He’s right. Certainly, I’m no celebrity. That status faded long ago. However, I do believe that the powers-that-be who are currently influencing our community – artists, musicians, authors, filmmakers, journalists, athletes (the Argos and Raptors have already made profound and far-reaching contributions) – need to do much more in reaching out to children and teenagers at risk.
Presently, there are more black songwriters and producers creating international hit records than ever in our country’s history. I’m not just talking about say, Drake, but the musical geniuses behind Drake’s records. Their influence, their reach, among young people is enormous.
Media campaigns, 30-second PSAs discussing violence and how to combat it, and maybe a few more people simply opening up their homes and hearts to one kid at a time, would surely make a difference.
What can we, as citizens of (as my dad described Toronto to his dad in a 1949 letter) this “splendid but tainted city,” do to help?
We need to become more involved with high-risk youth. For example, my brother, Lawrence, has taught creative writing to inmates. My wife and I have done volunteer work in prison, and trust me, it’s strangely uplifting to be struck out by an inmate at a prison softball game.
If you have a business, connect with excellent programs such as Eva’s Phoenix and create an opportunity to work or intern in your business. There are dozens of these programs out there, and they need money and, even more, staff and volunteers.
Without these programs, Stephen would be in jail.
Be a Big Brother. Invest, attend or give instruments to music programs such as the ones at the Regent Park School of Music. Volunteer to tutor at public schools in at-risk neighbourhoods and in youth shelters.
If you play an instrument, even better. Sling your guitar to wherever you’re going and you’ll be amazed by the connective power of music: It knows no boundaries, cultures or class.
Regardless of your political affiliation, lobby for more municipal, provincial and federal funding for youth programs. Yes, it costs money now, but it saves all of us even more money in the long run. Remember: Jails, lawyers, judges and courts cost a hell of a lot more tax dollars than social programs.