Youth Mental Health Conference: The pain is real but so is healing

The month of May is not only for showers and flowers – it’s also for healing and revealing. For the first time, PEACH organized a Mental Health Conference and the event brought community members, leaders and youth together in one room to create dialogue about a topic that is not the easiest to discuss.

Panelists included Louis March, Gregory Leslie, Destiny Mae Abraham, Adam Ellis, Derek Williams and Keynote Speaker Scot Wortley. Not to mention, MPP Tom Rakocevic made a special guest appearance. Amongst many topics raised at the conference, some included speakers’ experience with mental health, the role of the father in the household, gun violence, the role of Toronto Police and, of course, youth mental health.

“You cannot continually run youth through the wringer and expect them to come out with a smile on their face. We are all paying today for what we messed up yesterday and this madness must stop” Zero Gun Violence’s Louis March says, “It’s a daily battle and we are not giving up. The youth deserve better.”

Keynote Speaker Scott Wortley presented eye-opening research and statistics as well as quotes from youth who have had encounters with the police.  This of course brought up a lot of important questions from community members.

PEACH, which stands for Promoting Community Health and Education, offers a wraparound program that provides a tailor-made approach to address complex issues that sometimes deal with the justice system.

Youth Advocate, Wayne Black, notes, “The Criminal Justice System does not adequately address mental health. Rather, it breeds, houses and contains it. Being locked up for long periods in institutions without resources to address mental health, especially in a system that’s supposed to rehabilitate the individual.”

Other topics such as toxic masculinity and the role of women were brought up and evoked a lot of emotion from the audience. The reaction from speakers and the audience was certainly an indication that events such as the Youth Mental Health Conference are necessary in this community and according to Black, it will not be the last.

We the North and we’re making history

It is a very exciting time to be in Toronto, for the first time in franchise history the Toronto Raptors are in the NBA finals and it’s a surreal feeling for many long-time fans. Every corner of our city is beaming with pride to have the only Canadian team in the NBA going up against the Golden State Warriors- who have won 6 championships including the last two.

The Raptors are clearly the underdog in this series and they have an entire country rooting for them.

This is a significant moment in Canadian sports history. It indicates a shift in our city and the way in which Toronto is perceived in the NBA. Historically, Canada has been known for its dominance in hockey but now basketball is also becoming another outlet to showcase our Canadian pride and our multiculturalism.

As one area fan points out, “this signifies a shift in thinking. No longer would we be looked at as ‘that Canadian team’ but we will be looked at as THE championship Canadian team in the NBA. It would bring a different thought process to all those that just think ‘Canada = Hockey.’”

Dale Mahabir is a lifelong Raptors fan and Downsview local. He describes his excitement over this milestone for the team and what it means to him, “having the Raptors in the finals means everything as a lifelong fan. Since the beginning, we as Raptors fans have been too accepting of consolation prizes: celebrating things like a regular season win over the 72-10 Chicago Bulls in the 90s to celebrating other consolation prizes like having a winning season, making it to the playoffs, winning a round, or getting to the Eastern Conference Finals (ECF). To have them in the ‘final dance’ is surreal. To be able to witness not only a city, but an entire country (since the departure of the Grizzles to Memphis) band together and simultaneously cheer the Raptors on can only be described as a surreal feeling.”

Dale, his brother and their friends have been watching the games at different pubs in the area and describes it as “ A tremendous feeling to know that we are all there together rooting for the same team and hoping for the same outcome, it’s quite the bonding experience. When the Raptors won the final game against the Milwaukee Bucks we were all hugging and cheering, everyone at the pub- even people we had just met.”

The Milwaukee series was one of overcoming adversity for the Raptors. They were down 2-0 to Milwaukee at the beginning but did this not discourage the team nor the fans, and eventually they became one of only six teams in NBA history to win a conference final after losing their first two games. Winning this series against the Bucks truly set the tone for the Championships and created an atmosphere of enthusiasm and passion that is felt all throughout the city.  

How incredible to have our beloved Raptors finally taking centre stage and making us proud of our city and our country.  We the North!

Celebrating fathers: Fathers Across Cultures (FAC) will celebrate its 10th anniversary Gala

Fathers Across Cultures (FAC) will celebrate its 10th anniversary Gala on June 15th 2019. As a subsidiary program of Out Of Bounds (OOB), a charitable organization, FAC provides services to fathers, mentors and young men who are considered ‘fathers-to-be.’

This community-led initiative was launched in June 2009, to empower men from all ethnicities. The program identifies the need for positive male role models, which helps to strengthen the family system and minimize frustrations and violence.

Out Of Bounds sought to identify the root causes of violence, particularly gun violence, which has adverse effects on the behaviour and attitude of young men. A needs assessment determined an existing gap in male role models in young men’s lives.

Through education, support and encouragement, ‘fathers across cultures’ program is committed to empowering young men, by providing them with invigorating, effective male role models.

Utilizing a QUIRL concept of Q-quality, U-unity, I-integrity, R-responsibility and L-leadership, FAC program also educates young men, fathers and mentors, on the importance of their contribution to the family system. Participants gain emotional intelligence, and learn strategies which enhance their innate capabilities as leaders and prospective fathers.

Empirical data indicates that a strong male influence in a child’s life is invaluable, irreplaceable and necessary for children, families and community. Scholars agree that positive male role models have a profoundly positive and physiological effect during childhood, but specifically on young men, during adolescence and into adulthood.

Rev. Sky Starr, founder and executive director believes that “strengthening the family system and community, begins with empowering our young men and fathers.”

FAC events feature celebrities and local talents to inspire and celebrate men, families and the community. Artists like Jully Black, JRDN, Carlos Morgan and Liberty Silver have graced FAC’s stage, while Al St. Louis, a native of Jane/Finch, has been resident host from inception.

A key highlight is FAC’s Poetry Contest, where students write a poem or prose about the best dad, stepdad, grandfather, guardian or mentor they’ve had. The winner’s family receives free tickets to attend the event. The subject of the winning poem is recognized as “father of the year,” while the student gets to read their piece during the event, and see it posted on FAC site.

This family affair is open to all men and families across cultures in the GTA.

For more information visit: www.fathersac.org. Tickets – Rev. Sky: 647-724-511