the businesses I have attempted, this name was the easiest, I had no other options to even consider.

What was a challenge that you’ve recently had to overcome while running the business and how did you overcome it?  

Running a business is a constant challenge. One recent one, is with our fulfillment. This is sometimes one of the hardest parts of a product-based ecommerce business. We have been doing our own fulfillment, but with some life changes we realize we won’t be able to do this for much longer, so we’ve been looking for ways to outsource this for a while. We’ve finally found something and we’ll be switching over soon – but as a small business this a huge struggle! We have been calling, researching and asking around. I remember even seeing a fulfillment van on the road that had their phone number on the side and in traffic I quickly called them. You never know where opportunities might present themselves, so keep your eyes and ears open at all times.

Is this something that you currently do full-time?  If not – do you have plans to make this a full-time endeavour in the future?  If not – why?

We both currently do this as a side hustle and hope to one day be able to do this full time. As much as it is challenging, it is also so rewarding being able to work on every facet of your own business.

What has the impact of social media been on your business?

Social media has been the biggest, and perhaps the only way we have been able to grow our business. The reach can be huge and every day we discover new customers but also new businesses that inspire us. Social media has so many positives, and I truly believe that if you focus on that, the sky is the limit.

What’s one goal that, if you were to accomplish it over the next three months, would feel like a big win for you?

We are currently in the stage of some big changes for Little Ladoo and hope to create some new products by the end of the year.

What is a piece of advice you would give to other aspiring entrepreneurs, especially someone who wants to launch an e-commerce business like yours?

START. Literally, start. The to do list will keep growing, so keep writing down all the things you need to do, but prioritize what you HAVE to do to launch and work on that. Also, perfection isn’t always necessary, so do what you need to do and you can improve the details later. Yes, you need a good product/service, but the rest you can figure out and improve as you go.

***Read the rest of interview at TamilCulture.com.***

EP #16: Thiru Vignarajah – Baltimore Mayoral Candidate, Federal Prosecutor & Harvard Law School Graduate

Thiruvendran “Thiru” Vignarajah is a Candidate For Mayor of Baltimore while being a lawyer who is currently a litigation partner at the law firm DLA Piper in Baltimore, Maryland. Thiru joins Ara on the latest episode of The Tamil Creator to discuss immigrating to the States at the age of three, his passion for Baltimore, how working in politics helped him learn to accept the fact he can’t please everyone, his strategy for staying grounded, and much more.

**TAKE THE QUIZ – “What Type of Creator Are You?”**

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Connect with Thiru – https://twitter.com/thiru4baltimore

Timestamps

01:11 – Introducing Thiru Vignarajah
02:17 – Having parents who were teachers, wanting to become a law professor
08:43 – Why Thiru chose to attend Yale and Harvard
11:24 – The perception vs. reality of Baltimore
18:35 – How can Baltimore prosper?
26:04 – Why Thiru still drives a Camry
29:26 – Why Thiru doesn’t drink alcohol or eat meat
31:51 – Valuable lessons Thiru has learned along the way
37:10 – What Thiru would tell his 16-year-old self
39:37 – What is the Tamil community like in Baltimore?
41:57 – Talking is Thiru’s favourite method of learning
44:08 – Thiru’s Tamil inspirations
49:31 – Why Thiru looks up to Thurgood Marshall
53:17 – Creator Confessions
57:55 – The wrap up

EP #15: Thiviyaa Sehasothy – Marketing Professional By Day, Savvy Art Entrepreneur By Night

Thiviyaa Sehasothy, aka Art By Thiviyaa, is a Toronto artist and painter whose specialty is creating magic on canvas with custom & original work for clients. She joins Ara to discuss various topics including her first sale, how exhibitions built her confidence, the simultaneous balance between being an artist and a small business owner, and the personal legacy she wants to leave behind.

