BY: JELANI GRANT
Jessica Yamoah’s Innovate Inclusion launched the Violence 360 campaign, funded by the Province of Ontario under the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan. For the last weekend of February, the campaign was presented in Toronto, but they have also hosted major campaign events in Windsor, Hamilton, and Ottawa. The Toronto event was held on the second floor of the Air Jordan store across from Dundas Square.
The campaign is taking a preventative approach to reducing instances of violence using multimedia. Violence 360 aims to raise awareness and access to resources and programming that addresses the root causes of black youth violence. The campaign developed five videos illustrating violent experiences through storytelling.
Each video gives an enlightening perspective of violence that affects black youth every day. In attendance for the launch, MPP Michael Coteau said, “The beautiful thing is that we’ve all got these great stories and sometimes those stories are hard to get out…for the narrative to be told by people who care and want to bring an authentic touch to our story, to me that is an important thing.”
A young boy named Fiyah and his mother Nyela Derrell talk about their experience of loss through the prison system. Segun Akinsanya shares his life-changing story serving time in prison. Joëlle Kabisoso shares her story of being drugged and sexually assaulted during a party. Chad Aiken speaks on his assault at the hands of police and the countless other times he’s been stopped. Mehari Hagos’ experience with violence in Windsor and Ethiopia sheds light on two distinctly different forms of gun violence. During the launch, Mehari had a chance to speak about the various programs he’s organized. He said this began after he noticed so many kids he grew up with in Windsor were going to jail for selling drugs. “I go into the court offices, I see my brothers and sisters going to jail…they want to be better, whatever it might be we’re going to show them the way.”
All of these individuals turned their violent experiences into positives described in the video and, thankfully, Yamoah said everyone in the video became involved naturally. “We did research and looked at similar cases in Ontario in terms of black youth and violence, but the [people] we ended up with were very organic and I think it speaks through the videos when you watch them…this is literally the subjects’ stories,” Yamoah told Toronto Caribbean.
According to the campaign, some root causes of youth violence include negative perceptions of self and low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, and a sense of exclusion from the broader community. Objectives towards fighting the effects of violence include demonstrating positive images of black people, empowering strong cultural identities, and providing support to the community through an anti-Black racism lens. Some steps to accomplishing their mission are engaging community resources and programming by making their audience more aware of accessible tools such as Women’s Health in Women’s Hands.
The Ontario Black Youth Action Plan first took action in June 2016 when MPP Coteau and Premier Kathleen Wynne traveled to cities across Ontario to communicate with residents directly. During their time in Toronto, they held a community meeting at Daniel Spectrum, listening to issues of concerned community members and Black Lives Matter activists. “I believe we can be better, as a government and society…that’s why we set up the anti-blackness directive, ” Wynne said.
Years have passed, and the Ontario government is meeting a number of their commitments with programs that challenge systemic anti-blackness. In fact, during the Violence 360 launch Coteau announced that March 13th all of the anti-black action plan programs will be brought together at Maple Leaf Gardens. The four-year, $47 million plan will support 10,800 black children, youth and their families annually, in schooling, postsecondary education, and employment, as well as those in conflict with the law.