by Solomon Muyoboke, Jessica Luke-Smith, Daniel Mayers and Farshad Azadian
On October 8th, 2009, Esplanade youth made a resounding statement to the indignity of police violence, harassment and racism in our community. Some 40 youth made their way to the Youth Forum organized by the Esplanade Community Organization to discuss their issues, experiences and concerns. The event was launched just weeks after the tragic murder of Esplanade youth Kamal Hercules, which left our community reeling with the pain of having lost another young brother.
This pattern of violence in our community illuminated a need for change and inspired the forum. The Esplanade Community Organization developed the forum with the aim of creating discussion among youth around the sources of violence in the community and the direction that an Esplanade youth organization might take in addressing violence – in all its forms.
Shocking to some, an overwhelming number of youth recounted their experiences of police brutality and harassment, many of whom were between the ages of 12-14. This reality affected all the participants at the forum and sparked discussions of how the community could move forward in order to address youth-on-youth violence.
A central component of the event was a brief legal presentation, to provide youth with the necessary knowledge required to defend themselves against unlawful police procedures and searches. However, as most people who have experienced police harassment and brutality can tell you, knowing your rights is not enough to prevent police abuses, but it is a useful first step in challenging such police power.
For this reason, coupled with a series of neighbourhood issues, a group of working class residents in the Esplanade community have come together to formulate a six point program which outlines the needs, desires and concerns of working class people in our community. These fighting demands, based upon formal and informal surveying of the community, include: a commitment to challenging police brutality; attaining access to affordable and well-maintained housing; preventing evictions that are due to economic reasons and to move forward to ensure the accessibility of childcare and recreation services. The Esplanade Community Organization feels very strongly about its program and is committed to fighting for these six points to create the necessary changes to improve the conditions in our community.
Over the last 20 years, communities such as our own have been reeling from the blows of big business and the politicians that represent them. The social safety net, access to good jobs and the possibility of decent housing at an affordable rate are things of the past. The situation is continuing to get worse, with the Provincial Liberal and Federal Conservative Governments expressing their intentions to download the huge deficit (largely due to bailouts and tax cuts to big business) onto the backs of working class people.
The reality is that as we fall deeper into this capitalist economic crisis, the kinds of individual solutions (getting a 2nd or 3rd job, sacrificing family or health) will no longer be adequate solutions to rising debt, poverty and bills. We need to realize that we are faced with a systemic problem that individual efforts cannot solve. Hence, to get ourselves out of the mess, there is an urgent need for us to start organizing ourselves, as working class people, on a collective basis.
The Esplanade Community Organization and its Youth Wing are committed to being that organization through which the Esplanade’s poor and working class residents can get involved and orient our movement, from buildings to workplaces across this community. All Power to the People!
Get involved in your community and email the esplanadegroup[at]gmail.com about your issues, whether they concern housing, repairs, rents, evictions or police violence.