**TAKE THE QUIZ – “What Type of Creator Are You?”**

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Connect with Thiviyaa – https://www.instagram.com/artbythiviyaa/

Timestamps:

01:06 – Introducing Thiviyaa Sehasothy aka Art By Thiviyaa
04:05 – Thiviyaa credits her brother for her success
07:41 – Ara’s brother impersonates him in public
09:15 – How Art By Thiviyaa came to be
14:15 – How exhibitions built Thiviyaa’s confidence
19:03 – Thiviyaa’s first sale
23:30 – How Thiviyaa balances being an artist and a small business owner
26:36 – The difference between an original piece and a print
29:59 – Thiviyaa’s most popular art pieces
31:40 – The concept of doing something once and being paid for it repeatedly
34:20 – NFTs
40:58 – Thiviyaa’s biggest insecurity
46:59 – Where Thiviyaa sees herself in the next 3-5 years
50:35 – How Thiviyaa views money, the importance of valuing your work
58:55 – The personal legacy Thiviyaa wants to leave behind
59:52 – Advice Thiviyaa would give to other Tamil creators
1:02:02 – Creator Confessions
1:07:35 – The wrap up

EP #14: Yanchan – Popular Carnatic Hip Hop Producer Talks About His Drake-Inspired Dreams, Love For Scarborough & Financial Freedom

Yanchan is a Scarborough-raised producer who blends hip-hop with Carnatic music. He joins Ara for what could be considered the Scarborough episode, to discuss how he fell in love with music and achieved his childhood dreams of performing on tour, his recently released Scarborough Beat Tape, how to make money off of music, why he doesn’t turn down opportunities anymore, and a lot more!

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Connect with Yanchan –https://www.instagram.com/yanchanproduced/

Timestamps:

01:06 – Introducing Yanchan
03:37 – Studying economics at Laurier, family’s view on his career ambitions
07:08 – The Scarborough Beat Tape, nostalgia for the city
14:13 – Achieving his childhood dream of performing on tour
18:22 – Shan Vincent de Paul and the track “best friend”
20:39 – The Tamil music scene, artists who Yanchan wants to collaborate with
21:56 – Being inspired by another music producers, and wanting to give back in a similar way
23:14 – How does Yanchan make money (Spotify, selling beats, artist development)
28:11 – COVID-inspired business ideas
30:14 – Why Yanchan takes every shot he gets
32:28 – Networking as an introvert, wanting to connect the Indian and American markets
34:56 – Yanchan’s admiration for Drake, and wanting to mimic his career
36:26 – Financial freedom
38:14 – How has the Tamil community impacted Yanchan
39:14 – Beliefs and behaviours which have improved Yanchan’s life
42:03 – How Yanchan decompresses from work, prioritization of family/friends
43:29 – Yanchan’s advice for other creators
44:06 – Creator Confessions
46:16 – The wrap up

Australian-Tamil Ragavi Ragavan Is Changing Young People’s Lives As a Dancer With Bindi Bosses And As a Forensic Scientist In The Education Sector

“I made a promise to myself that I wanted to keep both my creative and analytical sides of my brain working. Which is why I do what I do! I definitely have my “creative” days and my “professional” days which seem to split up my work well. I am someone who also works through weekends if needed, and luckily I enjoy my work so it isn’t draining!” Ragavi Ragavan was born in Switzerland and schooled in Australia. She studied Forensic Science in Applied Chemistry in University and has been the Head of STEM for an education company for about a decade now, allowing her to flex the analytical side of her brain. She has also been in the street dance world for about 9 years, starting off with Dancehall and Afro styles, before joining Bindi Bosses to do some creative South Asian fusion work. Her drive in life is to make a difference for young people in some capacity, whether it be through a creative or academic outlet.

You have a number of creative pursuits including dancing (with Bindi Bosses), Acting and Modelling.  How do you balance this with your “day job” as a Head Educational Coach?

 I actually have multiple things I do as a “day job”! I studied Forensic Science in Applied Chemistry at University and have been Head of STEM for an education company for about decade now. I really wanted to work out how to combine these both and still make a difference. 

