Note: You are viewing the unstyled version of CBC.ca because you can not see our css files, or because you do not have a standards-compliant browser or you are a mobile user.
Welcome to CBC.ca
Andrew Burnett was born in Toronto to Jamaican immigrants nineteen years ago. Burnz's family moved to the Jane and Finch area when he was seven after a close friend of Burnz's was murdered. He lives in a housing complex in Jane and Finch with his mother, stepfather and three half-siblings. He doesn't have a relationship with his father, but has known some of his twelve half-siblings, children of his father.
When he showed up at his new school pressed and clean in his uniform, he was taunted by other kids. He quickly began to conform to the look and the attitude of the new neighbourhood.
"At lunch time there was no playgrounds or nothing. Barely a basketball court. So at lunch time you rolled around the whole hood and you see all the niggers, them chillin', doing their thing, whatever, whatever. You got exposed to that."He was suspended for the first time in middle school for twenty-one days after threatening a student with a broken bottle. His relationship with teachers became irreparable.
"I had no respect or care for authority figures, like teachers are enemies 'cause back then when I was young teachers always used to like fucking manhandle me. And try to like intimidate me with fear and shit. And from then I had a real hatred for teachers. Any teachers that stepped up to me when I got to that age ... slashed their tires, throw fucking bottles at them, whipped chairs at them, fucking smacked them, spit on them, cussed them. That's how my life was."
When Burnz was fourteen, he was expelled from the entire Toronto District School Board after a physical fight with a teacher.
"My mom gave me my first charge. She tried to talk to me and shit. I was a kid, angry, upset, lost, clouded. Just fucked. She thought that the police officers would do a good job of handling the situation like this."
Yasmine Williams, Burnz' mother: "He put a handcuff on my son. My son wasn't doing nothing he was just there and he said turn around and started putting on the handcuffs. I thought he was just giving him a demonstration about the consequences. Next thing you know he said I'm going to take your son. I said to go for what? He said I'm going to take him down to the station. So I even said to him no, I don't want you to take my son. I just want you to talk."
Between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, Burnz was charged with assault five times and was in and out of juvenile detention. He has worked odd jobs - laying drywall with his stepfather, cleaning a restaurant. But his main source of income has been selling pot.
"I just seen him like laid out. The nigger was just - I don't know like he just looked like he was in a deep sleep. I don't know man. I felt kinda like fucked up in a way still like I don't even know what - how to describe it. Like it was rage, anger - like I don't know - sadness whatever. All mixed into one."
At nineteen, after seeing several friends die, and growing tired of the constant threat of arrest, Burnz is starting to become interested in a life beyond selling drugs and getting into fights.
"Like what's the point in going to jail all the time, you know what I'm saying? Like, I don't want to be a low-life living at fucking like twenty something living alone with my mom and shit, you know what I'm saying? It was fun when you were young, but the reality says you could get killed, you know what I'm saying?"
In the summer of 2006, Burnz was given an opportunity by the Toronto District School Board to return to school as an adult. He decided finding work was a bigger priority. He has a new responsibility to face: fatherhood.
His 17-year-old girlfriend is due to give birth in January 2007.
Listen to some of Burnz' music online.