Inspirit is supporting the capacity for Muslim creatives to define and lead deep narrative change.
In 2022, the Foundation ran a Narrative Change Lab Cohort Program, led by Program Manager Angie Balata. The program convened Canadian Muslim creatives and content creators over five months to learn about narrative change concepts, and collaboratively design and develop a Muslim narrative system, while acknowledging that no one narrative could speak for all Canadian Muslims.
Beyond the Cohort Program, Inspirit is developing work in the following areas:
For Cohort Program news and learnings, visit our Cohort Program Updates page.
I’m a writer based in Toronto. My journalism has appeared in The Walrus, The Globe and Mail, and others, and my debut novel, There Has to Be a Knife, was named a best Canadian novel of 2019 by the CBC. I’m the GOLD winner of the National Magazine Awards (Profiles Category) for this feature. I’ve also secured Telefilm Canada funding for Shook, a film I co-wrote with director Amar Wala. I’m eager to contribute to discussions that deepen and diversify stories about the Canadian-Muslim experience.
I’m the host and founder of The Digital Sisterhood Podcast & Storytelling Platform. I’m a First Generation Somali-Canadian, who’s in the business of preserving dreams by telling stories in hopes to persuade others to chase theirs. The stories we are dedicated to telling capture the raw and authentic experiences of Muslim women worldwide. By doing so, we’re reviving a culture that looks and feels like us.
I’m a Regina-born journalist, fashion designer, yoga teacher, and graduate of New York Law School. I’ve worked in national newsrooms across Canada including CBC, CTV, and Global National. I’ve also shown collections at New York and Saskatchewan Fashion Week, and launched a public relations agency that focuses on protecting and growing small, ethically-run businesses. I am currently working to finish a manuscript for my first book. And I’m currently working as the marketing director of a tech start up.
I am a Canadian-Muslim woman of Somali/Ethiopian heritage living in Montreal. I’ve recently begun my legal studies at McGill University. To date, I’ve been heavily involved in media work related to Muslim women in Canada, in particular regarding the laws in Quebec that disproportionately affect us. I am the Founder of Femmes Musulmanes Contre le Racisme (FEMCOR). I’ve also gotten involved in Montreal municipal politics, having co-founded the party Mouvement Montreal and running in the downtown Peter-McGill district last election. I’m hoping to continue to strengthen the voice of Muslim women in Canada and to support institutions that can carry this work forward in the long-term.
With a background in public art and an education in architecture, my practice explores the traditional origins of sacred geometry. Based in Toronto, my work integrates various techniques from the Islamic arts, including calligraphy, geometric pattern and traditional architectural forms such as muqarnas. Through my work, I hope to inspire conversations about how traditional teachings can empower disenfranchised communities.
I moved to Canada on my own 17 years ago, prompted by an interest in filmmaking. Struggling as a newcomer to find my footing motivated me to work in organizations that supported the growth of emerging artists, and to find spaces that had a focus on gender equity and better inclusion in screen-based media. Today, I live and work in Toronto as an independent filmmaker, and as a film programmer at Hot Docs and Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival.
I am an innovation consultant, social entrepreneur, and artist. My interests lie in adopting innovative approaches to addressing challenges in the public, private, and cultural sectors. I am also interested in the power of the arts, and increasing the representation of underrepresented communities in the stories we tell. In 2013, I founded the Silk Road Institute, an organization dedicated to creating professional artistic and cultural programming that strengthens Muslim representation, visibility, and contributions within the Canadian cultural mosaic. I am also an avid photographer.
First and foremost, I am a community organizer honoured to serve my Afghan-Canadian diaspora community for the past 8 years. As a former refugee disconnected from my roots, lands, and ancestors, I have always placed importance in the gathering of rich stories and histories as means to understand one’s self. I am the current Archivist of the Muslims in Canada Archives at University of Toronto’s Institute of Islamic Studies and I will be pursuing a PhD at the University of Toronto in the fall of 2022 with a focus on archives of refugees and diaspora communities.
