Sometimes people suck. On my way to the airport this morning I found myself making a mental list of the people in Canada who could do something significant about youth violence but who instead choose not to use the power they’ve got to stand up for our kids. I worked myself into quite a funk and realized—yet again—that I can’t wait for those with power to do the right thing. As a friend from Montreal pointed out, we’re going to have to address the problem ourselves. As always.
I was still pretty cranky on the plane but my seatmate, Sylvia, was warm and friendly—when I told her about my father only returning to Nevis twice after leaving as a teen, she admitted she hadn’t been back since 1970! The plane was packed, as was the ferry coming over from St. Kitts; everybody’s in town for Culturama. I was just making the mental transition from “people suck” to “crowds suck” when a pretty little girl came up to me at the airport and asked, “Are you Aunty Zetta?” And from that moment on I remembered that sometimes—even most times—people ROCK. I met Carol Ottley-Mitchell online about a year ago, I think; she was living in Ghana at the time, but shared her fabulous children’s books with me (which are set in St. Kitts) and we swapped stories of our respective struggles to provide kids with culturally and historically relevant material. When I told Carol about the book fair in Nevis, she emailed me back and offered to meet me at the airport; her lovely daughter joined us for lunch at The Ballahoo, which overlooks a busy roundabout in Basseterre. Over a delicious meal we talked about self-publishing, living a transnational life, and which services would best serve the youth of SKN. I met Carol’s parents, got signed copies of her books, and I even got a cheap little cell phone to use while I’m in Nevis. While walking through town we ran into Mrs. Daniel, intrepid organizer of the inaugural book fair. Later she and I took the ferry over to Nevis and on the pier I was introduced to half a dozen people. My landlord was waiting for me in a bright red shirt with “Canada” printed across it. If you look at that photo of the restaurant in St. Kitts you can see a sign for Scotia Bank on the far left…they also have CIBC (another Canadian bank). I’m still thinking about the gun violence in Toronto and the alienation that leads *some* young people down such a destructive path. I grew up in a different city, and my childhood friend sums up the way I feel in this earnest letter to the city’s most recent victims:
I’m sorry that I didn’t have the privilege of knowing you. I’m sorry that you were killed so horribly, so inexcusably, by stupid men with guns. And I’m sorry if now, in death, both you and those you loved are being blamed.
I’m sorry if you have grown up in a city and in a land where it is easier for some to offer hurtful words about immigrants and their children than it is to express simple sadness for your deaths. I’m sorry if your family and those surrounding you are dealing not only with unfathomable grief, but also with the bigotry and cynical politicking that preys so eagerly upon the suffering of others.
The truth is, as angry as I get at those who sit back and do nothing to defend children of color in Toronto, I can’t deny the fact that I’m not there doing something—anything—for the kids who can’t escape the city I was able to abandon. Guilt sucks and it doesn’t get us anywhere. I was planning to visit Toronto sometime this fall—think I better get there sooner rather than later. Ah, the transnational life…