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Trevlyn Kennedy,19, left, Ashley Fraser,17, centre, and Mustafa Ahmed, right, who take part in programs offered by community service centre Dixon Hall in Regent Park, pose for a photo on Thursday, February 21, 2013. (Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail)
Trevlyn Kennedy,19, left, Ashley Fraser,17, centre, and Mustafa Ahmed, right, who take part in programs offered by community service centre Dixon Hall in Regent Park, pose for a photo on Thursday, February 21, 2013. (Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail)

What's it like growing up in Regent Park? Ask them Add to ...

How Regent Park’s reputation follows them in school

Ashley: At school [St. Joseph’s College, a Catholic girls’ school at Bay and Wellesley], it’s like, “Oh, Ashley, Regent Park, da da da, oh, are you you okay? Tyson died, da da da.” It’s like, dude, you never talked to me in your life! Two days [later they say to me], “Oh, yo, this girl just cussed out me because I was talking to her boyfriend. Yo, go rough her up for me.” Like, are you serious? Are you being real? That’s how you look at me? I’m being perceived as an angry person because I’m from Regent?

Mustafa: It’s unfortunate but I think a lot of the youth from Regent Park take pride in the fact that they’re from Regent Park. A lot of times people from Regent Park get into fights – little things that happen at school on occasion. And then another kid goes, “You’re seriously trying to fight this kid? He’s from Regent Park.” It instills a sense of fear in other students. Honestly, I think the youth are okay. I just think with all the media and everything that’s going on – it’s making them stray. Everyone’s becoming more paranoid and even more prideful. They don’t want to discuss anything – they want to go straight to action, to creating more conflict for themselves.

Trevlyn: I think with saying that “I’m from Regent Park” it could be like an S on your chest or a target on your back. And that’s one of the things I find. If you think it can give you an S on your chest that’s exactly what you’ll do. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re involved with the scary part but you do get some perks out of it and you do get some shit out of it.

On being ashamed to be from Regent Park

Mustafa: I know people who hate being from Regent Park. I know people who don’t even want to apply to a job – they are going to apply to a job with a different address. They aren’t going to apply with their Regent Park address because this isn’t the community they were raised in.

Ashley: I try to take every part of inner self to try to seem like I’m not from here. So as soon as I leave Regent Park, I’m from somewhere else. If would see a random girl walking down here wearing tights, I will not wear tights ever again in my life. I see a girl walking here with diamond earrings, I won’t wear diamond earrings.

The way they react to neighbourhood crime

Trevlyn: Once something bad happens, this is the foundation. Everyone just comes here. Sandra or Kenneth [two of Dixon Hall’s employees] or someone is always here. I know when shootings occur, I’m worried about who it could possibly be, this is where I’m at. What happened? Is everyone okay? You see faces come through the office so you see who it’s not. I know when I don’t see people during the week I call them. I’m pretty sure throughout the community people check in as well. We’re a safety net for each other. We’re also the lookout for each other.

Their exposure to guns

Trevlyn: I have never seen a gun. And I think when people think that everyone in the community has seen a gun, it’s from everything they’ve seen about the community [in the media]. One of the things about believing that everyone in the community is involved and knows what’s happening in the community [is] you ‘other’ them – you make them their own island and they have to deal with it themselves. That’s very disturbing.

Ashley: With me? I was raised differently. I’ve definitely seen a gun before. I shouldn’t elaborate.

Mustafa: My older brother had gun charges and stuff so even as a kid I never thought much of it. I used to tell, “My brother has a gun charge” – that’s what I used to say around the school. I’m in Grade 4 and I’m telling the whole world. For me, it was every person I met had a gun. Every house that I went to, they were taking guns. They were all situations where these people don’t want guns. Who wants to go to jail? Who wants to do time for having a weapon? They were put in a situation where they felt like they needed a weapon because they were at risk. These are people that feel like they can’t depend on the protection of the police and all of that to help them. Those people need to protect themselves. I know so many people who have had guns for years that have never used them before.

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