These Are Our Children

This is yet another attempt to write this blog post. Perhaps what I really need is to write several. One to talk about what growing up in Rexdale is like – the moments between the violence that no one sees, the moments that rarely catch our national attention. One to talk about the case of Hamid Aminzada and what it means for Toronto, for Rexdale and for North Albion Collegiate Institute. One to talk about what these should mean for how we vote, how we behave and how we can choose to support neighbourhoods like Rexdale. 

Right now I’m just frustrated. I’m frustrated because the stories, the responses, the lies and the bullshit haven’t changed in the 20 years since I was a high schooler at North Albion (and Kipling and Thistletown and SEE School – I went to a lot of schools.) We lost a student then too. A fight over a basketball game took him. And just like now, people were quick to toss out theories, accusations and generalizations and just as quick to stop talking about it.

I notice it took all of one day for this stabbing to stop trending on Facebook and Twitter. This life that is now gone was worth one day of our enamored attentions and then it was gone. Poof. Washed away by a rude guy on the TTC and still another Mayoral pissing contest.

I am itching to find a way to enact actual change. After 20 years, it’s pretty clear that blaming the usual suspects (immigration, parents, drug culture, the kids themselves) isn’t helping. The racism and anti-immigration vitriol that follows these events is peppered in between the well meaning but ultimately meaningless RIPs and hand-wringing of the pretty and privileged.

What needs to change? For one, our attention span. There’s no quick fix, no ice bucket challenge, that will mend Rexdale. It’s been Rexdale since I was there and it will keep being Rexdale until something drastic changes. Programs like LOVe that used to operate out of NACI before that ended two years ago were a good place to start, but these programs generally fight on for a while before interest or funding or both disappear. After all, it costs a lot to help a few kids. And we don’t value Rexdale’s kids. Their lives are worth exactly one day of our attention.

We need to declare a state of emergency. We need to rally the troops and fight the enemies that are killing our kids, not just in body, but in spirit. We need to counter the hundreds of voices that tell them they do not matter (don’t think that they do not see how poorly they are treated in comparison to their counterparts.) We need to make them a priority. We need to be willing to spend and commit and fail and try again, like you do when an emergency threatens your own child.

How do we do this? I’m going to think on it. I’m going to talk to some people on the ground floor. I’m going to see if there are more things that I can do. I walked away from Rexdale and didn’t look back. It wasn’t a place I was fond of, but it was filled with people I love. Maybe the time has come for me to look back, to look forward and to see if I can do for the children there what was not done for me. Some of this will be by supporting organizations already doing good work there. Some of this will be through contact with different levels of government. Maybe something new. I will look. And what I find, I will share with you.

I wanted better then. I know that NACI is full of students who want better now. It’s our obligation, as people who believe in good, to give it to them.

*Please, don’t indulge in comments that focus on arguments or blame, even though I am feeling a lot of that myself. Fill it with ideas, no matter how radical, silly or unlikely, to bring change to Rexdale. Share the names of groups doing good work there. Share stories. Share sadness. Share possibility.*

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