"This is just devastating. Tonight we lost." - Sandra Costain
Regent Park is remembering a young black man who was gunned down this week as he stood behind the screen door of his home.
Ali Rizeig, 18, Toronto's fifth homicide of the year, was well known in the community. His death on Monday night has saddened people who live in the neighbourhood.
A candelight vigil, which drew more than 140 people, was held in his memory on Tuesday night. As people walked near his house at Gerrard Street East and Sumach Street, people were urged to say to one another: "You are worthy and you deserve greatness."
It's a message that Sandra Costain, director for children and youth at Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services, a non-profit agency, says young black men need to hear more often in Toronto.
"Bad things happen. I think that Ali is an example of why we need to have youth programs, why youth need to have specific spaces, why we have to work together and collaborate, in neighbourhoods like Regent Park," Costain told Metro Morning on Wednesday.
"They don't think they're worthy. I think that for lots of young black men in particular ... they need to be reminded that they are worthy. They need to remind each other. We need to keep on pushing that message."
If young people feel they can make a difference in a positive way, then they will make better choices, she said.
She said "there was an incredible sadness" at the vigil.
After his death on Monday, Costain wrote an email that said: "This is just devastating. Tonight we lost."
Toronto police said they were called to Gerrard Street East and Sumach Street at 9:23 p.m. about the shooting. Rizeig had life-threatening injuries when officers arrived. Paramedics rushed him to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
'On Monday night, we lost'
Costain said she was at home, close to Regent Park, when the shooting occurred.
"You could hear a scream. You heard a squeal. From blocks away from their house, I could hear his mother, in my house. And then my phone just started to ring, probably around 9:45 p.m., minutes later."
She said Rizeig's death is a big loss and it is being felt profoundly in the community.
"Regent Park and Toronto and Ali's family and everybody who loved him, on Monday night, we lost," she said.
"There is somebody significant in our village who will no longer be here and a whole host of people who are not going to be the same anymore because he's not here."
Ali Rizeig was 10 when he was on CBC as part of the Stand Up Young Men program. Sunday, he was shot dead in Regent Park. His story at 7:10. pic.twitter.com/Om5sKvDKKJ— @metromorning
As a child, Rizeig was a familiar face at community programs. He attended Dixon Hall summer camps, March Break retreats and took part in its basketball program. In 2012, when he was 13, he was the master of ceremonies at its annual general meeting and captivated the room.
Rizeig also had one-on-one mentoring through "Stand Up Young Men," a program designed to help young black boys, at a time when many of them were doing poorly in literacy tests and dropping out of school.
At age 10, he was interviewed by a CBC reporter at an event for Martin Luther King.
Rizeig said of the U.S. civil rights leader: "This man started off as nothing and became something. He took something out of his life. He said, no, I don't want to get pushed around. Because of him, he is somebody I look up to a lot. That's why I think we should celebrate his day."
Was small person with big personality
As a child, Rizeig was a small person with a huge personality, Costain said. "He would just talk to everybody about anything. He just kind of lit up the room. He was charismatic."
As a teen, Rizeig had been in trouble with the law, she said.
"He made some choices that were really bad choices with people who didn't have his best interests at heart and he was involved in things that he shouldn't have been involved in. Those are choices that he made."
Homicide investigators have not said the shooting was targeted, according to Const. David Hopkinson, spokesperson for the Toronto police.
Costain said she is not surprised.
"Very little surprises me anymore. I was sad but not surprised," she said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-7400, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).