Hello 2016!

Peace 2016!

First of all, heaps of love to everyone this year! From our JAYU family to you, may your year be prosperous and full of joy.

2015 was an emergent year for JAYU, demonstrating our serious commitment to sharing human rights stories through the arts. We grew in so many ways: launching brand new projects, working with local artists to provide safe spaces where at-risk youth are able to become empowered through the arts, and we continue to explore creative ways to provide the platforms necessary for men and women to share their human rights stories with our community. 

We take our role in human rights discourse very seriously and we’re proud of all that we were able to accomplish in 2015. Our JAYU Speaks program was able to bring together more than 50 incredible guests including activists, politicians, artists and members of the media to speak to our community on topics related to women’s rights, institutionalized racism, carding, and so much more. 

Our #CaptureTheStreets initiative was able to provide the platform for six at-risk youth who identify as homeless to be empowered to share their incredible stories and art with more than 2,500 people in several galleries across downtown Toronto. More than that, the project was able to generate income for a group in need, while garnering media attention from across the nation. 

In 2015, we also worked closer with local filmmakers and toured the documentary Secret Trial 5 in three cities across southwestern Ontario, including London where nearly 300 people attended. What an incredible experience! 

Lastly, we introduced the beautiful Bloor Cinema as the new home of our 4th annual Human Rights Film Festival, breaking attendance records, increasing box office revenue and facilitating meaningful conversations with special guests from New York, Ireland, Australia, Jordan and other places near and far. I’m especially proud that our programming reflected the diversity of our city as we screened films focusing on more than a dozen different countries with discussion on human rights stories coming from more than a dozen countries from across the globe. And we couldn’t have done it without the 30+ community partners and co-presenters who dedicated their time and effort to our festival. 

I speak on behalf of everyone at JAYU when I say that we couldn’t be more ready for 2016, our fifth year! We’ll be collaborating with photographers to empower Syrian refugee youth, launching a brand new human rights podcast in the Spring and finding ways to screen more films with more communities. 

I would like to extend my deep gratitude to our close friends who helped make 2015 especially memorable. This includes the team at Sandbox, The Centre for Social Innovation, Scrim4Rent, Hot Docs, Bloor Cinema, Brimz, Community Story Strategies, and Horizons for Youth. Also a big thank you to our major sponsors including the Toronto Arts Council, ArtReach, and Humber College. There are more than 150 Thank You’s I owe to our crowdfunding donors, whose generosity made our film festival a reality. Lots of love goes to our six photographer mentors including @SoTeeOh, @Chinpua, @Tahaphoto, @Normster, @G_wah, and @Gummyting. To my family and friends, thank you! And to our 50+ volunteers: you are such a beautiful and selfless bunch and I owe you so much gratitude. 

Lastly, the world’s largest ever thank you to my incredible staff, festival programmers and Board of Directors. It’s a scientific fact: I work with the greatest human beings on this planet. Thank you Alicks, Joanna, Taylor, Siyoung, Carter, Laurel, Thiraya, and Jenn. We flipped a nickel into a million dollars and made magic happen last year. 

2016, we’re coming for you! 

With lots of love,


Gilad Cohen
Founder & Executive Director

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