I’m a screenwriter from Toronto who works on content that amplifies kindred stories at the intersection of Black Muslim and Black Diaspora communities. My screenwriting explores ideas of siblinghood, belonging, and the present implications of a connection to a common past. I’m the filmmaker behind Muslim Writers’ Room and the writer of KIIN (or as Canadian as Possible Under the Circumstances). I’m currently developing one feature project and two episodic series.
Salaams! My name is Raz. I’m a Canadian-West Indian rapper, singer/songwriter, and executive producer based in Toronto. I’m also the President and Founder of Lost Poet Studios. During my time in university, I realized my passion for music and the opportunity to change the rhetoric and values of mainstream music–who says the most popular songs have to be about sex, money, drugs and alcohol? My music is a combo of hip-hop and alternative rock and over the past 11 years it has allowed me to create quality, relatable, and widely accessible songs based in my Islamic values, where the music and relationships I build along the way help to bridge the gap between the Muslim community and the mainstream industry. Listen to my music here.
I’m an Egyptian-Canadian writer/director/producer based in Toronto. I established my company Scarab Films to create stories that are unencumbered by a Western gaze and are truly reflective of the world, my world, as I know it and experience it. After a few award-winning short films, and finishing my second feature film, I’m currently working on the first production of my company, Hysteria, a Telefilm Talent to Watch project currently in postproduction to be released in 2022.
I’m an independent filmmaker based in Toronto, with a background in cinematography and analogue filmmaking practices. In creating more Muslim-inclusive spaces in the arts, I envision a two-pronged approach, one that does not compromise their moral integrity, as well as their creative and artistic vision. I am also an educator, film technician, mentor and the co-founder and artistic director of the Toronto Arab Film, the only pan-Arab film organization in Toronto. Currently, I am in the writing and research phase of my second feature film, and developing a TV series. Writer and Researcher Nehal El-Hadi explores the ethos of my work in her article The Fiction of a Fixed Point: The Films of Rolla Tahir.
I’m a lifelong film fanatic who has worked to help change the narrative around Muslim creatives with the Mosquers Film Festival, as the Board Chair. I am also the Co-Host of our podcast, The Halal Gap. I’m a huge believer in the power of art and storytelling as a way to change peoples’ perspectives. For me, pop culture is that thing that connects people. It is also the foundation for what shapes policy, how everyday people act and think, and what we as a society deem acceptable or not.
I was raised on science fiction with Afghan music blasting from the kitchen. That mix of cultures formed the backbone of every project and supported a career dedicated to culturally collaborative storytelling with Trans, Indigenous, and Afro-Canadian artists. As a 90-time award-winning writer, director, producer, my indie-filmmaking sensibilities merged with my studio-level experience through projects such as Terminator: Dark Fate, Space Jam: A New Legacy and the upcoming Spider-Verse sequel. I’m currently delivering my first animated short while developing a single-room, sci-fi feature through the Whistler Producers Lab, Reelworld E20 Writers program, and upcoming Reykjavik Talent Lab. Connect with me on LinkedIn and checkout my Vimeo.
Salaam. I am a Chinese-Canadian convert into Islam. Most of my adult and professional life has revolved around some aspect of the Muslim communities throughout Toronto. This includes my work as a journalist documenting the challenges Muslims face in our socially and politically polarized moment, as well as advocacy on depicting Muslim efforts at combating hate in Canada. I currently work at the National Council of Canadian Muslims and I am deeply invested in the shaping of narratives that impact my community.
I’m an Ethiopian-Harari Toronto-based multidisciplinary storyteller (poet, actress, singersongwriter), arts educator, and community organizer. I create music with genre-bending mix of spoken word poetry, hip-hop, and R&B, soul, afro-jazz, and dance. In 2017, I founded LUMINOUS Fest, Canada’s first Black Muslim arts festival, and later co-founded The Sisters’ Retreat, a retreat series hosting arts-based wellness retreats for Muslim Women. I also work at Toronto Arts Council, where I develop and manage the Black Arts program for Black artists and Black-led organizations.
