We visited Sobaz Benjamin at In My Own Voice (iMOVe) Arts Association located on the corner of Gottingen and Uniacke Square. It’s the home of the organization’s three foundational programs: Centreline Music Studioand their iMOVe program, which was co-founded by Lindell Smith, GotAVoice Community Radio, and the Uniacke Centre for Community Development. iMOVe is run and staffed by Charlene Gagnon, Director of Operations and Debra Paris-Perry, Outreach Coordinator.
We had a chat about iMOVe’s programming and its new social enterprise community market, which is a collaboration between the Community Carrot, Common Roots and Chef Paul Rothier of Knife for Hire. Sobaz is the Executive Director of iMOVe.
You can read our Q & A below, but first, a little background:
Centreline Studios was created in 2010 to engage youth in video production, performance and artistic personal development. It was a partnership between the former Communities and Uniacke Square Engaging (C.A.U.S.E.) organization and Halifax Regional Police in response to the community’s desire for more youth programming and activities. When C.A.U.S.E disbanded in 2012, iMOVe was asked, by C.A.U.S.E , to assume responsibility for the Studio.
Centreline Co-founders Sobaz Benjamin and Lindell Smith continue to run the youth drop-in and deliver programs to Centreline’s youth with the help of community volunteers who recognize the importance of keeping the Studio running.
Centreline hosts a youth drop-in every Tuesday, (Newcomers Night) Thursday and Friday (All comers night) evening between 5:30pm and 8:30pm open to any youth with an interest in hip-hop, spoken word, dance and/or theatre.
Centreline also offers studio access to individuals, community groups and organizations who wish to record their music and poetry, but who have limited resources or budgets, to do so in a commercial recording environment.
Steph: So what is iMOVe (In My Own Voice)?
Sobaz: In My Own Voice is a community - a deliberate community in the sense that the people who are a part of it, either by invitation or choice, are able to become a part of a network of people, organizations, but most importantly, relationships that provide artistic, leadership training, educational and employability experiences and opportunities. We provide all of the things you need in terms of equipment within a “family” context with one-on-one mentorship - It’s a one-stop-shop for community development and youth engagement. The Hub model is something we use to describe the space.
We have a mandate around community development - youth engagement and reintegration for sure. But one of the things that’s really important is to be responsive to community needs and wants as they change. A big part of what we do under the iMOVe umbrella are the community programs, like Uniacke Centre for Community Development, Centreline Music Studio, Got a Voice, and Youth Now radio which is a weekly radio show. And we do a project out a life story project out at Waterville: The Nova Scotia Youth Facility. We’re getting ready to kick off another program called Inspired. Each of these programs has a basic mandate to respond to the needs and the wants that we see out in the community - that’s really important - and we’re flexible enough to do that.
Steph: And what gets you most charged up about this community?
Sobaz: I think that what I find exciting is that first of all - the people who are involved get to be able to influence the nature of the work that they do. So, it’s not a top-down approach to work - it really is about how the people doing the work shape how that work is done.
Myself included as the Executive Director - it’s great to work on my own terms and have the people I want to work with and surround myself with. To share and influence the iMOVe culture - it’s a living culture - it’s not frozen and written in stone, it’s not fixed - we’re always in flux. There are always new people coming and bringing their values, which then meet iMOVe’s values - it’s always a negotiation; finding a common ground and moving forward. It’s never a dull day - that’s for sure!
I wake up charged and inspired by the fact that I’m going to learn something new and be challenged. I find that some people may argue that there’s so much change in iMOVe and flux - and that can be discomforting for people. But I think the process of negotiation builds relationships and teaches us how to work through that discomfort of difference. And it gives us a sense of accomplishment when we succeed.
Steph: How does that collaborative and changing approach work for you and Centreline?
It’s interesting - around the social enterprise aspect - we’ve been certified recently as a Buy Social Certified supplier - so one of the things we’re working on is to sell more of our art and services, and the products and services of connected clients, partners and collaborators.
So we’re working with Community Carrot Co-operative and a number of other organizations like Common Roots Urban Farm and Chef Paul Rothier of Knife for Hire to create a market - a market that is sort of an event - we have vendors that are selling their wares - and there’ll also be a cultural element to it as well. It’s happening on September 13th.
We’re going to set up the market behind the Community Carrot Cooperative - with vendors selling craft and their wares and of course food! And we’ll also have entertainment - a three piece jazz ensemble, rappers, and more. The whole market will be organized and executed by several young men iMOVe hired. They’re organizing this - as we speak they are designing the face of that market, and they are coordinating the Market.
iMOVe and our collaborators have jumped on the opportunity to coordinate the market to make this a unique event for this end of town, and it’s going to be different from the Night Market at Squiqqle Park. We have the element of surprise - we will design the alleyway to catch people’s attention and drive them to the market behind The Carrot. The branding of the market is going to be a real endeavour for these guys to pull it off successfully.
September 13th is the launch date for that! Very exciting!
Steph: Now that you’re certified Buy Social, what do you hope will come of it?
Sobaz: Just to be part of a national group of Buy Social organizations first of all is important. People are going to go to the Buy Social website and see us, and we’re going to be linked with other social enterprises. Being social is a noble endeavour - it’s not just about the bottom line - it’s about creating things that have community and social impact and about creating sustainability around that impact so you’re not just looking for the next grant. The association with other organizations doing that is going to serve us well. And we’ll be able to market ourselves with Buy Social - adopt it as part of our identity. It kind of says to potential clients: we’re putting our money where our mouth is so to speak, and this is who we are and we’d like to demonstrate that to you. Around identity - in terms of connecting with other organizations that want to impact the business sector in this particular kind of way - it allows us to speak that language and demonstrate how we make the social impact we all can be proud of.
An important part of our programming is the Inspired Program: a film and video production company crewed with ex-offenders - I think now more than ever the out-of-province connections are needed. Selling videos outside of the province is really needed because of the film tax credit cut and because we need exports. Buy Social, since it’s Canada-wide, can help with that too.
To learn more about iMOVe, visit http://inmyownvoice.ca/
To learn more about Buy Social Canada, visit http://buysocialcanada.ca