BY: JELANI GRANT
The Social Legacy Event Group presented a forum called I Know I Can Be What I Want to Be, dedicated to motivating young men across the city to strive for excellence and break barriers with advice from a number of community advocates, motivational speakers and business owners from the GTA.
At the North York Memorial Hall, parents, teachers and students gathered to hear from various speakers such as motivational speaker and K.E.Y.S (Knowledge and Effort Yield Success) founder Francis Atta, Community Leader at R.I.S.E. Movement Randell Adjei, founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement Louis March, certified life coach Jean Kabongo, Detailing Knights founder Ryan O’Neal Knight, Policy & Program Analyst at Ministry of Children and Youth Services Andrew Bacchus, and Joel Kerr of the Health Institute.
Throughout the afternoon, these black men shared their stories, growing up with varying circumstances but ultimately refocusing their priorities to serve a greater purpose to their community and the ones they love. Master of ceremonies, Yannick Tshiamala started the afternoon in very casual attire, including bleach-stained basketball shorts and socks with slippers. Just before the forum began, he changed into a suit and tie, revealing that his first outfit was a social experiment to see how the audience would initially perceive him.
The free event began with a spoken word performance by Adjei, which inspired guests to believe they are excellent because they’re capable. “A lot of people say they have a dream and say they want it, but only a few people have the courage to stand up and go get it. If you say you have a dream but you’re going to sit down, nothing’s going to happen for you,” he said.
Adjei would later speak on getting robbed and stabbed in the elbow and back on a Caribana night. That night he almost lost his life. This made him reflect on his surroundings and the decisions he made. He left the audience with three lessons: 1. Let go of people holding you down 2. Uplift your friends and family 3. Fight for what you want.
Atta read a passage from his book and spoke on his first conviction, which inspired him to take school more seriously and finish his first year of university at the top of his class. Atta’s K.E.Y.S organization provides workshops and programs focused on inspiring people of all ages to work past their obstacles and towards success.
DJ Troy, mixing classic hip-hop tracks, opened the floor for youth to drop some freestyle rhymes as guests ate sandwiches and fruit during the lunch break. There was also a very brief dance contest between two young audience members, which included bone breaking dance moves and splits.
Kabongo left the audience with the acronym R&I, standing for resourcefulness and initiative. “Responsibility represents response-ability,” he said. “This means we all have the ability to respond to a situation one way or another”.
Louis March spoke about the recent shootings that have affected particular Toronto communities. Zero Gun Violence Movement is a city-wide collaboration of organizations across the GTA, taking steps to achieve an entire city without gun violence. He explained the possibility of no gun violence in Toronto by pointing out that parts of the city are already gun violence free. March, who has been an active community worker for more than thirty years, recognized that gun violence incidents have risen in the past two years. In fact, according to the Toronto Police Service Crime Statistics, shooting occurrences have already matched last year’s total as of May 8th. “Why is it that certain people in this city can live in peace and harmony, good will, good health, good life, good expectations and in another part of the city, it’s the total opposite,” he said.
The session engaged the audience with frequent questions and tests for students to answer and win free t-shirts and backpacks. As well, a raffle was held for all guests to win books from motivational speakers like Atta.
With Christopher Lawrence as Managing Director, Social Legacy Event Group is a not-for-profit organization that hosts uplifting community events such as this. Underserved youth initiatives, community animators, and entrepreneurship are all focused and the organization aims to support with the funds made from each event.