Shooting victim remembered as 'the light' of Jane and Finch community
Police appealing for witnesses after Sam Boakye, 30, was shot and killed on Tuesday
Days after he was shot and killed in northwest Toronto, people from the Jane and Finch area are remembering Sam Boakye as a pillar of the community and a deeply committed role model who should not have died so violently.
The 30-year-old was a father who had worked with organizations like the African Canadian Legal Clinic and the education group Success Beyond Limits. He also helped create Out of the Box Construction, which provides employment opportunities for Black people and mentorship options for youth in the area.
"He was one of the purest hearts and souls I've ever met," said Ameen Binwalee, CEO of Out of the Box and Boakye's business partner and colleague.
"He was the guy in the community that was seen as sort of 'the light.'"
That light was tragically snuffed out just before 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Police say they discovered Boakye's body when responding to reports of a shooting in the Driftwood Avenue and Grandravine Drive area.
According to a police news release, first responders attempted lifesaving measures, but Boakye died at the scene. No other details have been released.
As news about his death spread, many people took to social media to lament how senseless and terrible Boakye's loss truly is.
A person committed to making change
Former Toronto District School Board trustee Tiffany Ford was one of them. She told CBC News that she and Boakye both went to Westview Centennial Secondary School a few years apart — and his influence loomed large in and around the community.
She said she can't help but remember his eyes, his positivity, and the way he embodied the warmth of an "old soul." Boakye understood the root causes of violence in the area like poverty and inequity, she said.
"Sam was a person who was trying to change that cycle," Ford said. "He made actual, tangible changes. In his short life he made a change. He made a difference. It's tragic his life had to end this way."
Making positive change is one of the main reasons Out of the Box was started, Binwalee said.
"There's a large economic disparity in Toronto for people from racialized backgrounds ... a lot of that is in the Black community. We wanted to be able to train and hire people from our community," he said.
'We mourn and we have to continue'
Though this tragedy undoubtedly hits hard, Ford said at this point, she has become "completely numb to gun violence" in the area for lack of any discernible will from political leaders to concretely address its root causes.
"It happens, it hurts, we mourn, and we have to continue. And that's the sad part," she said.
And while there is a sense that community members in the Jane and Finch area are resilient and can handle this kind of tragedy, that's a response borne out of necessity, she said. Too many people have multiple jobs, stress and housing issues to dwell on one thing for too long.
"In this community there's no luxury to sit back and mourn the loss of someone," she said.
"We don't have any choice but to keep going."
Still, Ford said, Boakye was exactly the kind of person who would always tell people to keep going and do whatever he could help them in the face of adversity.
"It really hurts that this is someone who really dedicated his life to the community that he's from, and wanted to be a beacon of hope to young people," she said.
"He definitely didn't deserve this."
Investigators are appealing to witnesses, or anyone driving in the area who may have captured the shooting on their dash cameras to contact police or Crime Stoppers.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.