African Nova Scotia men support youth in light of violence

A community barbeque in north-end Halifax Thursday evening was one of many ways African Nova Scotia men are helping their community.

Can't put that 'stigma [of violence] on a whole community,' says Madison Murray

Halifax-area community members have marched with calls to stop the violence after several young black men were killed this year. (Steve Berry/CBC)

A community barbeque in Uniacke Square Thursday evening was one of several ways African Nova Scotia men are helping youth in their communities.

For the last several months, the unofficial group has been meeting to find ways to support each other and mentor young people in the community, attendee Wade Smith said.

Five young black men have been killed in the Halifax area since the spring, most recently 26-year-old Tylor McInnis. Community members have marched with calls to stop the violence, and activists have spoken out in grief

'Very, very important release'

The informal men's meetings have been a "much, much needed" opportunity, Smith said, "in which we try to come to grips with young lives being snuffed out much too early."

"It's a very, very important release for a lot of men to come together," he said.

"It is rare that men get together in groups and have conversation around the realities of our society."

Wade Smith is a school principal, coach and father. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Support each other

At least 50 people of all ages attended the community barbeque outside the George Dixon Centre on Thursday evening.

People chatted and snacked on burgers as kids played at the basketball court and on the grass. Colourful new backpacks lined the court fence, donated for kids who now have only a week left of summer vacation.

"You see families, you see kids playing, you see kids that are potential mentees to some of the men," said Smith, who is a school principal, coach and father. 

"What we want to do is be able to talk about how we can all work in a positive manner to have younger males not make poor decisions, to be supported in decisions that they do make, and know they have someone they can talk to and support them through it."

A lot of people brought their children to the barbeque Thursday evening. (Steve Berry/CBC)

'Tiring' reports of violence

The barbeque and meetings show strength and depth to the community in light of recent violence — and the associated media coverage, said Madison Murray, a 28-year-old who lives in Uniacke Square.

"It's tiring, heard it too many times," Murray said.

"You can't just let a few situations put that one stigma on a whole community, and then that's how you think about most of the young black men around here."

Madison Murray, 28, has grown up in Uniacke Square. (Steve Berry/CBC)

'All live in the same community'

The meetings are a practical way to hear a variety of voices, Murray said.

"We're not all about that knuckle headed type stuff," he said.

"Being at one of those meetings, you see that for yourself, because there's a lot of people there from different walks of life, yet we all live in the same community."

Lindell Smith said he's glad to see men of all generations supporting each other. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Lindell Smith, who's running for Halifax council, says as a young man himself, he's encouraged to see the older men helping.

"It's more important to have that unity in that generational gap because there's wisdom and then there's people that are going to have opportunities," he said.

"If they're getting information from people who've been there, it stops a lot of issues and future problems."

With files from Steve Berry