DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

DAREarts in “Doomstown”

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Darearts is Already

in the Streets.

February 23, 2013

Toronto, Ontario – DAREarts

The recent murders of young black men and boys in Toronto have triggered, yet again, discussions about ‘what needs to be done’.  We know that crime in general is going down in Toronto, but murders have gone up.  While we talk about how ‘black on black’ or lateral violence is something that we can relegate to poverty, ill-planned communities or a lax criminal justice system, we can’t forget that we are all responsible for the safety of our kids in our city, whether they are black, brown, poor, marginalized or not.

The community of the latest gun victim has called out for more social programs for their youth.  DAREarts is already there in the city streets, schools, theatres, museums and church basements. We are working with children and youth who normally don’t have access to activities and opportunities that strengthen, train, discipline and encourage personal excellence through the arts.

The Arts heal.  The Arts teach.  We all know they enrich.  People who can afford to go to the ROM or the Opera House or the latest big-ticket dinner and theatre package know this.  The parents who put their kids through piano and ballet classes know this.  But when a neighbourhood is nicknamed “Doomstown”, it makes it more difficult to be a positive place to grow up, let alone foster motivation to be a law-abiding citizen.

“It’s not all bad. I raised nine girls here,” said a fifteen-year-old murder victim’s mother. “The last time I saw him he was singing and dancing in his room.  He made us all laugh.”

The shooting victim’s little sister shows so much courage and strength by continuing on her own journey.  She’s a student, chosen by her school, to be a participant in DAREarts’ All-The-Arts program.  She’s learning that there is a whole world of ‘wonderful’ out there, and that she’s a leader, just by going through the program and teaching her classmates and friends what she’s learning.

DAREarts is here. We have an answer to the violence.  We’ve built our program over seventeen years.  Many of the kids we worked with seventeen years ago are successes. Some are working with the kids we empower today.  If every neighbourhood, school and church basement had something like the DAREarts program, a youth wouldn’t have to feel he should pick up a gun for self worth or financial gain. He’d have a sense of pride for himself and goals for his life.  He wouldn’t need to find that in a gang.

Right now, RIGHT NOW, DAREarts has over one hundred fifty kids from 17 Northwest Etobicoke schools in our winter program, learning about Discipline, Action, Respect, Responsibility and Excellence and returning to their classrooms to teach their fellow students and friends about these DAREarts principles.  In the spring, another one hundred fifty kids from another 20 GTA schools will be chosen by principals and teachers who recognize their potential for excellence. They are learning to be leaders, not followers.  Their eyes and hearts are being exposed to the ballet, opera, visual arts, architecture, culinary arts, theatre, history…and being exposed to the idea that they are valued human beings.

Our hearts go out to the parents, classmates, friends and family members mourning for our young people’s tragic passing, the most recent being fifteen year old Jarvis Montaque. Must there be more?  The kids who continue to participate in DAREarts and similar programs will at least have a fighting chance to lift themselves and their communities out of the conditions in which they find themselves.  We have leaders in our midst, smart, passionate, innovative minds and spirits and eager hands.   We have faith in these kids and their communities.  We expect excellence from them, so much that they start believing in themselves.

Why can’t everyone?

Posted by Cathy Elliott, DAREarts Director of Communications.

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