I am an Indo-Caribbean Muslim filmmaker living in Tkaronto (Toronto), born to a mother from Guyana and a father from Kenya. I am a Dean’s Scholar graduate from the University of Toronto with experience researching how Muslim communities are impacted by popular media portrayals of Islam. I am a Hot Docs Accelerator fellow and a recipient of Hot Docs Cross Currents funding to develop my first feature documentary about my co-director’s experience with Sickle Cell Disease. I am also the founder of Films With A Cause, a startup working towards authentic storytelling practices behind and in front of the camera.
My name is Rabiah Ahmed. I am a strategic communications professional based out of the Metro DC area. I have been invested in narrative development work—in some shape and form—throughout my 20+ year career. My interest in this field stems from growing up in America as a Muslim woman in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and being frustrated with our community’s lack of representation in media and pop culture, and how others spoke about us and our issues. I have primarily worked with Muslim non-profits for most of my career, primarily assisting them with different narrative change campaigns before moving to agency life. Currently, I am a senior strategist for Brink Communications and a consultant for Inspirit Foundation’s Narrative Change Lab.
I live in the Northern Virginia area with my husband, three kids, and two cats. I am a proud Detroiter and consider myself an honorary Canadian as I spent many summers visiting family and friends in the Greater Toronto Area. I am honoured to be a part of this effort and look forward to learning more about the Canadian experience!
In the weeks leading up to the release of the new Ms. Marvel television series, I encountered massive digital billboards in Mississauga featuring Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan. As a Muslim woman of South Asian descent, I wondered what it would be like for my 16-year-old self to witness this superhero looming large over the city where I was born and raised. As an educator, I draw on popular culture texts like Ms. Marvel, because such texts serve as a powerful tool for awakening the inner child, activating prior knowledge and teaching critical theories. As a scholar, I strive to uplift Muslim communities through my research and writing. My book, Shaping Muslim Futures: Youth Visions and Activist Praxis, amplifies the counternarratives of activist Muslim youth living into their desired futures, and creates space for readers to clarify their own.
For me, the Lab offers Muslim creatives an experimental dream space to collectively explore alternative futures and seed new pop culture and media narratives for more just futures.
I am a third culture kid of Sudanese origins and a conscientious graphic/web designer floating in the diaspora. I collaborate with organizations, educational institutions, and fellow creatives with my practice focused on immigration, gender-based violence, women’s empowerment, and Islamophobia. I work in multiple languages (including Arabic and French) across mediums (print, web, and film). I hold various art and communication degrees from the University of Toronto, Toronto Metropolitan University, and BAU Barcelona. My vision is to creatively and resourcefully amplify the voices of those doing the work to make our world a more just place.
I am a writer, filmmaker, and marketing professional. The common thread in my career is my passion for storytelling and its power to influence how we view and interact with each other. I currently work for the Canada Media Fund as a Communications Coordinator. Previously, I worked for BIPOC TV & Film as a Marketing and Communications Coordinator, as well as facilitated virtual consultations in French and English for the Black Screen Office’s project “’Being Seen: A Directive for Authentic and Inclusive Content”. I speak five languages and I have a background in journalism and documentary filmmaking.
I’m the Managing Director of Culture Change at Pillars Fund, where I design and lead programming that challenges damaging narratives about Muslims in the U.S. and amplifies Muslim voices in artistic spaces. My storytelling work seeks to change the lens through which Muslim stories are told to one that is authentic, complex, and honest. As an experienced facilitator, I’m frequently invited to moderate conversations on anti-racism, storytelling as culture change, equity in entertainment, and Muslim representation in media. My experiences and expert insight have also been featured by Variety, Teen Vogue, NPR, Tiny Spark podcast, and Al Jazeera, among other publications.
I’m a first generation Bengali immigrant, a trilingual storyteller and fiction writer, a narrative and cultural strategist, and a political educator. I’m the Director of Field and Funder Learning at the Pop Culture Collaborative, and the Lead Designer and Narrative Strategist for the Butterfly Lab for Immigrant Narrative Strategy at Race Forward. At the Collaborative, I support learning immersions, capacity building and partnerships across a broad field and funder learning portfolio, advises on narrative Labs and cohorts, and incubates two emerging projects: Culture Change U (a narrative and cultural training and learning institute) and Project Azaadi (a national network of narrative and cultural strategists and practitioners).
