Black Toronto mother worries about children's safety after U.S. shootings

A black mother says the violence in the U.S. makes her worry about the safety of her husband and children — even in Toronto.

Police shootings of two black men prompted protest that was marred by violence

Paulina O'Kieffe said the recent violence in America has made her worry about protecting her own family. (CBC)

A black mother says the violence in the U.S. makes her worry about the safety of her husband and children — even in Toronto.

Paulina O'Kieffe, a poet, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning that this week's news has been "absolutely tragic."

First, there were the police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both of which were captured on video. Then, a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas, over the killings was shattered when several snipers opened fire on police, killing five and wounding several others.

For O'Kieffe, who has paid close attention to news of police shootings and race relations both in the U.S. and at home, the news has been bad, but this week has been worse.

"I find I'm getting more and more emotional," O'Kieffe said.  

"These things are starting to crack our community, but we're going to stay strong."

O'Kieffe said yesterday she had a lengthy conversation with her husband, who appeared "broken" after learning about the shootings of Sterling and Castile. She said she's never seen him that way.

While those incidents took place in America, O'Kieffe said her husband told her that they triggered memories of his interactions with police while he was growing up in Rexdale. For her, it was also a reminder of the police shooting deaths of Jermaine Carby and Andrew Loku, which both took place in the Greater Toronto Area.

Kids need to keep their eyes 'wide, wide open'

The couple has two children, and O'Kieffe said her husband's biggest concern now is: "How do you protect your family?"

O'Kieffe said she worries about her kids, especially her son, all the time. "I don't know what my son's future ambitions are," she said, adding she hopes he never wants to live in the U.S.

As a family, she said, they have many conversations to prepare them for what could happen as a result of racism. The children are told to keep their eyes "wide, wide open," she said, noting she believes this conversation happens far more in the black community than elsewhere.

Like many in Toronto's black community, O'Kieffe is hoping for an end to the bloodshed, but said for now there's a sense of exhaustion and feeling wrung-out. 

With files from Metro Morning


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