'Love is louder."
That is one of the lessons the young people in the North End of Winnipeg have taught me time and time again in the last 17 years I have spent as a community helper and activist.
In fact, as a parting gift at one of the jobs where I connected with many of these young people, I was gifted with a necklace that had "LOVE/RESPECT" etched on either side. That necklace was a pivotal moment for me as I left a job, but made a firm commitment that I was not leaving these kids.
I am such a North End boy I feel lost even if I go to downtown, let alone out of the city! This is where I am comfortable, this is where I want to work, this is where I want to play. I want the people who live here to be successful and heard, I want the kids who are here to be healthy, I want the schools to love learning from each other, I want businesses, the media and yes, the entire world to see the North End I see.
The North End I see is strong, vibrant and rough around the edges. We work hard, we play hard. The children are loved and protected and in many spaces, we do create that village we once had -- where we are all responsible for raising the children. In the North End I see, we reach out to help where we can when we are concerned for kids instead of picking up the phone and calling CFS. The North End I see empowers children and young people to find and share their gifts in such a way to prevent tragedy. The North End I see is getting stronger and braver. When there is violence in our community, no longer do we hide, we now gather, often in the hundreds, to demonstrate our love for one another and our passion to have this violence end. Those rallies are awesome, but the real work is happening on the streets of the North End.
It's the kid you didn't read about in the newspaper who after attending a Bell Tower peace rally, stops using racial slurs and encourages his friends to do the same. It's that 11-year-old helper making posters for free so she can help out in some way. Its the generosity of individuals, neighbours, kookums, aunties and friends who come together time and time again, at least two times each week, to celebrate what is good in our 'hood. And it's getting louder and more courageous. There are initiatives to build the capacity of families dealing with CFS, empower younger kids to learn about voting, learn about culture, ceremonies and languages and even become more media-savvy. This is the resilience that doesn't always make the headlines, but I am honoured it is the North End I see. Every day I am honoured to walk upon these streets.
While I was out travelling around to all these crazy places in the last couple months (Toronto, Humboldt, Baudette, The Pas, Calgary, Punnichy & more) I really missed the North End. But I carried these stories of hope and resilience, of turning tragedy into action and I hope to represent you, my North End family with the integrity and the bluntness that makes our community what it is -- real, honest and adaptable.
Let's keep rising.
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