I’ve worked for over 15 years at the intersections of narrative, arts and culture, immigration, racial and gender justice, systems change, movement strategies and innovation. I was previously the Director of Narrative and Cultural Strategies at RaceForward. I’m the author of Creating Cultures and Practices for Racial Equity: A Toolbox, the widely taught Cultural Strategy Primer, and more recently, Stories for Change with Storyline Partners, which equips pop culture for social change professionals with tools to integrate equity practices into content development, production and post-production. Previously, I was an arts administrator with expertise in oral history, creative writing and Theatre of the Oppressed facilitation, she has held staff, curatorial and consulting roles in museums, film festivals, and community theatres. I am also the creator and lead designer of the New York City Racial Equity in the Arts Innovation Lab, a 2-year intensive that taught 60 NYC arts-producing organizations and museums to operationalize racial and cultural equity strategies.
I’ve trained with the Interaction Institute for Social Change and Race Forward. I currently serve on design and advisory boards for the Constellations Fund at the Center for Cultural Power, the New York City Narrative Power Network for Health and Racial Equity, and South Asian SOAR (Survivors and Organizations in Alliance Rising). I have an M.A in Postcolonial and Diasporic Literature and Creative Fiction Writing from New York University. I live in the Bay Area and enjoy cooking, hiking, reading poetry and dancing.
I’m a multimedia artist based outside Montreal, Canada. As a founding member of the Arab voice in Hip-Hop, I’m recognized as a pioneer poet and producer in the Iraqi Diaspora. I’m one-half of WeAreTheMedium, a culture point for publishing, media and the arts. I teach two courses at Concordia University in Montreal – both centered around Hip-Hop, Creativity and Identity Politics. My book, Text Messages: or How I found myself Time Travelling, was published in 2021 by Haymarket Books. I’m also an award-winning music video director, thinker, and I have a passion for fashion.
I’m a Syrian-American rapper & spoken word artist. Known for my unique blend of Hip-Hop & Arabic poetry, I’ve been featured on prominent world news outlets, lectured at a number of prestigious academic institutions, collaborated with major museums & cultural organizations, and helped raise millions of dollars for various humanitarian relief groups. I was recently named a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, an Arab America Foundation “40 Under 40” award recipient, and a member of both the Pillars Fund cohort for Muslim Narrative Change & the RaceForward Butterfly Lab cohort for Immigrant Narrative Strategy. I currently resides in the great state of New York with my wife & two little children, while daydreaming about the jasmine tree-lined streets of Damascus. Watch this performance from “Little Syria”, presented at the annual Arts Summit in Washington DC.
Writer, Researcher, Editor
Nehal El-Hadi is a writer, researcher, and editor whose work explores the relationships between the body (racialised, gendered), place (urban, virtual), and technology (internet, health). Nehal completed her PhD in Planning at the University of Toronto, where her research examined the relationships between user-generated content and everyday public urban life. As a scholar, her hybrid digital/material research methods are informed by her training and experience as a science and environmental journalist. She advocates for the responsible, accountable, and ethical treatment of user-generated content in the fields of journalism, planning, and healthcare. Her writing has appeared in academic journals, general scholarship publications, literary magazines, and is forthcoming in several anthologies and edited collections. She is currently the Science + Technology Editor at The Conversation Canada and Editor-in-Chief of Studio Magazine.