Now, I travel across Australia presenting the real life scenarios of how we use Maths and Science in the real world. 

 I made a promise to myself that I wanted to keep both my creative and analytical sides of my brain working. Which is why I do what I do! I definitely have my “creative” days and my “professional” days which seem to split up my work well. I am someone who also works through weekends if needed, and luckily I enjoy my work so it isn’t draining!

How did you get involved with Bindi Bosses?  

I’ve been in the street dance world for about 9 years now, starting off with Dancehall and Afro styles. Shyamla had heard about me and approached me to do a Bollywood piece for a wedding and the rest is history! She had been dying to do some creative South Asian fusion and we hit it off whilst rehearsing. Our first performance as Bindi Bosses was at an event called Dancey Dance Time – that was probably my most nervous moment before a performance.

Do you have aspirations to pursue your creative pursuits on a full-time basis?  Why or why not?

I’ve done some deep dive thinking on this and, personally, dancing is something I selfishly do for myself. If I take it on as a full time career it will take all the fun out of it for me. I love what I get to do though, very grateful that I get paid for my creative pursuits.

And honestly, my drive in life is to make a difference to young people more than anything. That is my motto. So as long as I’m doing that in some capacity, I’m happy. Whether it be through a creative or academic outlet. 

I adore being in education, encouraging young people to step outside of their comfort zone in thinking, seeing them excel when they don’t think they can do it, watching them go from “I can’t do it” to “I’m doing it and flying!”. This is my purpose. 

I personally view social media in a positive light.  I see it as a tool that can be used for good or bad (similar to a car).  Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

As I age and get wiser, I really do feel this way. Social media has connected people in so many ways that we haven’t been able to do before. And I’m constantly in awe and inspired by people around the world. I love that we are able to create our own narratives and see diversity on social media. This is something I definitely lacked when I was younger and now the general population gets to create content that the general population wants to see! 

Of course there is the flip side, where it becomes extremely addictive and I do struggle with this from time to time as well. However, with constant reminding, I’m slowly being conscious of what and how much I consume through social media. Something I feel young people need to start being taught as well!

How have your family and friends supported you through your journey?  

Surprisingly, my parents have been very supportive through my journey.  Initially, it took a few conversations to get them to understand where I’m coming from but luckily, they are always open to talking about it. At the end of the day, they just want to know I’m secure and safe. I know they are confident with my choices, they’ve been more supportive than ever nowadays. 

And my close friends have always been my number one hype people from the beginning! I remember when I was entering my first Dance competition, I hadn’t told anyone due to my nerves and didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Also low key, I didn’t think I would make it past the first round either. A few days before the comp, they found out about it and the entire front row was filled with people from my life, cheering me on. The energy and love was palpable through the room, it really was a precious moment. I am so grateful that I made it all the way to the final round and ended up winning the 2017 DanceHall Queen title! They got me through a huge milestone for me.  

***Read the rest of interview at TamilCulture.com.***

Gokul Natesan’s Grind: From Studying Computer Science to Playing Professional Basketball

“I believe that losing the biggest games on the court are the times when I’ve learned a lot about myself. How a person responds when they encounter “failure” is a good measure of their character.” Gokul Natesan grew in a small town sandwiched between Santa Clara and Cupertino, the Apple headquarters and was the first person in the Natesan family to be born in the USA. In college, Gokul had to find the balance between studying software and practicing daily for basketball which was quite a grind. He has played professional basketball since finishing college and currently plays in Finland’s top league.

Growing up in a Tamil household where typically the focus is on academics versus sports, how did you convince your parents that you wanted to play sports?

When I was younger my parents heavily encouraged me to play all sports. They were very big on the importance of extracurricular activities in general as they felt it developed qualities not stressed in a classroom. As a kid, I played any sport that I had interest in but that eventually narrowed down to basketball. 

How did you balance the demands of being in a computer science program and playing college basketball?

