“How to Empower Themselves in an Industry Not Meant for Them”: On Community-Engaged Programming with Lil Sis (Alma Ahmed, Suzanna Maharaj, R

This episode features conversation between the Lil Sis team – Alma Ahmed, Suzanna Maharaj, Rayan Saied, Belul Kidane, and Kamilah Apong-  and podcast host Naima Raza.
In this episode, Lil Sis and Naima discuss community-engaged youth research and programming. They discuss the need for arts-based programming for queer and racialized youth in Regent Park; the importance of community-based research; and how Lil Sis branding challenges heternormativity in the Toronto Arts scene.
ALMA AHMED: from a spectator at the first open mic to participating in its current grant and research project, Alma has been involved with the hummingbird open mic and LIL SIS since 2015. she has been part of the hummingbird street team and has been a co-contributor of its current research project. aside from admiring how far the project has come, she is currently a nursing student and hopes to bring smiles to everyone’s faces; whether it be her future patients or spectators at the events she hosted with her co-emcee and co-contributor Suzanna.
SUZANNA MAHARAJ: hummingbird and the LIL SIS  project has had a place in Suzanna’s heart for years. from performing spoken word at the first open mic, to being brought on as a host, to now being the admin and resources lead on the team that achieved this research grant. when Suzanna isn’t working on LIL SIS content, she can be found waving her flag in a fete or improving her one-woman business.
RAYAN SAIED: Rayan began her work with the hummingbird team in highschool working to help spread the word out about our first ever youth-centred open mic in Regent Park. as event host and outreach team member, she was closely involved with many of the open mics throughout the years. her role with hummingbird evolved into a research role as we began to focus our work on recording and understanding the experiences of racialized LGBTQI artists and their access to resources and spaces within Toronto.
BELUL KIDANE: Stop trying, it’s pronounced “Bae-Lou-l”. Belul Kidane is a new member of the Lil Sis team but has been engaged with hummingbird since 2018. She is a performing artist, song-writer, part-time social media comedian and also owns a “non-borrowable” library in her bedroom. If she could eat one thing forever, it would be Mac and cheese. Thank you for coming to this Ted Talk.
KAMILAH APONG: kamilah (kah-MEE-lah) apong is  a queer 90’s babe, and is currently re-watching entire Sailor Moon series for the 49283742rd time. she has some cute tummy rolls and would like to mother a couple alpacas 🦙 🦙 🦙 🦙 🦙. she’s the lead singer for the disco project, Tush, and co founded the hummingbird open mic in 2015, and LIL SIS in 2020.
This episode was hosted and directed by Naima Raza, produced by Ruben Gaztambide-Fernandez and Sarah Switzer, and supported by Youth Research Lab assistant Madeleine Ross.