North Dartmouth teen takes to Facebook to fight stigma about her hometown
14 year-old Kayley Dixon receives almost 900 likes ‘likes’ on her post
When 14-year-old Kayley Dixon saw a pile of negative comments on a Facebook photo of police cars at Dartmouth's Highfield Park last week, she knew she needed to speak out.
"Dartmouth is a beautiful community with beautiful people," she commented on the photo. "The moment we start saying 'Dartmouth is bad' is when we lose hope in ending violence."
Her comments struck a chord with Facebook users, bringing in almost 900 likes and 200 shares overnight after a local online news site took a screen grab of the message and posted it to their Facebook page.
When she woke up the next morning, Dixon was shocked by the response she received.
"I didn't think anything like this would happen," she said.
"I was actually going to delete my post because I thought I was going to get a lot of negative comments back. Why would they believe me, a 14 year-old girl living in Dartmouth, right? But I just stuck up for my community."
'I just had to stand up for Dartmouth'
Dixon says she and classmates at John Martin Junior High School are stereotyped every day.
"Everywhere I go, they always have something to say about us. When we go to sports competitions, people look at us funny or make little comments like 'don't stab us.'"
Dixon knows that Dartmouth is so much more than its reputation. Since she was young, she's been involved in the Take Action Society, a Dartmouth North-based volunteer organization that co-ordinates community projects. She also takes part in school fundraisers for communities in Kenya.
"I want people to know that we are a community filled with amazing, talented and positive people that do so much for each other and so much for the community," she said.
'I'm very proud of her'
Dixon's mom, Donna, also grew up in Dartmouth North.
"Everybody always cringes when you say you live there," she said.
Donna is proud of her daughter for "expressing herself." She says the Facebook post is one of many initiatives, including speaking at schools and spoken word performances, that make her daughter a well-known community figure.
"She's an amazing child. I'm a single mother so it's not easy, sometimes," she said.
"Even though she doesn't have the most perfect life, she's focused on change. And she just knows it starts with one person."
Dartmouth Centre Coun. Gloria McCluskey says most of the stigmatization of Dartmouth North is "unfair."
"When you talk about North Dartmouth, you think about crime," she said. "But if you look at the list of murders in the city [this year], there's five. One's in Dartmouth, and the rest are in Halifax."
McCluskey says the reputation is changing over time. She attributes much of that change to organizations like the Take Action Society, pointing to one of their recent projects to cultivate a garden behind Dartmouth's Harbour View Elementary School.
"I tell the community to feel good about themselves. There are a lot of good people in Dartmouth North, as the Take Action group has proven," said McCluskey.
'Everybody is like a family here'
"Every community in the world has its flaws and negativity," said Dixon.
She says coping with stereotypes makes the tight-knit Dartmouth community even more resilient.
"Since we have so much negative stigma around us, it makes us even more positive inside. Everybody is like a family here, in my school and in the community."