It was a big time commitment having to manage these two tasks. Studying computer science, you quickly realize that there are a lot of time-consuming projects and difficult courses. Balancing that with the responsibilities that come with playing college basketball, you have to be extremely dedicated. I felt the biggest thing was to set daily goals and accomplish them so I wouldn’t get behind in my classes. With that being said, there were still plenty of long nights where I would be up late finishing an assignment. 

Any advice for the younger generation who want to be a professional basketball player?

I think it’s important for younger kids to simply enjoy the game and develop their passion for playing basketball. As they get older and have ambitions to play at a higher level, I’d say to focus on getting better every day and putting in the time to improve. 

What are your plans for post-basketball life? 

Ideally, I would be a professional esports gamer but that’s not happening any time soon. The reasonable choice would be to do something in sports or tech given my background. However, I am still unsure as to what exactly my plans are. 

What is a failure you’ve experienced in the last 5-10 years that you’ve learned the most from?

I believe that losing the biggest games on the court are the times when I’ve learned a lot about myself. How a person responds when they encounter “failure” is a good measure of their character.  

In terms of your personal legacy, in a few sentences, describe how you want to be remembered by your family and friends?

I’m not really too concerned about a personal legacy because if you try to be the best version of yourself, things will turn out just fine.

***Read the rest of interview at TamilCulture.com.***

Cheyanne Ratnam Is A Successful Social Entrepreneur And Survivor Of Sexual Abuse, Suicidality And Homelessness

“Family is not just biological. I am blessed to have biological family but also so many siblings from the child welfare system as well as parental figures. I have a Jamaican mom who has loved me since I was 14. I have a French mom figure and a Jewish dad figure. I had a different upbringing from most Tamil people.” Cheyanne Ratnam is passionate about equity and developing inclusive and accessible spaces and processes. She has dedicated much of her time and expertise in child welfare and homelessness. She is the Co-founder and Executive Lead of the Ontario Children’s Advancement Coalition. Cheyanne went from experiencing suicidality in grade 5 to homelessness to child welfare to experiencing violent relationships, to still somehow coming up above the water. She is an Expert In Residence with CWLC and is an advocate for Childhood Sexual Abuse and GBV/IPV – being a survivor of both. She is also an independent consultant, engagement specialist, personal development coach, capacity builder, media commentator, public speaker, ambassador of the CAFdn, and partakes in various communities through volunteerism. In 2016, she received the ‘One To Watch’ Alumni Award, one of the highest accolades awarded by her alma mater. In 2017, was recognized by the United Way of Greater Toronto as 1 of 3 Womxn who inspire for International Wom*n’s Day.

I find the work you’re doing with the Ontario Children’s Advancement Coalition (OCAC) very inspiring.  What made you start this organization?

Coming to Canada as Yalpanum Thamizh peoples is already a complex narrative due to the losses, violence and grief that our communities have faced. These experiences can manifest into tensions, within homes in new countries, as well as mental health needs not being met. My mom is the strongest person I know and she raised me on her own until I was about 13. Growing up with this identity and diaspora-focused complexity was one thing, but I am also a survivor of childhood trauma and childhood sexual abuse which was never addressed adequately. This led me to needing respite from the community and my home.

At around 13, I ended up basically being raised by the West Indian community, more specifically the Guyanese Community. I was on the homelessness spectrum couch-surfing and found any reason to be out of the home, and community, because I did not feel safe in it. Shortly after I entered the child welfare system and grew up in the child welfare system. My various identities and lived expertise made me want to be a person who created waves, strengthened tides, and fueled impact in things that were, and are, problematic in the system. Since I was younger I have been involved in raising awareness, strengthening my understanding about what allyship means in different contexts in juxtaposition with diverse intersectionalities.

