The holiday season is a difficult time for grieving families. Loss, trauma and recovery are often taboo subjects in today’s world- especially regarding victims of violent incidents. Unfortunately, these incidents occur. An important part of community building is acknowledging that they do and helping rehabilitate those who have suffered through them.
One local charity in the Jane Finch community is doing their best to provide support for family members and victims of gun violence. Run by local community leader Reverend Sky Starr, Out Of Bounds is a grassroots organization that provides grief counseling and support to bereaved families, especially mothers.
“The act of release is necessary for the mothers. As they release pent up emotions, in a safe environment, you can see a shift in their behaviour and well-being,” says Reverend Starr of the mothers she helps.
In the month of December, Out Of Bounds holds an “Annual Interfaith Remembrance” event for the fallen victims of tragic violence. The bereaved and members of the community come together in communal prayer, singing and lighting of candles in memoriam and honour of their loved ones’ lives.
This year’s memorial was emotional and heartfelt. Keynote speaker Christopher Egi, financial analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York, and former captain of the Harvard and Canadian Mens’ U-19 national Basketball team, himself recently bereaved, shared deep truths of his own loss. The mothers shared moments of recovery. One mother even joined singer Michelle Bookal at the podium in an impromptu, but resounding chorus of ‘Hallelujah.’
This necessary battle is one that Reverend Sky often finds herself fighting alone. Securing funding is difficult, but over the years she has not given up. She has long been an advocate for violence prevention and counseling for the bereaved. Each summer, she also hosts the OK Basketball Tournament in honour of O’She Doyles Whyte and Kwame Duodu, two teenagers tragically shot to death in 2013.
The quest for a safe community is ongoing, but events like these act much as a candle lights a dark room; a symbol that even in the midst of violence, you will find a community joining hands in healing.