The following piece is a reflection on the June 2nd, 2012 shooting at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto that resulted in the deaths of two young men named Ahmed Hassan (age 24) and Nixon Nirmealendran (age 22). The piece speaks to the ways in which young men with dark skin are vilified and dehumanized by the general public and the complex ways in which violence structures the lives of all of those who live in Toronto.
This weekend the heavens opened up and the city exploded in a burst of light. I’m sure it happened, the gusts of wind told me so. And of course the headlines of the daily newspaper agreed, as they swept their ominous messages across the city of Toronto. Somewhere an army of voices declared a war on blackness and violence and darkness, and the city exploded right before our eyes, and no one could do anything of it. The newspapers spoke hushed words, spreading into the minds of the people, warning the law-abiding citizens that evil lurked among us, gangs of blackness and violence in the heart of the city. The newspapers said sternly and without challenge that this evil, like all darkness, must be purged from our lives, once and for all.
However, the choruses of voices that came hurtling forth wrapped within the wind spoke stories that the newspapers would never dare to print. Stories that screamed of sadness, and urgency, stories of violent neglect and stories of a world spiraling out of control. The winds shrieked, saying that it takes a broken world, for a broken man to pull a trigger, for he is never alone, it is a collective and communal process. But the newspapers would never say this, because then we’d all realize just how accountable each one of us is. The winds implored us to remember all that we had forgotten to do. For we had forgotten to mourn the death of a man, and we had forgotten that men break when they have been broken. We had forgotten that cities and people explode when they have no other choice, and finally we had forgotten that darkness is not evil it is sacred.
And as the city exploded, the only question that most asked was, how do we keep the darkness from our lives? When instead we should have asked how have we become so far gone, that we can’t mourn the life of a young black boy killed from broad daylight, in the busiest mall in the busiest city in this country. And as the winds thrashed the streets, and the rain soaked the people, they begged me to listen, for when the city explodes, it is always a collective process. For men break, when they have been broken.
This weekend the police were on high alert, for the newspapers assured us that explosions in the city must come from darkness and blackness. All to get blown up in bursts of masculinity – ticking time bombs, ticking time bombs. The wind warned of a danger much deeper, but the police were still on high alert searching and silencing, searching and silencing.
And I am left with a thought, a reality of this world:
“I am scared of the darkness, but the darkness is sacred.”
shono is a spoken word artist and storyteller. lost in history, he sees the need to recover forgotten words, so he writes. (firstname.lastname@example.org)