Their relationship with the police
Trevlyn: If you don’t feel safe enough to have the police protect you, how else are you supposed to feel safe? A lot of people at the end of the day are feeling worthless when they see their friend’s crime going unsolved and nobody’s being found for a killing. However your approach is when you’re in the community, you can’t expect people to come to [cops] for help when you treat them a certain way, when you abuse your power.
Ashley: If I were to walk outside and I would see a shooting or killing, I would call Sandra [youth worker at Dixon Hall] so fast. There’s no way I’m calling the police. I would rather be a bystander and not do anything than to go through the police, because they start throwing out descriptions and “this woman [snitched]” …
Mustafa: From the part of the community I come from, everybody knows they can give this tip, they can tip someone or tip the police [about neighbourhood crimes]. Right now I can tell you, someone got stabbed and half the community knows. Everyone knows that if they were to tell [police], it wouldn’t come back to [the tipster]. It’s because it’s a civil war. Everyone is within the community. That’s creating a lot of, “I don’t want to do this, this guy’s from my community doing this to someone else from my community.”
Personal loss from violent crime
Ashley: I lost two very close people to me when I was about 10. When the second person (Amin Aafi, whose 2007 murder has not led to any arrests) got shot it was hard. (She pauses to dry tears.) The phone call I got was basically tears. I didn’t really understand it. All I heard was, “Shot. Club.” That’s it. He’s like family to me. He was like someone who was there from me from the bottom up. I called back my sister and Amin’s sister picked up and I said, “What’s going on?” and they said, “Amin got shot in a club.” I said, “Oh, I’m coming over, we’re going to the hospital.” She’s like, “There’s no need.” I’m like, “What do you mean there’s no need?” I was confused. She’s like, “He’s dead.”
Trevlyn: When this community mourns and feels broken, you feel broken too. I was more personally connected to the last loss – which was Tyson – and for me, loss doesn’t only come with death. The more people that go to jail, that’s a loss for me. When you love someone and you lose someone either to gun violence or either to jail or whatever it may be, that’s a piece of you that’s taken, regardless of whether you’re really personal with them. One of my things is, I don’t like funerals and I don’t like going to funerals, but once it’s someone really close to home, you have no choice. We go to more funerals than we do to weddings and that’s disgusting. I feel like our youth is in enormous, enormous trouble.
Mustafa: For Tyson – he was closest to my age, he was a year younger than me and we went to school together and went to the community centre together and we played basketball together and used to go to a friend’s house together. It was very hard. It was just like poof and you don’t see that person again. I went to Tyson’s viewing but I didn’t go to his funeral because I’m far too emotional for it. And when you know that someone in the community killed the other person in the community, you don’t even know how to mourn properly, right? You’re living in a state where you don’t know what to feel any more. You don’t know what your position is with all that’s going on. You’re just faced with two losses: Someone who was taken away from your life and someone whose life was taken away from them.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.