Jane-Finch dot-com

Jane-Finch dot-comWebsite opens community to the worldBy TAMARA CHERRY, SUN MEDIAhttp://www.torontosun.com/News/TorontoAndGTA/2008/05/12/5538201-sun.htmlJane-Finch.com movers Paul Nguyen, Jason Roberts, Mark Simms and Sue Chun give their neighbourhood a forum. (Dave Thomas/Sun Media)I'll show you my world; you show me yours.Four years after Jane-Finch.com was created, a symbiotic relationship seems to have blossomed between the site's creators and those who visit it from outside the notorious North York neighbourhood.It has become a grassroots website that provides a unique window into the Jane-Finch area."Jane and Finch residents, they don't have a view of the outside world," says site creator Paul Nguyen, 28, who lives in the area. "It's a self-contained universe. It's hard to have grander aspirations if you can't see what's out there."So anytime Nguyen leaves the neighbourhood for things like media interviews, he brings his camera, takes pictures and posts them on his website to show viewers that, hey, it's not so bad out there.What started March 13, 2004 as a single, just-for-fun web page about Nguyen has turned into a crusade to change the area's image.But not in the way the city is doing it by re-branding Jane-Finch as University Heights."Jane St. and Finch Ave. -- those will never change, so it's not going to change anything," Nguyen says.MULTICULTURALHis crusade starts not with the street signs, but those who make up the fabric of one of the most multicultural neighbourhoods in Canada.Over the years, artists and poets have showcased their work through the site and local hip hop artists have posted music videos.Chuckie Akenz, Blacus Ninjah, Stick Up Kid, The Smugglaz -- household names among youth in the area who know the lyrics. Their work is now available to the world thanks to Jane-Finch.com.And it really is the world.Advertising statistics show the site gets more than 2,900 page views from more than 330 users a day. Comments posted on the site come from people as far away as Australia, California, Alberta and the GTA.A few volunteers reach into their pockets to pay for the equipment needed to showcase their neighbourhood.Postings include historical documents -- everything from community meeting minutes from the 1970s to housing planning reports.It's a practical website, Nguyen says: "We say what we do and we do what we say."Maybe that's why they don't get government funding."Allowing people to speak their minds and voice their opinions, it's kind of political, right? A little hot sometimes," he says. "We still face a lot of, I guess, you could call it discrimination. Being from Jane and Finch, you're already blacklisted."Jane-Finch.com executive producer Mark Simms, 26, sees the website as a tool to get people out of the poverty cycle that has plagued his neighbourhood for 40 years."We want to see people get out of the cycle because once they're out, they'll get other people out," says Simms, who was recently invited to speak about the issue to hundreds of kids at Downsview Park."Honestly, I don't think that Jane and Finch will ever get better. I think it will just change -- different problems," he says. "The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. When people get hungry, that's when they shoot."But the site tries to give people something else to talk about. So they've brought in some fresh blood. Like Sue Chun, 19, who moved to the area from the Yonge St.-Finch Ave. area last year."I noticed that the website was really focused on the positive aspects of Jane and Finch -- and the cultural diversity," the Northview Heights Secondary School student says. "So, I thought it would be cool to have videos on foods from different cultures."Unlike your typical cooking show, Chun's online show will feature neighbourhood residents known for certain dishes.Simms' mom is known for her patties; Nguyen's for her spring rolls.A promo is already up on the website for Jason Roberts' online Degrassi-like soap opera, called Crossroads, that will be filmed in the area and acted out by Jane and Finchers.The 27-year-old actor and writer approached Nguyen and Simms about his idea a couple months ago and drafted a script. The cameras will start rolling any day."I know the area, I've lived here," says Roberts. "(I wanted) to use some of my experience and fictionalize it to bring out issues that are important to people in the area."I want people from the area to feel a special connection towards it," he says, adding the series will touch on issues like teen pregnancy and discrimination.On a lighter note, Simms speaks about Aliens vs. Jane and Finch, a movie set to debut this summer on the website."Aliens come to the planet and the police officers leave Jane and Finch because they're the ghetto and they have to fend for themselves," he says with a laugh."It's like a beacon," Simms says of the site. "It's there for the community to use, take advantage of it.""We're open to everybody," adds Nguyen, who has rubbed shoulders with the likes of the governor general and other big names. "We don't care if you're black or white, or a girl or guy, or straight or gay."Every culture is here, so we don't discriminate against anyone. Everybody can relate to feeling discriminated against."

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