Nova Scotia

Halifax man believes his experiences in Uniacke Square will help him aid children in Romania

As a black man living in Halifax's Uniacke Square, Trayvone Clayton feels the stigmatization of others who look down on his neighbourhood. It's an experience the Saint Mary's student believes will allow him to empathize with orphans and foster children in Romania this June.

'I just want to share my life experience with them ... and make them push through theirs as well'

Trayvone Clayton and his father, Marcus James, viewing pictures of some of Trayvone's close friends who were shot to death in Halifax. (Steve Lawrence/CBC News)

As a 19-year-old black man living in the Halifax public housing complex of Uniacke Square, Trayvone Clayton has lost friends to gun violence and feels the stigmatization of others who look down on his neighbourhood.

It's an experience the Saint Mary's University student believes will allow him to empathize with the children he plans to visit in Romania this June. It's part of a volunteer project to help foster kids and orphans with their English and computer skills.

"Coming from Uniacke Square, being black, I get judged," Clayton said in an interview. "I'm looked at differently because of my skin colour.

"I just want to share my life experience with them, what I've been through, and make them push through theirs as well."

Breaking the cycle

The project is organized by Venture 2 Impact, a group started in 2006 to help communities globally break the cycle of poverty.

Clayton learned about the project from Brent Martindale, a teammate of his on the Saint Mary's basketball team who went on the trip last year and is going again this year.

Clayton grew up in Uniacke Square in Halifax (Steve Lawrence/CBC News)

Martindale spoke so highly of the experience that Clayton decided he wanted to go too. He's now fundraising for the $5,000 trip, which will last a week to 10 days.

"He told me how they're judged because [of] what they are, what they've been through," Clayton said.

2 fatal shootings

Clayton has faced heartache in his area of Halifax. One of his close friends, 21-year-old Jaumar (Maury) Carvery, was fatally shot 10 years ago this week.

"Maury Carvery, he was killed in this neighbourhood," Clayton said. "I [saw] bad things so I learned from them. I don't want to go down that path. I want to go a different way. So I picked the right people to hang around." 

Clayton is shown standing beside a memorial for his friend Tyler Richards, who was fatally shot in Halifax in April 2016. (Trayvone Clayton)

Clayton's basketball mentor, 29-year-old Tyler Richards, was also shot to death, in April 2016. Richards, a former St. Francis Xavier University basketball star and ex-Halifax Rainmen player, was found dead in a house on Cook Avenue in Halifax.

"Maury and Tyler were more like role models to me, they were like older brothers," Clayton wrote in an email. "They did some illegal things but they were the ones that kept me from that."

'He's that kind of guy'

Clayton is in his first year of studying criminology at Saint Mary's and has started his summer job doing landscaping for a local business.

Jonah Taussig, the head coach for Saint Mary's University men's basketball team, described Clayton as friendly, hardworking and charismatic.

Trayvone Clayton with his late Citadel High School principal Wade Smith at Clayton's high school graduation in 2016. Smith died from cancer in 2017. (Trayvone Clayton)

"When he stepped forward and wanted to … get out of his comfort zone and head to Romania for a week or 10 days in the summer to volunteer, it honestly didn't really surprise me," Taussig said.

"He's that kind of guy that's willing to do things and take chances and try to better himself and also try to better the world around him."

On May 18, Clayton and other members of the Saint Mary's University basketball team are holding a one-day basketball camp for youth at the university to help raise money for Clayton and Martindale's trip.

About the Author

Sherri Borden Colley

Reporter

Sherri Borden Colley has been a reporter for more than 20 years. Many of the stories she writes are about social justice, race and culture, human rights and the courts. To get in touch with Sherri email sherri.borden.colley@cbc.ca