Researcher, Journalist, Artist, Activist
Daughter of parents who were activists by circumstance from small Caribbean islands, Nantali Indongo aka Tali Taliwah aka IamBlackgirl follows those natural instincts; carrying the torch into classrooms and communities, into studios and onto stages. She makes sure to be equipped with master’s tools and microphones. The goal: exposing to educate, rhyming to rouse. And central to those efforts, a desire to see the top tip over and humble itself; while the bottom sees the booby traps and makes educated moves. Without any special road map, Tali Taliwah (aka Nantali Indongo) found herself as an emcee and vocalist in the Montreal Hip Hop supergroup, Nomadic Massive. Be it at internationally renowned festivals or local community concerts, she toured the world to connect with fans of Hip Hop culture…and future fans too. For Tali, part of her personal objective as a member of the group was to celebrate the depth of Afro-Caribbean-Canadian identity, far from any Club Med image. After 17 years, Tali chose to step away from Nomadic and explore her own musical expression at a much deeper level. Nantali’s deep connection to Hip Hop culture started at the age of 8, and not only manifested on stage but in community work. As co-creator of Hip Hop NO Pop, with founder and filmmaker, Maryse Legagneur, Tali devoted 10 years to demonstrating the potential of Hip Hop culture beyond performance art. As an english and french-speaking duo, the two women of Caribbean origins, spent as long as 1 month in classrooms and community spaces across Quebec, Canada and internationally presenting an educational workshop series about the non-violent origins of Hip Hop culture. Committed to storytelling, Tali’s sense of purpose is to push conversations forward to a place where positive inspiration becomes positive action. For the past 12 years, Nantali has done her best to bring in all of that knowledge, experience and inspiration to her other gig as a radio broadcaster.
Sundus Abdul Hadi
Artist, Writer, Co-Founder of Maktaba Bookshop and We Are the Medium
Sundus Abdul Hadi is an artist and writer. Born to Iraqi parents, she was raised and educated in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal, where she earned a BFA in Studio Arts and Art History and a MA in Media Studies. Sundus’ transmedia work is a sensitive reflection on trauma, struggle, and care. She is the author, illustrator of Shams, a children’s book about trauma, transformation and healing. Her book titled Take Care of Yourself: The Art and Cultures of Care and Liberation (Common Notions, Fall 2020) is about care, curation and community. She is the co-founder of We Are The Medium and Maktaba Bookshop in Montreal.
Stefan Spirodon Christoff
Media Maker, Artist, Activist
Stefan Spirodon Christoff is a media maker, community activist and artist living in Tiohti:áke Montréal. Stefan hosts Free City Radio, broadcasting weekly on CKUT 90.3fm, CJLO 1690am, CKUW 95.9 FM in Winnipeg, CFRC 101.9fm in Kingston, Ontario, CFUV 101.9 FM in Victoria, BC, and shared globally as a podcast (Spotify + ApplePodcasts). Stefan coordinates Musicians for Palestine and makes music with many people globally, including Rêves sonores, Sam Shalabi, Lori Goldston and Anarchist Mountains. Stefan is on the board of the Immigrant Workers Centre in Côte-Des-Neiges, works with Cinema Politica Network and coordinates the Artists together against Law 21 campaign. Stefan is currently a bartender at Casa Del Popolo and is also a history student at Concordia University.
Documentary Filmmaker, Producer
Ariel Nasr is a documentary film producer in the National Film Board’s Quebec Atlantic Studio. Before joining the NFB, Ariel wrote, directed and produced documentary, narrative and interactive projects, including the Hot Docs audience award-winner The Forbidden Reel, the Canadian-Screen-Award winning The Boxing Girls of Kabul, The Mosque (an investigation of the 2017 Quebec City Mosque Shooting) and the interactive, Kabul Portraits. In 2013 Ariel earned an Oscar nomination for producing the narrative short film, Buzkashi Boys. A citizen of Canada, Afghanistan and the USA, Ariel lives and works in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal.
Journalist, Consultant, Podcast Host, Public Speaker
Emilie Nicolas is a columnist with Le Devoir and The Montreal Gazette, the host of the Détours podcast on Canadaland, as well as a consultant and public speaker. She is a regular analyst and commentator for several large media networks, and has been published in several journals, magazines and newspapers, both in French and English. Emilie has contributed to various organizations in Canada and internationally. She currently sits on the board of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, a crown corporation dedicated to the elimination of racism, and Informed Opinions, a non-profit organization working towards more gender equality in Canadian media. An active bridge-builder, Emilie is a co-founder of Québec inclusif (2013), a movement that united citizens against racism and social exclusion. She also initiated a coalition campaigning for equality and against systemic racism in Quebec (2016).