I would say that, from a young age, I always felt like I would be a social entrepreneur – a social impact maker. I have founded and managed/led different initiatives in child welfare, homelessness, and built credibility in these systems. Everything that I have done were steps toward eventually developing a non-profit. In 2018, the provincial government had plans to shut down the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and this was negatively impacting multiple communities that were engaged and/or supported by this Independent office of the legislature. The negative impact included grief. As a response I messaged a couple of people, who were lived experts, to have a debrief and grieve together; another ally was doing similar and we partnered to make this happen. We ended up in the basement of a community organization and shared our grief, and then I spoke about next steps and what we could do about this. The initial group of about 15 people dwindled down to a core group of about 6 or 7, and we ended up on the lawn of the legislature for a rally.  We partnered with an allied politician and a local university to hold a press-conference in the legislature. The day was amazing. Many people showed up in the cold (it was around November) and we invited all parties to speak at the event as well. It was a show of solidarity and passion. I remember myself and two of the core team members worked through the night planning this – with myself personally having a couple of sleepless nights to plan everything.

After the event was done, we thought, “Ok, we did what we could do and we were great”. Later community members were questioning what happened to the group and at that point I thought, “OK, this needs to become something”. In 2020 we became incorporated as a non-profit and every year since 2018 we have been doing important activities, and continue to do so. This year we signed a contract with the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services along with a partnered organization and trustee organization to do systemic work in the province of Ontario.

What are a few challenges you’ve experienced setting up the organization?

A couple of the issues that I experienced setting up the organization was the time it took, and going through the organic process of figuring out who the core members would be. Often times, for grassroots organizations, this happens organically. Once we figured this out, we needed to figure out some legal items, which we were privileged to have pro-bono legal support. Everything else after that was history. 

I noticed that in addition to the OCAC, you have a few other roles as a consultant.  Why is that?

I hold multiple hats. I have my own independent consulting and services business.  I am a public speaker delivering speaker services, workshops, and do consults regarding Diversity, Inclusion, Equity.  Additionally, I do focus on youth engagement, lived expert engagement, and consults about subjects I have expertise on re: child welfare, homelessness, etc. I am a brand. Since I was a child in elementary school, I understood that I needed to build myself into a brand. I wanted to become a name that people thought about as an innovator, leader, expert, and go-to person for different subjects. I also work at the Mosaic Institute as the Events and Outreach Coordinator where my services previously include supporting curriculum development for high school students and educators, as prsently include curating digital learning events which occur on a monthly basis around different priority topics such as trauma informed practice, anti-black racism in education, Indigenous peoples, etc. I also supervise Junior fellows who are high school students with that work. 

I serve on the Board of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto as 2nd Vice-Chair – Diversity Equity and Inclusion Board lead, a member of the Equity and Inclusion Council of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada (CAFdn), on the board of Scarborough West Community Legal Clinic and serve on the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario’s Race-Equity Working Group, a By Youth For Youth Advisor at the Housing Outreach Project (Collaborative, and Engagement Specialist Consultant with a Making The Shift project which is in the homelessness sector). I am also an Expert In Residence with the Child Welfare League of Canada and I am also an advocate regarding childhood sexual abuse, gender based violence, and violence against wom*n – I am a survivor of all mentioned. I am the provincial representative on the National Council of Youth in Care Advocates, a Core Steering Committee member of the Canadian Lived Experience Leadership Network, and now serve on the Canadian Consortium on Child & Youth Trauma Community Advisory Committee. 

As a Tamil individual I am passionate about our beautiful community, and being engaged with our community was a goal of mine. I am an advisor to both ISEE Initiative (Tamil organization regarding Domestic Violence) and Kudai Centre (a grassroots initiative that wants to support young girls experiencing housing instability or access to respite and safety in our community). 

Beyond the above, I also do one-to-one motivational coaching, and have been a media commentator, public speaker and a long term ambassador of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.

All of this work is part of my passion to be a meaningful addition to different systems.  All of my involvement are due to my own feeling of responsibility and accountability to make sure that future young people do not face the barriers, traumas, oppression, and violence that myself and others have faced. 

***Read the rest of interview at TamilCulture.com.***