Introducing the 2023 Michael Lynch Grant Winners

Name: Sadie Hochman-Ruiz

Project Title: “Bailar Conmingo: Intersections and Aspirations at El Convento Rico” 

Description of proposal: El Convento Rico opened its doors in 1992 as a Latin Club and safe-haven for 2SLGBTQIA+ people in Little Italy. For most of the club’s history, the neighbourhood was a hostile and homophobic space. Club founder Maritza Yumbla remembers its early days: “We had a lot of gay bashing, we had the young Portuguese, Italian people that would basically come in and throw eggs [at] El Convento, they would throw tomatoes (CBC News 2022).” The nightclub recently celebrated its 30th year open and remains one of the few queer businesses to survive outside the Church-Wellesley Village. “Bailar Conmigo” will gather oral histories and build an exhibition of photographs, stories, and ephemera which addresses intersectionality, queer and trans histories of Toronto, and build on the literature of Toronto’s queer urban geography. “Bailar Conmigo” will engage performers and workers in semi-structured interviews about the venue and its meaning to Toronto’s 2SLGBTQIA+ and Latina/o communities. It will incorporate a digital component using social media to reach El Convento attendees past and present and collect stories, sounds and other ephemera. This work will be completed between April and June 2023, in time to curate an exhibition of the archive for Pride 2023. The exhibition will bring together past and present performers and attendees, Latina/o queers, and allies in a celebration of El Convento and its legacy.

Name: Ambrose Tan and the ACAS (Asian Community AIDS Services)

Project: Producing a series of in-depth interviews, and will hold a panel discussion event with key members of the community of people that founded ACAS

Description: ACAS’ founding in 1994 can be traced back to 3 groups by the East and Southeast community in Toronto responding to the AIDS crisis:

  1. Toronto Chinese Health Education Committee (‘AIDS Alert’, a media education project targeting Chinese-Canadian youth, 1988)
  2. Gay Asians Toronto (‘The Gay Asians AIDS Prevention Project’, which provided education and support for Asian Canadian MSM, 1989)
  3. Southeast Asian Service Centre (‘The Vietnamese AIDS Project’, which provided HIV education to Vietnamese Canadian communities, 1991)

We aim to produce 5 interviews with professional-quality photography, to be published on ACAS’ website and social media platforms in the summer of 2023. A live panel discussion featuring the interview subjects will be held after the release of the last interview in the series. This event may be in-person, or by Zoom, depending on public health restrictions. We feel that now is the ideal time to celebrate the history of activism and mobilizing, document these important living memories from people who were active then (and still active today), and connect this important history and community wisdom with contemporary questions of health equity and social justice. We aim to release the interviews on ACAS’ website & social media, followed by the panel discussion, by late summer to September 2023

For more information on the Lynch Grant, and how to apply for next year’s cycle, visit: Lynch Grant