Windsor

Windsor's struggle with violence shown in mini-documentary that offers solutions

Windsor is one of four communities highlighted in Violence 360, a project working to reduce the number of violent incidents in Ontario.

'As a young kid, seeing somebody stabbed on a court and blood everywhere, it can really be traumatizing'

Mehari Hagos said he wanted to be apart of the project, so people here know what the struggles those living in Glengarry have to go through. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

The struggles faced by people living in Windsor's Glengarry neighbourhood are highlighted in a mini-documentary series called Violence 360.

It's part of the Ontario Black Youth Action Program for violence prevention. One video is centred on Windsor resident Mehari Hagos, who moved to Glengarry from Ethiopia in 1994 when he was six years old.

Hagos said he wanted to be part of the project so people here learn more about things people living in Glengarry have to go through.

"When I was a  younger kid, somebody got stabbed on the basketball court here. They ending up dying," he said.

The apartment complex he lived in was rife with violence. Hagos said he witnessed domestic violence, along with violence between teenagers and between adults. 

"As a young kid, seeing somebody stabbed on a court and blood everywhere, it can really be traumatizing," Hagos said.

He saw a lot of violence growing up in Ethiopia, which was engulfed in war and made him feel a bit immune to seeing it in Windsor.

"You just have to learn how to dealt with it growing up," he explained.

Now Hagos doesn't like to look back on the violent past. Instead, he tries to focus on the future of the area.

He runs an after-school program for kids in the neighbourhood to keep them off the streets and away from the violence.

"It's still happening, if you read the newspaper or see things on Facebook, there is still people getting shot at in this community," Hagos said. "There is still people getting stabbed. Things like that do happen in Windsor."

Hagos said he's working to change Glengarry and show youth in the area "it can get better."

Violence 360

Jessica Yamoah, founded Innovation Inclusion, the group that applied for the grant from the Ontario Black Youth Action Program, which is supporting the violence prevention campaign. 

She proposed creating videos about the violence black Ontarians have dealt with and overcome, then putting them on YouTube to reach a wide audience.

Live events to show the five films are also planned.

"It's very important, especially within the black community, to let people know that these situations, whether it's police profiling, bullying, rape ... incarceration, families being disrupted, are occurring here in Canada," said Yamoah.

One of the videos from Violence 360 focuses on Mehari Hagos who grew up on Glengarry Avenue. He said he's seen a lot of violent acts in the area. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

During the filming, she was surprised by the amount of humility, openness and trust the participants had with the campaign.

"A lot of times there's a big distrust, similar to First Nations and Inuit community, there's a distrust for authority, police, administration and government," Yamoah said."So the fact that people were so willing to participate, to get involved in the campaign was the most surprising."

Showing youth how to overcome violence

One of the outcomes the Violence 360 campaign has is reducing the instances of violence. Each video shows how those who have dealt with difficulties have overcome and offer solutions to issues.

"Whether it's entrepreneurship, whether it's working with legal aid ... or with youth, finding ways to keep them engaged, so the youth don't end up like some of the more mature participants in the video do," Yamoah explained.

Jessica Yamoah, founded Innovation Inclusion started the Violence 360 campaign to reduce the instances of violence. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

If someone has perpetrated violence or have made poor choices, that it doesn't have to be the end for them, she said. There are ways to turn around your life in ways that are positive.

Interviews with people from Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and Windsor are available on Violence 360's YouTube channel. There is a live event in Windsor on March 4, 2018 at St. Clair Centre for the Arts. Registration starts at 10:30 a.m. and the event begins at 11 a.m.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stacey Janzer was born and raised in Essex County. Self-described Canadian treasure. She currently works as a video journalist at CBC Windsor. Email her at Stacey.Janzer@cbc.ca.

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